Updated February 10, 2021
A Message from our Board of Directors
The past few months have been a time of immense reflection and growth for us as an organization and as individuals. In the last three years, we have experienced the normal growing pains of any business; but with the addition of a global pandemic and social movement in 2020, we have been challenged in ways that we couldn’t have imagined. Ultimately we are grateful for the growth this period has provided us and will continue to provide us.
Part of that growth is taking stock of where we are on the path of serving our diverse community of artists, instructors, staff, and audiences. Inclusion and diversity have always been a fabric of who we are. Considering our collective world experience during this pandemic layered on top of a review of social injustices in the world, we are in a unique position to look in the mirror and respond. Our Board of Directors is unified in our mission to have a safe space where the diversity of our world is celebrated and reflected in all of us at Stomping Ground Comedy.
Our organization has not been without fault. And it’s important to acknowledge those missteps and inequities in order to move forward in a positive direction. In 2020 we saw the departure of our Diversity Manager and many of our Diversity Advocate team. It is important to acknowledge this departure and our commitment to being a supportive organization to those in our community, especially those who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Diversity and Inclusion (DEI) goes beyond just that; it’s not enough to acknowledge; we must also continue to listen, learn, reflect, and most importantly- take ACTION, moving beyond labels and showing active steps.
Over the past 6 months, Stomping Ground has implemented the following changes and taken the following actions:
- Joined the 100 Black Improvisers Initiative, which is a joint venture around the country seeking to increase diversity in improvisational comedy lead by the Black Improv Alliance.
- Created and codified a process to add more diverse voices and productions to our stage with the Producing Partners role; this is also a paid staff role
- Announced that we will hold biannual open auditions to aid in casting for all shows to allow for casting outside of performers and talent apart from the SG student base
- Added a Board Member to our Board of Directors whose career has been spent in Human Resources; he will be guiding the process of staff development and procedures that will aid in equity and consistency within the organization
- Thorough review of our staff handbook to clarify processes and procedures, including processes regarding who staff and community members can go to with concerns
- Proposed a Task Force whose plan was to revisit all past efforts in the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion with the goal of implementing new initiatives geared towards making Stomping Ground more equitable and inclusive in every arena. There were not enough volunteers to implement, and the initiative has been tabled until we can hire an expert to consult
- Held multiple conversations with past and present members of our student, staff, and performer community who are are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to listen and learn more about their experiences within our organization
- Revisiting our organizational structure and staff positions in order to ensure accountability and oversight in all positions. This includes a board recommended position that our current Director staff would report to. This position is under review for roles and responsibilities and will be shared when details are finalized
- Implemented Office Hours for the leadership team where staff, students, performers, and community members can address questions and concerns
- We are currently creating a more equitable process for recruiting and training teachers; this process includes payment for teachers in training
- Applied for a racial equity capacity building grant which would fund the hiring of an expert consultant to train all Board, Directors, and contract staff in anti-racist theater practices, as well as in helping leadership to evaluate our structure and policies
The Board of Directors is committed to these specific actions as we move forward:
- Hiring a Consultant/Trainer in the Racial Equity space that can guide us on future training that would be required of the board, directors, and staff. This would also be optional for our volunteers and patrons as a community
- Review the organizational structure to prepare us for the next stages of growth as a non-profit.
- Execute on a new organizational structure as soon as financially feasible
- Finalize our Employee handbook for clarity on policies and procedures. The focus will be on “who” do you go to with concerns or challenges. We will also clarify reporting procedures, and follow up actions
- Be a more visible board when possible. This statement is one such example of the kind of presence and leadership this existing board wants to demonstrate in support of the entire organization
- Increase and amplify BIPOC voices and perspectives within our leadership, staff, and volunteers through equitable hiring practices and recruiting while engaging in purposeful communication to have diverse perspectives and input in decision-making.
We call on our community to come together and support this meaningful work so that our impact can be felt for the greater good and we can fulfill Stomping Ground’s mission and higher purpose of healing through laughter.
This statement, as approved by the Board of Directors, serves as our commitment to moving forward in these important endeavors. This also serves as a means to renew our commitments to the overall vision and mission of Stomping Ground Comedy. Now more than ever we can see that our resilience has reinforced our place in the fabric of the DFW Community for years to come.
Updated July 26, 2020
The Board and Director team met again this week and agreed that past diversity, equity and inclusion efforts have had a primary focus of diversity, a secondary focus on equity, and no clear focus on inclusion. This has resulted in feelings of tokenism, a perceived prioritization of statistics over people, gatekeeping, and overall lack of true inclusion. In order to refocus our efforts, we have decided to create an Inclusion Task Force comprised of nine people representing a diverse cross section of our community. The task force will meet weekly for six weeks in order to complete the following objectives:
- Examine past structure and determine the positive and negative effects of each process, policy or initiative.
- Determine what processes and initiatives should continue or discontinue.
- Identify additional processes, policies, and/or initiatives that are needed to create a more inclusive culture at Stomping Ground.
- Identify what leadership role(s) is needed and what support role(s) are needed to drive these plans.
This is a volunteer position. If you would like to submit to join the Inclusion Task Force, please complete the Interest Form by August 9, 2020. Shanti Shahani de Venegas, one of our board members, has been designated to review all responses and make final selections for the task force by August 15. An hour-long kick-off meeting will be conducted the following week by Director of Development, Jocelyn Tiner, and the group will complete their work by October 10.
Updated July 21, 2020
Updated July 17, 2020
Stomping Ground’s Training Center has joined the 100 Black Improvisers initiative lead by Black Improv Alliance! If you’re looking to get into improv here is the link to the student interest form: https://rb.gy/rsrbeg
Learn more about Black Improv Alliance and the incredible work they’re doing to spread equity, inclusion, and joy.
Updated July 10, 2020
A video update from the Artistic Director, Lindsay Goldapp.
Updated July 3, 2020
We are grateful for the work of Black Improv Alliance and we encourage all improv institutions to follow their foundational, purposeful plans to change improv, including their 100 Black Improvisers initiative. We are thrilled to collaborate with this important organization!
Read more about the 100 Black Improvisers initiative here; if you’re a student or improv institution looking to get involved there are directions within!
Updated June 14, 2020
In improv, we believe in the concept of “got your back,” and at Stomping Ground, we explore that concept further through our therapeutic Improv for Life program. But our friends at Foundation45 said it well: “We also understand that due to generational trauma and the fall-out from years upon years of overt systemic racism and microaggressions, that Black and People of Color communities have different experiences than white people when it comes to mental health.”
We would like to share with our community several Black-owned or -founded businesses that provide mental health support to address these unique needs. Some are free or have low cost options available.
The self-care images below are from @thenatattack97 on Twitter.
Mental Health Organizations
- https://foundation45.org/remix-recovery/ (This is a free group specific to substance abuse. It is a closed 12 week group and applications open soon.)
Search engines to find therapists:
How to Start Therapy (NPR)
Updated June 10, 2020
Last week we committed to listening, learning, and acting in order to be true allies fighting for and alongside the Black community. Transparency is important, so we will be sharing our progress with you as we learn and grow together.
After our community dialogue and Town Hall on May 31, our management team met with our Diversity Committee Co-Chairs as well as other Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) organizations that we may be able to partner with in the future. We recognize that there are several areas of opportunity for growth including: racial diversity across the organization and including within leadership, and listening to marginalized voices within our organization when strategizing and planning for the future. We will continue to gather information and feedback from our community. We want to hear from you. If you would like to see specific changes in our organization, please send your ideas to email@example.com.
Our Diversity Committee Co-Chairs have been sending the management team numerous resources, reading, and videos to educate us further. We are taking time to review all of these materials, and will work with the Diversity Committee to create staff and board training best fit for the needs of our organization. Some of what we have learned in recent weeks is we have all employed biases and used microaggressions that are so engrained in us that we do not recognize them for what they are in the moment. We are also recognizing that there is no finish line when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. There is no point at which the work will be done. So we cannot become complacent. We must make Learning a constant process for Stomping Ground.
As a young organization, we have only recently had the capacity to add personnel with a dedicated focus on diversity. We have come to recognize that diversity and inclusion should not be the sole focus, and will now broaden that scope so that we can adopt explicitly anti-racist policies and practices. Swift actions are being considered as we assess the needs of the organization, and we would like to share publicly the actions we have taken over the last three years in an effort to embrace diversity as one of our core values.
When we hired two Director positions last year, we recognized our own potential for implicit bias and utilized an outside HR Recruiter to evaluate applications for the first position, and she taught us how to evaluate them for the second position. We also posted the positions for outside hire through Indeed in order to broaden our scope of potential candidates outside of our existing circle in the comedy community. Candidates that progressed to second interviews were diverse in age, gender, race, ethnicity, and ability. Interviews were standardized, with specific criteria used to evaluate each candidate in order to guide our decision making.
A diversity-focused role was a part of our initial business plan when we opened. But we quickly realized that we didn’t have additional personnel with enough capacity to plan strategically and maximize the positive effects of that role. As we grew, those conditions changed, and last year we created a Diversity Manager role, overseeing several Diversity Advocates, in an effort to open up dialogue around inequities and to further diversify our stage.
In our three years of operations, we have nearly doubled our percentage of diverse personnel in the areas of race and ethnicity, gender, and LGBTQIA+ within our staff and contract instructors by fostering an inclusive environment where our community members are encouraged to be authentically themselves.
In February of this year, our Director of Development began a focused effort on board development and recruitment. And in April, our board approved a 2-year strategic plan that included the following new committees and initiatives:
- Diversity Committee: Continue focus and grow efforts to diversify our staff, classes, and stage. Work with Staff Development to provide necessary education to SG staff and instructors.
- Community Impact Committee: Grow efforts to partner with neighboring community organizations to provide therapeutic benefits of Improv through Improv for Life, and to further connect our community through comedy.
- Staff Development Committee: Seek out relevant trainings for professional development, partner with neighboring educational institutions to form a more robust internship program, and create a mentorship program with leadership (both Board and Staff Directors) to provide opportunities for those interested in growing professionally within the organization. Design a formal board recruitment process for succession planning.
In May, new board members for the next two fiscal years were approved. Broadening our board recruitment efforts resulted in adding more female-identifying and people of color to our board. We have now doubled the proportion of non-white board members, and increased our female-identifying board members by 50%. We’ve also identified a clear opportunity for representation from the LGBTQIA+ community on our board.
Original Post: June 2, 2020
To our our DFW community and beyond:
The Stomping Ground Team is feeling the weight of what is going on in our community and our world. But we know this weight pales in comparison to the pain and grief that the Black community feels in this moment. As we navigate the increasing unrest in the world we must not remain silent and we must believe and say: Black Lives Matter.
But thoughts and words without actions are empty. Lifting up marginalized voices has always been a part of our mission. But we want to ensure that now more than ever we are putting in the work to be true allies fighting for and alongside the Black community. And that takes commitment and purpose.
The Stomping Ground Team is committed to:
Learning. We will educate ourselves and our community on the experience of the Black community. We will educate ourselves on our own explicit and implicit biases and how they can be challenged. We will facilitate conversations, provide training and resources to our staff, and do everything in our power to create brave space within our classrooms, our stage, and beyond. We will initiate tough conversations about race and be a model for cultural sensitivity in comedy.
Acting. It’s more important than ever that we use the privilege that we have for good. We will call out racism and bias and speak out in our communities. We will use the privilege we have to help dismantle institutional and systemic racism within our larger community. We will grow our personal circles beyond those who look like us. We will enhance access to and add more diverse voices to our stage, classroom, AND the boardroom.
Listening. We will make sure that the Black voices in our community are heard and amplified. The white lens is skewed and it’s only through really listening that we can scratch the surface of the Black experience. We will challenge our assumptions, validate the lived experiences of our marginalized community members, and adapt our way of being to one that is optimally inclusive.
Sunday night prior to our Town Hall, we held a Community Dialogue and allowed those in our community to share their thoughts and experiences. The dialogue was powerful and it was raw. And it was just the beginning. Our mission is to connect our community through comedy. But right now we must connect in a different way and we ask that the community join us. The improv world was built on the concept of “I got your back” and now more than ever we want to say unequivocally to the Black community that we have your back and we stand alongside you. Black Lives Matter.
The Stomping Ground Director Team