Earshot Jazz’s Statement on Anti-Racist Work

June 11, 2020

Last week we released a brief statement on our social media channels affirming that Black Lives Matter. We stand by that affirmation, but we know those words aren’t just a hashtag, and that they ring hollow without action. We also stated that we are committed to moving forward with necessary, ongoing anti-racist education and action. We’d like to share an update on where we’re at with that.

We’ve heard from voices within our organization and our community who’ve let us know that we’ve fallen short. Understanding that we have power in our leadership role in the Seattle jazz community, we realize we must step up to admit our shortcomings and commit to educating ourselves about our individual and organizational racism that perpetuates systemic racism, inequity, and injustice.

We are reckoning with what it means to be a white-led organization with a team of 5 non-Black staff that stewards a Black art form. We’ve engaged in deep dialogue about how, as an organization, we’ve contributed to anti-Blackness in jazz and how we can more actively counter that to become anti-racist.

We’ve spent time this week looking directly to Black-led organizations and their visions—what world they dream of—and how we can contribute to that. We’ve seen recurring statements calling for Black ownership, wealth redistribution, investing in Black and Brown communities, collective liberation, community-led spaces, safety, empowerment, transformation, and belonging.

We’re asking ourselves: how can our vision—that Jazz is widely embraced and highly valued as America’s great gift to world culture—contribute to the collective visions of Black-led organizations?

We commit to questioning and evaluating our efforts for transformative changes and will engage in a regular cycle of action, reflection, and adjustment. We’ve identified some first steps, but this is ongoing work that extends far beyond a checklist:

  • Seek a facilitator to help us with evaluation and next steps
  • Center anti-racism, equity, and justice in our strategic and succession planning this summer
  • Invest resources in ongoing anti-racist education and training for staff and board
  • Evaluate our advertising, vendor, and venue relationships to align our money with anti-racist values

Engaging with and working with people of color in our community has always been important to Earshot Jazz. We have made a conscious effort to include Black voices in our programming, but we know now that it isn’t enough when inclusion takes place in a white-led venue, in front of a largely white audience, promoted through white-led media.

We have a lot of work and education ahead of us. We admit that we don’t know where all our biases are, where we are upholding systemic racism and white privilege, and where we need to interrupt white advantage. We acknowledge that the pressure to be confident in our statement and our actions ties into white dominant culture, but that the fear of getting it wrong doesn’t excuse us from moving forward. We know we will make mistakes and we pledge to learn from those mistakes so they do not happen again.

 We want to thank everyone in our community who has shared feedback with us as we begin this work. We look forward to keeping you updated on our progress, and in the meantime we welcome your comments and questions to info@earshot.org.

 The Earshot Jazz Team: John, Karen, Tara, Errin, Lucienne