Because Black Lives Matter
The Seattle Children’s Museum stands with the Black community against all forms of inequity, social disparity and systemic racism. We support the work of parents and caregivers, who work hard to support the development of early learners with a positive sense of self and a strong sense of self-worth. We commit to working alongside our families and partners to create a just and equitable future for all, free of oppression, microaggressions, and all racial injustices. The Seattle Children’s Museum’s leadership will engage in this vital work internally and externally, personally and professionally. This ongoing work requires dedicated time and resources, in order to make meaningful changes within our organization, and community, in support of Black lives. We renew our commitment to being a relevant, positive resource for caregivers and early learners, as they grow to their fullest potential.
We continue our work in partnership with indigenous communities and individual artists to appropriately represent and honor indigenous cultures through their own voices in an inclusive space called Tribal Tales. We will use this experience as a template for ongoing culturally relevant exhibit and programmatic updates in the outdated Global Village, working in partnership with communities of color, to respectfully reflect their vision of what makes a community thrive, here in the Pacific Northwest and globally.
Our leadership will work harder to contribute to dismantling institutional racism. We will do this by promoting equity and inclusion through multiple avenues, allocating more time and resources to reflecting and addressing our own structure and processes. This includes developing a racial equity and inclusion plan, utilizing tools available through King County, the city of Seattle, and others deeply engaged in this work.
July 21, 2020 SCM Statement
This letter is in response to the recent open letter from some former Seattle Children’s Museum team members. We want to reassure our members, and the broader public, that commitment to racial equity is core to our mission and that the Museum takes these matters very seriously. We understand that many on the team are saddened and disappointed by the Museum’s temporary closure and layoffs, as are all of us on SCM leadership team and Board. We want to set the record straight about what has taken place.
First and foremost, we want to reiterate that every person on the staff, in leadership, and on the Board of the SCM is passionate about Black Lives Matter and anti-racism. While, as individuals we may be at different points on the activism arc, the organization is committed to social justice and racial and gender equity. As a public institution, we take this part of our mission to heart and over the last several years the SCM has been engaged in decolonizing exhibits and education by centering BIPOC voices, and cultivating curriculum and materials that support this important work.
However, we are also imperfect and would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge our own faults and growing opportunities on this journey. Last month, the Museum was involved in a social media incident where content centered around equity and educational resources was prematurely posted across our social media platforms. Because the content dealt with sensitive topics and had been posted without typical discussion, review or approval from SCM leadership, it was revised and references to Black Lives Matter were temporarily removed until a wider group of Museum stakeholders could be consulted to ensure our messaging accurately represented our educational content. We understand that many of our staff, our members, and some in the community felt personally hurt during an especially vulnerable time and we sincerely regret the pain this has caused. Following this episode, the Museum’s Board has launched an investigation to better understand how the events transpired and what SCM leadership and staff could have done better. This investigation is ongoing and has included meeting with SCM team members and leadership to gather information and feedback.
Because of the pandemic, the Museum has been temporarily closed since March 2020 and has reduced staff in waves during this period. The most recent and long-scheduled layoff coincides with the exhaustion of our Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds; this 9-week period of time was identified and communicated with staff at the beginning of the PPP period and is in no way tied to recent developments. The Museum looks forward to the day when it is safe for the facility to re-open and laid-off employees can be offered the opportunity to return. While the Museum is closed, we are using this time to update exhibits and continue work on Tribal Tales, an engaging exhibit about the stories of the Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest, presented in their own voices, as well as creating a brand new exhibit.
We are engaged in ongoing robust conversations about equity and justice and our role in that work as a public institution. And we will continue to do the work, as individuals and as an organization, to find racism within ourselves and within our organization and to use our individual and institutional power to end oppression.