Dear CultureSource Members,

Life in America during Black History Month is programmed with wonderful opportunities to reflect on black culture and black people, past and present. (Thank you for presenting those reflections to your patrons this month and, especially, throughout the year.)

There is another type of programmed reflection that happens throughout the year that is becoming prevalent: land acknowledgements. I am hearing these statements naming indigenous inhabitants of a place more and more at the beginning of concerts and conferences.

While February annually encourages us to reflect on our histories, I encourage you to reassess your organization's indigenous land acknowledgement practice or to adopt a different practice of place acknowledgement that is meaningful to your board, staff, patrons, or neighbors, one that honors past contributors to your organization's present-day sense of place.

At their best, traditional land acknowledgements, in the context of our arts and culture organizations, are developed in deep consultation with the indigenous people of the land and heritage evoked. Given the lack of consensus in the U.S. about whose histories to reconcile, the statement preparer must also articulate a rationale for their choice of subject, whether a past land caretaker or laborer, activist or survivor.

As you plan your new or next statement, consider how the acknowledgement is relevant to your community. Does it embody the unique voice of your organization? Does it focus your audience's presence in a space? Does it enhance emotional bonds between your patrons and your event? Does it capitalize on community consensus about what has not been and needs to be recognized?

I hope you consider using your platforms expansively too, moving past routine reflections and making time to acknowledge the history that happened where your patrons sit or to remind people, for example, of how the labor of enslaved people created foundational elements of our lives today. You will begin to see our team explore these reflections at our CultureSource events too.

Toward these aspirations, I believe in your ability to use creative and cultural expression in ways that do not alienate or politically polarize. I also join you in taking time to learn about our community and nation's histories and the ways in which we are all benefitting from the land, labor, and/or love of our ancestors.

Sincerely,
Omari