a message from East Central Regional Arts Council Board Chair Alana Petersen
For many Minnesota residents, this past year has been long, dark, and shameful. However, this past week we were able to breathe and welcome sunshine. Nearly one year ago, the world watched a vivid video of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a Minnesota policeman. A murder that was so brutal it started a worldwide dialogue on disparities, structural racism, police reform, and justice. This dialogue took place through protests, riots, rallies, books, music, lectures, training, and many forms of art.
This week as we held our breath waiting for the verdict. We held our breath with little confidence that the Hennepin County jury would be able to provide a conviction that pushes against the history and verdicts of so many victims. We held our breath even though the world had watched 9 minutes and 29-second video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck.
As the jury delivered the verdict in the Derek Chauvin case, we could exhale because the verdict lifted the dark, and the sun came out. To our surprise, the verdict came back, holding the former policeman accountable. With the sunshine warming us and taking deep breaths, Minnesota could exhale because we were more than the dark and shame; Minnesota was a part of starting change.
As an arts community, I know we contributed to the change. Over the last year, we have contributed to the dialogue, the healing, and the conversation that started transforming our systems, organizations, communities, and ourselves. As an art community, we challenged ourselves and our organizations to ensure that we take steps to break down structural racism. We expressed ourselves and helped to comfort those around us.
For the East Central Regional Arts Council (ECRAC), being a part of change means we ask grant applicants how they plan to make their work equitable and inclusive. We are auditing our criteria, processes, and procedures to ensure our organization embraces EVERYONE in the communities we serve. Our Board of Directors is going through intense training to understand our cultural competence as individuals and a group.
The arts community has been a part of the transformation. Art is altering the future for the youth of tomorrow, communities worldwide, the victims of the past, and the police who want to keep us safe. Just as we started a conversation, it is essential to remember the change must continue. We cannot stop questioning, challenging, and transforming.
Together, as an arts community, we will ensure transformation continues. We have a responsibility to dismantle racism and to ensure diversity, inclusive and equitable communities. We choose to be a part of the change. We are part of the sunshine.
Thank you for your commitment to change. Onward together!
ECRAC Board Chair