(Above) "Short Stories" by Willie Middlebrook at Florence-Firestone Service Center
For weeks our personal and professional lives have been filled with news and updates, tracking the responses to and impacts of COVID-19. After days of civil unrest protesting the death of George Floyd and voicing the call for racial justice, I did not want to send another update. Instead, I write to express and acknowledge the sorrow, outrage, and determination that so many of us are feeling.
I come from a long line of African-American public servants and essential workers—military veterans, medical workers, a railroad mail carrier, a surgical nurse, an art teacher—a lineage that survived Jim Crow and the Great Migration in search of a better life. This week, I have been waking to a gaping pit in my stomach, grown wide with the loss of 100,000 lives to this pandemic, a disproportionate number of them from black and brown communities, and the trauma of 400 years, spanning time, across nations, across continents, and oceans of pain. I write to call their names and honor their memory.
As the nation grapples with recent events, I write to uplift the work of our department, the artists and cultural organizations we support, and the diverse communities of Los Angeles County that we serve. I write to speak to the transformational power of arts, culture, and creative expression—to bridge across difference, advance narrative and social change, support equitable and resilient communities, inspire local identity and belonging, reflect our shared humanity, and help us reimagine a better future. In a moment where there can be no going back to "normal," the arts have an important role to play.
As our inaugural year as a department comes to a close and we build on more than 70 years as the Arts Commission, the focus on the importance of our work sharpens. We envision a region where arts, culture, and creativity are integral to civic life and are committed to ensuring all our diverse people and communities have access to the many benefits of the arts. Our work is framed by the guiding principles of the LA County Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative. Yet we know the full cultural equity and inclusion we envision cannot be achieved without racial equity.
We stand with our Black community and stand against racial injustice. Black art matters, black dance matters, black thought matters, black love matters, black money matters, black grief matters, black joy matters. Black lives matter.
I continue to be inspired by all of you, and so many artists, advocates, teachers, organizations, first responders, and freedom fighters. There is more work to do. It’s going to take all of us collectively to make lasting change. The very fabric of our culture and our democracy is at stake.
If you are interested in diving deeper, our colleagues at Californians for the Arts have a list of anti-racism resources. We also invite you to explore resources below and online, and to support the organizations, movements, and conversations that speak to you.
I am grateful for your hard work and dedication. Take care and stay safe.