We stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Standing in solidarity is not a statement or a list, it is an active commitment to ongoing anti-racist work.
That said, we feel it important to say something rather than remain silent.
We feel rage and pain in response to recent events. We are writing collectively and want to acknowledge the emotional toll that these events have on black members of our organisation. We know that this is not only about a particular incident or moment in time – racism has an ongoing impact on black people, including those who are part of Primary’s staff, Board, and resident community. There is still much work Primary needs to do, and we want to step up to accountability as something we value, with openness and care.
Structural racism and white supremacy cause lived inequality and harm to black people in the UK and around the world. These systems are rooted in histories of British colonialism, imperialism, and slavery, and continue to be perpetuated through policing, UK borders, the hostile environment, access to housing, healthcare, and education. This inequality is also built into the structures of art organisations across the UK. Massive change is needed, and we hope that this moment catalyses permanent systemic change – we commit to working towards that.
What are we already doing? We have an action plan that is reviewed and updated by staff and Board, focusing on equality and diversity in all areas of our work, including studios, programme, artist development, Board, staff, and audiences. We have used this to identify and take proactive steps to address inequality. Our organisation and work over the last 10 years shows where this has realised change and where it has not. Whilst important as a tool, this action plan can easily slip into the language of representation, which in and of itself is not enough.
We have highlighted local anti-racist work through partnerships and programme, but have not centred proactive, ongoing, anti-racist work ourselves as an organisation – we will. The need to do this fully connects to our aims. As an arts space in an inner-city area, we want to respond thoughtfully to the daily lived experiences of our local communities, and our shared conditions and struggles. We aim to develop opportunities and learning that lead to resistance and change rather than shoring up systemic inequalities. We are re-thinking the nature of our organisation – who it is for, where resources are going, why we work in partnership, and how we’re taking decisions.
The current Covid-19 crisis is disproportionately impacting black communities; black people are over four times more likely to die from coronavirus than white people in the UK, as a result of systemic racism and socio-economic disadvantage. During this period we have chosen not to retreat into our shell but to refocus our efforts and adjust our activity to respond to immediate local needs, to share resources we have access to, and work with grassroots organisations who are delivering support to some of the most marginalised people in the area, including black communities. This has been about redistributing resources through our existing networks, initially on a very basic level, focused on food, but also looking to address how inequality specifically impacts young people and isolated adults locally.
This work was not directly connected to the current Black Lives Matter protests – but this form of redistributing resources feels relevant, and something we want to push further. As an organisation we have tools and resources that we can actively direct towards anti-racist work: funding, capacity, space, and platforms. Over the coming weeks we will further develop and share a specific set of commitments for long-term anti-racist work.
We want to credit the work of black cultural workers, thinkers, activists, and writers who consistently challenge and educate the art sector, and who are leading the current conversation on anti-racism. We are engaging actively, reading, watching, and listening, but we are also aware of the acute observation: that in response to racism, white people set up a book club. That, yes, we need to listen and consider, but more importantly we need to act.
In continued solidarity,
Emily, Jade, Nastassja, Niki, and Rebecca