'We Have Voice' Code of Conduct Adopted by Big Heavy World; Intersectional Campaign to End Discrimination and Violence Supported
Below is an open letter composed by We Have Voice, an inclusive and intersectional collective of musicians, performers, scholars, and thinkers from different generations, races, ethnicities, cultures, abilities, gender identities, economic backgrounds, religious beliefs and affiliations. They're working to engage in transformative ways of thinking, and bringing this energy to the music industry we share. Big Heavy World stand in solidarity with We Have Voice in building a world where everyone is respected and empowered and discrimination and sexual violence does not exist. We signed the We Have Voice open letter and invite you to, too. Big Heavy World also subscribes to the Code of Conduct authored by We Have Voice, which provides guidance and a reminder to all that Big Heavy World promotes zero tolerance for harassment of any kind. We proudly post the Code of Conduct at HQ.
We Have Voice Open Letter
This open letter is inspired by the #MeToo movement and the rising tide of brave and open conversations regarding sexual violence and gender discrimination in various art and entertainment industries and beyond. It emerges from discussions among musicians in our community following a recent article in The Boston Globe as well as ongoing articles, essays, and media coverage that have been coming out daily about sexual violence and gender discrimination in our industry. We Have Voice Collective invites others to stand with us and add their names to this letter as an act of support, solidarity, and commitment to creating a culture of equity in our professional world.
Here we want to make it clear: All people should be treated equitably and respectfully, regardless of their various identities. No matter how acclaimed, revered, or supported one’s art or one’s level of authority is, no one is above being held accountable.
We, the undersigned, are part of an international community that includes musicians, instrumentalists, singers, performing artists, composers, DJs, educators, booking agents, managers, grantors, promoters, assistants, curators, tech crew, stage personnel, audio engineers, scholars, students, writers, journalists, photographers, videographers, filmmakers, choreographers, dancers, theater makers, and others working in various positions within our industry. We are people of diverse gender identities, races, abilities, ethnicities, cultures, immigration statuses, sexual orientations and identities, economic backgrounds, religious beliefs and affiliations, and generations. We stand in solidarity with those who have been undermined, harassed, assaulted, violated, manipulated, intimidated, threatened and discriminated against. We are in agreement with this definition of sexual harassment.
Discrimination and sexual violence in the music industry come as no surprise to us. From people in positions of authority, who curate festivals, direct or teach at music camps, direct university programs, teach in colleges and high schools, or are venue owners, record label employees, magazine editors, journalists, promoters, producers, and presenters. From people who are well-known and respected musicians and professionals, whose work is revered and who have received prestigious awards. From people who, despite their negative actions, continue to work and thrive. Perpetrators of discrimination and sexual violence are often powerful people who abuse their power. Their behavior contributes to the normalization of an environment that accommodates these actions from others across the community. They wield their power not only to enact abuse but also to demand silence.
We will not be silent. We have voice. We have zero tolerance for sexual harassment.
We are resolved to be vigilant, and we are determined to engage in transformative ways of thinking and being in our creative professional world. We are compelled to act, not only out of solidarity with the survivors of abuse, but also to expose and eliminate a systemic structure that normalizes harassment and discrimination, allowing abusers and complicit bystanders to perpetuate these behaviors without being held accountable for their negative actions. Furthermore, we recognize that our present culture is the same one that minimizes and/or excludes artists of marginalized genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and so forth from venues, festivals, teaching jobs, newspaper and magazine reviews. When we bring awareness to sexual violence, we are also bringing awareness to this inequity and invisibility.
We hold an intersectional analysis and acknowledge that sexual harassment, violence, and discrimination impacts people of various and sometimes marginalized identities, including: cisgender, transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people; members of the LGBTQIA community; people of diverse races, ethnicities, cultures, immigration statuses, abilities, religious beliefs and affiliations, and economic backgrounds.
Music is our field of work and also the place where we commune, unite, create, communicate, and practice dialogue, forward-thinking, empathy, and inclusion. Intergenerational collaboration, teaching, and socializing are beautiful traditions that are crucial for the development and survival of our art. When musicians from our communities violate others, it is not only those who are violated who are hurt. We all become complicit in the abuse of power, and our community’s health and reputation are damaged. Addressing these issues seriously and openly is fundamental to changing the prevailing attitudes of abuse, sexual misconduct and discrimination present in our industry and society.
We call on our peers – to speak up when witnessing or suspecting abusive or discriminatory behavior, and behavior that discriminates against any gender in the industry. All of our peers, especially those with privilege and in positions of power, need to take the initiative themselves. They shouldn’t wait to be invited to the cause. These issues are so often constructed as issues of the marginalized, when in fact they are the responsibility of the privileged. We ask our peers to reflect on their own complicity in the perpetuation of abuse and discrimination and to actively think about how they can positively contribute to the transformation towards an equitable environment.
We call on our institutions – to use their infrastructures to provide resources to their communities, and to take an active role in instructing teachers, staff, and students on what constitutes misconduct and how to work against it. To make their hiring, programming, booking, and student bodies equitable. To provide safe spaces for all students, specifically students who are speaking up about their own experiences of harassment. We ask our institutions to act with due diligence following incidents of abuses of power and sexual harassment by teachers, administrators or bandleaders, regardless of the perpetrators’ institutional clout, longevity, or fame.
We call on our greater community – to create a safer and more equitable environment for all. Peers, institutions, venues, critics, press, festival curators, audiences, and panels must recognize that representation of marginalized communities matters. That for those who have endured violence and discrimination, speaking up can be as challenging and traumatizing as the violence itself, and that these accusations are a reminder that some doors – while seemingly open to everyone – are really closed to some. We call on our community to think intersectionally and to be empathetic to and supportive of people who are marginalized and discriminated against along multiple and intersecting layers.
We call on ourselves – through outreach via panel discussions, workshops and other educational initiatives to facilitate the change we want to see. We commit to being inclusive in our personal and professional worlds. We recognize that in our present culture some behaviors are ingrained, and we aim to be involved in the discussion and expansion of changing the way our peers, institutions, and the greater community consider these matters.
Our individual and collective actions matter. Change is an ongoing process in which we all play a part and must all take a stand. We, the undersigned, are too many to be silent. We have voice.
The We Have Voice Collective is Fay Victor, Ganavya Doraiswamy, Imani Uzuri, Jen Shyu, Kavita Shah, Linda May Han Oh, María Grand, Nicole Mitchell, Okkyung Lee, Rajna Swaminathan, Sara Serpa, Tamar Sella, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Tia Fuller.