This is an extraordinary time in our nation when it seems that injustices, unequal treatments, and even unintended insensitivities are compelling action in a manner that our country has not seen in a generation. It is also an unprecedented moment for Joy of Motion to deeply examine itself and embrace the opportunity to not only be free of racism, but to become actively anti-racist.
We want to focus on a future that will feel to everyone within our Joy of Motion community that we have lived up to our principle that dance is truly for everyone, and do so in a manner that is true to our core value of inclusion. It is clear that many in our community are not experiencing Joy of Motion in this way. To remedy this we know that we must become more diverse and fully draw upon the richness of thought, culture and experience our Washington area possesses.
To see the future our community must understand important facts about where we are today.
Management and the board were alerted on April 4 by a group of approximately two dozen current and former staff, faculty and volunteers that they believed there was evidence of discrimination at Joy of Motion. The board immediately engaged a highly regarded investigatory team to conduct an independent investigation of the accusations.
In the approximately 10 weeks that have ensued since the investigation commenced a lot has occurred.
1. We have been shut down since March 15, and with 80% of our revenue based on classes there has been virtually no income. Earlier in March, in anticipation of government mandated closure, the board established a Covid-19 task force to help guide the organization through the pandemic. The task force spent the following weeks evaluating the financial impact of the studio closures, and concluded that we were facing losses of an estimated $100,000 per month and that layoffs were our organization’s only option.
The board made the difficult decision to lay off all of its 83 part-time faculty and staff members, and to make significant cuts to the pay of the full-time staff members who were needed to maintain the organization’s existing obligations and plan for reopening. Had we not taken this painful step Joy of Motion would be out of business. Although some have alleged that the layoffs were related to the April 4 letter that some of the faculty had signed, it is unequivocally true that the layoffs and pay cuts were 100% driven by our dire financial circumstances, and therefore were applied across the board to all employees.
2. The board’s efforts to secure Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from the federal government were approved, which has permitted us to extend offers of employment to everyone that was laid off in April.
3. Finally, it would be obtuse to not acknowledge that demands for change these past 10 weeks have grown louder and more urgent. While we hope the conclusions of the current investigation will provide some direction, it is clear that we will need to address matters that extend beyond its scope.
It is essential that the organization ensure that all members of our community, especially people of color, are comfortable, welcomed, and heard. We believe we cannot speak more loudly or unambiguously than to make room on the board for more diverse thinking. The board is establishing board seats to be held by current faculty members. Faculty will propose selection criteria during their pre-reopening committee work over the coming weeks, and will select their own annual faculty delegates to the board.
Additionally, the faculty seeks a transparent process to engage and communicate with management and the board. We agree. One of the goals of the committee work over the coming weeks is to propose structures to ensure the implementation of that process, while also actively promoting equality among all of our stakeholders. The organization is eager to get started on this important work.
We acknowledge that there has been a call for some board members to step down. It is important for the community to know that these calls, while painful, have not been met with defiance by any board member. To the contrary, the board understands the benefit to the organization of engaging new board members.
To that end, the board is determined to find new, qualified and diverse candidates for nomination to the board. While it may seem like a simple task, the board is obligated to carry out the process in a way that complies with its legal and fiduciary obligations. We seek to engage a professional search firm to assist Joy of Motion in that effort. Once the call for submissions is ready, we will share it with this community and will welcome your recommendations.
The future must belong to everyone in our community who embraces the joy of dance. We are ready for that future to begin.
-The Board of Directors