Our Statement on Racial Injustice & Oppression
Racial oppression thrives and is institutionalized in our society. The ceaseless and brutal killings of Black Americans serve as horrifying reminders of that fact. As a result, pain, despair, and outrage fill each and every one of us, most acutely Black Americans.
Looking inward as an institution, we recognize that our record over the past 20+ years of increasingly inclusive artistic and community programming has allowed us to believe we were doing the work needed to be an evolved and diverse organization.
But it is clear…that work is not enough. As an institution, and as individuals who make up that institution, we have a long way to go.
We are committed not just to “not being racist,” but to being actively Anti-Racist. This work starts internally with our staff, board, and volunteers. We will examine our own internal culture to understand where we need to change and will provide ongoing resources, training, and opportunities for discussion and exploration to ensure that every person who represents our organization also represents our Anti-Racist mission.
We recognize our privilege as a respected arts presenter with a broad platform and will use our resources to champion the power of art to tell important stories about the breadth of the human experience, providing further opportunities for public discourse around socially-engaged artistic work. At the same time, we understand that there is a greater need to amplify the voices of Black Americans and all who face oppression. We will deepen our diversity, equity, and inclusion work internally and externally, moving beyond representation into meaningful action and advocacy.
To that end, we vow to understand the barriers that thwart true equity, to work towards dismantling them where we can, and to support those organizations whose mission is to change them.
All of us at UMS ask for your support of local, regional, and national organizations that are active voices in addressing inequity in the justice system, access to healthcare and equitable education, and the reform of law enforcement and policing, housing practices, and food insecurity. Our staff has compiled a list of organizations that they are personally supporting; we invite you to become active and to consider giving your time and resources to:
- Alternatives for Girls
- Black and Brown Theatre Company
- Black Table Arts
- Campaign Zero
- Corner Health Center
- Detroit Justice Center
- Duke Ellington School of the Arts
- ERACCE (Eliminating Racism and Creating/Celebrating Equity)
- Feeding America
- Official George Floyd Memorial Fund
- Growing Hope
- LDF (Legal Defense Fund)
- LEAD Scholars (University of Michigan)
- The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights
- Movement 4 Black Lives
- NAACP Empowerment Programs
- National Bail Out
- Southern Poverty Law Center
- Wolverine Pathways (University of Michigan)
This list represents just a tiny fraction of the organizations doing meaningful work.
The UMS Management Team
Matthew VanBesien, President
Christina Bellows, Director of Patron Services
Sara Billmann, Vice President, Marketing & Communications
Ryan Davis, Vice President and Chief Development Officer
Cayenne Harris, Vice President, Education & Community Engagement
Michael Kondziolka, Vice President, Programming & Production
Carmen Rodriguez, Vice President, Finance & Administration
The UMS Board of Directors
Tim Petersen, Chair
Rachel Bendit, Vice Chair
Lisa Cook, Treasurer
Chris Conlin, Secretary