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To: Burning Man Board of Directors

Radical Inclusion Must Mean Racial Inclusion

Dear Friends,

I wanted to share some good news in the midst of some truly challenging times. Thanks to you and more than 3000 others who joined our campaign last Summer, the Burning Man organization has started to take tangible steps to acknowledge and address the reality of its problem of whiteness and lack of diversity, with Black people only making up 1% of its participants.

Last week ahead of the virtual Burning Man experience, which is now underway, the organization published a commitment to address it’s racial diversity, including anti-racism training for year-round staff and a commitment to increase BIPOC event access.

While we’re loudly applauding their first step, we know that change requires vigilance and love--sometimes sweet and sometimes tough. And we’re here for it. We want Burning Man to be what we believe it can be. This is an important step for Burning Man and our community, and given Burning Man’s prominence, this action will have reverberations in the arts culture at large.

We didn’t do this alone and aside from the petition effort, several Burners played key roles in bringing this to be. Part of what we did was provide a framework for concrete action, and we created the space for others to join this radical resistance. From staff members to theme camp leaders to long time white Burners, many heard our demands for equity and were inspired to act.

For my camp, Que Viva Camp, a camp of BIPOC social justice activists, this is a welcome moment. We were on the ground last year at Burning Man organizing other camps around the issue of inclusion; we led a petition delivery on the Playa and shared our stories as Black and brown Burners; and we led the first major Black Lives Matter march at Burning Man and disrupted business as usual. You can hear our story in a radio podcast on KALW, a well known San Francisco Bay Area radio station available online at https://www.kalw.org/post/ep-09-black-lives-matter-meets-black-rock-city-burning-man#stream/0 , and if you miss it it will be available later in the archives.

We created this campaign because we are committed to Black joy, and we believe that all cultural institutions must do more to include and welcome Black people. One of the founding principles of Burning Man is Radical Inclusion. But there can be no radical inclusion without racial inclusion. Black people have shaped the foundation of American culture and deserve to be included in the best of global culture. We know that the health of Black communities is not just defined by the things we don’t want, but also by the things we DO want. Black people deserve spaces for play, relaxation and exploration.

With these actions, Burning Man has aligned itself to a future where cultural spaces are more accessible, welcoming and inclusive of Black people.

Favianna, Marlon, Erica, Daniel and members of Que Viva Camp

Radical Inclusion Must Mean Racial Inclusion

Burning Man is one of the largest arts nonprofits in the world and a cultural organization founded on the principles of radical inclusion and civic engagement. Yet Black people and other people of color are significantly underrepresented in this temporary desert city of 75,000 people. From 2013-2018, Black burners represented 1% or less of attendees.

We urge the Board of Directors of Burning Man Project to take action now:

- Institute comprehensive anti-racism training for the entire board and staff

- Make an explicit commitment to increase the attendance of people of color at the Burning Man event and develop a short and long term implementation plan

- Create recruitment initiatives to increase people of color applicants for leadership positions within the organization

- Support and compensate current Black leaders, within the Burning Man community, through incubation strategies designed to increase participation

- Take a stand against the cooptation of culture, especially indigenous culture

Why is this important?

Burning Man is one of the most well known cultural gatherings in the world that takes place in a temporary city where everything is provided and shaped by its citizens. Because of this, Burning Man is not only a space of artistic expression and personal transformation, but also a space to learn new skills and strategies for building communities. Burning Man is praised globally for it’s dynamic urban design and joyful artistic culture, yet has done little to address the question of racial inclusion and equity.

Burning Man Project says that their mission is to “move Burning Man culture beyond the playa,” and that they “believe it’s more important than ever to ensure Black Rock City is the strongest possible manifestation” of their ethos. As Burning Man continues to expand it’s broad cultural imprint and influence, Black people and people of color must be a part of that vision.

Radical inclusion means racial inclusion. For over five years, Burning Man has known it has a shamefully low attendance of Black people and other people of color. Despite pressure from Burners of color who have raised the issue of racial diversity, Burning Man Project’s staff leadership and Board of Directors has failed to take decisive action, even at a time when more and more cultural organizations are adopting strategies for equity and inclusion. When a 33-year-old institution does not confront racism and inequality directly, they are contributing to the problem by their implicit support of the status quo.

The Burning Man event has been a transformative experience for me over the last seven years. As the daughter of immigrants who grew up in a working-class Black and Latinx community, I witnessed severe inequality as a child and hateful anti-immigrant sentiments toward my family. I wanted to be an artist since I was a child, yet the culture around me did not reflect people who looked like me. Representation in cultural spaces matters, and cultural organizations must ensure that they create environments where all feel welcome. At my first Burn, I felt a great sense of freedom and creative expression that I had never felt before, and I instantly knew that I wanted other leaders of color to experience Burning Man because the event’s transformative nature can help us imagine solutions for society at large.

Join me today in urging the Board of Directors to live up to the principle of Radical Inclusion and actively fight institutional racism through true racial inclusion.

For more information, please read my open letter to Burning Man Project’s Board of Directors sent in May 2019, visit: bit.ly/radical_inclusion

How it will be delivered

We will deliver the signatures to the Burning Man Board of Directors and Staff Leadership.

Category


Reasons for signing

  • Inviting diverse communities into the fold will help the Burn evolve. It’s been getting a bit flat in my opinion.
  • we all are pretty not fat or wrong
  • I have always wanted to experience the Playa with my friends, but have always been priced out.

Updates

2020-09-04 10:42:00 -0700

Petition is successful with 3,163 signatures

2019-08-14 21:30:28 -0700

1,000 signatures reached

2019-08-13 10:03:07 -0700

500 signatures reached

2019-08-12 15:32:48 -0700

100 signatures reached

2019-08-12 12:55:05 -0700

50 signatures reached

2019-08-12 11:43:58 -0700

25 signatures reached

2019-08-12 10:22:40 -0700

10 signatures reached