The Writers of Color Alliance (WOCA) has requested that Hugo House take a number of specific actions toward transforming Hugo House into an institution that is welcoming, inclusive, and accessible to all members of our community. Among those are the following. We will continue to update this list as we progress on our journey.
- A public acknowledgement of Hugo House’s contributions to racial inequity and the many harms it has caused to writers of color in the past. Here is our statement from Dec. 17, 2020.
- A public commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization, including a statement demonstrating a meaningful understanding of that term and a commitment to both internal and external action to achieve it. Our statement in December included this commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization.
- Holding an open community forum with the writers who signed the sign-on letter, giving them an opportunity to both air their grievances as well as provide solutions. We held an open community forum on racial equity on Dec. 11, 2020, and collected many ideas that have informed a broader action plan.
- A public commitment to a transparent, professionally managed and well-resourced racial equity process that leads to transformative structural change. Hugo House is on the verge of engaging a DEI consultant to guide our transformation. We deployed a team of staff and board members to compile all the records we had regarding demographic data, budgets, and more from 2018 through 2020 to inform our first annual DEI report. Our consultant will provide essential perspective on this report, and how to improve, share and learn from it. We are committed to making our practices equitable and to building authentic relationships and trust.
- WOCA has demanded that Tree Swenson, our executive director, step down. Tree Swenson, our executive director for nine years, voluntarily resigned Feb. 19, 2021, to enable the organization to move forward with building a more inclusive and equitable future. We will retain an executive search firm to conduct a national search for her successor. We will include BIPOC Board and community members on a search committee that will review applicants and present finalists to the Board. Details of this process will be posted publicly as they begin to solidify, and we will welcome community review and suggested changes. This is a crucial role, and we will take the needed time and use a clear, inclusive process to fill it with care and thoughtfulness.
- Reopening the hiring process for Hugo House’s development director. Hugo House committed on Feb. 19, 2021, to reopen that position.
- Commitment to an ongoing, transparent process of engagement with the WOCA group as Hugo House evaluates and equitably restructures operations. We have invited—and still welcome—WOCA members to join our Board and/or DEI committee.
- WOCA has demanded that Hugo House pause its DEI consultant and Executive Director searches as a prerequisite to meeting with the board to discuss power-sharing models. We have agreed and paused the search, and are in the process of negotiating that meeting.