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We Will Make it Through the Storm

Equity in the Arts
Black and white image of three empty, metal music stands in a row.

The following two letters were written by The Lark's executive leaders, Stacy Waring and John Clinton Eisner, to share their messages for our community during this difficult moment.

As I look at all that is happening around the country, I am both saddened and inspired. The anguish I feel over the recent murders by police officers is a legacy of pain that runs through the DNA of every black person living in America. The shadow of white supremacy permeates every area of our lives - and it isn’t a life generating force. It isn’t the air or the sun or the ocean or the earth, or the stars. It is a dark, erosive, poisonous sickness that is driven by fear, insecurity, scarcity and greed. A stench that lives in my pores and nostrils that persists with every breath I take.

I commend those in our industry that are speaking out, but we all know by now that is not enough. As leaders we know that words are meaningless without a willingness to take real risks. What are we willing to change? What fragility are we willing to confront in ourselves and those we depend on? What commitments are we willing to make? What resources are we willing to sacrifice? What projects and people are we willing to say no to? To say yes to? What position are we going to take?

When I took over the role as Executive Director, I was excited about the opportunity to create space to address moments like these. A space where the root causes of our societal challenges around tyranny and oppression can be addressed, both in safe spaces and in mixed company, because true healing requires open, honest, complicated dialogue. I look forward to these exchanges in the upcoming year.

This moment, as painful and complicated as it is, is pregnant with possibility. As a theater community there are many uncertainties about the future, but what is clear is the fact that we can and must do more to confront the status quo.

My vision for The Lark is to have a staff and board that reflect the demographics of our artists, and to work strategically and collaboratively to broaden the platforms and impact of our playwrights nationally and internationally.  My vision is for The Lark and its playwrights to get through this crisis intact. My vision for our field is that we find ways of furthering equity in our organizations and in our work. Let’s continue sharing resources and modeling practices that work. We need each other more than ever right now to make it through this storm.

Stacy Waring
Executive Director, The Lark

The horrifying murder of George Floyd took place in the midst of a global pandemic that was already shining a shameful light on structural racism and injustice in the United States. The state-sanctioned violence against Black Americans as witnessed by the murders of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd and the absence of accountability is only the tip of the iceberg of our most profound failure as a nation.

In the face of enormous pain and justified rage felt by Black artists and communities, I have been grappling with how to respond.

What does this moment mean to me as a white male founder and leader of a cultural organization that has committed to prioritizing voices and perspectives that have been historically misrepresented and under-resourced by our field? How can The Lark deepen its commitment to supporting Black artists and their communities in disrupting white supremacy culture, now and continuously?

This moment is particularly troubling as I consider the dire challenges and roadblocks that my colleague Stacy Waring – our recently-appointed Executive Director – will likely face as a Black woman charged with leading our organization into the next decade. How can I support her and the extraordinary community I have the privilege to serve?

This is what I know right now: until the history of the enslavement of Black people and their historical oppression by white people is addressed, t
here will continue to be state-sanctioned violence against Black people and those who excuse it. We are a country steeped in institutions of oppression that were established on the backs of African and Native people, and the systems that keep these institutions in place to this day have led to George Floyd’s brutal death, and so many others. Black people are dying of COVID-19 disproportionally because we as a nation have not accepted civic responsibility for multigenerational poverty, redlining, and other forms of systemic oppression and intentional racism that have left them with substandard resources.

White supremacy is also rooted in the arts – in the prevalence of white decision makers, how artwork is defined and valued, and the socioeconomic gap between funders and cultural workers. The Lark has not done enough to challenge these and other racist systems. As a leader, I have been too silent, perhaps too frightened. I need to risk more, speak out with authority to disrupt racial injustice, and urge others to do the same.

This is a call to white people in this country to take action, especially artistic and cultural leaders like me who are well positioned to have an impact – by centering Black artists in institutions, encouraging them to write their truths, and promoting conversations about justice, anti-racism, and combating anti-Blackness.

Now, and especially in the years to come, when we have returned to physical space after COVID-19, we have important work to do. We will advocate for greater equity, with a keen focus on centering Black writers and stories of Black lives. We will continue to be a safe space for vital work. We will offer a place for discussions about their stories and the issues they raise. We will advocate for greater levels of access and influence in the industry.
With 25 years of social capital, we are uniquely positioned to support Black artists in their work and promote Black cultural workers into decision-making roles. This is what we do, and we will continue to lean into these activities with profound intention, humanity, and all the love we can muster.

John Clinton Eisner
Artistic Director,
The Lark