Racial Equity Statement & Commitment
Celebrity Series of Boston recognizes that many existing systems of power grant privilege and access unequally, and that equity is crucial to the long-term viability of both the arts and culture sector and communities-at-large. Our Racial Equity Plan describes our commitment to ensure that everyone who wants has equal access to a full, vibrant creative life, which is essential to a healthy and democratic society.
We are intentionally shifting to a proactive, equity-centered approach to how we are structured, how we deliver our programs and services, how we engage with the broader community, and how we support our audiences. We seek to become an antiracist community, working against white supremacy, racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination based on gender, sexuality, class, age, and ability. We have chosen to address equity through an explicitly anti-racist lens. Although we are focusing on race explicitly, we are not focusing on it exclusively. We understand that many people hold multiple marginalized identities, and we strive for an intersectional approach.
What We Will Do
The following Racial Equity Plan and accompanying data dashboard outlines our commitment through:
- The people who lead us, how they behave, and who they represent.
- The people who work for the organization, how we select them, how we respect them, and how we compensate them.
- The partners we commit to, how we engage with them, and how we support those partnerships.
- The audiences and communities we serve, and seek to serve, by providing life-enhancing, performing arts experiences.
We will hold ourselves accountable through regular internal meetings, data collection and analysis, and by soliciting feedback from a variety of our key stakeholders – our colleagues, artists, supporters, and audiences. We look forward to continuing this work and the learning in partnership with these communities.
As an organization, we are working on the following set of 16 strategies and actions to move our racial equity goals forward:
- Evaluate Board requirements to identify and eliminate systemic inequities that prohibit BIPOC participation.
- Develop and explicitly center racial equity goals and values in Board discussions and decision making.
- Establish a Racial Equity Committee made up of one representative from each standing committee of the board, staff, community partners, and governing bodies.
- Ensure alignment of our strategic plans and our racial equity goals.
- Hold the President & Executive Director (CEO) accountable to cultivate antiracist culture and practice throughout the organization.
- Broaden the organization's networks we use to identify new employees. Establish a diverse management team that advances racial equity and equip them with knowledge and resources to manage equitably.
- Create a welcoming process and culture for employees, with particular attention to those underrepresented in the current workforce.
- Attract a diverse audience that reflects the population of Greater Boston and seek to eliminate barriers to experiencing live performances.
- Make sure the programming reflects racial and ethnic diversity among the artists appearing on our stages.
- Guarantee that fees paid to artists of color are equitable.
- Adopt an equitable approach to purchasing goods and services from third party vendors.
- Review all existing and newly developed names, designations, and acknowledgements used within the organization for any historical or unconscious bias or negative connotations.
- Engage our Community Partners (defined as our partner performing arts organizations, our community performance venues, and our Neighborhood Artists) and BIPOC voices collaboratively to build capacity, solve problems, advance our mission, make equitable decisions, and enhance programs for those we serve.
- Establish a culture within our organization that supports ongoing individual, team, department, and community learning about racial equity.
- Capture our organizational narrative and progress.
- Establish a culture of feedback that results in authentic, actionable insight.
- Create an environment fostering belonging for audiences and communities.
After developing our Racial Equity Plan, the 2021/22 season saw progress and provided several reminders of how and why this journey toward equity requires a steady cycle of action, assessment, and reflection across all areas of the organization.
A centerpiece of the plan was to establish a board-level Racial Equity Committee charged with working through the other standing committees of the board to ensure the fulfillment of our racial equity goals. In related governance actions, we renamed the Board of Overseers to the Board of Advisors and adopted a more inclusive guideline for the criteria and expectations of our Board members.
Cultivating Directors and Advisors of color represents an area of particular focus in the 2022/23 season. We have engaged Colette Phillips and her Get Konnected! networking initiative to help with these efforts and introduce Celebrity Series to Boston's up-and-coming and established professionals of color.
The 2021/22 season's programming continued to reflect the Celebrity Series' longstanding commitment to diversity in its programming. Highlights were "The Movement Series," a trio of performances including Sankofa Danzafro's "Accommodating Lie," Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Daniel Bernard Roumain's "The Just and the Blind," and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater which highlighted issues of social justice. We engaged Black- and woman-owned firm The Williams Agency for community engagement and audience development in support of this series.
Our Finance and Administration team moved the Celebrity Series endowment and other funds - a total of $14M as of June 2022 - to an asset management firm owned by a woman of color. On the Human Resources front, job searches did not advance until people of color represented at least 25% of the applicant pool.
The adoption of the Racial Equity Plan in 2021/22 and the allocation of resources helped us discover new ways to move forward. As we begin the 2022/23 season, we rededicate ourselves to the goal of centering racial equity as a strategic level imperative for our organization.
Notable Actions in 2021/22, by functional area
- Established a board and staff Racial Equity Committee that is working through all standing committees to implement the Racial Equity Plan.
- Adopted more inclusive Guidelines for the Boards of Directors and Advisors to address both the selection criteria for board members as well as the expectations of those board members.
- Changed the name of our non-governing board to Board of Advisors
- Identified and hired a firm to help diversify our Board recruitment efforts. Work begins in the current 2022/23 season.
Finance and Human Resources
- Changed investment managers for the organization's portfolio ($14M in invested funds as of June 2022) in order to improve portfolio performance. After an extensive search process, we chose an asset management firm owned by a woman of color.
- Established and published the diversity data dashboard.
- Ensured that the hiring pools for administrative positions had at least 25% candidates of color. Despite these efforts, staff BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) representation saw a modest decrease to 18% (from 20%), mostly due to the unusually elevated level of staff turnover during the pandemic.
- Completed a full assessment of the organization's spending to ascertain a current baseline of 8% of non-payroll / non-artistic fee spending with vendors of color.
Artistic / Programming
- Added more robust community engagement activity linked to specific subscription season performances and created deep connections between artists of color and organizations serving BIPOC students and professionals.
- Maintained target goals for diversity in programming for the upcoming 2022/23 subscription season and the Neighborhood Arts season (see dashboard).
Marketing / Communications
- Added an institutional land acknowledgement to website.
- Engaged audience development, marketing, and grassroots community-building firm The Williams Agency (principal, Nicola Williams) to create a strategy to build awareness of and participation in the three productions that were dubbed "The Movement Series."
- Began to engage with Boston While Black and other groups that offer promotional opportunities to networks of color.
Challenges during 2021/22 that will be a high priority for progress in 2022/23
- Embedding active listening and systemic feedback loops within the organization, with our community partners, donors, and audience members and with those not participating in our work.
- Establishing a more regular (as opposed to episodic) cycle of learning about racial equity for the staff and boards of the organization.
- Securing accurate data about the current demographics of our audiences. This information remains elusive.
This list does not suggest that the work to be done is diminishing. The opportunity for meaningful improvement and connection with our communities continues.