Update – February 8, 2020: The Emergence Burn’s “Core” (BOD) has published a statement (pdf version) in response to this open letter. We were also invited to join a call on February 5th to discuss the actions they have taken to create a more inclusive burn. The actions taken by the Emergence Core outline in the statement addresses the vast majority of the concerns and suggested in this open letter. We are especially impressed with the Acidic Art Policy, their advisory committee called “The Pulse,” and their independent Conduct Committee, complete with an online complaint system. The Emergence Core clearly heard the concerns of the community and have worked to make positive changes. We applaud their efforts and their continued commitment to radical inclusion and diversity.
Original open letter published on April 2, 2019:
“Do your best until you know better. Then do better.” ~Maya Angelou
To the leadership, organizers, and BOD of Emergence:
Creating a new burn involves a lot of effort and learning; mistakes will be made. We understand conversations on Facebook can erupt quickly, often invoking anxiety and fear in those being called out or responsible for moderating a group.
We write this open letter out of disappointment regarding leadership’s response to the racist event posted in the Emergence Facebook group and the treatment of the people of color and allies who responded. Every burn is part of a larger global community that represents each and every burner. We feel it is our civic responsibility to respond to the recent incidents. Racism and censorship actively work against radical inclusion and have no place in the burn community.
Emergence demonstrated poor community leadership in a number of ways. In addition to deleting comments and removing and banning group members who had posted their opposition to the event, leadership ignored the severity and repercussions of the original post by claiming it had merely “touched a nerve.” Dismissing the outrage expressed and censoring posts they did not like — especially deleting the input from people of color — highlights the willful ignorance of leadership regarding the impact of racially charged “art.”
Emergence’s stated goal of building an inclusive, cooperative, and collaborative community requires everyone’s voice be included, heard, and valued. Silencing and censoring communication on social media is corrosive to that goal — unless that communication is hateful, abusive, and/or threatening.
We appreciate the conference call offered in an attempt to reconcile animosities. It was step in the right direction. In an effort to help Emergence to continue moving forward, these are our recommendations:
- Public statement of apology, without excuse or explanation, that takes ownership of actions and describes what steps will be taken to move forward.
- Public statement committing to organizational transparency.
- Condemn racism, specifically:
- The proposed event that included references to singing “Negro Prison Blues and Songs.” (Why was it an issue? See here & here.)
- The racist and/or dismissive comments posted by community/FB group members; examples include: all lives matter, dismissing concerns to trolling, racist is a hate word, slaves were enslaved by their own people, playing the victim, minimization, false equivalence, you don’t know us / aren’t coming, being an ally isn’t good enough, tone-policing.
- Any future racist comments, behaviors, events, and art.
- Create a Code of Conduct for Emergence Burn. List of other burns’ Codes of Conduct to help the process.
- Event organizers and key leadership complete racial justice training similar to the resources included below.
- Seek out people of color for event organizer and leadership positions and Facebook group admin/moderator roles.
- Create a civic responsibility art grant that specially focuses on projects that promote diversity.
- Revise the Facebook Rules of Engagement based on community feedback for clarity and post in a permanent place. Identify process of how Facebook group issues will be dealt with going forward and how you will prevent admins from inappropriately deleting, censoring or removing people.
- Create an Emergence Burn Facebook page for official announcements and allow the group to be the unofficial community discussion group.
- Send a representative to the Southeast Leadership Roundtable being held the following Emergence.
- Three Parts of a Genuine Apology
- Me and White Supremacy Workbook – Anti-Racism Training
- Understand Racism & White Privilege – Racial Justice Training
- RACE FORWARD – Racial Equity Tools
- What’s the Difference Between Racism & Prejudice?
- The Equity Literacy Framework
How other burn communities have addressed racism:
- Transformus BOD statement on the practice of the principles – Chapter 1
- Fire Pony Creative Society (Constellation Burn, previous PDF) – Community Announcement re. Art, Healing, and Next Steps
- Open Letter to the Fire Pony Creative Society (Constellation Burn) – re: racist art.
- Diversity & Radical Inclusion: Élida Bautista on Identity and How Burners Can Create Change
- Camp O!Zone! Manifesto and Principles
- 11th Principle: Consent!
- Fire Triangle
- Camp O!Zone!
- Camp No Pants Dance
- Jaime Chandra
- Kristina Snyder
- Kip Reynolds
- Fox Mcracken
- Julia Lech
- Kellye Sons
- Serendipity Lawless
- Taz Harrissi
- Lauren Guy
- Kalyn “TinTin” Howard
- Corrie Hill Price
- Kelley Lynn
- Heather Blackburn
- Jeremy Diner
- Megan Cosmos
- Ann-Michelle Van Eepoel
- Sheffa Ariens
- Daniel Block
- Violet Danielle Horsley
- Shiny HiJacker of Everything
Also signed by (Added after publishing by request):
- Martian Playground
- The Tasty Pasty
- Orion ‘Twizzlers’ Rankin
- Matthew ‘Bear Mace’ Stahl
- Lisa Waller
- Jubilee Heisler
- Emily Wimbish
- Ben Bjostad
- Christopher Martian
- Miketzl R Slowboyski
- Brian Smith
- Jennifer McNeill
- Paden “Ranger Rack” Blanchard
- Melissa Kammerer
- Kat Sto
P.S. If you would like to add your name, group, or camp to the signatures, please email: [email protected]