Our world is a challenging place. We live in a time where differences generate fear and distrust. Bigotry, hatred, racism and xenophobia are freely expressed not only by our leaders but by dominant culture in most every facet of our daily lives. Safety can feel fleeting and ever changing, especially for people of color and other marginalized communities.
Lesbians Benefitting the Arts and the Ohio Lesbian Festival recognize that this reality sometimes flows over into womyn’s space and community. Over the years there have been incidents where womyn have been threatened, harassed or otherwise attacked. We have seen particularly disturbing and highly visible incidents of racism at the last 2 festivals. While we have had a strong policy statement about anti-bullying and anti- oppression for years, we acknowledge that we need to step up our commitment to interrupting, preventing and responding to these situations at the Ohio Lesbian Festival and other LBA events.
We say to our Systers of Color that we see you, we see what the world and society does to you and we want to do better. Womyn’s communities have always been on the leading edge of social change – and LBA/OLF both honors that herstory; our herstory in that arena and we make a commitment to continuing to learn and to lead.
When we say “All Womyn Welcome, Always” we are genuinely opening our hearts and our home to embrace the differences that strengthen us. We believe in the power of womyn only space. As womyn we are oppressed and marginalized, we come together to empower each other, to explore oppression, to unlearn racism and learn from and teach each other.
The words of Audre Lorde “When one of us is oppressed, none of us are free.” and Emma Lazarus “There is no hierarchy of oppressions” come to mind. We must stand together as womyn, as lesbians, as womyn of color, as native and indigenous womyn, as womyn with disabilities, as deaf womyn, as womyn born womyn, as transgender womyn, as de-transitioned womyn, as straight womyn, as bisexual womyn, as immigrant womyn, as undocumented womyn, as young and old womyn, as spiritual womyn and womyn of faith, we must recognize our common ground and celebrate together. We must stand in solidarity with each other and we must do better.
In pursuit of these goals, LBA/OLF has drafted an action plan that will help us to lead ourselves and our community in this effort. This statement is just one step on this path, that has and will continue to include:
- Train coordinators & crew in methods of recognizing, de-escalating and interrupting difficult situations that is both appropriate and culturally sensitive.
- Create a trained Critical Response Team to respond and intervene in difficult situations with appropriate skills and techniques
- Implement a centralized reporting, documentation, monitoring, evaluation and response process for all critical incidents
- Utilize community-based strategies for reporting, responding and de-escalating incidents, limiting involvement of state systems unless absolutely necessary
We endeavor to create a community where acts of racism, bullying, oppression and other destructive actions are not acceptable.
Please join LBA/OLF in our commitment to unlearning the assumptions and isms that divide and harm us. This work is hard, but it is crucial. Missteps are inevitable. We must all hold each other accountable with love and kindness, with firmness and with passion. The festival team has released an updated anti-oppression statement and will be releasing a community awareness / education campaign ahead of the festival to help womyn understand our policies and intentions and how they can help.
The final step of this action plan will involve a series of workshops at the Ohio Lesbian Festival that will focus on a Global Community of womyn and will focus on unlearning oppression and racism. We are asking you all to join us in participating in these workshops and in building a Global Community that stands with each other, with all of us, to make a better world.