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    THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS THEATRE COMPANY

    WE BELIEVE …

    In the fall of 2021, The Unusual Suspects faced a turning point of organizational transformation spurred by the bravery and resiliency of The Unusual Suspects Teaching Artist Council, a group demanding the necessary change of our organization and a public commitment to anti-racist, abolitionist, and anti-colonial practices. We have created this page to share our commitment to this necessary work, not just through words but action. We share this publicly for transparency and accountability.

    We plan to regularly update this page in order to be open and transparent with our participants and their families, our donors and supporters, and the community at large about the tangible steps that we must and are taking to create an equitable and sustainable future for The Unusual Suspects. Through it all, our focus will always be on the youth and participants we serve. We thank you for joining us on this journey of learning, intentional growth, and radical transformation.

    LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: 

    We at The Unusual Suspects acknowledge the Tongva, the Keech, the Chumash, and the Pakoivitam, as well as all Indigenous Peoples of the unceded land upon which this organization operates and serves. We recognize that Indigenous Peoples are still here and commit to uplifting their stories, culture, and community. We acknowledge that many of the institutions that make up our society, and that we benefit from, were founded upon exclusions and erasures of many Indigenous Peoples.

    We are committed to beginning the process of dismantling ongoing legacies of settler colonialism through the intentional actions of our organization and ourselves.

    A MESSAGE FROM THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS

    For over 28 years, we have partnered with communities across Los Angeles to provide young people from under-resourced neighborhoods the opportunity to discover their unique voices by expressing themselves through theatre. 

    Our goal has always been to help make the world a more hopeful, equal, and safe place. In recent weeks, our Teaching Artists have brought it to the Board’s attention that there is more work to be done to nurture and serve the well-being of our students, families, Teaching Artists and Staff. We must not only create a space where youth from diverse backgrounds can feel seen, heard, and known, but ensure the spaces we create take into consideration the institutional barriers that impact their everyday lives.

    We know that systemic racism permeates our communities. That is why The Unusual Suspects is committed to providing curricula that is informed by anti-racist, abolitionist, and anti-colonial principles and offering ample resources to our students, families, Teaching Artists and Staff to support their needs.

    Tearing down the structures of inequality begins at home. To that end, we are actively working to improve communications around our organization’s operations, decision-making and programming development among our Teaching Artists and Staff. Because the more we communicate and collaborate, the better our programming, and the better we can serve our shared community.

    As we continue to grow and evolve, the Unusual Suspects is working to further integrate these principles into the fabric of our organization. Stay tuned over the coming months to learn more about what we’re doing to support this mission.

    Sincerely,

    The Unusual Suspects Board of Directors

    A MESSAGE FROM THE PROGRAMS TEAM

    We value our TAs labor in and out of the classroom. We value our TAs artistic endeavors and understand that we hire TAs who are artistic professionals and commit to working flexibly so they can continue to engage with their artistry, while introducing their art to students through The Unusual Suspects. We are transitioning immediately from a deficient mindset to empowering abundant language with our funders and donors, as well as the communities we serve. 

    Some action steps the Programs Team is implementing are below:

    1. Exploring flat and other alternative organizational models. Interviewing organizations that have adopted a flat model and other models.
    2. Forming a curriculum development think tank of paid positions, and utilizing the Social Justice Standards, Equity Standards, and any other resources available that are anti-colonial, anti-racist, and abolistionist to create a revised curriculum that will be implemented both as we go forward with programming and while we talk about our work moving forward.
    3. Committing to continuing the hiring of Latinx, African American, SWANA, Peoples of the Global Majority and bilingual local artists.

    A MESSAGE ABOUT FUNDRAISING AND STORYTELLING

    We acknowledge the harms of the nonprofit industrial complex, and in particular, the inherent roots of white supremacy, wealth inequality, and institutional racism at the core of the fundraising and philanthropy industry. Our work has upheld this inequitable and unjust system to raise funds. We commit to taking the concrete action steps below to make radical change in our organization’s Development & Communications strategy. As an organization based on teaching storytelling, we must do better in our work to center our participants and mission.

    Some action steps the Development & Communications Team are implementing are below:

    1. Overhauling our public facing storytelling, including a revamp of our website, based on the creation of an anti-racist, anti-colonial, and abolitionist language style guide that will be used for all social media posts, grant applications, website text, and other outward facing communications about our work. This decolonization of language will move The Unusual Suspects away from a scarcity mindset and towards highlighting the vibrant, diverse, and talented communities we serve.
    2. Revisiting our funder cultivation and prospecting strategies, while researching the institutions, corporations, and foundations we receive funding from to ensure we cultivate funders that align with our values and mission.
    3. Revamp our fundraising strategy and revisit the roles of participants and Teaching Artists in fundraising efforts using the framework developed by the Community Centric Fundraising Movement, an organization run by BIPOC fundraisers, to ground our work in social justice and prioritize the communities we serve.

    We commit to beginning this work immediately and prioritizing these action steps. We will be fully transparent providing updates in the upcoming newsletters about what the team is working on and progress to date. This work must be done to ensure that we are truly living up to our mission, and we do not take it lightly. We refuse to uphold the status quo.

    COMING SOON:

    1. Action Steps and Timeline
    2. Links and resources
    3. Glossary of terms