New York Folklore, Equity, and the Black Lives Matter Movement

by Jun 5, 2020Blog

New York Folklore was founded in 1944 with the strong belief in cultural equity and the importance of the participation and involvement of diverse individuals to make an inclusive society in America. The recognition and appreciation of folklore and folklife draws attention to the grassroots artistic expressions of all people, particularly those who have been “othered,” marginalized, and exiled. As an organization, we recognize that systemic racism and long-standing histories of inequality and violence towards persons of color continues to shape the life experiences of all New York’s residents. All, not some, or a few, or them. Us. All of us.

In the past months and years, we have witnessed horrific injustices in this country and state, including the New York-based murders of Amadou Diallo and Eric Garner, and the most recent killing of Minnesota resident, George Floyd, at the hands of the police.  These are not isolated instances, but are part of a long history of systematic, structurally emboldened violence against people of color in the United States that both pre-dates and includes the enslavement of Africans and African-Americans and continues today in the expression of economic inequalities, institutionalized white privilege,  white supremacy, and rampant violence.  It is apparent in the disproportionate numbers of persons of color dying from COVID-19, a criminal justice system that incarcerates Black men at an alarming rate, and ongoing racial quotas and discrimination within our immigration system.

At this moment in New York Folklore’s 75 year history, we re-affirm our founding principles espousing the worth of a diverse state and nation and confirm that we will continue to work to be an integral part of the societal change that will alleviate institutionalized racism and promote equal rights and equal access to cultural and economic prosperity.  This will be accomplished in the following ways:

  1. Continue to work towards diverse leadership (board and staff) that represents the geography, population demographics, and cultural groups of New York State.
  2. Continue to provide professional development and technical assistance to all persons in New York State and to assist with the acquisition of skills to help move people into leadership positions.
  3. Acknowledge the importance of cultural knowledge and expertise held by community scholars, and recognize the importance of lived community experience to be equal in value to university training.
  4. As much as possible, partner and share leadership with community organizations.

Signed, the board and staff of New York Folklore:

Thomas van Buren, President

Kay Turner, Vice-President

Mira C Johnson, Secretary

John Braungard, Treasurer

James Hall, member

Gamileh Jamil, member

Maria Kennedy, member

Wilfredo Morel, member

Naomi Sturm-Wijesinghe, member

Julie Tay, member

Staff:  Ellen McHale, Executive Director

Laurie Longfield, Gallery Manager

Elinor Levy, Mentoring and Professional Development