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Theatres Are Funded by Oil and Gas and Consensus Decision-Making

With Tara Moses of Groundwater Arts

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Yura Sapi: Imanalla mashikuna. Imanallatak kanki. Hello friends, how are you? Welcome to another episode of the Building Our Own Tables podcast, season two. I’m your host, Yura Sapi, recording from Emberá Native lands on the Afro-Indigenous coast of Colombia in Nuquí, Chocó, and the Gulf of Tribugá. The Building Our Own Tables podcast is produced for HowlRound Theatre Commons, a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide, and by Advancing Arts Forward, a movement to advance equity, inclusion, and justice through the arts by creating liberated spaces that uplift, heal, and encourage us to change the world.

I’m interviewing Black, Native, Asian, and other founders of color to find transformative solutions and ways of working together that are not replicating the same white supremacy culture we wanted to get away from. With the blessing that we all have a role in the revolution, this podcast checks in and learns from Black, Native, Asian, and other people of the global majority who have created arts organizations, movements, initiatives, practices, and beyond that are changing the game, making new things happen within, and building their own tables instead of focusing on getting a seat at existing white and Eurocentric ones. We’ll be learning from incredible arts organizing visionaries on their processes, pathways to success, and challenges they’ve overcome.

In today’s episode, I’m interviewing Tara Moses, co-founder of Groundwater Arts. Groundwater Arts shapes, stewards, and seeds a just future through creative practice, consultation, and community building. Tara Moses (she/her) is a citizen of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, Mvskoke, director, multi-award-winning playwright, co–artistic director in residence at Red Eagle Soaring, producing artistic director of telatúlsa, co-founder and senior producer of #Binge and co-founder of Groundwater Arts.

Tara Moses: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. Hensci estonko Tara cvhocefkvt os. Mvto.

So hello, everyone tuning in. My name is Tara Moses. My pronouns are she/her/hers, I’m a citizen of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and also Mvskoke. And yeah, I’m tuning in today for the first time from the land of the Narragansett as well as the Wampanoag or what is colonially known as Providence, Rhode Island. And yeah, I am a co-founder of Groundwater Arts, co–artistic director in residence at Red Eagle Soaring, and I just stepped down as the producing artistic director of telatúlsa.

Yura Sapi: Yupaychani. Thank you so much. Yes, I want to hear more about Groundwater Arts in particular and also super curious about these other organizations you’re a part of. To start off, would love to hear about how Groundwater started, the origin of the idea, maybe what were the first few steps you were working towards with your other co-founders.

Tara: Sure thing. So Groundwater, we started in 2018. I think it was June, I don’t know, early summer. Anyway, well, so for Groundwater, we’re a team of four: Annalisa Dias, Anna Lathrop, and then Ronee Penoi—and Ronee is Laguena Pueblo and Cherokee. Anyway, well, Anna and Annalisa, they went to college together, they also have known Ronee forever. It’s actually kind of funny, we joke like, How did they know I existed? But somehow they did. Anna and Annalisa were talking about this need to connect the dots between climate justice and racial justice for arts and cultural institutions and grew to like… There is a need for an organization that can help fill those gaps for folks, as well as be able to create community-led movements to move the theatre, arts, and culture in general forward to a more just future. And for us, we’ve always defined “just” as economic justice, which is disability justice, which is racial justice, which is climate justice—all of these things lead to a decolonized future.

And so in 2018, I just got an email from Annalisa and she was like, “Hey, Anna, Ronee, and I are talking about beginning this organization, we would love for you to be one of our co-founders, let’s chat.” So yeah, so I got on a Zoom call with them and it was awesome and great and I was like, “Yeah, we’re totally aligned.” And so we were like, “Okay, great. What do we do?” So fortunately, we got a residency at the SPACE on Ryder Farm to figure that out: What do we do? And during that residency, we were able to create our financial models, which are very decolonized. And we’ve been told by a lot of business people, “Don’t do this,” but we do it anyway because there’s a percentage that comes off the top of all income before anyone gets paid that goes to frontline organizations.

We have a model that is very much capturing universal basic income. Anyway, and so one thing that was really great about this very beginning residency was that we were able to spend that time to really dive into: “How can we build this organization so that it upholds the values that we want to uphold?” It doesn’t center white-supremacist ideals of business or whatever. And yeah, so we can just all get on the same page and really do a values-led organizational structure that’s also very transparent. But also, what came out of that residency was our first big project, which is the Green New Theatre that you so graciously contributed to as one of the many, many artists who we reached out to.

Yura Sapi: Green New Theatre is a movement-building document that outline strategies, ideas, and principles that will help individual artists and arts institutions working in live performance change how they want to work in order to adapt in the face of the climate crisis. You can read the full text or the publicly available document at groundwaterarts.com. The principles of a Green New Theatre are:

  • community accountability,
  • publicly transparent budgeting,
  • decolonized leadership practices,
  • sustainable resources,
  • right relationship to land and history, and
  • immediate divestment from fossil fuel interests and sponsorships.

Tara: Well, yeah. So that’s how Groundwater started, in 2018, just folks coming together, seeing that there is a need for this. This was also just very much in our wheelhouses and here we are today a full-blown LLC, we’re paying the government all these taxes, got people on payroll now, in just a short amount of time.

Yura Sapi: Yeah. That’s so incredible. I’m so interested in the journey that you’ve taken, especially hearing more about the origin, the beginnings, because it sounds like there was a lot of intentional decision-making and planning before even really the birth of the organization. I don’t even know if the name was something you had already decided or that came more naturally, but that seems like there’s a lot of intentional decision-making, especially in finding and giving yourself the opportunity for a residency to start off as well, having four people coming together instead of just one or two, as we’ve heard a lot from other interviews on the podcast of different co-founders.

So I’d love to know more about what’s that structure been like with having four founders and then also hear about how you’re involving other people in general. So, for example, the Green New Theatre project, something that I came on for a few calls there and then also just being a bigger part of this Groundwater Arts community.

Tara: Yeah. So it has been really great to have four of us. It’s funny that we joke that we are Captain Planet but it’s true because the four of us, we each have such a distinct personality as well as a very distinct way of approaching this work. We also are very unique from one another in how we facilitate, how we consult, as well as how we create, because a core tenet of our work is that we are artists. We also believe that this work can be done through our own creative practices. So that’s also really important for us.

Anyway, so with that, I think because we are so different but we all share the same values it’s been so efficient. I think it’s so funny because people talk about collaboration, having extra people to make decisions, so on and so forth, they don’t see that as being efficient.

However, whenever we are together to make a decision, which is 99 percent of decisions, it goes really quickly. Because again, because we all have those same values, it started with the values and if our values are the same, then how we move things through and what we actually do, we don’t really have to get into the minutiae of it and split hairs over things because we have that same value foundation. I mean, because for the Green New Theatre… Before we got to that point, we spent six months after the residency continuing to build the infrastructure before we did anything public, which was the Green New Theatre starting in January of 2019. So we had six whole months of this to really get down to, “Okay, well, how do we make decisions? What do we do if there’s a disagreement? How can we ensure that our values remain centered in what we’re doing?” So I think all of that prep work has aided us in how we navigate as a team of four.

And then also furthermore, just how different we all are also helps us remain creative, we’re able to make decisions really, really quickly because someone may have already gotten to point B and can just let us all know, and then great, here we go.

There’s a lot of these ego issues, right? Which can happen in these white-supremacist organizations, because it doesn’t matter who got us where/when, all that matters is that our value foundation is strong, the work that we’re trying to do, we need to stay centered in it so it works really well with a team of four.

And so, yeah, we brought in folks for Green New Theatre to help collaborate on this massive working document because also... I think also why our system works is because we never position ourselves as experts in the field in any sort of way. I think of us more as like stewarders—we are trying to steward a just future and a big part of stewardship is about building relationships. And so we’re really excited—I’ll let you get the new info first—but we’re getting ready to launch a formal core collaborator crew of Groundwater.

Anyway, and these are going to be folks who, whenever we have consulting gigs, these are folks who may consult with us, folks who may lead workshops with us, so on and so forth. Anyway, so again, we continue to grow the knowledge base, share the decision-making power, and really, really steer away from any sort of hierarchical structure, any sort of structure that holds white supremacy and ego, so on and so forth.

But yeah, bringing extra people in has been really easy, I think because we built that foundation in the first place, it’s always been about multiple— And so whether that’s four people or whether that’s twenty-five people, the foundation of Groundwater was built to sustain all of this, all of those folks.

Yura Sapi: But yeah, I’d love to hear more from you about what do you do if there is a disagreement.

Tara: Yeah. So whenever we have a disagreement, we pause what we’re doing to discuss… I guess that’s not true all the time, because there have been times when we’ve had a disagreement, like I think about recently an example—man, y’all are just getting all of the inside tea first—but Groundwater right now we’re in the process of developing a journal that we’re going to be hopefully... We’re planning to be releasing in 2022. Anyway, and so we had a disagreement between what is the purpose of said journal.

In this situation... I think it’s fine. Anyway Annalisa was the one who was a little uncertain about what we were doing. Anyway, so we paused that moment and we asked like, “Okay, Annalisa do we want to talk about this right now?” And Annalisa made the decision to, “You know what?”— Actually, let’s just pause because Anna and I were going to go into committee work, so we call it, to put together the proposal to bring it back to the total of us to then talk about it.

Annalisa was like, “You know what? No, I’m going to put a pin in it. I want you all to go off, do what we’re going to do committee work-wise, and then all come back in together.” And then, sure enough, we all came back together after Anna and I went off to create the entire plan and Annalisa was like, “Oh, great. My issue resolved, not a problem.” And so oftentimes our moments of disagreements I like to think of are more like translation issues. Are we talking about what we’re doing? How are we receiving what other people are saying? Because again, that also comes from our very distinct backgrounds that we have. Yeah, because like I don’t have a very academic background—I say as I’m about to start grad school—not traditionally, anyway, compared to some other folks.

Yeah. Yeah. Anyway, and just with the cultural differences, the nuances and how we speak. Anyway, so a lot of times it’s just translation issues. So whenever we have a disagreement, that’s where we take a pause to check in to, “Okay, great. Do we want to address this right now? What’s the plan?” We’ve had many where we addressed it right then and there, talked through it for however long it needed, got all on the same page and resolved it right then and there.

So there’s no lasting feelings of animosity, we ain’t about that life. Anyway, and I also think because of the relationship that the four of us had built up with each other since 2018, I really think that residency in that six months of foundation-building was critical. We have a very relational way of leading. Yeah. So I can’t think of a single disagreement that didn’t get resolved immediately or didn’t get resolved in the way that whomever had a disagreement felt empowered by. Yeah. I can’t think of a single time.

Yura Sapi: Because I love that metaphor, the metaphor around translation issue, about it being a translation issue, because I definitely understand that. Literally, what happens to me when I’m talking in Spanish and then to English or working with folks in different languages and it’s not always necessarily the words, but sometimes I’m saying the same thing technically in my mind, the same translation, the word, but it doesn’t mean the same thing.

So I think that can definitely happen even in the same language, especially considering different origins, upbringings that people have, different values that we’re coming in with. And so can you speak more about the strategies and structures that you’re using to not replicate the same oppressive systems and to be creating something new or really something that was always there and just centering that in yourself and in your communities?

Tara: Yeah. I mean, I think, like many people, the four of us all have been in collaborations that did not feel great or have been involved in organizations that were very oppressive. And so that was really helpful coming in to be like, “Okay, great. We don’t want to be like any of them. So what did they do? What do we want them to do? So can we do that?” was really helpful.

I mean, again, I just cannot advocate strongly enough to really invest the time and invest the time it takes, not invest X amount of time because we have this idea about efficiency and things taking too long but again, urgency is another by-product of white supremacy and colonization, so like I ain’t here for it. Anyway, but I cannot advocate strongly enough for taking the time to build said foundation, to really dive into how are we going to make decisions? What happens when we disagree? What happens when there’s someone not there to make a decision?

For us, in our operating agreement, we talk about what decisions need to be made through full consensus. What are decisions that can be made if we’re missing one or two Groundwater members. We also have in our operating agreement that two Groundwater co-founders must be at every workshop, every event, no single person will be representing Groundwater at any time, it has to be at least two and the same goes for decisions.

So as an example, this upcoming week, both Annalisa and Ronee are unavailable and so Anna and I will be meeting and we’re going to be able to make a couple decisions regarding—oh my gosh, y’all are getting all the secrets—anyway, regarding a new tributary of Groundwater that we’re getting ready to drop, so excited, called Curiosity.

Yeah. And so Anna and I are going to be able to make some decisions about that new tributary and what is the public-facing announcement going to be, what are our first projects going to be, so on and so forth. Anyway, yeah. And so it all comes down to our operating agreement, but I mean, but furthermore, it goes back to those six months of foundation-building that we spent and it became just really clear about how we make decisions, when and where.

And also, I think it’s really funny— So, we’ve just led some consensus decision-making workshops that are based in my specific southeastern Indigenous tradition and some folks asked us, “Well, do you all use this process as you make decisions?” And we were like, “No.” Not because we’re not doing true consensus but because the process that I was teaching is a very structured process meant for large groups of people or meant for people who are just dipping their toe into consensus work.

Anyway, but after these workshops, we all came back together the four of us and we were like, “How funny? We already do this without having the formalized structure,” because it’s a very formalized structure in that particular workshop. But yeah, so we just operate within consensus and true consensus. And true consensus is not majority rules, it’s not the loudest voice bullies the quietest voice, a true consensus is about every single person enthusiastically consenting and buying into whatever we’re deciding. And it’s just how we operate. We don’t do anything until we have 100 percent enthusiastic consent and excitement.

Yura Sapi: Incredible. I love how you can understand that you’re working with what we’ve got in this United States government situation, where there has to be incorporation for tax code and tax purposes for organizations and needing bylaws, as an example, to be able to do work. And so working in and with these structures, these financial structures at the end of the day, that exist but making it also work for you, right? In terms of putting in these special “special things.” And I know you said before, for example, there were these financial advisors who told you you shouldn’t do certain things, and then you still going forward in line with your values. And so I definitely understand that “making it work” in terms of what we’ve got in the current system.

Claudia Alick from Calling Up Justice talks about this in another episode about living in this late-stage capitalism time and working to survive and thrive, “surthriving,” so surviving and thriving. Especially as people of color, people of the global majority, Black, Indigenous, Afro-Indigenous futures, but also working to make this change, right? So living in this era and trying to survive and continue while also dismantling it.

And so I’d love to have you speak more on the Divest to Invest campaign with Groundwater Arts, specifically talking about divesting from fossil fuels in the arts organization world and as one of these ways that we’re actually taking an active stance against trying to change some of the bigger-picture structures that are happening in this country and this stolen land and stolen land all over the world really.

A headshot of Tara Moses against a galaxy backdrop with the logo for Building Our Own Tables to the left.

Tara Moses of Groundwater Arts.

Tara: Yeah. So the Divest to Invest campaign came from... One of our principles of the Green New Theatre is immediate divestment from fossil fuels because the fossil fuel industry, as we know, is deeply racist in addition to being deeply harmful to the planet but it also disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color on the frontline. Yeah.

And so, one of the things we do at Groundwater is out of spite, we get angry and we’re like, “We’re gonna do something!” and so we were seeing all of these theatres talk about how they’re anti-racist, and drop their anti-racist statements—which, spoiler, are not enough, because anti-racism does not encompass Indigenous people, decolonization does—but so on and so forth. And it was actually Annalisa and Ronee who came to us, to Anna and I, and were like, “We feel really strongly that we need to launch a campaign for divestment from fossil fuels.”

And we were like, “Okay, great. So what can we do? Let’s play that out. What are the milestones, what is this campaign about?” And we got kicked off on it. But yeah so for the Divest Campaign, it really came from the social license to operate. And for anyone tuning in who may not know what that means or never heard those words before, basically what it means is that the fossil fuel industry, not just them, but every extractive industry, every company that does bad things to other people, to the planet when they have very large philanthropic giving strategies and specifically strategies that fund hard-to-fund industries, example the arts, theatre. And so what they do is that they weaponize philanthropic giving to get a pass on all the bad stuff that they’re doing. So as an example, on Shell’s own website, they say, “Yeah, the New Orleans Jazz Festival, they know and trust us, where would they be without us?” Because that festival is really large for those community members down there in New Orleans.

Anyway and so it creates this false equivalency... However you say the word. That no, we can’t divest from fossil fuels because who’s going to fund the theatre. Who’s going to fund Jazz Fest? Who’s going to fund, who’s going to fund, and so on and so on and so forth. Anyway, so that’s a false dichotomy, that’s not true. And the theatre gives the fossil fuel industry a huge social license to operate.

I mean, Lincoln Center is funded by an oil tycoon. Hello, BP, Shell, ExxonMobil. So many theatres across the country, the United States—well, the world too but specifically the United States—are funded from oil and gas and the fossil fuel industries. So the Divest to Invest campaign, what we’re asking folks to do is divest from fossil fuels and invest in people of color, invest in anti-racism, invest in climate justice, invest in decolonized future because spoiler, you can’t do those things while taking oil money.

And yeah and so that’s how we’ve positioned in. We wrote a few articles for HowlRound and American Theatre magazine. We have theatres who’ve already signed on. We have scores of theatre artists who’ve already signed on. Anyway, we’ve just created three pledges for individuals and three pledges for organizations to take that first step to divesting or take all of the steps, you can pick and choose what works best for you.

Yura Sapi: The Divest to Invest Campaign at groundwaterarts.com:

It’s time to invest in an equitable, thriving, future, y’all!

We need to divest from systems that don’t serve us and invest in futures that do!

The fossil fuel industry depends on the continued extraction from and violence against the earth, and disproportionally creates collateral damage in Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities around the world. We are not “sacrifice zones” for the fossil fuel industry or for the theater. For far too long, United States theatres have given the fossil fuel industry a social license to operate - a pass on the harm they have caused people and the planet.

Not anymore.

Groundwater Arts is launching a movement to end the grasp fossil fuels has over communities and theatres.

Divesting is hard and it’s possible. Finding new resources of investment is hard and it’s possible.

Groundwater Arts has joined the movement with Go Fossil Free and 350.org and are launching the Divest to Invest Campaign to move arts workers and institutions away from fossil fuels and towards a regenerative future.

Tara: Anyway, and we are getting ready to—again, y’all getting all the tea—anyway, we’re getting ready to launch an event later this month of July or early August so stay tuned. We’re going to bring in folks from organizations to talk about contracts. Because one of our pledges is as an individual putting in your contract that your position, your production, whatever it may be, cannot be funded from fossil fuel money. Anyway, so we are bringing in some contractual experts to talk folks through how you can do this. And I think I’m a great example of the power of contract writers. I have an inclusion writer and all of my contracts as a playwright that the director must also be Native because very, very, very seldom are these Native productions directed by Native people and I’m not about it and I’ve had tremendous success.

And so this is just one more thing that if a whole bunch of individual artists are telling these theatres, “You can’t use fossil fuel money to fund me or my production.” The theatres want us badly enough, they’re going to have to change. Anyway and so we’re really excited about this contract rule event they’re going to be hosting soon to really empower people that, yes, something as simple as a contract writer can do so much. In the words of adrianne maree brown—you know, we’re big stans on Emergent Strategy—“small is all” and this one small action can have a really large impact to dismantling the theatres’ social license to operate with oil and gas.

Yura Sapi: Yeah. Yeah. I’m super excited to start putting that in my contracts. Love all the examples you’re sharing.

I wanted to ask more about wanting to name decolonization in addition to anti-racism when we’re talking in these spaces and when we’re talking about wanting to make these changes. Also thinking about decolonized futures, something you named. I’m always super excited about envisioning and manifesting for the future. I often think that the way in which I can idealize the decolonized future, anti-racist future, Afro-Indigenous future, I’m really good at being able to envision how it turns out and what it looks like and how we’re there.

But the how we get there can often be difficult and frustrating because, at least for me, sometimes I feel like I can’t even really imagine the possibilities of how because I’m so caught in the moment of now and what’s happening now and the current structures now and the surviving through now. And so I’d love to hear more from you about decolonized futures and about using the name “decolonize” in addition to anti-racism.

Tara: Yeah, absolutely. First of all, that is what white supremacy wants. White supremacy wants to take away our ability to imagine and to create or to even fathom what a decolonized future could be like, what an Afro-Indigenous future could be. That’s the system working. So first and foremost, let’s acknowledge this and so we can be like, “No, thank you,” and move right along.

For myself as well as for Groundwater as a whole, I’m confident saying, Groundwater, we look to elders within Black and Indigenous communities who’ve been doing this work for decades upon decades. And it’s very clear, from my perspective, a decolonized future is very clear. All the work has already been done, it has been advocated for. It’s just time to implement. And that implementation is a returning to these relational life ways that have existed and predate white supremacy, frankly, that predate colonization.

So like, we’ve done it before we can do it again and we can do it again in this digital society. All of the work has been done if we look back to our elders and leaders in these communities who’ve been doing it. And on the piece of why anti-racism is not enough… Especially in the United States, so speaking specifically from the United States viewpoint here: Indigenous people, we are not a race, we’re a political identity that has been racialized. And so because of that, anti-racism does not encompass our unique needs.

Decolonization is the only thing that does because it takes into consideration our political identity and how we got to this point, whereas anti-racism does not solely on its own. And whenever they both work together, we’re able to, again, move to a decolonized future that, number one, is anti-racist, number two, does account for all of the Indigenous kin who are here and who may come here, so on and so forth for generations to come.

And also number three, the reason why equity, diversity and inclusion is trash, as we love to say at Groundwater, EDI is trash. Check out our future merch, it’ll say so on it. Anyway, is just that oftentimes, a lot of these EDI endeavors are just to keep people of color— Exactly, flashy Band-aids. So like how can we keep all of these people of color quiet so they stop complaining? They’ve always talked about bringing more seats to the table, more seats to the table, but what they forget is that number one, who built the table? Number two, people still have to be invited to set the table—who’s doing the invitations? Number three, there’s still a closed-off room with one door—who’s opening that door for whom, right? It’s still upholding the exact same structure of white supremacy and colonialism, it’s just trying to weasel in little baby loopholes to make people happy.

And so that’s why anti-racism is needed to eliminate said room and decolonization is needed to really acknowledge how that room came to be through all of these political systems put into place, especially against Black and Native people in the United States. Both of whom— Indigenous, whenever I say Indigenous, I mean, capital “I” Indigenous, always gotta be clear. Anyway, that’s what I’m talking about. Black and Native people and Indigenous people globally, capital “I” Indigenous. But yeah and so the political identities and complications that get assigned to us all. Anyway, so a decolonized future is just undoing that. Again, this is all created, all of this stuff is what? Just a few hundred years old. I got stories thousands of years older than that, right?

Yeah. So whenever I think about it that way, I find that people feel more empowered, I hope this is an empowering thing is that our people’s been doing the right shit for a lot longer than these white people have been oppressing us, but they want us to think that there’s nothing that exists pre-colonization. That’s not true. Literally, millennia upon millennia of governmental structures, of relational structures, community structures, ways of being that aren’t this. This is only a drop in the bucket in this whole space-time continuum.

Yura Sapi: Yeah, absolutely. And our plants and animal siblings, other animals too, because we’re animals as well who have been here from before who have been on this land for much longer, these are older siblings and who we can learn from— and learn how to live on this land in this reciprocity type of way. So that’s something that’s been super important to me on my end connecting with my own indigeneity, what it means to be Indigenous, what my role in the revolution is and what my role is personally as a community member, and I’ve been really looking towards nature and plants and finding that balance and harmony between sustaining them and sustaining— Between me sustaining them and them sustaining me.

Tara: Absolutely. I mean, that’s my biggest problem with a lot of these climate justice movements and by a lot of these climate justice movements, let me be specific, the ones that are run by white people. Because it’s all about “save the planet, save the planet, save the planet.” The planet has lived through so many things, animals, plants, the trees have gone, they are so resilient. They’ve lived through ice ages, they’ve live through extreme heat. The planet will be fine.

What we need to worry about are the Black/Indigenous people who are going to get hit the worst. We need to worry about the animal species that aren’t as resilient or can be saved now before it’s far too late. That’s just a little sidebar. I can just get very angry when they’re like, “Save the planet.” I’m like, “No, no, no, no.” Yes. Which are bad, but I promise a disabled person who needs a straw is not contributing to the 100 corporations in the world who are doing 99 percent of the damage.

Yura Sapi: I often think about how easy it could be to actually switch plastic for a biodegradable option. The actual feasibility of there being these other options and solar energy as well. It’s still within our grasp in terms of the technology aspect of it. You know what we’re talking about: iPhones and Wi-Fi and the technology, it’s such a limit of what our capacity is to be able to create technology and technology that isn’t so extractive, right? Having this different kind of relationship with technology, which is part of the just transition, right?

Yura Sapi: Just Transition: A Framework for Change from climatejusticealliance.org:

What do we mean by just transition?

Moving from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy. An extractive economy with a consumerism and colonial mindset worldview, resources that are extracted, and exploitation in workers.

Moving to a regenerative economy with a caring and sacredness worldview.

Moving from extractive to regenerative using solutions that are visionary and oppositional, stopping the bad while also building the new.

After centuries of global plunder, the profit-driven industrial economy rooted in patriarchy and white supremacy is severely undermining the life support systems of the planet. Transition is inevitable, justice is not. Core to a just transition is deep democracy in which workers and communities have control over the decisions that affect their daily lives.

To liberate the soil and to liberate our souls, we must decolonize our imaginations, remember our way forward, and divorce ourselves from the comforts of the empire. We must trust that deep in our cultures and ancestries is the diverse wisdom that we need to navigate our way towards a world where we live in just relationships with each other and with the earth.

You can learn more at climatejusticealliance.org.

Before I let you go, I’d love to ask if there’s any final tips or advice you have for listeners or anybody reading the transcript. Moving forward, taking all this information, all of the gifts you’ve shared into the day-to-day, continuing forward to make these decolonized anti-racist Afro-Indigenous futures, which they’re already here. It’s also about continuing what’s already here.

Tara: Yeah. So the advice that I give to everyone is just instilling and reinforcing and reassuring the power of one’s voice. I mean, so often, especially in the theatre, we were told and we were taught that, “Oh no, if we speak up, if we ruffle feathers, we’re not going to get jobs,” or this, that, and the other.

Y’all, I am living proof of ruffling the feathers and still getting them jobs as I gesture at all my awards. Nah, man, they don’t want us to say no, they don’t want us to demand better. And by “they” I’m talking about white supremacy, I’m talking about the institutions, institutionalized theatre, oh my God. Anyway, and so my biggest, biggest affirmation moving forward in this work is demand what you deserve because you deserve to have it and you can get it.

There is no, like… You don’t have to pay no dues, you don’t got to appease no gatekeepers. Use your voice, it’s very powerful. Use these contract writers, they’re very powerful. And the last thing that I’ll leave folks with, especially for other Afro-Indigenous folks who are tuning in or reading is all of these little shiny institutions like... Ooh, y’all, right now is an opportune time. Every white person is terrified of being told they’re a racist. True fact. Anyway, all of these institutions need us, need all of us of color to prove to whomever that they’re not racist.

So because they need us, the power scales have shifted, and we have a lot more if we just take it and we can, you’re allowed, we’re all allowed. Anyway, so what I just want everyone to remember and walk away with is, is that your voice is powerful enough. You are allowed to take what you deserve and demand what you deserve. And also right now is an opportune time. Them whites are scared, hell. This shit, I’ve been able to get because people are scared of being told they’re racist. Use it.

Yura Sapi: I love it. So incredible, especially because I feel like I hear so much that Toni Cade Bambara quote, “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible” and thinking about how, as artists, we can provide different visions of the future and make it be able to show different ways that it actually works out and that it’s not just apocalyptic. And so that shift in being able to do that and cultivate this collective energy of change and revolution is so important in our storytelling.

But then also hearing you speak about the Divest to Invest campaign, especially, and thinking about these almost administrative acts of revolution and rebellion as artists, as workers, in this capitalistic economy. The actual artwork we’re presenting the people we’re choosing to give our energy with, to share energy with, to get paid, you know, minimal payments oftentimes, the contracts that we’re signing and what we’re including in there.

So yeah, really expanding for me what the role of the artists in the revolution is and really considering our power, especially as in this nonprofit donation-based world. So thank you so much for joining me today. This was incredible. I’m looking forward to continuing our conversations and being in community. Yupaychani. Thank you so much.

Tara: Yes, So many thanks. Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Yura Sapi: This has been another episode of the Building Our Own Tables podcast. I’m your host and producer, Yura Sapi. Our editor is Daniel Umali, original music by Blackos the Producer and Julian Var. This podcast is produced as a contribution to HowlRound Theatre Commons. You can find more episodes of this series and other HowlRound podcasts in our feed on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you find podcasts. Be sure to search “HowlRound Theatre Commons podcast” and subscribe to receive new episodes.

If you love this podcast, donate to support future episodes at advancingartsforward.org. You can also post a rating and write a review on those platforms to help other people find us. There is a transcript for this episode along with a lot of other progressive and disruptive content available on HowlRound.com.

Have an exciting idea for an essay, podcast, or TV event the theatre community needs to hear? Visit howlround.com and submit your ideas to the commons.

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Thoughts from the curator

I hear talk about wanting for racially diverse populations to “get a seat at the table” or “bringing chairs to the table for POC,” meaning that we want our people to have a position at existing organizations and institutions with decision making power. For me, a few years ago, I decided to not focus on infiltrating existing organizations, but rather start my own. I know I’m not alone. With the blessing that we all have a role in the revolution, this podcast checks in and learns from BIPOC founders of various organizations in and related to the theatre industry changing the game, making new things happen within, and expanding beyond white and euro-centric experiences. We will learn from these incredible visionaries who have created their own tables of arts institutions, movements, collectives, initiatives, and more. We learn about their processes, pathways to success, and challenges they've overcome. This is an outside-the-classroom leadership learning from folks who are doing the things.

Building Our Own Tables


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