Reflecting on Inclusivity in 2021
As 2021 comes to a close, San Francisco Opera is reflecting on our efforts to become a learning organization. Throughout the year, we have been thinking deeply about what inclusion and belonging mean to our institution. Within our offices, we have held monthly staff trainings where we’ve examined the history of systematic racism within the United States on a peer-to-peer level. At the Opera House, we have adopted an accessible pricing model for our education programs and trained our ushers to provide culturally intelligent service to our patrons, ensuring we create an accessible and welcoming space for all audience members. For our Fidelio production, we produced an art exhibit which invited both incarcerated artists and audience members to consider themes of freedom and oppression. And, by consulting with our industry partners, we are inspiring others to become changemakers within their own organizations. Here is our end of year report for the 2020-2021 year, which gives an overview of all the work we are undertaking to make San Francisco Opera a welcoming place for all.
Simultaneously, as we take stock of and celebrate our progress, we also mark a grim milestone. The Human Rights Commission has reported at least 50 deaths by violence in the trans and gender-nonconforming community this year, making 2021 the most violent year on record since HRC began tracking in 2013. This is the second deadliest year in a row, with the record broken last year at 43 deaths in 2020. The majority of these victims have been trans women of color, and it is evident that the intersections of racism, sexism, transphobia, biphobia and homophobia prove most deadly for Black trans women.
The fiftieth death this year was close to home. Nikai David, a 33-year-old Black trans woman from Hayward, was fatally shot and killed in Oakland on December 4, 2021. David was a model and aspiring social media influencer who dreamed of opening her own clothing boutique. She was a beloved member at the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, and her friend at the Center, Ashlee Banks, remembers her as a “sweet, fun happy person.”
As we mourn the young life of Nikai David, and all the lives violently cut short in 2021, we are reminded how critical this work is of making opera a welcoming space for all. As a leader in arts and culture, San Francisco Opera holds a vital responsibility to our community. We know that the stories we tell have an impact on the culture we create, and our stories are not just limited to the stage. The actions we take as a company, intentional or not, broadcast a message of who belongs at the Opera. It is vital that we work to not only acknowledge our trans and GNC community in our company, but make space for them to thrive and flourish in the wider Bay Area, the country, and the world.
This year, we posted signs in front of the Opera House to put our values front and center: Art matters here. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion matter here. Belonging and Community matter here. Safety and Justice matters here, and most importantly, You matter here. Looking at the year ahead, we are thinking about how to live up to these standards as we strive to make Opera for everyone. We invite you to join us in reflection and think critically about what inclusion means to you, and how you might foster more of it in your own community.