Organizational Review & Transformation
We’ll be sharing more information on opportunities for involvement in this process as details become available.
Should you have feedback or questions in the meantime, please email email@example.com.
Over the past several months, institutions across the arts sector, including Buddies, have been invited to reflect upon our complicity in systemic racism. Since June, we have been asked by community members to be accountable for all the ways in which systems of racism, anti-Blackness, and other forms of oppression have manifested and, too often, gone unaddressed, at Buddies.
During this time, both Board and staff have been doing work internally to assess our own understandings, begin to identify gaps, and lay the groundwork for a process of transformation. We recognize that we did not share enough of this internal process, nor did we directly respond to community concerns that had been voiced. This page (created in February 2021) is an effort to be more transparent in our activities, and to provide more clear means of engagement with this work as we move forward.
This page includes a collection of public statements from Buddies and our Board of Directors about organizational review and transformation within the theatre; more information on the working groups and actions being taken to this end; and opportunities for feedback and involvement in the process.
As we continue this work, the contents of this page will be updated to reflect changes in our activities as well as opportunities for engagement, which will be determined by a community advisory group.
For our most recent community update, please read the statement from our Board of Directors below, under “Organizational Statements” published February 5, 2021.
Below we’ve compiled Buddies’ statements and postings around anti-racism and organizational transformation, dating back to June 2020. Please note that this compilation does not include many community public posts and private discussions that have informed this work and this process.
Our most recent statement appears at the top. Click on the dates below to read earlier public statements.
February 5, 2021
To our communities:
Over the past several months, institutions across the arts sector, including Buddies, have been invited to reflect upon our complicity in systemic racism. We have been asked by community members to be accountable for all the ways in which we have benefited from and exacerbated anti-Black racism and other forms of oppression deeply entrenched in our history and at all levels of our institution.
Since our last public communication as a Board in July 2020, we have been working internally to respond to these provocations: to better assess our current realities, identify gaps, and lay the groundwork for the transformation process ahead of us.
While these are conversations that have been initiated with Buddies in the past, they were most recently brought forward in May 2020 by Shaista Latif, in an open letter on her social media. In it, she referenced her experiences of racism and classism at the theatre. This statement was shared widely by community members calling on Buddies to acknowledge it outrightly, and to engage in a community-led process to address classism, anti-Black racism, racism, sexism, ableism and other inequities at the organization. The message was also echoed in an open letter by Bricks and Glitter, and by Rhoma Akosua Spencer, who organized a panel discussion to address anti-Black racism at Buddies. In solidarity with these calls, a number of artists have withdrawn from or declined participation in our programming, including our blog, 2020 Pride Programming, Rhubarb Festival, and Residency Programming. Since the summer, Shaista Latif (former Buddies artist in residence and youth facilitator), with support from Claire Burns (former Buddies employee and community member) and Sedina Fiati (community member and former Buddies artist and contractor), have been facilitating a variety of methods to gather experiences of harm and hold the institution accountable. This work also includes advocating for committees and archival projects to render visible histories that have been erased.
As a queer theatre, we acknowledge that we have not always succeeded in bringing values of equity, justice, and community to our work. We have not sufficiently listened to, or mended our relationships with community members. We also recognize that our history and current practices as a predominantly white-led institution has too often allowed acts of sexism, racism, ableism, classism, and other forms of oppression to both occur and be overlooked, and that our silence and inaction have inflicted further harm.
We recognize those who have highlighted instances of racism at Buddies and who seek accountability, privately and publicly, and in allyship with other community members. We specifically acknowledge that Indigenous, Black, and racialized communities have been called on to re-tell their experiences of oppression, to educate and advise us, and to push for redress, despite disparities in capacity and while risking re-traumatization, dismissal, and retribution.
In the summer of 2020, after receiving messages from the community, the Board of Directors announced plans to hire an equity and diversity consultant to help Buddies examine its operations, using an anti-oppression and anti-racism framework— a longtime goal for the organization. However, we recognize that our previous statements did not provide tangible steps on how we intended to move forward, nor did they explicitly respond to our communities and their concerns. Our lack of acknowledgement and meaningful listening, as well as our slowness in addressing these issues, have compounded the harm enacted by our organization.
In October 2020, the Board of Directors hired Annemarie Shrouder International (ASI) to lead a multi-phase organizational review. The overarching goal of this review is to facilitate reconciliation and accountability with the Buddies community, as well as building active understanding of anti-oppression work, particularly as it relates to racism and anti-Black racism. Action items resulting from the first phase of this review have focused on the Board of Directors: answering and strengthening communication with community members, building acumen in equity, diversity and anti-racism, reviewing board operations through intersectional anti-oppressive frameworks, and assessing board recruitment practices.
At a staff level, parallel work has included an anti-racism reading group that met regularly throughout the summer, which has informed a departmental review process; improved staff-board communications; quarterly training sessions, and facilitated company-wide discussions.
As we move forward in this process, we are assessing policies and practices, including those related to hiring, planning, and workplace/board culture. We are building opportunities for community engagement and feedback, recognizing that Board and staff are not fully representative of the diverse communities with whom we engage. This will include, as an initial step, the formation of an Advisory Group that will work alongside the Board’s Transformation Committee to assist in the creation of inclusive process, as well as goal-setting, and tracking progress. The advisory group will be remunerated for its time. Subject to the guidance of the advisory group, other points of engagement might be: a forum in which community members would engage in dialogue with current board directors and executive leadership; the development of an external accountability process and grievance procedure; and an ongoing feedback process wherein community members can comment about their experiences at Buddies, or pose questions about process. As we move forward in this process and gain community insight, these engagement opportunities may shift to better meet the needs of our communities.
Moving forward, Buddies is committed to holding space for painful histories, and to actively push against white supremacy and patriarchy in all corners of this theatre. We acknowledge that the transformation process ahead is a long one, and will take time and energy. As we enter into this process and strive for meaningful organizational change, we commit to always framing our actions with accountability, equity, and collaboration with, and in service to, our communities. We hope our communities will join us in the shaping of a future of justice and solidarity at Buddies.
The Board of Directors of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Should you have feedback or questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
October 8, 2020
excerpted from our fall programming announcement:
As the organization focuses inwardly and evaluates its structure and future, Buddies’ Board of Directors is leading a multi-phase, community-engaged organizational review looking at diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism at all levels of the organization. This work builds upon the Board Inclusion Statement, a statement of values and guiding document for how the Board operates; ongoing internal discussions around organizational equity and policy; as well as the ongoing dialogue between Board and community members who have shared concerns about Buddies. Since the summer, the Board has been in conversation with various consultants in order to hire a facilitator to work with Buddies on this first part of the review, and will be sharing more details later this month.
July 31, 2020
A message from Buddies in Bad Times Theatre’s Board of Directors
As announced in June 2020, Buddies has initiated a comprehensive transformation process to address anti-Black racism and other forms of oppression within our organization. We had committed to providing more information by July 31, so here is a brief update:
- We are in conversation with BIPOC consultants/facilitators to oversee our institutional transformation – this will include an open community forum and a full review of policies and procedures (e.g hiring procedures). This organizational review will commence in the fall.
- We mandated the board’s Transformation Committee to continue to recruit BIPOC Board members.. The Transformation Committee has been working on a more inclusive, anti-oppressive Board culture for the past three years. Several long-term Board members have recently stepped away, allowing space for new members and new ideas.A call for new board members will be issued in the coming months. We hope that you in the community will consider serving as part of the Buddies board.
- In advance of this facilitated work, Buddies staff has commenced a process of anti-racist self-education and reflection with a daily reading and discussion sessions running through the summer months.
Our work has just begun. This is a long-term process and we appreciate the community’s patience and collaboration as we move forward on this important journey. We will be announcing more information as it is available, and will provide regular updates once the process has started. In the meantime, if you would like to get in touch with the board directly on these initiatives, you can email us at email@example.com.
June 21, 2020
We want to let our community know that Buddies board and senior leadership are currently in the process of hiring an outside, BIPOC-led consulting group to take us through a comprehensive organizational review. Toward Buddies ongoing project of queer liberation, this review will include updating our equity hiring practices and frameworks, leadership succession planning at all levels (board and staff), and addressing anti-Black racism, racism, reconciliation and meaningful inclusion at all levels of our organization.
In our effort to be as transparent and accountable as possible to our stakeholders, we will announce more details of this process (which will actively include community consultation) as soon as we are able to do so, by or before July 31, 2020. Once we have more information to share, we will be offering regular updates and progress reports to the community.
We look forward to this opportunity for organizational reflection, growth and transformation.
June 13, 2020
Posted to Facebook
In light of the community calls to action that have arisen over the last few weeks, we are pausing most of our Pride programming at this time to reflect and take action on structural racism within our organization.
Buddies is committed to undertaking a multi-phase, community-engaged process that addresses racism, anti-Blackness, and equity within our institution. We will be publicly announcing our board and organization plans and commitments this coming week.
While we will be paying all Pride-contracted artists their complete fees regardless, we are taking this step the step of reducing our Pride activity in order to focus on the important work upon us and ahead of us; also importantly, at this time we wish to allow artists the freedom to make their own decisions about their association with Buddies, without concern of financial penalty.
June 6, 2020
Posted to Facebook
We recognize this is a time of immense pain and hurt, as we face the violent realities of anti-Black racism and police brutality, and we know this hurt is disproportionately affecting QTBIPOC communities.
Last week some serious allegations, against an artist contractor who has worked for Buddies in the past, were brought to our attention. We are, and have been listening. We take these matters very seriously.
The situation we’ve been made aware of involves allegations of abuse within the intimate relationship between two artists who, at different times in the past, have each been contracted by Buddies. While as an arts institution we cannot involve ourselves in the personal and intimate relationships of former contractors, we want to make clear that Buddies does not, and will not in the future, knowingly work with anyone who is the subject of serious allegations that violate our core principles.
We believe survivors.
We stand unequivocally against domestic and intimate partner violence. We recognize and acknowledge how power, abuse and coercion are often bound up with, and compounded by, systemic discrimination and racism. This can particularly impact both personal and professional relationships inside of our theatre industry and queer communities. We recognize these are real and systemic issues, too often silenced, unrecognized or not spoken about inside of our queer communities. These conversations also point to gaps and limitations that we have as a queer arts organization, but that also broadly exist within our theatre industry, that specifically relate to anti-Blackness, accountability, and community.
We want to acknowledge the women and femmes of colour from the community who initially voiced these concerns, as well as those who brought them to our attention, for their bravery in coming forward with their accounts and for their labour in helping to frame these conversations.
As a queer, equity-seeking theatre company, we recognize that racial justice and decolonization cannot be separated from Buddies’ mandate of queer liberation. We acknowledge and stand against anti- Black racism and the systemic state violence disproportionately enacted on Black, Brown and Indigenous bodies and lives. We commit ourselves to working together in the fight to end racism and white supremacy. We know we have lots of work and learning to do – especially in an organization with white people in leadership and directorial roles — to embody these commitments. We are listening, we are learning. We will continue to examine and review our programming, policies, strategies, and actions, and to consult with our communities, with the goal of creating a Buddies that is safer, more inclusive, and of service to our community.
We hope this statement will be the start of a conversation. We commit to creating a forum for gathering the community, and we will announce those plans publicly as soon as we are able. In the meantime, if you would like to get in touch, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Evalyn Parry, Artistic Director, on behalf of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Shawn Daudlin, Managing Director, on behalf of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Jamie Slater, Chair of the Board of Directors of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Additionally, here are some resources for survivors:
The Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape (https://trccmwar.ca/)
Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Clinic (https://schliferclinic.com/)
Gerstein Crisis Centre (http://gersteincentre.org/)
Note: some of the language of this post was updated on June 16, 2020.
June 1, 2020
Today, as we enter into Pride month, we launch our Queer Pride Festival.
At the same time, protests demanding justice for Black folx who have been murdered by police are being held across Canada and the United States.
At the same time, Indigenous folx have been murdered by police.
At the same time, a global pandemic is disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable of our communities. Specifically, racialized communities, elders, and lower-income households.
As a queer arts organization, as a queer community, we want to acknowledge our role in opposing, critiquing, and dismantling dominant power structures that allow for the persistence of racism.
We want to acknowledge the history of activism and labour that has been done by Black queer and trans communities; and to acknowledge the continued labour by these communities, from which we directly benefit.
We want to acknowledge the action we can take as individuals, as an organization, as a community, to centre Black and Indigenous voices. To listen. To learn from what is being shared. To ask what is needed. And to act.
Here is a link to resources for further education, resources for anti-racism practices and learning, and where to donate if you can:
Here is a link to protesting and donation information and resources to contact your government officials:
This month as we celebrate Pride and our queer communities, we want to constantly remember that our queer is built on a history of activism. Our queer is allied with struggles for justice and the right to exist. Our queer is a fuck you, our queer is a riot, our queer is a raised fist. Our queer is the Black trans woman of colour who threw the first brick.
Our queer is a dream for a better world.
And in saying this, we acknowledge that anti-racism requires ongoing work and thought, and will continue to share resources, actions, etc, as we listen, reflect, and learn, as both as an institution and as a collection of individual voices:
Actions + Resources
Below you can learn more about the staff and board groups that are undertaking this work, as well as some of the initiatives that have started since June 2020, including a reading group, facilitated learning sessions, departmental reviews, and board work with an external diversity and inclusion consultant.
Working Groups + Committees
In June 2020, Buddies staff created an anti-racism reading group that met daily for three months, sharing readings and discussions around anti-racism, and institutions. In the fall, learnings from the reading group were compiled into action items, and the group divided into two staff-led committees to move forward on these.
Parallel to this, the Board of Directors’ Transformation Committee has been in conversation with staff, community members, and a diversity and inclusion consultant to inform an institutional transformation.
Board -Transformation Committee
Previously the Nomination and Inclusion Committee, the Transformation Committee is tasked with the oversight of the organizational review, and board development and recruitment. Interimly, this committee includes Buddies staff.
Staff Working group – Board Relations
In an effort to build better communication systems between Buddies’ Board of Directors and company staff, this group leverages staff knowledge and experience to inform the Board of Directors’ operations and practices.
Staff Working group – Learning Planning
This group meets weekly, or as needed, to plan quarterly trainings and facilitated discussions on anti-racism, anti-oppression, and inclusion that involve staff (salaried, contract, and hourly) and Board.
Beginning in June 2020, amidst the wave of protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Buddies staff initiated an Anti-Racism Reading Group. The group met daily for an hour over three months: the first four days of the week were devoted to collectively silent reading, viewing, and listening on Zoom and the Friday was an open discussion of the content for the week.
Buddies staff co-shared facilitating discussions and information sharing at the staff level. The content, proposed and selected by the committee, included podcasts, journal articles, books, albums, blog posts, video and documentaries, and websites. The intention of the group was to build a baseline for the ongoing anti-racism conversation that would eventually feed into a facilitated and structured organizational review with a consultant.
Weekly themes included:
- Week 1: Towards a Foundation of Understanding Racism + Inclusion
- Week 2: On Institutions and White Supremacy
- Week 3: Indigeneity and Decolonization
- Week 4: Indigeneity and Decolonization (continued)
- Week 5: Arts in Community
- Week 6: Contemporary Discussions in Modern Arts Institutions
- Week 7: Crip, Care, and Models for Change
- Week 8: Action & Activism
- Week 9: (reading catch-up)
- Week 10: Theatre Industrial Complex
- Week 11: Collective Models & Capitalism
Quarterly learning sessions
At the end of summer 2020, the anti-racism reading group proposed to program quarterly, 4-hour training sessions that would invite involvement from our permanent staff and hourly staff, contractors, and Board members.
The intention of the facilitated sessions is:
- to come up with a long-term, sustainable training/education model that can exist through the end of and following the global pandemic
- to create a system where all Buddies staff and contractors are involved
- to open systems of dialogue and accountability between all levels of staff and the Board of Directors
While the general content of the quarterly sessions will be driven by a desire to move Buddies towards becoming an anti-racist organization, the specific content will be proposed by the Anti-Racism Planning Committee. They may involve hiring different facilitators for the session; readings in advance; “homework” activities; and open or guided discussions. These sessions aim to be responsive to internal and external contexts, as they relate to where individual staff members are at in their anti-racism work, and considering where Buddies is in relationship to the community, and to ongoing world events.
The first facilitated session was held in January 2021 – planning is in progress for the remaining three sessions, as well as opportunities for ongoing conversation and engagement amongst the full staff team in between sessions.
Early meetings of the Anti-Racism Reading Group included discussions identifying challenges and opportunities within different operational facets of the organization regarding working practices, diversity, and equity. The staff’s analysis and evaluation of the departments resulted in a list of action items designed to help Buddies incorporate inclusion and active anti-racism
One outcome from this work is undertaking comprehensive departmental reviews, in which managers will evaluate activity and processes both within their department and inter-departmentally. The review is a step-by-step process where staff explore challenges and opportunities, with a goal of clarifying specific ways to change our current operating practices in order to function as an anti-racist organization.
External auditing and consultation
Since October 2020, the Board of Directors has been working with diversity and inclusion consulting firm Annemarie Shrouder International on a multi-phase organizational review. The overarching goal of this review is to facilitate reconciliation and accountability with the Buddies community, as well as building active understanding of anti-oppression work, particularly as it relates to addressing racism and anti-Black racism.
Phase one of this work has included a review of board culture, recruitment practices, and current frameworks of knowledge through an anti-oppression lens.
Beginning in the summer of 2021, we are undertaking a third-party review to discuss how Buddies can learn about, respond to, and play a role in healing harms that have been done over the years to racialized and other vulnerable folks within the community. Over the next months, a third-party reviewer will be interviewing a handful of specific artists, former employees, and community members who came forward after an organizational call-in in the summer of 2020. The purpose of the third-party review is to provide an opportunity for interviewees to share their experiences of harm with the consultant, concluding in a written report that will include findings from the interviews and recommendations for reconciliation, healing, and transformation at Buddies. This report will be made publicly available.
The third-party review is being conducted by Zainab Ahmady, and guided by an advisory committee consisting of community members, board, and staff. Read the committee’s terms of reference.
The review will provide useful tools for future reconciliation, but as the scope of interviewees is limited, it should not be considered a comprehensive review of past harms, but rather one part of a broader transformation process that will include further opportunities for community feedback and engagement.
If you have questions about this process, please get in touch with the board executive at email@example.com.
Zainab Amadahy is an author of screenplays, nonfiction and futurist fiction. She is of mixed-race background that includes African American, Cherokee, Seminole, Portuguese, Amish, Pacific Islander and other trace elements (if DNA testing is accurate). Based in peri-apocalyptic Toronto, Zainab is the mother of 3 grown sons and a cat who allows her to sit on one section of the couch.
Zainab’s background is in coaching, mentoring and community work. Her community experience is in the areas of Indigenous knowledge reclamation, curanderismo, non-profit housing, women’s services, migrant settlement and community arts. She has also worked in medical and photovoltaic technologies.
Acknowledging that the current identities that are present on our board and staff are not representative of the diverse communities with whom we engage, as an initial step, we want to build opportunities for community engagement and feedback.
Over the next months, we will be working on a framework to create an advisory group that will work alongside the Board’s Transformation Committee to assist in the creation of process, goal-setting and tracking progress within this organizational review and transformation.