As an organization that believes the world’s a better place with Burning Man in it, and one that’s committed to spreading the culture that comes from Black Rock City throughout the world, we have a long way to go when it comes to race and diversity. As a culture that preaches the virtues of diversity, equality, and Radical Inclusion, the fact remains that our community and spaces are predominantly white. The barrier to entry for Burning Man experiences is often dictated by privilege, and we’re committed to changing this.
Two months ago, Burning Man Project shared a statement in solidarity with those fighting for racial justice, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and in recognition of the fact that, as an organization, we can do better to truly live up to the principle of Radical Inclusion.
Despite many conversations and community-led initiatives over the years, that was our first public-facing statement of explicit support for racial justice. While this was an important moment for us and we received some positive feedback, we also know that words are not enough. We understand the time for action is now, and we are ready to move forward with concrete steps.
So what are we actually doing?
- We’ve started an advisory group of community leaders who have vast experience focusing on this work. With their guidance, we’re roadmapping more ways Burning Man Project and Black Rock City can actively practice anti-racism, work towards better representation of people of color in Burning Man spaces, and more.
- Created an internal stewardship workgroup of knowledgeable anti-racism and racial justice staff advocates within the organization to advise leadership and support the success of this work.
- Implemented unconscious bias and anti-racism training for staff, starting with our year-round employees and soon after rolling out to volunteer leaders and Burning Man Project volunteers.
- Holding bi-weekly internal staff discussions on race, identity, systemic racism, social justice, and other related topics.
- Encouraging our staff to engage in developing collaborations with organizations that are established as social justice leaders.
- Gathering data around the self-identified racial and ethnic representation that exists now within our paid staff. We’re also assessing diversity specifically within our leadership teams. Better understanding our current representation helps us work on steps like evaluating our hiring practices and leadership pathways to make sure we build a staff that represents the event and community we want to see.
- Actively elevating voices of color on our communications channels (Burning Man Journal, Burning Man Live podcast, and more) and social media pages. We’re making a conscious effort to bring all Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) voices and storytellers to the forefront.
- Increasing BIPOC event access by making changes to our theme camp, artist, and mutant vehicle selection processes.
- Building a section of the Burning Man website dedicated to efforts from Burning Man Project and the wider community on this and related topics.
Also, here are some of our ambitions over the next year:
- Support efforts to increase participation of BIPOC in Black Rock City through proactive community-oriented outreach and organizing resources for theme camps, art projects, volunteer teams, and mutant vehicles that are committed to Radical Inclusion and racial equity.
- Review our program areas outside of Black Rock City through a lens of racial justice and determine how we can use our funding streams to amplify engagement of Black, Indigenous, and other artists, innovators, and community builders of color.
- Facilitate ongoing regularly scheduled community-wide conversations about racial justice, identity, systemic racism, restorative justice, and more.
- Learn and incorporate equity checks in our policies and decision-making to consider their impacts on different racial and ethnic groups.
This is just the beginning of a comprehensive roadmap currently in development. We acknowledge that some of these first steps will be internal and may not be obvious to the world outside Burning Man Project. We are embracing this moment as an opportunity to step up as both an organization and a global, diverse culture. We look forward to the future, and we hope you are along for the ride.
Stay tuned to the Jackrabbit Speaks for further information and ways to get involved. For more perspectives from the community, check out this series on the Burning Man Journal. If you have any feedback or questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Composite cover image of a playa sunset (Photo by Laurie Gills) and “Broken But Together” by Michael Benisty, 2019 (Photo by Philippe Meicler)