At its meeting in late October, the Maine Humanities Council board adopted the first-ever Equity and Inclusion Statement for MHC. It aims to articulate where we’re at now with our equity work and to lay out how we are currently thinking about these issues. It also describes some of the concrete steps and actions the Council has taken to advance our efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion.
I am incredibly grateful to the staff members and board members who have worked so hard to develop this statement, and who continue to bring so much of themselves to this work. In 2017, we named improving our understanding and practices around diversity, equity, and inclusion as a strategic priority for the MHC. Since that time, we have grown tremendously in our understanding of what it looks like and feels like to commit ourselves to this work. We still have a long way to go.
One thing I can say to you unequivocally: Thanks in large part to the Council’s ongoing efforts to live out this equity commitment in everything we do, today the MHC is more effective than it has ever been at bringing the power of the humanities to all Maine people. Our programs are more intellectually fertile; our grantmaking has greater breadth and depth; our partnerships across the entire state are deeper and more powerful.
Thanks, as always, for your support of the MHC.
Statement on Equity and Inclusion
The Maine Humanities Council acknowledges that the humanities often privilege some groups over others, reflect our society’s structural racism, and define the contours of humanity in exclusionary ways. We recognize that the culture we work and live within continues to perpetuate racism, classism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia, and other forms of oppression. We also recognize the Council’s practices often reinforce exclusionary systems and limit participation from historically marginalized people.
The Maine Humanities Council has shifted our priorities in an effort to acknowledge and address the marginalization that exists in our culture and within the humanities. It is our hope that our shifts can begin to make amends for the ways we have knowingly or unknowingly reinforced oppressive systems and exclusion. In our outreach and partnerships, we are now focusing on groups that have been pushed to the margins by dominant cultures. We are intentional in the programs we co-create and support in communities, and we are extending these opportunities to communities that are impoverished or traditionally under-resourced, including communities in rural areas. We deliberately choose texts that feature diverse voices that fully reflect all Maine people. We are committed to making space for people from all communities across Maine to serve as leaders who help carry the mission of the Maine Humanities Council forward. We will strive to honor the many different forms of knowledge, experience, and expertise that exist here in Maine. We recognize our evolution is a process. We will continue to evolve in our understanding of the diversity and equity of Maine’s ever-changing population.
We continue to be convinced of the power of humanities-based discussion with a robust and diverse set of texts to be a force for positive social change and to bring people together. We strive to create barrier-free environments for these discussions, building more inclusive communities with stories that affirm every individual’s humanity and capacity to contribute to our community, our democracy, and our life together.