Editor’s Note: A Call for Community from Artist As First Responder 

Sugarcane Magazine stands in solidarity with the tireless efforts of organizations across the Diaspora who, against all odds, strategize sustained support for Black creatives. We had the pleasure of covering the work of Artist As First Responder Founder and Director Ashara Ekundayo in November 2022. Since then, Artist As First Responder has issued an urgent call for community assistance. We are sharing their call to the Sugarcane community so that you can learn more about Artist As First Responder and consider contributing to their cause. Read Ekundayo’s letter below.

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A Call For Community 

Over the past 15 days, I have had to learn lessons about non-profit leadership & arts administration that I never wanted to learn.

Our fiscal sponsor of the last five years, Marcus Foster Education Institute, co-mingled their operating budget with the restricted operating and programming budget of Artist As First Responder. This resulted in our account being completely emptied and triggered the immediate layoff of our entire team.

In my opinion, herein lies considerations on the fragility of Black leadership inside of a system of racialized capitalism that masquerades as a philanthropic and altruistic social economy – AKA the “non-profit industrial complex.” I, like many others, have some thoughts about what appears to be the full stop of funding that was poured into Black-led and arts organizations off the heels of the COVID19 pandemic and the racial reckoning that was activated in response to the public murder of George Floyd. I’m sitting with these thoughts as I look at my own leadership praxis.

There were approximately 15 other Black-led organizations under Marcus Foster Education Institute who have been impacted in various ways. But my question remains: how do we hold accountable, how do we atone, and how do we heal in community when Black folx inflict harm upon one another?

I’m thinking about our small team of artist-educators who are living on the economic edges of society. In my head and my heart, I’m wondering how to reconcile that we live in a world that allows some of our most valuable assets, the artists, to struggle for basic needs.

I’m sitting with the physical and emotional ramifications, and the loneliness of having to carry much of this weight alone. The reality of fiscal sponsors mishandling of funds is more frequent than you would imagine. However, it’s not a common conversation inside of the sector because many times the victims also get blamed. I have made a decision to share this experience as both a cautionary tale, and as an opportunity for professional development.

And yet, I am also moved and encouraged by our community of advisors, funders, and colleagues who have checked in on me and shown up to help us navigate this rocky terrain. I am so grateful to be held by all of you because, as this work continues to teach us, we must continue also.






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