Black Lives Matter

Friday, June 5, 2020

Recent weeks have been heartbreaking and emotionally devastating for our country. This week, I spoke to a number of Black artists and fellow Black arts leaders about the mental and emotional toll of George Floyd’s death, as well as the impact that centuries of systematic racism has had on Black people in America. I speak not only through the stories passed on by elders and described in history books, but as the subject of mistreatment on many occasions. Recent weeks have been heartbreaking and emotionally devastating for our country.

As a Black man, it has been almost impossible to conjure words that speak to the tremendous scale of racial injustice in America and around the world.  Even as I type this, my heart grows heavy as I think about the enormous and sometimes seemingly insurmountable task at hand. But, as the Arts Council New Orleans’ Executive Director, it has been and will continue to be my intention to ensure that our programming, polices and practices, resource distribution, advocacy efforts, and organizational makeup are responsive to Black artists and Black communities. We recognize deep, broad systemic racism in virtually all spheres of American life, including the arts, and we are committed to continuously addressing and challenging inequities in our sector and city. 

But today, I ask that you hold space for the mourning of George Floyd; for the voices of peaceful protest taking place in cities around the country; for active listening and understanding; for financially supporting Black artists and institutions dedicated to all art forms; for a deep evaluation of policies, practices and personal actions that adversely impact Black people and Black arts institutions; and for conversations among artists and peers in your sphere of influence about how we will normalize tough discussions about systemic racism in our community. 

Please stand with us.

Alphonse Smith, Executive Director & the Arts Council New Orleans