We are a group of Black writers and artists, largely women, who have been subjected to sexual harassment, abuse, and assault inside our literary arts community. We write in public defense of all those in this and other literary and artistic communities who have been subjected to such treatment, and those who’ve been silenced by the fear of backlash.
We believe that the right to create without fear is fundamental, and must be upheld by the community. In the spirit of healing, we call for the following from our community’s institutions, organizations, groups, and individuals:
- Establish awareness about and zero tolerance for abusive and predatory behaviors.
Create opportunities for education and training that enable everyone in our community to recognize and report abusive behaviors.
- Hold abusers publicly accountable for their actions.
When harassment, coercion, abuse, or assault are observed or reported in this community’s workshops, retreats, and events — our work environments — we ask that protocols be in place and punitive actions to be taken. We ask that these actions be explicitly detailed in a written code of ethics that falls in line with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. These procedures will be made public, as transparency and responsible disclosure counteract cultures of silence and shaming.
- Deny abusers access to community spaces, and to vulnerable individuals.
We must exercise care in our employment practices, and must withhold/rescind, from known abusers who have refused to change their behavior or seek help, opportunities to interact with community members, in particular with students and young people.
Our goal is a world in which abusers can no longer victimize us, or make unsafe the community spaces where we live, work, and create. To accomplish this, abusers must be denied access, starting now. We ask that our community’s organizations — institutions, collectives, retreats, workshops, event series, conferences, and other groups — in which known abusers are participants or leaders, take swift action to discipline and remove them.
- Advocate belief in the accounts of those who have been abused or assaulted.
Statistically, people do not lie about sexual harassment or assault. They have very little to gain by reporting these incidents, and a great deal to lose. When someone reports being victimized, believe that person. Support that person. Call for action and accountability.
We realize our community’s silence on these issues echoes the silence of our society as a whole. We cannot permit this culture of silence to continue among us; we are ending it now.
We accept that, in joining our voices against abusers, we may be subject to backlash and questioning. This is nothing compared to the experiences of gaslighting, denial, and abandonment that women routinely experience for speaking about their personal experiences of abuse and assault.
We are aware that those who have been harassed or abused might feel isolated and silenced, as we have, that they may even be questioning their own experiences, wondering if they are imagining their abuse. We want to let these people know that they have allies in us. Please click here for a list of support resources for survivors of harassment, abuse, assault. If you wish to connect with the authors of this letter for support, direction, or to enumerate strategies, please contact our collective at [email protected].
We know that there are abusers in our community. Let this serve as notice to those who have relied on our complicity to continue their patterns of abuse: we will not be complicit any longer. We realize that abusive behavior is often legacy behavior, and we encourage you to seek help. Click here for a list of resources.
We believe in the possibility of healing. We believe that change can happen within our community, and will be effected by the community. These are first and necessary steps. Let us take them together.
In community spirit,