Dear ASK Members, Supporters and Friends:

I send this on behalf of the entire Board and Staff of the Arts Society of Kingston.

Black Lives Matter. We say Black Lives Matter to remind ourselves and the world that they do. It has been demonstrated time and time again by our government, by businesses, by individuals, and by non-profit organizations that if not reminded, it is forgotten. Black Lives Matter. Black Art Matters. 

Our mission is to “act as an umbrella to foster and promote the arts in Kingston and the Mid-Hudson Valley.” We have left a number of artists outside that protective covering and have not challenged the artists within it to the best of our ability. ASK has been and can continue to be a growing source of positive change for this community, but it will take more work on our part to be that for the entire community.

Recently I saw this article and it struck a chord. To be blunt, ASK has not yet done the work to be able to say that as an organization that “we stand in solidarity”. That is not to undermine any personal experiences or work people have done as individuals to combat racism or discrimination. Rather it is acknowledging we live in a society of systemic racism, how we all carry implicit bias, and how organizations systematically function with these influences — whether immediately visible or not.

Our goal at ASK is to facilitate a chorus of voices reaching a consensus for our direction forward. More specifically, to ensure Black voices and other historically excluded persons are not drowned out by the established white voices so used to being the only ones heard. 

Black Lives Matter. Black Art Matters. We don’t say this to show that we know — we say it in order to keep these words close to us and examine why they need repeating. Because it affects us all.

ASK’s Board of Directors and Staff have been in discussion on how we will incorporate anti-racist principles into our mission and how to transform our organization into one that is truly representative of the community. We recognize this work starts internally, with ourselves and the structures currently in place. We are committed to doing this work, starting immediately.

I leave you with a quote from James Baldwin and an invitation to reach out to me personally to continue this discussion.

“One is not attempting to save 22 million people, one is attempting to save an entire country and that means an entire civilization. And the price for that is high. The price for that is to understand oneself.”

James Baldwin from The Artists’ Struggle for Integrity, 1963

Brent Felker
Executive Director
Arts Society of Kingston