We stand at the crossroads of complacency and action. Before we go down the path of action, we must be aware of our past.
In 1914, there were a group of white-men who formed what we’ve come to know as AIGA. When formed, this organization was white- and men-only and we must acknowledge the systemic issues this has created. In lifting up only the white-male the voices of women and BIPOC have been silenced. In 1920, AIGA became the first graphic arts organization to include women designers but didn’t elect their first woman president till 1958. It is unclear in AIGA’s history when it began to desegregate.
Over the past 30 years, there have been attempts at making AIGA ‘less-white’. National task forces have had troubles gaining traction and making actionable change. AIGA continues to make mistakes; struggling with elitism, remaining relevant and current, and continuing to white-wash. I want to give thanks and credit to Antoinette Carol for holding us accountable and highlighting the issues of white supremacy within AIGA. She isn’t the first or last to voice concerns of these issues within AIGA. We must credit all the individuals who have both voiced their concerns and those who have worked on these task forces over the decades.
Our local chapters—while having a charter affiliation with AIGA ‘National’—operate as independent non-profit organizations. While we have a voice at National we have the power to change our chapter. In 2016, our first Diversity & Inclusion Director, Cathy Solarana began the change. But, more must be done, and we have the power to change.
We know that silence is not acceptable and being an ally isn’t enough. AIGA Nebraska needs to work to support marginalized people in our creative community through our organization. We need to work to be actively anti-racist; to not actively make change is dangerous and not what we stand for. We must take more- and better-informed action. And that starts now.
George Aye’s article, Dismantling White Supremacy Culture Within AIGA, inspired us. To give our organization the serious attention and energy it deserves, it takes more than our volunteer board can give while running monthly programming—during a pandemic nonetheless.
So first, we are going to pause ALL local chapter programming. Right now we need to listen, and better understand the community we serve. We plan to engage paid-professionals to help us embark on the learning and training we need as an organization to better meet the challenge of systemic racism, white supremacy, and oppression.
To our paying members.
We understand you will likely have concerns. Your membership dues will be vital to helping our local chapter during this time. You will still have access to all the benefits provided by National. We invite you to be engaged in this work. We want to hear your stories and through your insight better serve our community.
We must change the DNA of our organization.
We don’t know how long it will take to make the proper changes to our organization; to be diverse, inclusive and build equity. This isn’t a brief endeavor. We are just starting a process that could easily take 12-24 months. As part of the processes, we will be reviewing and revising how we function, our board composition, and making sure we’re serving the correct community. We’re going to need your help.
If you are interested in supporting our local efforts we invite you to be a part of this change.