Creative Action has always strived to foster communities free of prejudice and hate. It is an ideal that we work tirelessly every year to impart to our students, and we hope that it ripples out to inform their interactions with peers, friends and family. Yet, as we all have seen, issues of racism, homophobia and other forms of oppression continue to plague our country and world. To make sure we are really doing all we can as an organization to fight for social justice, we have been working on a year-long project to deepen our commitment to being a fully anti-racist, multicultural institution that stands up against all forms of oppression, both within our programs and within our organization.
Last summer, amidst high-profile national incidents of racially-charged brutality, Creative Action leadership convened a group of staff members from various departments and levels. The group’s overarching goal was to rigorously audit whether Creative Action’s internal practices and company culture represent a truly anti-hate, multicultural institution—and, if not, how to change. At first this meant engaging in honest and necessary conversations and self-assessments about privilege and discrimination. These discussions continued on into the fall as group members developed a space where difficult conversations could be used to generate mutual understanding and progress.
Soon after, award-winning author and educator Renée Watson visited Austin to participate in the Texas Book Festival. Ms. Watson’s fiction opens up a space where young readers can grapple with social issues that may otherwise be unaddressed. While in Austin, she also led a three-day residency at Creative Action, where she guided teachers and staff through a series of workshops and discussion sessions that uncovered often imperceptible forms of institutional prejudice. When she departed, Renée left behind an unshakable desire to strengthen our commitment to being a strong ally and advocate for social justice, starting from the inside out.
Taking cues from Ms. Watson’s visit, the Social Justice Planning Group distributed an anonymous survey to staff members that asked them to place components of our current practices along a continuum that spanned from exclusionary to inclusive company cultures regarding race. Based on the results of the survey, the Planning Group mapped out a strategic plan to refine how Creative Action operates behind-the-scenes in order to move closer to the ideal of a fully equitable and diverse workplace.
“I’m personally excited about the training we are offering this year around anti-oppression and anti-racism,” says group member Frank Nappi. “It is through this education, that we will start serious action to dismantle racism. I am thrilled to be a part of organization that values this kind of work.”
The most immediate outcome of this was in refining our core values, which are: Create Community; Dream Big; Have Fun; Stand Up; and Strive for Excellence.
These are values are not new to Creative Action, but through this new framework we have a clear pathway to make sure all of our stakeholders are in alignment with what we believe. The strategic plan features not only detailed steps to overhaul internal operations, but also many ways in which we will build more diverse partnerships, leadership, and hiring practices. This is not a project with a clear-cut endpoint; it is a process of evolving through perpetual reflection and action. It is a journey, and one we hope you will join us on as we grow along the way.