Achieving Cultural Equity

a collaborative action by
Creative Justice Initiative

DR. MARTA MORENO VEGA | PRESIDENT & FOUNDER

A Call for Equitable Funding for Cultural Organizations Grounded in Historically Disenfranchised Communities:

Black/African and African Descent, Latinx, Native, Arab, Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander, Appalachian, LGBTQIA+/Two Spirit and People with Disabilities.

“Everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 27, Section 1)​

Seventy-one years ago, the United Nations ratified the principle of cultural equity as a human right. As our nation reckons with a legacy of structural racism, oppression and discriminatory policies and practices, cultural equity is essential for achieving social justice. 

Covid-19 has once again laid bare the plight of communities suffering under an inequitable system. In this landscape, and at this time of crisis, grassroots cultural workers and organizations, nonprofit and informal alike, remain chronically underserved and underfunded. 

As grassroots artists, culture bearers, and community-based organizations, we are frontline workers intent on addressing structural inequities that maintain our communities under development. Our objectives are to spark dialogue, understanding, and foster social cohesion that will create the changes to address our communities needs. By engaging people from all walks of life in artistic, critical, and cultural experiences, we reclaim joy and celebrate the human spirit.

Our communities are in crisis.

Our work is essential.​

We want community-grounded experts to be part of the process to construct a new system of social equity, including within private philanthropy. To collectively advocate for cultural equity, we invite you to join in our call for unity and parity. If you are a small or mid-sized cultural or arts organization that is grounded in a historically disenfranchised community(s), we ask you to:

Fill out the survey

to help us gather critical data on the health of our organizations.

Share the survey

with others in your network to help grow the coalition.

As one step in the right direction, we call on private philanthropy to help dismantle processes and structures that enable systemic racism by equitably funding and investing in small and mid-sized cultural organizations that are grounded in historically marginalized communities.

To support the self-determination, vision, and agency of our communities, we commit to openness and transparency in this process.  We further commit to sharing the findings of the survey on an open source platform, while keeping the names of survey respondents anonymous.

A narrative contextualizing the findings will be publicly shared in the form of a “Brown paper” for local and/or collective dissemination to gatekeepers, state arts councils, foundations, agencies and other funding sources. 

The “Brown paper” will inform an open letter, available for wide dissemination, that outlines the findings and demonstrates through an array of supporters the urgency of this call to action.

Survey findings will inform the development of a conference entitled, “Culture: Race, Myth, Art = Justice” to critically address the state and condition of our organizations due to chronic underfunding and formulate strategic corrective responses.

Now is the time to unite in collective action to demand investment in our communities, our work, and our practice.

Founding members of this Call for Racial and Cultural Equity include:

DR. MARTA MORENO VEGA, founder of the Creative Justice Initiative(CJI), founder and former director of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI); CHARLES RICE-GONZÁLEZ, BAAD! Bronx Academy of Arts And Dance; AMALIA MESA-BAINS, curator, author, visual artist, and educator; DUDLEY COCKE, Roadside Theater Director/Appalshop (1976-2019); ESMERALDA SIMMONS ESQ., founder and former director of The Center for Law and Social Justice, Medgar Evers College; ANI RIVERA, Galería De La Raza; ISIS RAKIA MATTEI, ESQ., CJI board member and Mattei Law; LOWERY STOKES SIMS, cultural worker, and independent curator; MÁRÇIA MINTER, Indigo Arts Alliance; ROSA CLEMENTE, founder and director, Black Latinx Organizing Project; MARÍA ELBA TORRES, Instituto Interdisciplinario y Multicultural (INIM), University of Puerto Rico; SOLDANELA RIVERA, artist, cultural advocate, and producer, “Notes From A Native Daughter;” MARICRUZ RIVERA CLEMENTE, Corporación Piñones Se Integra (COPI); AMY ANDRIEUX, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA); MELODY CAPOTE, executive director, Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI); STEPHANIE A. JOHNSON-CUNNINGHAM, Creative Director of Museum Hue; KAISHA S. JOHNSON, founding director, Women of Color in the Arts (WOCA); MARY VERDI-FLETCHER, Dancing Wheels Company & School; RAUL PANZAR, Dancing Wheels Company & School; ROSALBA ROLON, founder and artistic director, Pregones/Puerto Rico Traveling Theater; ELENA CALDERON PATINO, artist and cultural worker; ARNALDO J. LOPEZ, PH.D., managing director, Pregones/Puerto Rico Traveling Theater; NEYDA MARTÍNEZ, associate professor, The New School, and producer, “Decade of Fire”; CAROL COLMENARES, TimeLine Digital; DONNA WALKER-KUHNE, president, Walker International Communications Group; KAYHAN IRANI, writer, storyteller, culture worker; BILLY OCASIO, CEO, The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture; ASHLEY MINNER, community-based visual artist; MARANGELI MEJIA RABELL, co-founder and partner, AfroTaino Productions & Philadelphia Latino Film Festival; IRENE VILLASEÑOR, artist, cultural critic (Aeta, Chinese, Ifugao, and Purépecha); ROBERT LEE, Asian American Arts Centre; LIBERTAD O. GUERRA, executive director, The Clemente; WILFRED LABIOSA, Executive Director, Waves Ahead & Sage Puerto Rico LGBTTQ+ Center For The Older Adult; GILBERT BOUHAIRIE, Founder of The God Box Foundation and assistant lecturer, Union Theological Seminary; JANVIEVE WILLIAMS COMRIE, executive director, AfroResistance; CARLTON TURNER, lead artist/director, Mississippi Center for Cultural Production; AMY PAUL and MEERA NAIR, Queens Writers Resist; JOSÉ TORRES-TAMA, director, ArteFuturo Productions and Taco Truck Theater; RHINA VALENTIN, La Reina del Barrio, Inc.; APRIL SILVER, founder, Akila Worksongs; KEMI ILESANMI, executive director, The Laundromat Project; MARIAN TAYLOR BROWN, PhD, founder and board chair, Arts Connect International; BEN FINK, lead organizer Performing Our Future/Roadside Theater/Appalshop, The @changethemuseum Team; THE NATIONAL COALITION OF PUERTO RICAN WOMEN, Chicago chapter; LATINX POC ARTS LEGACY CONSORTIUM; ROBERT T. PARKER, director, Chickasaw Heritage Center; MARIA DE LEON, executive director, National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, NALAC; KATHY ENGEL, poet/activist, co-founder, MADRE.org., associate arts professor, Tisch School of the Arts, NYU; BARAKA SELE, independent consultant and 2020 Harriet Tubman National Freedom Awardee; ELENA MARTINEZ, folklorist, City Lore, and co-artistic director, Bronx Music Heritage Center; BOBBY SANABRIA, co-artistic director, Bronx Music Heritage Center;  DIANA VARGAS, artistic director, Havana Film Festival NY; STANLYN BREVÉ, director of national programs, National Performance Network (NPN); OLGA N. CHAPMAN RIVERA, publicist, brand planning expert, founder of the Braave Collab.

List in formation.   

James Baldwin made a vow to young Civil Rights activists, as documented in the book Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own in which Eddie S. Glaude Jr. author quotes Baldwin as saying:  “If you will promise your elder brother that you will never ever accept any of the many derogatory, degrading, and reductive definitions that this society has ready for you, then, I, Jimmy Baldwin, promise you I shall never betray you.” 
 
In this spirit, and as traditional and cultural bearers, CJI does not use acronyms, that include BIPOC, ALAANA, among others, that erase or diminish our racial, ethnic, and cultural historical legacies. We believe that it is in honoring our particular and unique contributions that we establish common grounds of understanding.

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