Living Up to Core Values: Social Justice and Community
Listed among the core values of Vancouver Poetry House are social justice and community; we hereby acknowledge that the VPH Board of directors has failed to uphold these values. The purpose of this statement is to acknowledge the ways that we, personally, and the organization, historically, have perpetuated systemic racism through both action and inaction, and to detail our commitment to meaningful action from this point forward.
Community members have repeatedly spent time and energy bringing their experiences of systemic racism forward to the organization, highlighting a history of systemic racial inequity which has stretched across various iterations of the VPH board of directors, in terms of VPH’s treatment of BIPOC staff, volunteers, and community members. The VPH Board has failed, on several occasions, to take meaningful action in response to the concerns brought forward. It should be stated that these failures are inclusive of current members of the Board, and that the Board has done harm to BIPOC community members, undervalued the energy and labour of BIPOC staff and volunteers, and alienated people from the community.
We also acknowledge that consistently prioritizing programming and fundraising has come at the expense of addressing community feedback regarding institutional racism within VPH. Significant action could have consisted of building trust, seeking feedback, creating safe channels for community members to express concerns, and commitment to follow-up. These actions were not taken. We want to further acknowledge that there are unresolved concerns and allegations that the current Board has acted in ways rooted in racism with regards to disciplinary action. These concerns necessitate a review of policy from a third party committed to diversity and inclusion.
This statement is the beginning of a commitment from the board to address systemic racism within Vancouver Poetry House. The continuation of this work requires a shift in resource allocation. This shift in focus is necessary, and is the only path forward if we are to truly align with our stated values.
Some of the actions the VPH Board of Directors will be taking are:
- Creation and distribution of surveys to collect anonymous information about people’s experiences of racism in their interactions/involvement with Vancouver Poetry House and its programs
- Instituting oversight initiatives
- Analysis of survey responses and integration of this feedback into the work plan
- Creation of an online form for people to submit anonymous feedback at any time, and continual integration of this feedback
- Completion of the Arts & Equity Project’s Organizational Audit Tool (created for the Kingston Arts Council)
- Continuing to apply for funding to pay a consultant for an anti-oppression audit
- An audit of all our policy to address the ways it reinforces systemic racism in its language and/or in practice, including hiring policies
- Creation of a clear policy to prioritize the hiring for BIPOC artists in all our programming, with measures in place to ensure we uphold this commitment
- Creation of a publicly available work plan that details timelines for these steps
We recognize that patterns of inequity have caused distrust of the organization. We hope to break these patterns.
It will take consistent and thoughtful work to create spaces where folks are comfortable engaging in the processes we will be establishing. We welcome feedback about this process at every step along the way, and will aim to be accountable to feedback and transparent throughout this work.
As we are trying to take a community guided approach if you would like to share information and/or participate in a survey you may do so here. Information gathered will help shape next steps.