We are committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
We at Literary Arts recognize that a public commitment to equity is crucial to both our own growth and that of the Portland arts and culture ecosystem.
It is our hope that by addressing racial inequity in our community, we will create a space in which readers, writers, and youth of any and all identities feel welcome.
We commit ourselves programmatically to:
• Define our mission broadly to include all forms of literature and storytelling.
• Support more writers of color and highlight their stories.
• Build a diverse, intergenerational audience for literature.
• Create equitable access to our programs.
We commit ourselves administratively to:
• Create a staff, board, and volunteer base reflective of our community.
• Apply the best practices and tools to ensure that the organizational systems are equitable.
In all of the above, we strive to work with humility and in collaboration with our community to be adaptable and responsive, and to better accomplish these important goals. We are committed to doing this work for the long term.
Though Literary Arts’ commitment to equity is not new, its official place in our public documents is. Although the organization has been engaged in the work for about five years (with significant progress in programming, hiring and other internal practices, and community partnerships), much of this work has been done without a formal statement of intent.
We at Literary Arts recognize that publicly committing to equity is crucial to both our own growth and that of the Portland arts and culture ecosystem generally. As such, we have included a lengthier explanation of this organizational value below.
Stories are powerful. The stories that get told define who we are, for ourselves and others. Who has the opportunity to tell their story, and who does not? And who has an audience that listens, reads, and engages with that story?
The history of who can tell their story and who is listening is part of the history of oppression, prejudice, and privilege. At Literary Arts, we acknowledge that, as Oregonians, we have been part of this history.
We are committed to a different future, one in which all members of our community have the opportunity to tell their stories, particularly members of our communities of color. Though we acknowledge there are a variety of marginalized and oppressed identities within our community, our emphasis in this work is on race and ethnicity. Facility and comfort with the language of racial oppression can be used to develop empathy and understanding across issues of gender, sexual orientation, and ability. It is our hope that by addressing racial inequity in our community, we will create a space in which readers, writers, and youth of any and all identities feel welcome.
We have begun to make some programmatic progress in this area. For example, we have significantly increased the resources we give to writers of color and expanded our education program into East Multnomah County (where the community is the most diverse); we regularly partner with culturally specific organizations at our downtown event space and highlight writers of color in all our programs; and we have focused staff and board trainings and conversations around equity on a continual basis. We consider this progress a start and are committed to deepening this work.
It should also be noted that Literary Arts strives not just to be reflective of Oregon demographics, but instead to have greater diversity than is indicated by current state demographics in program participation and on the staff, board, and committees and councils. This is an aspirational long-term goal. We know Portland to be a fairly homogeneous city, and though this is changing, it is not enough to simply reflect this fact back to the communities we serve. We hope to set an example through our dedication to and appreciation of marginalized voices by committing to demographic goals above and beyond state census numbers. Though demographics are important, we also acknowledge that diversity alone is not enough. Literary Arts is committed to creating an equitable and inclusive environment for our entire community.
We cannot do this work alone. We will need to work with all our partners as we are only one part of a much larger system that has excluded many people. The history of modern literature has been defined by our educational system, the publishing and bookselling industries, the professions of journalism and criticism, and the way awards and prizes are adjudicated.
(Excerpt from our Strategic Framework. Click here to read.)