As the Board and Staff of UNIT/PITT Society for Art and Critical Awareness, we unequivocally support Black, Indigenous and people of colour communities — including trans, Two-Spirit, queer and disabled people — in demanding justice for white supremacy-driven murders, and defunding police.
U/P operates on stolen land belonging to the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, known colonially as Vancouver. The organization was founded as Helen Pitt Gallery in 1975 by the Student Society of what is now Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and merged with Unit 306 Society for the Democratization of the Arts in 1981. U/P has operated in and around the neighbourhoods of Gastown, Downtown Eastside and Chinatown, and is currently located at 8 East Pender Street, within view of the Georgia Street viaduct that displaced the Black community of Hogan’s Alley beginning in the late 1960s.
U/P’s leadership is predominantly white-led. We recognize the urgency of interrogating the whiteness of our organization, particularly as we strive to offer meaningful and fairly compensated opportunities to Black, Indigenous, people of colour, trans, Two-Spirit, queer and disabled artists and writers in our neighbourhood. As the beneficiaries of municipal, provincial and federal funding, colonial funding models that have historically favoured white-led institutions, we are implicated in systemic racism. As an artist-run organization that calls itself a “Society for Art and Critical Awareness,” we have the responsibility to do better.
We would like to reaffirm our commitment to amplify and support the work of locally-based and emerging Black, Indigenous, people of colour, trans, Two-Spirit, queer and disabled artists and writers, and will additionally carry out the following actions in this program year:
- The Board of Directors commits to finalizing policies and procedures around communications, hiring practices, and recruiting for leadership positions on U/P’s Board of Directors and Working Committees, and making these documents available to artists and community members;
- Board and Staff commit to ongoing anti-racism and anti-oppression training;
- As part of that training, we commit to revisiting and contextualizing past exhibitions and publications that have caused and continue to cause harm to members of BIPOC, trans, Two-Spirit, queer and disabled communities;
- We commit to finalizing a Safer Spaces Policy for all venues where U/P is the host, that will prioritize the safety of BIPOC, trans, Two-Spirit, queer and disabled artists, volunteers and audience. This policy will clearly outline how to report incidents, and the process for acting on reports of racism and otherwise dangerous situations.
Over the last three weeks, Staff and Board have begun this work. In 2021, U/P will issue a public statement that follows up on the progress of these actions. Our ongoing commitment to anti-racism will be published to our website under “About,” here.
As witnesses of over policing and the policing of homelessness in the Downtown Eastside and Chinatown neighbourhoods where we operate, we call upon the City of Vancouver’s Mayor and Council to exercise more authority to cut funding to the Vancouver Police Department, and redistribute those funds to critical social services and social housing. In his capacity as Chair of the Vancouver Police Board, we call upon Mayor Kennedy Stewart to show leadership in proposing and implementing a VPD minimum budget reduction of $152 million in accordance with the COV operating budget shortfall projections due to COVID-19. Additionally, we ask that the Mayor use his position to demand that the charges brought against seven individuals arrested at the Hogan’s Alley Revival Viaduct Occupation on Monday, June 15, 2020 be dropped immediately.
In crafting this statement with care, we recognized that the artists and writers that we work with deserved a quicker institutional response. We apologize to members of our community that were hurt by our public absence in this important conversation about policing, racism and white supremacy, and complicity in the arts.
Over the last year, U/P has collaborated with groups that are actively fundraising, and we encourage our members to support the following initiatives:
AFRO VAN CONNECT, organizers of The Black Market at 8EAST, empower the voices of African Descent youth through conversation, collaboration, creation and performance. They are hosting the “Black Space Symposium Virtual” July 23-25 to start a new conversation about the importance of Black Spaces. They also recently launched The Legacy Growers Collective (LGC), an initiative for Afro-Indigenous centred farming and gardening, outdoor education, and food security. To learn more and donate, visit http://www.afrovanconnect.com/
Wrong Wave 7 (Nov 19-21, 2019) was curated by Betty Mulat and Zam Zam of NUZI COLLECTIVE, a music collective dedicated to providing a platform for Black womxn, Indigenous womxn, queer WOC, and trans* folks within the Vancouver electronic music scene. NuZi strives to strengthen and promote Black culture by nurturing spaces for expression, encouragement, safety and togetherness. Follow @nuzicollective on Instagram, and visit nuzi.ca to learn more.
VANCOUVER BLACK THERAPY & ADVOCACY FUND, created by Betty Mulat, is a not-for-profit initiative that aims to raise funds to make mental health support more accessible to Black community members in the Lower Mainland. Donate: https://www.gofundme.com/f/vancouver-black-therapy-amp-advocacy-fund
Other local organizations to support:
Black Art Gastown
Black Arts Vancouver
Black Lives Matter Vancouver
Black Women Connect Vancouver
Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP)
Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre
Hogan’s Alley Society
Pivot Legal Society
WISH Drop-in Centre