KDHX's Commitment To An Anti-racist Practice: Our Journey Of (Un)learning And Leading
Over the past several months and years, many more white people have experienced a long-overdue awakening that is both cyclical and generational. This summer represents the intersection of long-simmering and recent, more public harm to people of color in this country. St. Louis has been grappling with the realities of systemic racism for decades and has been centered in the more recent national conversation since the murder of Michael Brown and the Ferguson Commission Report.
A system of policies, practices, and procedures designed to benefit white people coupled with pervasive and consistent personal biases continue to harm non-white members of our community. Like many predominantly white organizations, KDHX is in the midst of a reckoning with systemic racism - with ourselves, with our organization, and with our city. Our work began well before this summer, but it did not begin soon enough. This long-delayed reckoning is taking place across our country, and we understand that we must turn our gaze inward to gain insight into our own acquiescence, mistakes - and yes, our own furtherance of systems and structures that perpetuate inequity. It has taken us too long to wake up and address our role in the perpetuation of systemic racism and the direct harm caused by KDHX.
Since the start of KDHX, “diversity” has been a core value. The concepts of cultural diversity, diversity of voices, and independence provided a foundation for our work. While we continue to value diversity in its many forms, we now recognize that we have used our commitment to diversity as a shield. “Diversity” was a comfortable place to settle. With diversity as a core value, weren’t we doing more than others? Weren’t we sending the message that everyone was welcome? Weren’t we bringing music to everyone? As an organization that has long prided itself in our commitment to diversity, I have come to see this commitment as providing blinders to work we should have started long ago.
These blinders, the institutional policies and procedures, and a set of biases and privileges have caused great harm. They have harmed staff members, listeners, and community members. I am personally sorry for any pain caused by KDHX. While I know my words will not be enough to erase the pain, I am making the commitment that KDHX is doing and will continue to do the work that will reduce and hopefully eliminate future pain caused by institutional racism.
A few years ago, when we set out as an organization to learn what we didn’t know about equity and inclusion, we didn’t foresee the path we’d take, we didn’t see social justice as an imperative to fulfilling our mission, and we didn’t see the mistakes we’d make along the way. Wrapped in a blanket of our own white privilege, we began this process with a burgeoning dedication to growing in knowledge and understanding.
In 2020, the KDHX team (as a group and as individuals) has engaged in unconscious bias training, attended over 25 webinars addressing racial equity broadly and specifically as it relates to our work, focused on books, articles, and films that address bias and equity, and have engaged in extensive team discussions exploring our learning, our biases, privilege, and growth paths. Additionally, over the last 18 months, we have engaged in strategic planning through the lens of racial equity to set the course for a more equitable and inclusive KDHX.
For too long, we said, “we have work to do” or “we know we need to do better”. From now on, we will say, “this is the work we have done”, “this is the work we are doing”, “this is the work we will do”. We will not hide from these conversations. We will communicate with you directly providing regular updates on our progress. And we ask you to continue to hold us accountable to our commitments.
Through the strategic planning process, which included staff, board members, volunteers, donors, and listeners, we painstakingly honed new values for KDHX and we created a companion purpose statement to support our mission of building community. We identified top priorities for the next three years and then outlined an action plan to brace those priorities. In doing so, we’re committed to co-creating the next phase of KDHX’s development with our listeners, donors, volunteers, and anyone who wants to engage in building community through music.
This will look like the following:
• Increasing interaction with the broader St Louis community, including goals for engaging diverse populations.
• Creating an organization-wide antiracism charter and goals
• Developing a clear action plan for addressing systemic racism and investing in systemic change
• Updating hiring and recruitment protocols for staff and volunteers to ensure diverse candidate pools
• Reviewing all organizational policies and procedures to identify and reduce cultural biases and make recommendations to address and change and create a sense of belonging for all staff, volunteers, and listeners
• Developing and implementing annual Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) training for all staff and volunteers
• Adapting fundraising activities to reflect Community Centric Fundraising
The Board and staff of KDHX - each one of us - is fully committed to the objectives and priorities of the strategic plan and also to being held accountable for them. As we transform ourselves and transform our organization, we ask that you engage with us so that we can continue to shed blinders and stand in the light of humility, transparency, and audacity.
To learn more about our strategic plan, click here.
Statement by the KDHX Board of Directors
The Board of Directors of KDHX has unanimously endorsed the strategic plan -- the result of an extensive, deliberate and thoughtful process that engaged board members, the staff, and our volunteers. We especially value having put a racial lens in the magnifying glass that allowed us to look in detail at our history and how we understand the present and project the future. We appreciate our executive director, Kelly Wells, expressing in the above post, how the results of that examination will guide our efforts to reverse systemic racism in the community we continue to build.
We are optimistic that this strategic plan will take us to the next level of leadership among arts and community groups in St. Louis who desire to attain high standards for anti-racist behavior – diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice – as well as to permeate people’s lives with excellence from the arts.
As members of KDHX’s board, we have learned from our past and are energized about the future as we take ultimate responsibility for leading the station on a sustainable course of leadership in our wider community.
Joan Bray, Chair, on behalf of the KDHX Board of Directors