Like every industry, the Canadian performing arts sector needs to commit to change to ensure equitable practices that nurture and promote all artists and supporting staff, as well as the audiences they serve.

Announced today, the newly established Black Pledge, founded by performer and producer Sedina Fiati (Coroner, Lukimi), and created by a collective of Black arts professionals, has provided very clear steps that both organizations and individuals can take, and commit to, to ensure that meaningful diversity and inclusion within their organization, as well as commitments to anti-racist work, are not just a promise, but a reality.

“The Black Pledge is an open call for positive, lasting change in live arts spaces across Canada, so that they truly reflect the beautiful mosaic tapestry of our nation. Our mission is to foster greater inclusion and awareness surrounding the needs of underserved communities in the Arts, especially the Black community. We stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and other communities of colour seeking equity, while retaining our Black-centric advocacy,” reads a press release from the collective.

Photo Credit – Calpurnia written and directed by Audrey Dwyer. Nightwood Theatre & Sulong Theatre Co-production. Photo (L-R): Meghan Swaby and Andrew Moodie.

The shifts are not just about the actors or directors or nature of the the performances on stage, but include a thorough transformation of how performing arts companies are operated from the top down. Staffing, programming, marketing as well as anti-black racism and anti-oppression training and more are all taken into consideration.

“It is time to establish a new structure, one that respects all marginalized communities, and invites them to collaborate as equals. This Pledge primarily addresses predominantly and historically white-led organizations in theatre, opera, and dance and extends tan invitation to these institutions to make a three-year renewable commitment to self-reflective action in creating lasting change in the treatment of Black artists, technicians, arts workers, and audiences.”

Taking the Black Pledge allows for a deep and overdue analysis of an organization’s structure and programming, while also providing a clear path for thoughtful transformation. Put another way: the Black Pledge collective has already done a lot of the groundwork to help get organizations on the right track. 

Canada’s canon of work needs to evolve in order to remain relevant to the audiences it is designed to serve. To ensure that that happens, organizations need to take the Black Pledge.