2020 Racial Justice Statement

My Dearest Vaudezilla community,

It is a little over one month since the murder of George Floyd and though I have crafted a statement before, I have struggled to convey a message that appropriately matches what is happening across our Country and in the streets of our communities. My statement on June 6 was measured and had underlying expectations of forgiveness and protection, which are related to my own White dominance and proximity to power.

In that statement I also said that Vaudezilla is antiracist, not understanding then that antiracism is not a state of being, but a process of intentionally doing work to disrupt and resist racism in everyday life. That statement was not enough.

Over the last month, I have begun to work with an equity-minded consultant who is supporting my antiracism journey. My work began with an acknowledgment of my positionality as a White woman and the supremacy and dominance that my whiteness brings to spaces and to the relationships I had with the Vaudezilla community. It is time to speak more as an anti-racist, and part of that requires that I confess my transgressions, and take account for the ways that I have hurt Black, Indigenous and People of Color in the Vaudezilla community, even when I thought that my actions and words were good intentioned. My equity-minded work is helping me to recognize how identities intersect and how being on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum intersects with one’s racial identity to make them experience oppression in even more harmful ways.

I also want to take accountability for my part in the use of “Wade in the Water” to perform a burlesque act. It was sacrilegious to perform an act to a song that was used to shepherd slaves to safety and freedom using the Underground railroad. I understand that my ignorance was not an excuse, and that it is my responsibility to educate myself and to know more about the lives and histories of the people I interact with. I understand how an act to that song demonstrated a moral apathy and complicity in appropriating something that is culturally sacred.

I appreciated the emails, texts and calls from the Vaudezilla community members that shared their concern for the ways I have caused harm in the past. Know that your experiences of not being seen, heard, or listened to are real and that your calls to action are timely, heard and understood.

The idea that many of our performers, ensemble members, their families, and their loved ones, have to argue that they are human and that their lives matter is in of itself dehumanizing. But wishing and writing for change is not enough. Since this statement is words, my actions are more important, and I want to share them.

These are my actions:

• I began working with DEI and equity-minded consultant Dr. Michelle Cromwell, who has helped me to acknowledge my proximity to power, my White body supremacy and my white fragility. We began by having frank conversations about my harm to the Vaudezilla community over the years and they prepared me to acknowledge what happened, what my part in it was, and to craft a plan to help make change.

• I am engaging in my personal work to truly begin the journey of antiracism. I am reading books, attending webinars, attending lectures by notable antiracism and queer activists, and having accountability sessions with Dr. Cromwell.

• Moving forward and when I have reached a place in my journey that you can call me back in, I plan to create “Brave Spaces” to heal, empower, support and lift up the voices and experiences of the Black, brown, indigenous, queer and trans bodies I have hurt and harmed in the past. I hope to create spaces and opportunities that transcend the current Vaudezilla identity, that will empower people to be in relationship with a transformed me and each other.

• As a part of a reengagement plan, and to create an inclusive environment, I will create a portal where students, team members, performers and ensemble members can share experiences, concerns and suggestions to provide me with feedback about the ways they experience me, the space, and my work.

• I am working with an anti-oppression healer to transform the White body supremacy that I embody, and which caused me to perpetuate oppressive practices. This is in preparation to co-create and reengage with you as a community. In whatever way you need that to be.

• With the help of the community, and to meet a need, I would like to assist in co-creating a space that can serve the role of working out the pain and trauma that resides in Black, brown, indigenous, queer, and trans bodies, while empowering those involved to make a just living.

Thank you for holding me accountable and for caring enough to show me the way.

In Solidarity,

Ann Marie Weinert