Introducing GrubStreet’s Cultural Equity Report
Founder and Executive Director Eve Bridburg introduces GrubStreet's cultural equity report and shares the story behind our ongoing work to pursue diversity, equity, inclusivity, and belonging (DEIB). You can read the full report here and use this online form to share feedback.
Last summer, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the racial reckoning that followed, we issued a statement in solidarity with our Black community members. Since statements released by organizations are only meaningful when backed up with concrete action, we also committed to raising additional funds to launch two new year-long Teaching Fellowships for Black Writers and Educators, expand our Boston Writers of Color (BWOC) programming, and increase scholarships/fellowships across the board for historically marginalized and low-income students, with an earmarked additional $10,000 for Black writers.
We have moved forward on these near-term goals which we shared publicly last fall. We have selected our first two fellows for the Teaching Fellowship for Black Writers from an applicant pool of more than eighty candidates; we’ve created a new full-time Senior Coordinator role to facilitate and lead our BWOC programming with an expanded budget; and we’ve been able to significantly increase the number of students we support with scholarship/fellowship funds.
As sure-footed as we were in announcing these programs, behind the scenes, we were struggling. When the protests and continued movement for social justice began last summer, we’d been authentically working to build a multicultural writing center for years and had made measurable strides, which I had written about in several “look how far we’ve come” blog posts and impact update reports. But over the course of last summer, it became clear that there were significant gaps in how we respectively viewed our progress, and the gaps often fell across racial lines.
As an Executive Director, my instinct is often to find solutions with an eye toward moving forward efficiently. But after a painful meeting about our equity work that missed the mark, my thoughtful teammates made the case that what we needed was the opposite of fast action, which could risk resulting in superficial solutions that neither addressed or resolved the underlying issues. Given the complex and layered nature of cultural issues, they made the case that we needed to slow down in order to more thoughtfully and deeply grapple with this work. Meaningful alignment around topics of equity takes time to get right, and they worried that rushing the process risked hurting people or missing key insights and important conversations. Since then, through meetings, workgroups, professional development, and shared resources, we have been identifying gaps and pushing ourselves to go deeper in every aspect of our work by making plans, building new structures, and putting systems in place to track our collective progress.
There have been more than a few times in this process that I’ve had to remind myself as a white-identified leader to sit back and to truly interrogate what’s going on when I feel discomfort. Often I realize that I’m still grappling with the distortions and biases baked into the experience of growing up white in America. It can feel harder as an individual to be sure of the right thing to do, but as a team, we grapple with issues, ask hard questions, challenge one another, and discover new ways of thinking and new structures and practices that are more equitable and more authentically universal.
As part of our ongoing work, we’re publishing a report about cultural equity at GrubStreet. With this reporting, we aim to acknowledge our historic complicity in perpetuating exclusionary systems in arts and publishing, give a brief history of our cultural equity work to date, honestly articulate where we are on our journey, and share goals for this year and beyond. We will be updating this reporting twice a year to hold ourselves accountable, and over time, we will be adding additional layers of work. We know that the language we use in the report is bound to evolve. And we know we’ll make mistakes along the way. When we fail, we’ll be honest about it.
There are few models for what we’re trying to achieve: a truly multicultural space where no one culture dominates, where writers and readers meet on equal footing to share stories, listen and learn from one another. A place where everyone has a sense of agency, belonging, and finds what they need to thrive as artists, readers, and human beings. A place where we have honest dialogue about issues that arise and do the work to make things better.
We hope you’ll take the time to read this report. There’s a feedback form included. You might not see everything you want to see here yet and/or you might disagree or have questions about some of our plans or thinking. We hope you’ll engage in the conversation. Your feedback and ideas are very much welcomed.
I want to thank you — our staff, board, instructors, students, members, and donors — for believing in our vision and for being a part of our imperfect journey.
Under Eve’s (she/her/hers) leadership, GrubStreet has grown into a national literary powerhouse known for artistic excellence, working to democratize the publishing pipeline and program innovation. An active partner to the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, Eve was the driving force behind establishing the country’s first Literary Cultural District in downtown Boston and securing chapter 91 space in the Seaport to build a creative writing center. The Barr Foundation recently named her a 2019 Barr Fellow in recognition of her leadership. Having graduated from its inaugural class, Eve remains active with the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program, a consortium of 200 of the world’s top cultural leaders, which addresses the critical issues that face the arts and cultural sector worldwide. Eve has presented on the future of publishing, what it takes to build a literary arts center, and the intersection of arts and civics at numerous local and national conferences. Her essays and op-eds on publishing, the role of creative writing centers and the importance of the narrative arts have appeared in The Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Cognoscenti, Writer's Digest and TinHouse. Eve serves on the Advisory Board of The Loop Lab, a new Cambridge-based nonprofit dedicated to increasing representation in the Media Arts. Eve worked as a literary agent at The Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency for five happy years where she developed, edited, and sold a wide variety of books to major publishers. Before starting GrubStreet, she attended Boston University’s Writing program on a teaching fellowship, farmed in Oregon, and ran an international bookstore in Prague.See other articles by Eve Bridburg