A month ago, we wrote about our reckoning with racial inequities at Hugo House. We know that an equity statement without action means nothing; we also know that achieving transformative change is a long, often uncomfortable process that requires careful thought and dedicated attention.
In February, we will release our first yearly DEI Report, to create a baseline for assessing Hugo House’s effectiveness toward becoming an anti-racist organization. The report will present data about demographics, programs, and finances, and detail the work we did last year to define and advance DEI goals at Hugo House.
Last summer, a group of writers of color and allies sent Hugo House a letter, followed by a list of requested action items. Below, we’ve included updates on those, as well as further actions we are taking to make Hugo House the equitable and inclusive organization it needs to be. We expect this list to grow and change as we embark upon the process of auditing the organization with a racial equity consultant. Finding the person who will guide us through this process is our top priority.
If you would like to receive periodic updates on our progress, please sign up for racial equity updates here.
Updates on Requested Action Items
- A public acknowledgement of Hugo House’s contributions to racial inequity and the many harms it has caused to writers of color was issued Dec. 17, 2020, along with a public commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization.
- On Dec. 11, 2020, we held a community forum on racial equity, open to all, giving people an opportunity to air their grievances as well as suggest solutions.
- A DEI consultant will work with Hugo House and the community to develop a new racial equity plan. A request for proposals will be widely circulated by early February.
- The DEI consultant will conduct an internal evaluation of policies, decision-making practices, and current leadership capabilities.
- Hugo House will issue the first yearly DEI report to the community in February.
Hugo House’s Additional Action Items
- Develop hiring and personnel policies to improve recruitment and retention of BIPOC staff.
- Ensure regular DEI trainings for staff and board.
- Present twice-yearly ally trainings for teachers. The first training, with Anastacia-Reneé, was held in August 2020. The next teacher training will take place with Felicia Rose Chavez this spring.
- Ensure easy access to scholarships. In Fall 2020, we simplified and streamlined our scholarship application, opening up qualifications so that more people can apply. We also made scholarships easier to find on the website.
- Refine community agreements for classes and establish protocols
- for problematic issues.
- Examine policies and processes to improve recruitment and retention of teachers of color.
- Set up a review panel comprising paid community members to review racist incidents at Hugo House.
- Build a library of video instruction and links to prepare and inform students about the antiracist classroom.
- Offer more free adult programming, including free classes. In 2021, we will offer 3–5 free classes per quarter, in addition to 3 free Q&A sessions with writers, editors, and agents; the weekly Quarantine Write-In; and twice-monthly Write with Hugo House through the Seattle Public Library.
- Develop longstanding and partnerships with other community organizations. We are planning Spanish language classes with Seattle Escribe for Spring quarter. The education department is also working closely with prose writer-in-residence Ruth Joffre to establish 2–3 additional community partnership programs.
- Increase accessibility of youth programs by examining and amending pricing, partnership, and outreach strategies. Scribes summer writing camps and youth workshops were moved to a sliding scale pricing model in 2020. This is expected to continue in 2021 as we continue to evaluate the accessibility of our programs.
- Evaluate and restructure manuscript consultation program.
- Review writers in residence and fellowship programs, with an eye toward reshaping both programs to better benefit the participants and the community.
- Redesign website and revise language across all internal and external platforms with an eye toward inclusivity. To be completed by fall 2021.
- Improve data collection and reporting by designing and implementing a new CRM. To be completed by fall 2021.
- Raise funds dedicated to supporting DEI work from both individuals and foundations.
- The Board of Directors has committed to spend at least $50,000 more this year than in 2020 on racial equity efforts.