Dobama releases anti-racism policy in new document
In 2019, Dobama Theatre was recognized with the Kathryn V. Lamkey Award for its efforts toward equity, diversity, and inclusion. On March 8, Dobama’s Board of Directors renewed the theater’s commitment [to those principles] when it unanimously adopted its Love and Respect document. In a statement, the Dobama Theatre team noted it was “continuing to learn about each other's life experiences, engaging with and supporting colleagues, and challenging injustice when we encounter it will help us create the community we seek."
The living document is a plan for anti-racist action, and building a culture of authentic inclusivity at Dobama Theatre, focusing on the intersections of race with sexuality, gender, disability, religion, and other oppressed identities. The plan establishes a set of guiding principles for creating opportunity and undoing previous harm. It is divided into three parts, with each section containing actionable items for initiatives, such as fair pay, non-union employee protections, and preventing bias in casting and hiring, among others.
The first part, The People, emphasizes the importance of physical, mental, and emotional health in creating a thriving workplace, which leads to high-quality art. It creates a plan for ensuring representation in programming, reimagining the board's role as stewards of the organization, and investing in living wages.
The next section, The Work, establishes a new model for collaborative artmaking and visible inclusion, removing barriers to access through mentorship, clear reporting systems, and anti-bias training. This section emphasizes the ongoing nature of the document, building a plan for annual review and assessment of progress.
The Process defines how Dobama plans to take action going forward. Dobama will reimagine existing structures and operations, emphasizing circular management models rather than top-down hierarchies. It will invest further in community engagement and deepen important relationships in order to serve its neighbors more fully, connecting with small businesses, local schools, and initiatives with the city of Cleveland Heights. Most importantly, Dobama promises to democratize programming by involving more representative voices in script selection, education programs, and audience engagement.
Dobama worked closely with ALJP Consulting in the creation of the document. ALJP is a Chicago-based firm focused on creating equity in the nonprofit arts sector.
Dobama recognizes that there is still much work to be done beyond this document. Breaking down barriers set in place by years of systemic racism and other forms of bias has been, and will continue to be, at the center of Dobama’s mission to inspire an examination of the contemporary world. The Love and Respect document seeks to end xenophobia within the theater industry and in our community.
Dobama Theatre has made this commitment to action publicly in order to be held accountable. To read more about Dobama’s anti-racism actions, including solidarity and accountability statements, visit dobama.org/antiracism.
Colin Anderson is the director of production at Dobama Theatre. He has worked as a director, designer and dramaturg with theaters throughout Cleveland, with a special focus on LGBTQIA.