Artwork by Adam Johnson, Minneapolis Artist
As we mark the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, the Minnesota Chorale owes you--our singers, supporters, and artistic partners--a report on our progress in addressing the issues of diversity, equity, access, and inclusion (DEAI) within our organization. The Chorale’s DEAI work is based on our organization’s deep connections to the community in which we are based, a community that is being profoundly transformed in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death. The steps we have taken are the beginning ones of an ongoing and continuous effort to become an anti-racist organization, one that better reflects the community of which we are a part.
While the Chorale prioritized achieving DEAI goals in our 2018-23 strategic plan, our work towards these goals took on more urgency after Mr. Floyd was killed last May 25. In the days and weeks that followed, the Chorale’s board of directors engaged in intense conversations on the personal aspect of DEAI work. Last summer, the board then established a DEAI task force, comprised of artistic staff, board members, and singers from all the ensembles in our family of choirs: our symphonic chorus, our youth choirs, and our choir for seniors. This task force began its work by reviewing the Chorale’s policies and procedures, using a DEAI lens.
It soon became apparent that the Chorale’s mission and values would need to be reconsidered and rewritten, since so much of organizational culture and operating principles are based on mission and values. The rewriting process eventually involved the task force, the board of directors, board committees, and staff members.
To facilitate this process, we engaged the services of the YWCA of Minneapolis’s racial equity team. The YWCA’s consultants provided a wealth of relevant experience, and an invaluable external perspective on our work.
The new mission, vision, and values statements, unveiled earlier this month, are already inspiring our work: a new concert series, set to debut this coming fall, will reimagine and reframe the established choral canon by amplifying the voices of artists of color. The concert experiences will be curated and directed over two seasons by four acclaimed conductors of color: Alexander Lloyd Blake, Anaida Carquez, Adrian Davis, and Anthony Trecek-King, each of whom have distinguished themselves for their commitment to innovative programming, social justice issues, and community building.
Last fall, the Chorale was one of 35 nonprofit organizations from all over the world selected to participate in the 2021 cohort of the Of/By/For All Change Network (OBFA), a program designed to provide nonprofits with the tools and training to create inclusive change within their organizations, and lasting change in their communities. The heart of the program is the partnership created between an organization and a “community of interest.” Following a successful artistic partnership with the choral programs at Minneapolis College, and Minneapolis Roosevelt and South high schools, the secondary school programs have agreed to become our OBFA community of interest, thus extending and deepening the relationship between the Chorale and the schools. Together, representatives from the Chorale and the community of interest will develop plans and programs for upcoming collaborations.
Please join us in supporting these organizations, which are raising funds to assist in the rebuilding of small locally-owned businesses that were damaged or destroyed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
The Minnesota Chorale has had the privilege of singing under Dr. B. Charvez Russell in recent collaborations with the Minnesota State Baptist Convention Choir, Treasures Youth Choir, 29:11, and Minneapolis College, and with the Minnesota Orchestra as an Artistic Partner in their Common Chords program.
Dr. Russell is the Executive Director of the K-8 Friendship Academy of the Arts, 2600 East 38th Street in Minneapolis. The school is currently serving as a food distribution and collection site and in need of monetary donations, food, and household items to address the ever growing need in the community. Donations of tangible goods are accepted at the school Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monetary donations can be made online by clicking here.
A core value of Dr. Russell and the Minnesota State Baptist Convention Choir is that "We are better together". We urge you to support Dr. Russell and the Friendship Academy of the Arts in their work to aid and serve the greater community.
Anti-racism Resources online: