Dear Belfast Flying Shoes Community,
People everywhere are taking a stand to support racial justice. The Board of Belfast Flying Shoes stands in solidarity with those who are focusing our collective attention on systemic racism, white privilege, and the prejudice and violence directed toward Black people.
The culture of BFS values mutual respect, inclusiveness, and community-building connection. We founded the First Friday dance series to bring the joy of contra dance back to the city of Belfast. This dance form and its associated music traditions have the capacity to connect people across countless potential divergences, including race. They are also inherently inclusive, because everyone in the room participates and cooperates in bringing them to life. BFS has always sought to foster a welcoming culture, in which we all treat each other with respect and kindness.
But no matter how positive and inclusive our ideals may be, the current moment is leading all of us to reconsider how well we are living up to those ideals. We are learning from many resources; we recommend the following, which are related specifically to social dance and/or our own dance community:
- Emily Troll (a BFS contra musician) is following the lead of Black Lives Matter in designing daily tasks for her Activist Pie project. (See description, with Emily’s contact info.)
- Mia Bertelli (a BFS dancer) has started a Belfast Area Racial Justice Lending Library. Contact Mia to find out more, donate a book, or contribute funds.
- The Restorative Justice Project (a BFS outreach partner) asserts the imperative to “transform the conditions that allow for racial injustices to thrive.” In Maine, Black people are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white people. Read the full RJP Maine Statement for data and actions.
- The Country Dance & Song Society (BFS is an affiliate of CDSS) shared an initial statement of support for Black Lives Matter, followed by a more comprehensive letter about their anti-racism work.
- Phil Jamison researched the complex history of our dance form in his book, Hoedowns, Reels and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance (BFS bought a copy for the Belfast Free Library in 2019). See his website for dance videos and more. Phil’s work also was referenced by organizers of the Portland Intown Contra Dance, who issued this statement.
As the board embarks on this learning process, we agree that it is not too soon to take action. Our first step is to suspend the current BFS fundraising campaign. We believe that a heightened need for awareness and action surrounding racial injustice, along with the considerable impacts of the coronavirus on our community, should take precedence at this time. We are grateful for your incredible support for our fundraising efforts, which we will resume when that seems appropriate.
For now, please consider instead supporting organizations that amplify the voices of people affected by racism and other forms of systemic oppression.
With gratitude and affection until we dance with you again,
Belfast Flying Shoes Board of Directors (Alex, Bruce, Chrissy, Christina, Margo & Raelin)