Pennsylvania HR 400: Examining Systemic Racism in Public Arts Funding

Hoping this makes a contribution to the work of disrupting systemic racism in the arts please see here PA House Resolution 400  sponsored by Rep. Jake Wheatley to conduct a study on the potential racial, age and geographic bias in the funding formula that determines how operating support is distributed by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (AOAP Arts Orgs Arts Programs). I serve on the Council (PCA) and, after saying for the better part of a year that the funding formula privileged white, large budget, older arts organizations and being told that I needed to note that I was only one of a few “people of color” on the Council by the Council Chair (and so presumably had a lot of convincing to do?), I started a conversation with my state representative, Rep. Jake Wheatley, asking for his help. It turns out, Rep Wheatley is the Chair of the Finance Committee and he was very open to working on this issue and connected me with Steven Williams, the research analyst for the Democrats in the House Finance Committee, and the Resolution was crafted. The formula supports the structures of racism in the arts because in a state where, at most, 4 of the top 100 arts budgets are predominantly ALAANA people (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab and Native American) in staff, leadership and board, a funding formula weighting funding history, budget size and years receiving grants is weighting criteria that serves as a proxy for white, older and larger. So, this is an opportunity to take a step and craft a valuable reform with implications for the country. PCA staff has proposed new budget formulas for the 2017-18 year, but because rural has been inserted, the new formulas swing far more dollars to rural organizations than ALAANA orgs. In fact, in
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Welcome To Hillombo

Thank you for coming to Hillombo! After decades of working, succeeding and failing in building culture and community, while working in almost all-manners of Pittsburgh’s non-profit sector: philanthropy, arts, community development, out of school time programming, community organizing and education, Bonnie and I have formed Hillombo LLC. to “Lift Black perspectives, negotiate and build alternatives to systemic racism and capitalism, in the memory of our ancestors, for the benefit of Black people.” We are excited and curious about where our mission will take us! In the short term, we will be working with foundations and grantmakers that are developing strategies with grantee partners, partnering with community development organizations that are building power by engaging community in planning and strategy and working with white led arts organizations on issues of racial equity. Our interest is in applying and furthering what we’ve learned to help groups  make progress on specific challenges while imagining what the implications might be for higher system level interventions. And we have a lot to learn. We know that capitalism’s many ways of hoarding resources intensifies and facilitates racism- which today we think of as an ongoing systemic project to create, define, defend, enforce and justify (a) the idea of race, (b) white people being the top race (c ) the material and psycho-social benefit of white people to the detriment of “others”. Yet neither idea just emerges out of the forest, both concepts are children of European people and culture, as am I, so, we are interested in thinking, acting and creating spaces that examine how culture both feeds and offers alternatives to these systems. We also know that this work will not always be a linear progression of these ideas and that we will continue our ongoing effort to both live our ideas and live with economic resources. And the work of Hillombo has already
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