To the reDiscover Board:
We know that the reDiscover Board and staff feel passionately about increasing the accessibility of our programming and resources to low-income communities. We are already heading in that direction. Two years ago, a statement was written to incorporate equity and inclusion. We, the staff, feel strongly that we can and must do better with regard to the following areas:
1) Fighting Against Complacency When we consider the ongoing local & global anti-white supremacy uprisings, coupled with the fact that the majority population of our students are white and/or affluent, we the staff find an urgent need for rDC to take action in an effort towards making our space more welcoming and accessible to Black and brown families.
2) Increasing Accessiblity Accessibility can be increased through rigorous and targeted restructuring at reDiscover. As a non-profit, we find that rDC is largely operating off earned income. Switching our focus towards operating largely off of grants and donations can increase our accessibility for families coming from under-resourced communities. We must find methods to better serve those with disabilities and those who are neurodivergent.
3) Serving Our Community + Fulfilling our Mission Statement We observe that our current and past clientele does not reflect the local Mar Vista community or the diversity within Los Angeles county, which includes those who are low-income, immigrants, undocumented, and come from diverse populations. Our operations can do much more to align with our vision of serving "all people."(1)
In the current moment, we have seen a pandemic that disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and economically disadvantaged communities, nation-wide policies and actions from the government to normalize and institute white supremacy, as well as global protests against systems designed to oppress, separate and exploit. Over the last several months, members of the Los Angeles art and education community have publicly signaled their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. We have seen many organizations share their desire for justice surrounding the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other precious lives that have been lost at the hands of systemic racism. We find ourselves in the midst of a large social justice movement highlighting inherent racism and white supremacy in our country’s very fabric. We must all understand that if reDiscover continues to primarily make space for those who are affluent and/or white, we are participating in the same systems that perpetuate this alienation, exploitation, and therefore, unsustainability. We see a direct correlation between these issues and the racist systems that perpetuate violence like police brutality. We have the utmost faith in our staff, board, and leadership team to join the efforts in creating the equitable and inclusive world that we need for our students, families, and loved ones.
This work is possible. In the span of a few days, some staff shifted their curriculum in order to create conversations where kids could feel free to openly discuss their thoughts on current events. These facilitators spoke about Black creators and the marginalized voices of the STEAM community. reDiscover is about to hand out 150 tool kits to under-resourced communities in Pasadena and Santa Monica, and we are already giving out scholarships during our summer camps. We find these efforts to be meaningful steps in the right direction, and believe we cannot fully operate down that path without first looking at the societal racism reflected within our own organization and ourselves.
We believe that implementing more targeted changes could increase accessibility to our programs in the near future. In a matter of weeks, reDiscover successfully shifted to remote operations and online camps, proving that we are capable of fast, simple, and effective re-management as well as adjusting to sudden environmental shifts. We observe the ongoing social justice movement as one that pleas with America, and within that, even small nonprofits like ours, to do more to become a truly welcoming and diverse space.
reDiscover’s Cultural Equity and Inclusion Statement asserts that “...all children can be creative and deserve opportunities to express themselves. reDiscover engages diverse communities and the organizations that serve them to reach children in Los Angeles County regardless of income, sex, ethnic background, or national origin. reDiscover is committed to engaging cultural equity and inclusion in its board, staff, and audiences,”(1) however we see very little racial and economic diversity in the children we work with. In part, we know that narrowing this opportunity gap must include “free community activities” and “free and reduced-fee STEAM programs.”(2) However, the majority of our free and reduced programming have taken place in affluent neighborhoods like Pacific Palisades, Marina del Rey, and Beverly Hills, that already have many opportunities and resources. The mission statement expresses a clear commitment to employ diverse staff, as children are “comfortable when they are facilitated by competent and caring adults with whom they can identify,”(3) yet there is very little diversity among facilitators and the board.
By primarily catering to upper-class and/or white people, we are not only excluding BIPOC and low-income students from access but limiting what our students understand to be progressive and sustainable. Lack of accessibility and diversity does not only hurt those excluded but also creates a lasting impression that progressive and sustainable creative practices are made up of white, economically privileged people. Our practice of teaching sustainability is empty if we do not acknowledge that sustainability is synonymous with social issues. For example, environmental devastation affects our poorest communities first and most directly, primarily Black and Latinx communities in LA. Sustainable problem-solving within these spaces of environmental devastation have historically been led by BIPOC creatives and tinkerers. Environmental justice and sustainability campaigns have been led by indigenous communities for centuries. We must actively integrate this into our curriculum and through partnerships, as these social realities are at the heart of sustainability. Neglecting this acknowledgement erases these communities, as well as their contributions to our world.
On June 1st, 2020, reDiscover’s Instagram post regarding current events stated, “Tinkering means iterating, changing [and] trying to make it better.” We must show integrity with our words and actions in order to be an example for our students, community, and fellow arts education organizations. How can we firmly state what we stand for when we have yet to take a hard look inwards and ask, “How are we iterating, changing, and making our organization better in order to fulfill the needs of an environment in flux?” In the staff meeting that happened on June 18th, 2020, Jonathan said, “we’re not an organization whose mission is around police brutality, or even particularly around systemic change.“ We believe this to be a misinformed statement, but believe it can be dangerous, as it can serve as an excuse to rid ourselves of the responsibilities we have as educators. As educators at reDiscover, we must recognize and understand what equity means for our organization and develop an action plan to work towards that.
Published on July 22, 2020
(1) Cultural Equity and Inclusion Statement, https://rediscovercenter.org/about/
(2) Cultural Equity and Inclusion Statement, https://rediscovercenter.org/about/
(3) reDiscover Center 2019 Annual Report, https://rediscovercenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/reDiscover-Center-2019-Annual-Report.pdf
(4) Cultural Equity and Inclusion Statement, https://rediscovercenter.org/about/
We propose that the following five proposals be put into place in the immediate future in order to ensure our commitment in the fight against racism and for justice.
These are necessary beginning steps so that reDiscover can begin to meet its Mission Statement and fulfill what an educational and creative facility should be. We hope the Board understands the need for reDiscover to grow into being more accessible and sustainable, and prioritize these efforts moving forward.
1. Hold a special board meeting where the full agenda is on institutional racism and bias, how it relates to reDiscover Center, and what we need to do as we look internally. Invite staff to this meeting.
2. Paid ongoing professional development for all staff and leadership within a circle or council restorative practices model.
3. Working in collaboration with the rDC Inclusion Action Committee, executive director and board, create and institute a strategic DEI plan that connects our mission and values to action, as well as builds on prior efforts made by reDiscover to be more diverse, equitable and inclusive.
4. Bring on diverse facilitators, leadership staff, and board members who are able to speak to these issues and partner with organizations who are already doing the work.
5. Ensure that reDiscover is financially accessible to all communities and ensure targeted outreach to BIPOC communities.
Attached to this letter is an action plan that we believe can bring about meaningful change in the immediate future. It includes simple but powerful steps to change our administrative and training structure for the long haul.
We look forward to your collaboration.
reDiscover Inclusion Action Committee
and the reDiscover Center Community
"I support this letter in all its intention and its aspiration."
"I believe these are a very important issues for rDc to finally face for the benefit of all. I am with you from far away."
"Although I haven't worked at rDC in about a year, I fully support the Inclusion Action Committee's work and am happy to add my name to the letter if useful! Thank you for doing this vitally important work!"
"Thank you for your efforts—I look forward to staying posted and involved, especially if I become more involved again in programming this Fall."
"Because we are in an affluent area, we might be able to price camps by income level. Venice arts does a version of this where classes are free for kids of low income, but because our cost of operation is higher than theirs, free might not work for us. What we could do is offer a significantly lower price for only those of a low-income level. It’s more paperwork as parents need to provide proof of income, but this is a method to consider.
The only thing is I’m unsure how this method would work for those that are undocumented. We could ask Venice arts how they do it."
Lead Tinker Facilitator
"While I acknowledge that the modifications proposed in this letter present significant logistical hurdles, especially given the precarious position of reDiscover due to the COVID 19 crisis, I agree with many of the concerns expressed therein. Namely, that reDiscover has a reputation for exclusively serving the more affluent neighborhoods and clientele of Los Angeles. This contributes to a narrative that sustainability is a luxury and tinkering a hobby, rather that a life skill. That being said, many of the resolutions in the action plan are not new ideas but rather the logical next steps in a trend of growth reDiscover is already heading towards. I am signing this letter because I think it is an important step in acknowledging, and actually accomplishing, our existing goals of inclusivity, sustainability, and equity."
Director of Operations
"As a minority, I feel this is an important issue to talk about during these times. It is time to provide care and support for underprivileged kids in our community."
"I do believe we have a platform to change and help our community become a better place. So I stand for this."
"A white young tinkerer meets a black young tinkerer during a workshop at rDC and works with them on a project. They become best friends. That white child grows up and decides to be a police officer—a police officer who doesn't murder someone because of the color of their skin."
Louis Moench IV
Intern Assistant Facilitator
"I am fluent (CA state certified) in Spanish and English and would love to translate written material as an employee or volunteer (I need to practice!)"
Director of Programs
"In order to accomplish the goals of this, it is important for the organization to allocate sufficient resources, specifically one or more people whose job includes researching and helping develop our efforts to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive so that we can more accurately and effectively pursue our mission. Attempting to add the needed work to already overloaded plates will keep us on the same path."
"These changes will be good for rDC, underserved communities, and beyond. It’s time for reinvention."
"Thank you so much for putting this letter and the action steps together. It's exciting to read all of your ideas for steps moving forward. I would love to join the Inclusion Action Committee, but I'm going to college this fall so unfortunately, I'm not sure if I would be able to."
"Super awesome and glad this is happening. "
"Although I am unable to join the action committee at this time, I support this endeavor towards making reDiscover a more inclusive space, and the action steps towards that goal."
Melissa Washington Cross
"I agree that the programs at rDC could be much further reaching. From my experience, the organization has not done all that it could to serve black, brown, and under-resourced communities."
Intern Assistant Facilitator