“It is a terrible, an inexorable, law that one cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one’s own: in the face of one’s victim, one sees oneself."
– James Baldwin
To Our Community,
As theater-makers, we are charged with engaging honestly and deeply in conversations about our humanity, and our inhumanity. We at Chicago Shakespeare stand in solidarity with those calling for justice and radical change. Black Lives Matter. The brutal killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others have awakened our nation to the oppression and injustice inherent in our country’s DNA. We are now examining our own complicity in systemic racism.
We are holding ourselves accountable to an ongoing practice that will ensure that Chicago Shakespeare is, without question, an actively anti-racist organization. We restate our longstanding commitment to safeguarding racial equity and justice in our art-making and in our workplace for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and we take responsibility for time we have fallen short in this imperative in the past.
We pledge to do better, beginning with these commitments:
- Our stages will be home to stories that better reflect the multitude of identities, strengths, and viewpoints in our city and our world. As we interrogate what it means to be a “Shakespeare theater,” we acknowledge the power of our platform, and the voices that have historically claimed it. Investing in the stories and talents of those who have been marginalized and silenced, we commit to producing more work from Black artists and other theater-makers of color.
- A far wider spectrum of perspectives is required around the table—from the rehearsal room to the board room, on our administrative and creative teams. We will challenge existing recruitment, hiring, and casting practices, and increase BIPOC representation at every level, including our Board of Directors and leadership team, and across all departments and our stages.
- Evolving into an actively anti-racist and anti-oppressive organization now becomes an ongoing priority and practice. We fully commit our time, attention, and resources to this important work. We will be open and honest with ourselves and our community as we address our challenges and shortcomings. Racism, harassment, and discrimination have no place at our Theater.
- A theater is its community. In addition to looking inward, we will look outward, and actively welcome the broadest community possible to participate and partner in our work. We will extend our commitment to anti-racism into outreach, engagement, discussions, and planning with external constituents, collaborators, and audiences. Through active listening, advocacy, and resource-sharing, we will uplift organizations on the front lines of activism and community-building.
In the weeks ahead, we pledge to publicly delineate the action steps and metrics by which we will track progress on this page. As we continue to focus on this essential work, we have compiled a list of resources to inform our conversations around this topic, and we share them here in case it opens new dialogues and opportunities for you as well.
In partnership with our community, we commit to a future that looks very different from our present.
Artistic Director, Carl and Marilynn Thoma Chair
Board of Directors Chair
Every summer since the inception of Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, our collaborations with neighborhood organizations across the city have best embodied the unifying spirit of this program. Right now, many of these partners are standing up against oppression and injustice, engaged in powerful, on-the-ground relief efforts for their neighborhoods. We support their vital work and encourage you to join us in taking action.
Arts Alliance Illinois has outlined immediate ways to be involved in this important national conversation, including contacting legislators, supporting organizations dismantling racism, learning with anti-racism resources, and being informed on legal rights for protesters.
Chicago Shakespeare joins forces with hundreds of organizations in this summer's citywide initiative, My CHI. My Future. Spearheaded by Chicago First Lady Amy Eshleman, the program aims to provide equitable access for youth to engaging, safe out-of-school experiences that empower them to cultivate identities, build relationships, and explore future opportunities.