Statement from Lindy Bout Event Directors, Nov 10, 2018
We are committed in our work at Lindy Bout and beyond to foster spaces where jazz dance and our community can flourish. We condemn sexual assault and harassment. We support and believe survivors of sexual violence. We believe it’s important for our community to have open conversations about sexual assault, while recognizing that any public discussion of this nature is going to have an often powerful impact on those who have experienced sexual assault.
We recognize Melissa’s incredible bravery to share her story and we have great compassion for her pain. We condemn any actions by our community that cause further pain, including attempts to discredit her character and dismiss these allegations.
Sexual assault has no place in our community or in society. These revelations are an unequivocally grave matter that must be taken seriously; however, they have been difficult for many people, including ourselves, to process. They are causing deep rifts and pain in our community. Discussions, at times, have become polarizing. People are taking strong stands and are asking for more from community leaders. Our community is in turmoil.
As directors of an event that has longstanding ties with Mark, we have a responsibility to address the situation and take action. We are aware our actions and words carry weight and have implications beyond Lindy Bout and the Pacific Northwest.
Community, inclusivity, and consent are values important to Lindy Bout. As its directors, our actions must reflect those values to the best of our abilities. Our responsibility doesn’t end when we invite others into leadership roles at Lindy Bout. People with visible leadership roles, especially, need to reflect Lindy Bout’s values back to our attendees – and to the wider swing dance community.
We also recognize this situation is so much larger than Mark and Melissa and Lindy Bout. It is about our values as a community. It is forcing us to grapple with difficult and uncomfortable questions. How do we address issues of sexual assault? Whose voices do we prioritize? How do we build a culture of consent in our community? What does justice look like? How do we show compassion – for survivors, for the accused, for people triggered by the situation, for community leaders, for the community at large? What does reconciliation look like? How do we work together to find healing? How do we build a safer community?
These questions touch the community deeply and we certainly don’t have the answers. It’s critical that together we acknowledge our shared responsibility to address them. We’re a community; we’re in this together and there are professionals that can help us along the way. We do not need to, and should not, grapple with these questions alone.
Although we, the Lindy Bout event directors, don’t have the answers, after deep reflection and extensive and honest discussions here are some of the actions we are taking:
- We will continue to listen to and support survivors.
- We will continue in our efforts to keep Lindy Bout as a safer space where jazz dance and our community can be challenged and inspired.
- We acknowledge that people we hire at our event have positions of influence, and we will, to the best of our abilities, hire people that reflect values of community, inclusivity, and consent back to our attendees.
- We will not hire Mark Kihara for the foreseeable future to emcee or have any role at Lindy Bout.
- In consultation with professionals and our safer spaces team, we will review our Code of Conduct and will develop stronger policies to support making Lindy Bout XIII a safer space.
- We will compose statements regarding the responsible consumption of alcohol and cannabis at our event. We commit to have these documents finished and publicly posted for Lindy Bout XIII.
- We reaffirm our commitment to work with a large safer spaces team composed of people from many different dance scenes, all of whom have undertaken training in the areas of consent, inclusivity, and safer spaces. This team operates at an arm’s length from the event directors and we support them in their work. We call on them to support our work to develop the event and to challenge us in areas where we can do better.
- We reaffirm our commitment to provide time and space at Lindy Bout to host conversations concerning consent and inclusivity, including professionally-facilitated workshops.
- We will work with our safer spaces team and professionals to explore respectful and sensitive ways to talk about sexual assault and consent culture at our event and in our lives. Part of this work is to explore what other safer spaces initiatives Lindy Bout can include.
- When someone discloses an experience of sexual assault to us, we reaffirm our commitment to listen with compassion and without judgement, offer support, and take thoughtful action. We recognize that we are not professional mediators or crisis councillors, and we are prepared to draw on professional expertise when needed and refer people to resources to help them through difficult situations.
- We will continue, as event directors and individuals, to take the time and make the effort to learn and educate ourselves about consent culture, inclusivity, and safer spaces.
These are the concrete things we are doing. We know there is a lot of work our community needs to do to address issues of sexual assault and build a culture of consent and that the work is not easy. So we ask each of you to examine what you can do to help this work along. You don’t need to run an event to make our scene a safer space for all. It’s your actions in the places we gather – dance halls, homes, studios, and other meeting places – that make a difference. Together we can do better. We can challenge and inspire one another to take good care of others in our scene, as well as ourselves, and to continue to improve this community we love so much.
Feedback on our action items and productive and thoughtful comments are always welcome. You can contact us directly (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com) and get in touch with our safer spaces team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stephanie & Eileen
November 10, 2018