Medium close photo of two women of color, sitting across a conference room table.

Will Call #74 — NTRVW w/Michael Bobbitt

Jason Velazquez: Today is Sunday, February 27th, 2022, and this is Episode number 74 of Will Call. I’m your host, Jason Velazquez, and I do thank you for tuning in to this episode, which has been a long time coming. For some reason, the Winter months tend to make the production of Will Call a problematic process. There’s no reason for there’s so much going on in and around the Berkshires when it comes to performing arts. I could have a weekly show, and I still wouldn’t be able to keep up with everything going on in the area, when it comes to dance theater, music — you name it. I should probably find somebody else who can do it and really crank it out because they’d never run out of material.

But this particular episode is exciting because it’s going to launch a sort of a mini series. I’m not going to call it an investigative series because the stuff is right out there in the open, but we’re going to start with a conversation that I just had with Michael Bobbitt, who, as the new executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, takes over from Anita Walker, who had left some really big, very stylish, shoes to fill. And I think he’s doing a fine job. And I say this because in Anita Walker’s farewell address, she begins by saying:

“Endings are beginnings as we wrap up our 13 years together, masked and digitized and buildings closed by COVID and wrestling with how to shut down once and for all the structures of systemic racism, we face the daunting task of recovering, rebuilding and renewing the cultural landscape of Massachusetts.

Michael Bobbitt, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council

Jason Velazquez: And in an interview her final interview on WAMC with Josh Landis, she she brought up racism as the thing that the new director, whoever it was going to be at the time, should focus on was racism and and bringing equity into the arts. And so Michael Bobbitt is going to be discussing it with me the racial equity plan that is brand new and that attempts to bring equity not just to the stages, not just to the gallery walls, but throughout the the Commonwealth’s cultural landscape. And it’s an ambitious plan and it is, again, an overdue plan. And I think that it’s very important that that it begin with an incoming director who can who can make decisions and push for priorities that are not encumbered by a lot of baggage, if you know what I mean. So this is a conversation that is going to kick off, for us, a series that will take a look at racial equity in the Berkshires and probably more than racial equity. We’ll just say diversity in the Berkshires cultural sector.

Now there’s a lot of lip service that’s been given to it in the last couple of years, and we’re going to find out exactly what’s really being done behind the scenes. In some cases, I think we’re going to find out that we’re impressed and what organizations are doing in terms of bringing up and combating discrimination racism. I think in other instances, we’re probably going to be kind of disappointed. But we’re going to find out, and it’s going to be ugly in some places and it’s going to be less so in others. So with that, let’s begin with our interview with Michael Bobbitt here on Will Call.

The Greylock Glass: And with me on the line is Michael Bobbitt, director of the Mass Cultural Council. Good morning, Mr. Bobbitt. Thanks so much for coming on the show.

Michael Bobbitt: Thanks for having me, I’m excited to talk to you, all your constituents.

The Greylock Glass: It’s a great show because Will Call was one of the first things we ever did at the Greylock Glass and it makes sense. Berkshires is a huge arts and culture mecca. It’s not the only part of our economy, but it’s sure has sort of stepped up to help make up for some of the losses of the post-industrial world. And it’s also bringing in quite a quite a a lot of change into our area because it attracts people from so many places. So we don’t have the sort of inflow and outflow of people that you do in a large city like Boston or New York. But but it’s nice to have that influx of new ideas. Do you do you get out to the Berkshires much?

Michael Bobbitt: Yeah, I think I’ve been out there about four times since assuming this job, and I have fallen madly in love with every single arts organization and artists that I’ve met out there and I can’t really wait to get out there and spend quite a significant amount of time out there to really sort of get to know them on a deeper level. A lot of my visits have been quick in and out to get to know them to get a tour of the space and to find out where the pain points are and how mass cultural counselor can help. But I really enjoyed my visits out there and to your point, one of the things that the arts and culture sector can do is to help drive the economy and make the places we live just more vibrant and more exciting. And and it also expands our mind to the creative process, making our areas more attractive to businesses and to residents and to tourists and to students and all kinds of things.

The Greylock Glass: Right, right. Yeah, it’s I love the fact that you can be walking through, say, Mass MOCA, and on a busy weekend you can hear four or five different languages, which I think is is the hallmark of a place that is is getting a recharge from from new, new ideas, new opinions. Because these are people who, well, you know, they they may decide to. As one family I know did, they’re from Belgium and they sent their kids to the Shakespeare and Company Varieties youth camp every summer. They came here just on vacation and they saw a show during the summer, found out about the program, and the kids fell in love with it. And they decided to send them from Belgium to the United States to Lenox every summer to to take part in the the summer camp so it can have a huge effect. Let’s talk.

Michael Bobbitt: Yeah, yeah. You know, one of the things I think is so great about people of color or ethnicities, whether or not it’s a European ethnicity or what it is. If you ask someone to describe their culture or their ethnicity, one of the things that is prevalent if it’s not at the top of the list is art. You know, it’s baked into the sounds and the music and the way they dance and the language and the food and the in the fashion art is kind of baked in. So to your point. Arts and culture can do a lot to sort of bring a group of people together from diverse backgrounds.

The Greylock Glass: Right, right. And that’s and you brought up the main issue of this conversation, but I know that your predecessor, Anita Walker, was asked in her, I guess, really pretty much the last interview she did as director with Josh Landis at WMC. He asked her what, what the new director, what her replacement should consider doing. And she said one of the first things that I think any new leader should do is take some time, take some time to learn about the organization, to know the organization, to understand the programs and initiatives and take time to travel. And then she goes on to discuss why it’s important to to go around the state. So mono quiz and the Berkshires was was to see if you followed her advice and you obviously did. And and because we get forgotten about by so many other organizations at the state level, it’s nice to know that the arts hasn’t forgotten about us. But the other thing that she said during that interview was at the very end of the interview. She said right next to that is this is the same question, you know, what should her what should her successor focus on? She said right next to that is the issue of racial injustice. There’s a legacy of white privilege in our organizations, and as long as we’re rebuilding, this is like after COVID and after her departure. This is the perfect time to look to look at and it’s square in the eye and defeat it. So that was on her mind on her last week as director, the issue of racial injustice in the arts. This is a. A source subject out here, I’m sure it is in Boston. Give us your sense of historically who has owned the arts in Massachusetts and the United States at a broader level.

Michael Bobbitt: Well, it depends on what perspective or what angle you’re coming to it from a funding perspective, and I will say not just state funding, but philanthropic funding, corporate funding, individual funding, absolutely most of the philanthropic dollars in this country has gone to white organizations. There are multiple hundreds of studies out there that have proven this. And you know, in fact, I think it’s an oversight, even based on what I just said, that people of color and people of different ethnicities. One of the things that is baked into who they are is arts and culture. So there are many organizations that are losing out on large groups of patronage and even contributions because they haven’t diversified their work. One of the things I’ve said before many times before predominantly white institutions were designed to be that way. I don’t mean to suggest that it was designed out of malice. Maybe some were, but most were designed. Just the business model was designed by white people for white people because the perspective of the people creating the organization was was wasn’t diverse. It was little homogenous. And so even with the intention of building a diverse patron base, if you only have white people or one demographic in a room making the decisions about the business model, then unfortunately, that’s what’s that’s what you’re going to get. You’re going to get one perspective as patronage and donors. And so one of the things I tell people, if they want to diversify, they have to go back and look at who’s making the decisions about how the organization is run. So who do you have on your boards? Who do you have on your staff? You have to diversify those perspectives so that you can build a new business model by multicultural people for multiple people. So, I mean, to sort of answer your question briefly, if you look at the historic funding that most of it has been gone to predominantly white institutions, yes. And I needed advice was great. Now’s the time to sort of look at racial equity from a funding perspective and figure it out.

The Greylock Glass: Yeah, it’s you know, I realize the question was loaded to begin with and it was intentionally so obviously, you know, when you asked the question who who owns the arts, that suggests that, you know, people of color don’t have their own long, long histories of cultural expression, but the the arts in the Berkshires mirror the the population. And that has been true until recently when as the the brochures are beginning to get more diverse and and of course, also there are there are groups of folks who are not willing to put up with being silenced any longer. They want there, they want a seat at the table and they they don’t just want to be trotted out as a token exhibit or a token performance because we have artists of color represented in the galleries and on the stages. But it’s the administrative buildings and offices that are really tough to change. The hiring doesn’t happen as diverse a way as the as the art. What do you think is the disconnect there that they have been aware that they need to have diversity represented in the in what’s what’s presented to the public versus what’s going on behind the scenes?

Michael Bobbitt: Well, it’s it’s in many ways, I think. You know, we’ve been people have been called out on performative gestures that, you know, for us and I think and this may be the case in the whole country that, you know, policies and programs and actions that don’t change the culture of the organization to make it the culture to make sure the culture, values, diversity. You’ll have those kinds of things happen where there’s just the onstage aspect of the of the organization that is diverse. It’s not the backstage aspect. And I think what people have to do is really go back and look at how are we changing the full culture of our organization to make sure that our organization automatically embraces the diversity of of the place we’re living? The other thing I will say is that what are we missing out on by by only showcasing one culture or only showcasing diverse cultures once in a while in my own sort of family microcosm? My husband is white and Jewish. Our child is Vietnamese. So what if I chose to like only, you know, only expose them to black cultural art? Are they missing out on all the joys that they can learn from in the Jewish art art’s expression and Vietnamese art that expands our minds to the creative process? It builds empathy.

Michael Bobbitt: It shows us there are different ways of doing things and experiencing life, and so there are so many benefits of being diverse. They are no bad things that come from not being diverse. There’s not one, the more diverse you are, the more benefits you have. And so I want people to understand that this is not there’s no sort of threat to the world and to culture. By being more diverse, it’s actually a good thing, a very good thing. I also think that all of this work that we’ve been doing anything that has to do with diversity, anti oppression, anti-racism, all of that are acts of love, so in love to people that maybe have never been loved by this country before. And I hope that sort of thing motivates people to do this more to not just do this in front, but do this in the back as well. You need the perspective in order to be diverse, you have to have the perspectives of people of color. You can’t do diversity without people of color. So it’s important to look at your boards and your staff and everything about your organization with varying perspectives in the room.

The Greylock Glass: Amen. And then I was also going to bring up the fact that you had a A in the plan that we’re going to talk about in a minute the racial equity plan. Twenty two, you have a quote in there where you discuss, you know, the the experiences that you have as a as a black, gay, cis gendered man married to a white man and the father of a Vietnamese child? Did you? I mean, obviously, you have an open mind and you have probably for quite some time, did you understand the extent to which that was not always accepted? You know, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, did you did you think that the that we’d be so long in getting to the point where that was even as accepted as it is in some parts of Massachusetts?

Michael Bobbitt: Well, I can’t remember a day in my life when I became aware of racism at a very young child. I didn’t experience it. So I’ve, you know, even today, every single day of my life, I experienced some form of discrimination or racism. And so the awareness of it is ever present for me. Certainly when I became a dad and I tried to be a dad with my ex, the ability for a gay couple to adopt was difficult.

The Greylock Glass: Yeah.

Michael Bobbitt: And so we were successful going internationally, but we were living in D.C. at the time and we were looking to move to the suburbs and we we we had limited options if we were to move to Virginia. One of us would have had to give up our parental rights, so we chose to move to Maryland. So and this is law. So that’s that’s one of those sort of weird, weird, strange things. You know, and Massachusetts has this history, you know, it’s not it’s not a secret. The first slave ship was built and designed in Massachusetts. It has a history of racism. It very much participated in the slave trade. A lot of generational wealth that exists in Massachusetts came directly from that industry. So Massachusetts has a record name. You know, in my in my job as an arts leader, I’ve experienced a lot of people embracing me, and maybe that’s because I’m a funder. And so there comes a power dynamic with that. But I think everyone is trying very hard to sort of start becoming more diverse. Some people are stuck in education. Some people are stuck with, I don’t know what to do, and Mass Culture Council is going to try to help them through that process.

The Greylock Glass: I think I think that is the I think there are a lot of good intentions out there and I and I think there are a lot of people who genuinely do want to see change, though you bring up slavery in Massachusetts and that actually is is an issue that sort of flared up just this month. There was a letter in the Berkshire Eagle. I’m sorry, and it actually a couple of different organizations mine included from the NAACP, Berkshire’s branch. And it was a lament that there was a statue erected of Elizabeth Freeman, who was a former slave who had won her freedom through the court system in Massachusetts and the the people who were in charge of this apparently didn’t think to involve. Um, African-Americans and that sort of decision making process until, I guess, a very late stage and and did not locate a, say, a black sculptor and did not, it was a letter. It was a it was an opinion piece in the Berkshire Eagle that they were writing about and they centered the entire I mean, both the people who who were in charge of this statue and the people writing about it sort of center the experience around white people. And that’s a new that’s sort of a new concept that it isn’t just what you say, it’s where you centering the conversation, where you centering your efforts. Tell me about what this strategic plan has in it that will do a better job that will help organizations do a better job censoring the arts experience around a more diverse group of people.

Michael Bobbitt: Yeah, so our racial equity plan, which is somewhat was prompted by the 2018 strategic plan that was approved prior to my getting there, where diversity, equity and inclusion was a focus area. There’s the racial equity plan that we designed that was put out to the world in November, took all, took that work and deepened it. I think the plan has maybe 30 different action steps that we’re going to be taking over the course of the next three years to do what you just said to make sure we’re censoring people who have been historically underfunded in general about philanthropy and also to make sure the way we’ve crafted the action steps. They all have measurables, but they all are intended to change the culture of Massachusetts Cultural Council, but also hopefully help to start changing the culture of the cultural sector in the state as well. So we’re looking at our we’re revising all of our grant making from soup to nuts, looking at making sure that we’re looking at the most marginalized and underfunded people and redesigning it from their perspective so that they have a strong chance of applying and getting the grant, as well as people that have grant makers that have had years and years and years of grant training. One of the things we know about the grant making process from the past and this is sort of in general about philanthropic grant making that there was a strong desire to fund well written grants.

Michael Bobbitt: Which meant that you had to have a mastery of the English language, and so if you’re if you’re if you’re an immigrant or English is not your first language, then you’re already at a deficit going into this application process. So what do we do to take away the value of mastering English language and having technical grant writing skills to be successful? Can we also offer audio or video submissions for the narrative portion of the grant? What about the length of time to fill out a grant? If you are small BIPOC organization or even small, rural or just a small organization in your executive director has multiple titles because they are the choreographer and executive director and the grant writer and the marketing person and the plus the cleaning, the toilets. You don’t have eight hours to sit down to write a grant. You maybe have a couple. So can we look at that? Some of the other things we’re offering to support organizations to help them sort of center people of color is we’re going to be building this diagnostic cultural equity exam. This would be an internal document where you can actually sort of do your own self audit, self assessment. It would be a qualitative and quantitative exam.

Michael Bobbitt: Hopefully, it’ll once you get your score, that might be accurate steps you can take to improve your score. I’m hoping that will support people. We’re also next. Some are going to be launching a through our partnership with the Cultural Equity Learning cohort. We’re going to be launching free racial equity training. It’ll be a thousand people at a time can take this course work. So the main thing is to eliminate any excuse that organizations may have for not doing racial equity work. And again, I tell people it’s a benefit. When I was running a new repertory theater, one of the things we focused on was recruitment and new acquisition of new patrons and building relationships with new patrons that went beyond transactions but went to transformation. And we were able to bring on so many new patrons that year and a half that I was there, and partly because we focus a lot on multicultural people. So if you want to grow your or your your organization, that is one of the surefire ways you will get. New patronage is by diversifying your program and diversifying your admin, diversifying your board, diversifying your operations. So a lot of it was going to look at leading by example, but hopefully that racial equity plan I hope people will check it out will inspire other people to build their own.

The Greylock Glass: Yeah, I I think it’s exciting, especially the idea that you’re you’re turning the the transforming the grant application process from a. And almost intentionally exclusionary process into one that assumes that you. Deserve funding if you are making it so technical and you disqualifying people from, you know, forgetting to dot the i’s and cross their t’s. It really becomes sort of a blood sport. I actually was during the early pandemic, I was applying for a lot of grants, journalism grants, and there were so many of us applying. I came up with a meme. It was the the the, you know, The Hunger Games. They called the funding the funder games because it felt like it felt competitive in a sort of ruthless way. And what happened essentially was that most of the money went to larger and larger organizations anyway, who have the ability to to hire somebody, you know, or to have somebody on staff who who can devote the time, as you said, eight hours, sometimes much longer to get these these grants Britons. So that’s that, I think is a huge step right there. I want to talk about. Go ahead. Yeah.

Michael Bobbitt: Yes, sir. If I can add a point to that, you know, the data is there and we and we grant makers and we philanthropists have to look at what we are putting in place that prohibit people from being successful. The truth the matter is Mass Cultural Council is everyone. State Arts Agency. We’re here to support the cultural sector, not just the cultural sector that has really great grant writers. And so we have to do everything we can to make sure that everyone has a has a fair shot. And that means and the good thing about this is if I simplify the grant and I make the grant like an hour, two hours, three hours, everyone benefits from that. Like even the large organizations would benefit from still not having to sit down for eight hours and write a check. So I think it’s all really very a very good thing, and I’m looking forward to us getting through that process.

The Greylock Glass: Yeah, even the large organizations can focus more on what it is that they’re trying to get across that they want to do, rather than the technical aspects of applying. I do want to. I want to shift a little bit to to kind of the ugly side of of this. Obviously, we wouldn’t need a racial equity plan if there weren’t some folks who are not necessarily actors with goodwill. There there is. There is discrimination, there is racism and classism too. I don’t want to leave a classism because that is very much, I think, a part of the exclusive exclusivity of the arts as well. But in the construction trades, for example, there is a mechanism in place which doesn’t always work perfectly well, but mostly works if you’re hiring subcontractors and you’re doing work for the state. You have to you have to try to get some subcontractors of color. If you’re buying materials that you’re going to be using on a state job, you have to try to source them, you know, from, you know, contractor suppliers of color or women. You have to go out of your way to try to to meet these goals, these diversity goals and hiring and in material sourcing. Or you don’t get or you don’t get the job or you get kicked off the job. There has never been anything like that with the Mass Cultural Council. There has never been any you, you diversify or you don’t get the money and. I’m thinking that this racial equity plan is a chance to be a bit more assertive. What is the limit to? Of the mix sort of enforcement ability with this, this plan. What can you do? Yes.

Michael Bobbitt: Yeah. You bring up a lot of good points and certainly being a state agency, there are lots of laws. I mean, to your point, so you know, one of my philosophies is that racism is a very creative tool, right? Someone has to sit down and come up with ideas and ideology that keeps one group of people down and one group of people getting a lot. And so it stands to reason that anti-racism and diversity equity inclusion requires a significant amount of creativity, maybe more creativity than racism, because racism had a 400 year head start. We’re just getting started on anti-racism. So some of the law, some of the rules you mentioned in the construction field are creative ideas to make sure that we’re being anti-racist and diverse and equitable. The only issue I see with some of those things is that if we don’t, if they don’t address the culture of which says that racism is not OK, then we’re still going to be battling this. And racism is so creative that it just morphs. It’s this virus that just mutates to find a new way to to oppress people. So we have to kind of like, have enough ideas, what math cultural counselor can do? Sometimes it’s a little bit limited based on the law. There are anti-discrimination laws out there that were written to protect people of color, but they can be used to also protect white people, right? Which stands to reason. So some of the things that we can do, some things I’d like to do, we maybe can’t do because there’s law that’s prohibiting it. You know, I can’t just say, because you’re you’re you’re a BIPOC organization, you get more money or you get bonus points for your grant that would open us up to some discrimination laws.

Michael Bobbitt: And we are very careful about that, right? But one of the things we can do and one of the things we are doing is we are we are investing in recruitment. I think you noted in our last press release that we had 42 percent of our applicants for project grants were new to the agency. And some of that work has to do with our intentional the intentionality behind building relationships with people that aren’t in our portfolio and specifically BIPOC organizations that aren’t in our portfolio. So every single department grant department has recruitment goals that they need to meet to make sure they’re recruiting BIPOC organizations and new organizations, including the grant system we hired for BIPOC outreach coordinators one Asian, one Black, one Latinx and one Native American. To help make those introductions to those organizations, they have enough cultural understanding of their own race and ethnicity to understand how to make those introductions. And hopefully, as they make those introductions, we can start building those relationships with them. And then certainly, I imagine having a person of color as the executive director of an organization brings a lot of feeling of safety or or, well, it’s a little bit more welcoming than maybe it has been in the past. So we’re doing everything we can with all the laws that exist in this world, and hopefully we’ll continue to see our the new one, the new organizations in our portfolio expand, but also a lot more BIPOC organizations applying and getting grants.

The Greylock Glass: Well, that’s yeah. And I did note that in an email. I think it’s very exciting that you’ve got so many new new people, new organizations on board. That’s a good sign. It’s it’s just challenging because, you know, there is I don’t know if you’ve seen this, this Instagram sort of group called Change Berkshire’s culture. Have you heard about that yet?

Michael Bobbitt: I haven’t.

The Greylock Glass: I’m curious, sends you a link. It’s it is a group of anonymous individuals who are running an Instagram account, and they have invited people to anonymously submit to a Google doc. A their tales of sexual harassment in the arts here in the Berkshires, racism being asked to work for free, all sorts of things that the arts should not be. And one of the one of the issues that has come up in the submissions and they post these these on Instagram as sort of text memes. One of the things that has come up is is the fact that there’s so much. There’s so much talk, so much public, you know, acceptance and embrace of diversity, but it’s it’s for show it’s not actually happening. And in fact, some of the people at the highest levels of the organizations here in the Berkshires are accused of saying and doing some of the most racist things. How do we deal with that, knowing that there are people who have spent decades in the arts and they have not been, or at least according to these these accusations that they have not been blessed with the Enlightenment that the arts ought to bring.

Michael Bobbitt: Yeah. Well, again, the benefit of the arts is in the benefit of diversifying your arts, it’s something that I think people will hopefully can embrace right away, but it may take them a while to learn that there are great benefits to diversifying your arts. I remember I did a workshop with a car dealership that sort of the parent company of about a hundred different dealerships up and down the East Coast, and I walked into this racial equity workshop and I was surrounded by their C-suite, which was middle aged white men. And the first thing I said to them was, Oh my God, you’re all losing so much money. So they were like, What do you mean? Our projections for the next quarter are, like, really good. And I said, you all know how to sell cars to white people really, really well, but you have no idea how to sell cars to people of color. And so you are losing money, you are really losing money. And I think that’s the same philosophy that goes with arts organizations that if you aren’t really figuring out how to make sure perspectives are in the room that can help you diversify, you’re losing money or losing patronage. But the other thing I will say to your point is that and I love the idea of change culture, change your culture because that’s what it’s about. We have to change the culture of this country that allows oppression, that allows racism to racism to exist. We have to say no more, no more people and organizations and individuals or who have you that practice. Oppression or racism are not OK, it’s not allowed. I don’t want you to patronize, I don’t want your donations, and that kind of thing will hopefully have an effect because the thing is you can have action steps, you can do certain performative things.

Michael Bobbitt: But if the end result is that the culture hasn’t shifted, then not much has been affected. So for example, if we want people of color to come to our organization, we’ll offer discount tickets or the discount tickets are going to fix the racism that that is contributing to why people of color aren’t coming in the first place. We can have outreach programs, but if the outreach program doesn’t address the cultural shift, it’s not going to fix the reason why people of color aren’t coming in the first place. It has to be a massive and institution wide cultural shift. If not, it’s like. Finding out there’s mold on your wall and pulling out a can of paint and painting over the mold, that mold will come back. And that problem will still be there. You have to rip that wall apart, figure out where the origin of the mold is coming from. Fix that and then rebuild it in order to really sort of get to the place you want to get to. And the reason why I say that is because we have so many laws and policies in this country. We have about 20 civil rights laws that have been existing on the books since the 1800s, and yet we still have racism. The 1968 Civil Rights Act did not fix racism. It only made it illegal to discriminate against black people, right? The affirmative action policy, which is about to be repealed, probably did not fix racism, in fact. Statistically, white women have benefited the most from affirmative action.

Michael Bobbitt: So policies aren’t policies and programs by themselves will not fix racism. You have to address the culture. And so as people are making their actions deaf, they have to go look at the actions that to say how it is actions that’s going to fix the culture of the organization. And that culture has to be anti oppression, anti-racism people that practice that are not allowed. So it’s a lot of work. But if we don’t start somewhere and if we don’t have hope and we don’t really sort of take steps. The other thing I tell people is that many of us are in numerous anti-racism workshops or die workshops or mini conversations or reading the books. The way to make sure you’re moving forward so that you’re not stuck in education because there is no way any of us can learn everything there is to learn about racism in this country with a few workshops. You’d have to have a triple PhD to sort of learn everything you need to learn every time you leave a conversation or learning. Commit to one action, at least one action. That is going to help you center the people that need you to love them the most and not into your own education. Right? So one action every conversation after people listen to this podcast, commit to one action to help you move forward in fighting this. We need those ideas. Anti-racism needs more ideas. We need pioneers. We need. We need, like dozens of little anti-racist bricks, to be built every day so we can build a house of anti-racism while we’re taking down the bricks that exist on the House of Racism.

The Greylock Glass: Hmm. Well, I love that that you you frame all of this work in acts of love and in a mentality of love, because that is that is what’s missing. I think it’s been I think people have even sung about it. It’s what the world needs now, right? Yeah. And I good.

Michael Bobbitt: Now it’s continuing just to sort of to let go of that power and the stuff that people have that other people don’t have will require a tremendous amount of love and empathy and mentoring. And that’s honestly that’s the only way it’s going to go away. I remind people that those who made the rules have the power to change the rules. And so when we think about like women’s right to vote, it wasn’t women that got the right to vote. It was men that gave them the right to vote. They were willing to walk away. Same thing could be said for the enslavement. It was the people that made the rules that fought and pushed and made the rules to go away. We had power. We made noise. We fought. We tried to use our influence. But if they decided they didn’t want to change the rules, we would still be in the same place.

The Greylock Glass: Yeah, yeah, that is. Ultimately, you’ve got to get people into those positions and you have to expect that it’s not going to happen overnight. And that is that is really hard to bear. Sometimes the incrementalism that I’ve seen in my own lifetime is hard enough to bear. And I feel like some days we’re making progress, you know, leapfrogging over over hurdles that that have been in our way. Other times, I just I just smacked my head and just smacked my forehead and say, Are we still having this conversation? Are we still dealing with this really? And so I it’s it’s it’s it’s good that you’ve got a reason for those of us who’ve been watching these issues for a long time now. It’s good that you’ve got something for us to sort of really focus on, and I’m going to put a link to this to this racial equity plan in the show notes to this episode. Any other resources that you’d like to direct people to?

Michael Bobbitt: Well, no, I think that will give everyone a sense of all the work that we have been have been doing to sort of really build an anti-racist culture at Mass Cultural Council. Yeah, I mean, the main thing. The other thing too, if anyone out there is not in our system, please join our systems, reach out. The staff is amazing and the work that they’re doing is super amazing as well.

The Greylock Glass: I think you’ve got a newsletter too, don’t you? You do have a newsletter, yes.

Michael Bobbitt: So people should sign up for the newsletter because that’s where most of our postings about grant opportunities go. We also post on social media in affinity spaces as well. But the easiest way to find out about what’s coming up and what what free money exists from that cultural council is, is to sign up for our newsletter.

The Greylock Glass: We’ll make sure we get a link to that. Michael Bobbitt. I want to thank you for the work you’re doing, and I want to thank you for the time that you have generously contributed to this show. And I’m looking forward to seeing where this all takes us.

Michael Bobbitt: Thanks so much, Jason, really talking to you and really great talking to your listeners.

The Greylock Glass: Take care. Thank you.

Jason Velázquez

Jason Velázquez has worked in print and digital journalism and publishing for two decades.
Phone: (413) 776-5125

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