A collective of Black artists have jointly called on cultural institutions to “commit to racial justice through material changes” on Juneteenth, which marks the day Black slaves were liberated in Texas, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.
The letter from the coalition — Black Artists for Freedom — has been signed by a swath of Black artists, including filmmaker Ava DuVernay (13th), dream hampton (Surviving R. Kelly), Yance Ford (Strong Island) and Gabrielle Union, former host of America’s Got Talent.
Among other changes, the letter (titled “Our Juneteenth”) calls on cultural institutions to break ties with the police and “publicly condemn the institution of police as a violent force that exists to further class divisions and capitalistic exploitation”; to “recruit, hire, retain and promote Black artists,” including producers, directors and screenwriters, and pay competitive wages; advocate for Black people; learn the history of systemic racism, and take “concrete and deliberate steps to identify and eliminate anti-Black bias.”
Finally, the letter asks for the “freedom to be Black,” and to “disregard what dominant institutions have deemed ‘marketable,’ ‘legible,’ ‘palatable,’ or ‘relatable.’”
“As Black artists and thinkers, we are energized by the current protest movement led by Black activists,” the letter states. “Their courage and imagination have inspired us to build on their necessary demands — including, chiefly, the abolition of police and the complete dismantling of the racist prison-industrial system. Through this statement, we hope to amplify the movement’s work and to call out our own industries for what they are: institutions that promote colonialism, capitalism and racism, and that function in exploitative and destructive ways.”
The letter continues: “We believe that the culture will only change if specific concrete interventions are made. Cultural institutions that depend on Black culture — publishing, writing, fashion, theater, film, television, visual arts, music, journalism, scholarship, education, social media — must commit to racial justice through material changes. We are coming to collect our freedoms.”