Hassan Vawda is an Aziz Foundation Alumnus, a researcher in art, culture, community, religion and the art museum. This article originally appeared in Hassan’s personal Medium Blog.
As a *national public cultural institution*, we have the utmost responsibility to amplify, support and commit to absolute, resolute and dedicated action in addressing systemic, historical and continuous crushing, erasing and killing of Black experience and existence. We have seen our fellow national institutions put out statements, tweets and Instagram posts, ‘in memorial’ of the lost soul of George Floyd, whose martyrdom at the hands of a police system birth in white supremacy has galvanised the latest foregrounding of the everyday existence of systemic racial inequalities and dehumanisation. We have seen our fellow national institutions share solidarity to #BlackLivesMatter, yet these very institutions have a white heart of exclusion, a history of maintaining a cultural supremacy that speaks to the very foundations of the violence that they are showing solidarity for. Our fellow institutions have existed in a stagnated pool of ‘language of inclusion, reality of exclusion’ for the last 30 years, where staffing, from manager upwards is locked into a white hegemony. Who are the people giving the instructions in our institutions? And who are we expecting to take those instructions? We see our fellow national institutions flaunting their confidence in themselves through their digital hypocrisies. We are not going down that route.
We as a *national public cultural institution* are taking action.
As of June 2020, we are launching the following initiatives as part of our first stage response to creating systemic change:
- We are recruiting a team of activists on the forefront of culture change as paid consultants, to assess the record of every managerial, senior management and director level member of staff in relation to their contribution to anti-racism within the organisation. Those with the best records may continue their role, those with a mixed record will have to re-interview for their role and those with a score of ‘diversity training certificates’ and ‘speaking to BAME colleagues’ will be fired.
- We will be allocating our acquisitions budget for the next year, to artists/communities/projects who are unsettling western hegemony, white supremacy and cultural imperialism. This will include redirecting all acquisition committees across the globe to focus on this.
- A review of unacknowledged historic and present labour. We have always been aware of how much time, effort and pain Black, Asian and others outside the dominant culture have contributed to our institution — creating change despite all our mechanisms working to ‘manage the change’ for our white sensibilities. This review will particularly acknowledge the immense contribution of Black experiences that have been folded into the ‘BAME’, faced a crushing harshness and pushed out of our institution, despite creating legacies of change that we have capitalised on. The calculation of unacknowledged labour will be paid to all identified at a rate of £100 p/h.
- A restructure of our trustees to 2 x corporate, 2 x government, 5 x community activists and leaders, 4 x faith leaders, 4 x academics/artists, 2 x union reps. A ‘trustee bursary’ will be paid to all except the corporate and government trustee positions. We will ensure overwhelming representation of those outside of the white dominant culture.
These are just some initial actions we are implementing. We acknowledge our very existence, collections and function has been to reflect and prop up a dominant culture that enshrines the inequalities of our present. We must do even better and this is by no means the end of our commitment to action in truly saying BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Signed by the director of a *national cultural public institution*
*a piece of speculative fiction