MAR 2024

HFF24 Workshop #4: Antiracism for white Artists

“In prioritizing my values, I’m helping to create a world where each of us has our needs met in the first place. That means refusing to uphold a system that devalues anyone who exists outside of a white European heteropatriarchal false ideal. It started with saying ‘black lives matter’ and continues with the deep understanding that my freedom is bound up with those lives. It took me awhile to begin to understand that, but it is now my responsibility and it is also one of the greatest joys of my life.”

- J Stephen Brantley


This workshop explore ways in which white artists can actively contribute to dismantling systemic racism and promoting inclusivity in their creative practices. (Note there will be an affinity space for BIPOC, facilitated by the Access Advisory Board, during the Festival in June at Fringe Central.) Our panelists for this event included Emma Irene, Lex Ryan, and J Stephen Brantley. The conversation was moderated by Ellen Den Herder. You can watch the recording of the full workshop here.


In this conversation the panelists unpacked the following:

- Why are we centering white folks in this conversation about antiracism?

- What is white supremacy?

- What is antiracism?

- What is my personal stake in ending white supremacy?

- What does this have to do with theatre?


Attendees were given these prompts to examine their own personal stake in anti-racism work:


- How do you hold your personal stake, together with what’s at stake for others? 

- What are some ways that you and other white people are impacted as part of the system of white supremacy?

- Does the framework we just discussed change how you see your place within the white supremacy system?



Four practices & tools covered in this workshop:


1. Understanding one’s own nervous system response to discomfort and making mistakes in the context of antiracism work. The panel provides guidance on how to become aware of and identifying personal responses, such as defensiveness or guilt, to better navigate situations and take accountability for actions. They also emphasize the difference between taking accountability to repair harm versus doing so to avoid conflict. 


2. Tools like circle practice help build community, prevent harm, and address issues in creative spaces through restorative justice. Circle practice involves sitting in community to share feelings and views. It can be used during check-ins at the start of a meeting or rehearsal, while addressing harm, and to build community by using art-inspired prompts related to the work being produced. The panel emphasizes the importance of this work, despite the common pushback of not having enough time, and shares how it can lead to better work, stronger community, and more effective conflict resolution. 


3. Authenticity in storytelling and casting. Using anti-racist frameworks and standards in casting practices to ensure a diverse set of artists in the room. The panel emphasizes the need to consider cultural implications of the work being produced and the benefits of creating inclusive environments. 


4. Approach conversations about racism from a place of curiosity rather than challenge. The panelists emphasize the importance of understanding other people’s perspectives and having organizational systems for conflict resolution. Especially acknowledge the importance of this discussion on antiracism in the arts community for white artists. 


Community resources to continue this work:


LA Theatre Standards 

A list of standards you can enact to uphold anti-racism in your production created by and for Angeleno theatre makers


Characteristics of White Supremacy 

A great starting point to read into white supremacy, and develop your own personal stake in ending white supremacy culture in and out of the rehearsal room