We grieve the loss of countless black lives due to the systemic racism in this country and globally, and aim to acknowledge, uplift, and support the communities and individuals most impacted by this systemic violence. We strive to do our part to dismantle the systems of oppression within society, the arts, and ourselves.
Throughout history, influential black LGBTQ+ activists have stood up against injustices. We are grateful for the courage of our black LGBTQ+activists that led and continue to lead the fight for equality, including but not exclusive to William Dorsey Swann, Gladys Bentley, Marsha P Johnson, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Stormé DeLarverie, and Miss Major. Without these brave black activists, and countless others, we wouldn’t have the human and civil rights we enjoy today. We also recognize that while fighting for the rights of themselves and others, many black people, indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC) regularly were and are not fully embraced by LGBTQ+ spaces and communities.
The struggle for civil rights is rarely without risk, and often requires incredible demonstrations of protest, civil unrest, and significant disruption to the status quo. This is exceptionally evident with the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, as we reflect on the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot in 1966, the Stonewall Riot of 1969, and the continued demonstrations for black queer and trans lives today. In our effort to prioritize LGBTQ+ equity and access, we stand in complete solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We recognize that we must continue to fight for civil rights for our black community members by centering their needs, voices, and leadership, and we also recognize that this fight is long from over.
VOTD’s mission is to bridge the gap between communities in the Phoenix metropolitan area, and we strive to do that in various ways. Through music, as well as community outreach and education, we aim to facilitate our own and others’ growth and understanding of beauty and diversity of the arts, life, and humanity. While we strive to be inclusive and promote diversity in these efforts, we and many other choral and community music groups are still mainly white, in both membership and leadership. We recognize this, and intend to develop an action plan for sustainable transformation to be more inclusive and accessible to BIPOC. We will work to educate ourselves in anti-racist approaches to providing community art opportunities, and will consult with underrepresented communities to determine how to become more accessible and inclusive.
Through these efforts, we will continue to stand up in the face of oppression. We will continue to listen and learn, and adopt best practices for holding our community art spaces accountable. We aim to create a space where conversations about bias and systems of oppression are encouraged, because naming it is the first step to begin to understand our role in working towards meaningful change.
VOTD Board of Directors
Board President – Mike Peters
Vice President – Adam Alonso
Secretary – Erin Strong
Treasurer – Cynthia Richards
Fundraising Director – Liz Kestner-Verity
Choir President – Rodney Smith
Marketing – Smith Graham
Outreach Director – Jenn Navarro
To begin this work, here are some resources compiled by Kimberly Waigwa, Artistic Director, Phoenix Women’s Chorus, Interim Artistic Director, Desert Voices (azpwc.org)