What’s Next For Our Work on Racial Equity in Arts Funding?

An update on the PA Arts Council (PCA) budget for 2017-18 as it pertains to equitable payments to African, Latino, Asian, Arab and Native Arts (ALAANA) arts organizations. You will remember from my earlier post that 96 of the 100 largest arts budgets that are in the state system are predominantly white led when considering the majority of their board, staff, and how they define their art form. Unfortunately, for the time being, we have to rely on my categorization of these organizations because neither the State, nor data collection organizations like Data Arts include race in the variety of methods they use to categorize arts organizations.  This lack of cultural data categorization is one clear place of systemic white supremacy in the American non-profit arts system, and it is ‘missingness” is not a simple oversight that will be easily fixed. When I worked as a Program Officer for The Heinz Endowments there was an effort to get what was then the Cultural Data Project, and is now DataArts, to categorize data by race to no avail. The reasoning was always foggy to me, but the power was not. Predominantly white led philanthropy, at least in the eastern part of the country where the CDP began, was not committed to capturing this data and many, many more predominantly white led arts organizations were openly opposed than were in support. The value of this policy to maintaining the current distribution of resources is obvious. When I categorize 96/100 of the largest budgets as predominantly white, or when The Greenlining Institute reported in 2005 that only 3% of funding from the top foundations went to “minority led” orgs, or Helicon published Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change and said 50% of arts funding goes to 2% of arts organizations, powerful, predominantly white led arts
Read More

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
Read More

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
Read More