Dear AAC network,
Last fall, we held our Annual Summit in the Twin Cities. In the year leading up to it, I spent countless hours meeting with artists, partners, friends, funders, and culture bearers for meals. Or just pie. In Minneapolis, a friend hosted a surprise birthday party for my significant other. An artist and his wife fed me gumbo after I got off a plane late one night. Another artist taught me how to fly fish on the outskirts of the city. I loved the warmth of the people even on the coldest winter nights. It was important to me to learn as much as possible about Twin Cities culture. I visited art spaces and gardens and watering holes. I got my nails done and hair cut near Chicago Avenue where George Floyd was murdered. No, lynched.
I weep for George Floyd today. Who knows, maybe at some point I passed him on the street. Maybe he held a door for me. Maybe he offered to give me directions when I got turned around. Maybe he was the man who saw me shivering and asked with a smile, “Is it cold enough for you?” Maybe George Floyd and I shared space and air that he can no longer breathe. George Floyd. Dead. Breonna Taylor. Dead. Ahmaud Arbery. Dead. With every murder of a Black person by those who claim to work on behalf of justice, a piece of me dies, too.
You ask what can you do as arts and culture workers? Should you invite an artist to lead a talk or town hall? Reach out to Black alumni and try to process this moment with them? Organize a cohort around the theme of social justice? None of these are your next step.
If you desire a more just world, it’s time you muster the courage to talk with people who are professionally, ideologically, and politically different from you.
You know, your uncle who thinks being gay is a sin. Or the local shop owner who hates Muslims. Or your barber who refuses to cut Black hair. Or the park police who profiled a Black artist while they were trying to enjoy nature. Or the restaurant owner in your community who refuses to accommodate people with disabilities. Or your board member who voted against a housing facility for people experiencing homelessness. How about you process these murders with them? How about you work with them to build empathy and generate love for the people they otherize?
If you truly want to be an ally. If you want to be in unbreakable solidarity with those fighting on behalf of justice and freedom for all. If you want the killing to stop, you have to dialogue with the perpetrators of injustice. This is where transformation begins. You cannot ask others to do what you won’t do because you’re uncomfortable or fear losing favor with someone. You must lean into that discomfort and act. My life depends on it.
Lisa Funderburke Hoffman
Executive Director, Alliance of Artists Communities
Article Image - Left to Right: Lisa Funderburke Hoffman, Soyini Guyton, Seitu Jones and Nicole Caruth in St. Paul, MN, fall of 2019.