On June 17, 2020 we set the Retrofit in motion by holding a Racial Justice Town Hall. Equity members were invited to tell President Kate Shindle and Executive Director Mary McColl how systemic anti-Black racism in Equity and in the theatre industry has affected their lives. We were moved – to say the least – by the great vulnerability, outrage and dignity the members showed us that day. We understand that it can be treacherous for members to lay their race-based traumas bare, and we are grateful to the vice chairs of the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee for joining the event as hosts. E. Faye Butler, Barbara Roberts and Allyson Tucker leveraged their warm spirits and powerful voices to ensure that the Town Hall was a safe place for Black members to speak and be heard. 

On the heels of the Town Hall came hundreds of emails, phone calls and social media posts from Equity members sharing experiences and more ideas. This summer also brought manifestos like We See You, WAT. Staff have pored over all of this robust data – your raised voices – to create a clear picture of every area in which we must change and a process for ensuring that change is holistic and sustained. This Diversity and Inclusion Retrofit strategy has been developed and its progress will be guided by Diversity & Inclusion Strategist Bliss Griffin. It is founded on the recent Black Lives Matter Resolution which was passed by the council in June of 2020, and every facet of the effort will be capped by a renewed commitment to transparency and accountability. Equity’s retrofit is the internal framework for an ongoing process by which working groups of staff, members, and councilors analyze the union’s operations and make policy recommendations to council to move Equity toward becoming an antiracist organization.

An image of a building that looks like the Pantheon, with the words Centering BIPOC Needs & Anti-Racist Priorities across the base, which supports eight columns each inscribed with a phrase: Develop Staff, Empower Members, Guide Employers, Focus Organizing, Strengthen Agreements, Connect Members, Coach Council, Open Access. These columns support a roof with the words Transparency & AccountabilityThe framework by which we understand Equity’s anti-racist work is pictured here. The shape of the pantheon is a symbol of our commitment to become an organization in which our BIPOC members feel stable and protected, and that the sanctity of their whole humanity is honored. 

To that end, we have established Working Groups, small bodies of members and staff tasked with analyzing all facets of a particular pillar to identify its failures related to equity, diversity and inclusion. Each Working Group revamps procedures related to a particular aspect of the work that will be adopted by the union as a whole. Working Groups are guided by the diversity & inclusion department and composed of the chairs of relevant committees, staff members who work on connected portfolios, and a mix of rank-and-file members, delegates and councilors with relevant experience. The groups are limited to ten people, which helps to drive efficiency productivity and populated with an eye toward great diversity along the lines of race, age, gender, disability, region, work specialty and contract experience.  

Our immediate focus is on areas of operational change, which do not require significant policy modifications. Exploring these areas will both unearth Equity’s strengths and support any future structural, bylaw or policy changes with evidence. We invite you to peruse the updates page, which is refreshed periodically for more detail about the working groups’ progress and the substantive policy changes the Equity council is making to create the just theatre world we all deserve.