Working to be an anti-racist organization

A letter from Hayden Anderson

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We cannot succeed in our core work without making every effort against racism

Dear Friends,

Early the week of June 1, the Maine Humanities Council released a public statement on the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer:

“The recent acts of racist violence against Black people, including the murder of George Floyd, demonstrate the persistent widespread denial of Black humanity in America. These acts fill us with sorrow and anger. We are committed to doing better. This is a deep moment of reflection for us and our hearts go out to those who are grieving in our country and across the world.”
In the immediate near term, I don’t expect the Council will issue any further public statement. But I wanted to share with you, our friends, partners, and supporters, what we mean when we say we are reflecting deeply, and committed to doing better. I want to share with you how we’ll be thinking and acting as we try to respond to the call to be an anti-racist organization. I believe there’s nothing more important we could be doing.

We are near the very beginning of our efforts: In October 2019, the Board adopted a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan for the Maine Humanities Council. You can see that plan here. As you’ll see, it is an internal governance document, with plain language and a simple structure, but it shows how we have been thinking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and it lays out a roadmap for us to follow.

Soon, in accordance with the plan, we will be bringing in an independent consultant to work with us to audit our practices and policies, to show us where and how we are falling short, and to provide guidance as we seek to improve.

But I want you to know that we are not waiting around. The Council has already begun to build and nurture close partnerships with organizations and communities that have been long neglected, especially those led by and serving people of color. And we have been evaluating and adjusting staff roles and responsibilities wherever we need to so that we can prioritize pursuing this work.

In program development and delivery, we have begun to prioritize communities that have been historically underrepresented or marginalized. In our grant making, we are bringing a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens to grant review decisions and placing a priority on applications from organizations that have been left out in the past. And in the recruitment and selection of program facilitators, we have begun to reach out to individuals from traditionally underrepresented or marginalized communities for recruitment into the MHC’s facilitator corps. We are developing training and support structures designed to vastly expand the range of individuals we can bring on to facilitate Council programs.

Over time, you’ll hear much more from us about what we’re doing. All our efforts are near the beginning – and all are critical to the success of our work as a whole. This work – anti-racism work – goes to the heart of what we at the Maine Humanities Council do.

If our state and our nation are to make lasting progress towards equity, justice, and thriving communities, the disciplines and practices of the humanities must be examined, developed, thrown open in service and support of all of humanity. Our core work is to foster rich, meaningful discussion about the things that really matter. We cannot succeed in this work without making every effort against racism.

We need to do better. And we know that to do better we need all the help we can get. Your insight, your experience, your curiosity and support and suggestions – please join us in this vital discussion.

Thank you for your support of the Maine Humanities Council.

Hayden Anderson
Executive Director