VIDA: Women in Literary Arts announces that, due to a series of recent events that demonstrated a need for VIDA to continue to evolve, the organization will be taking some time to focus inward and re-examine our foundations. Though some of our public programs will temporarily be put on pause, VIDA remains unwaveringly committed to the fight for intersectional equity in our literary communities.
Last fall, several board members left the organization. VIDA thanks each of these former members for their work, and respects their privacy as they move forward. However, we feel it is our responsibility to be transparent about the circumstances under which some of these departures transpired.
Some of these resignations occurred under deeply painful conditions. Last year, it became apparent that VIDA Board exchanges were growing exceedingly tense, and at times toxic. In any organization, relationships with power must be acknowledged, and for too long this was not the case in VIDA’s board interactions. It had become clear that despite VIDA’s past efforts and intentions, a climate of white feminism with racist, cis-centrist, and ableist overtones was allowed to persist with no accountability measures in place. Microaggressions and triggering behavior therefore persisted without an adherence to equitable language and trauma-informed approach, which is especially painful for those who counted on VIDA to provide a safer space.
We, the new VIDA Board, respect the decisions of those who felt they could no longer exert the energy required to change this culture. Many who left had served VIDA for years, and we fully appreciate all they did to make VIDA into a better organization. The majority of us who remain were invited to join the Board of Directors last summer and were unprepared for these departures and the related fallout; however, this does not excuse our own complicity as members of the Board. We acknowledge and apologize for our role in allowing these toxic exchanges to continue and are working to ensure that VIDA becomes a space where this behavior is neither tolerated nor accepted.
We, individually and as an organization, sincerely apologize to those who have been most directly affected by the actions and inactions of those few formerly among us who contributed to this climate. We want to make clear that we are committed to real, substantive change, and that those who received formal complaints either resigned or were asked to leave VIDA and did.
The social and political realities of the past few years have been difficult ones, and have shown a critical need for VIDA to continue to adapt and grow as we respond to the amplification of disparity and oppressions facing those VIDA means to center. The new VIDA Board of Directors has executed accountability processes, taken personal and organization-wide inventories, and is continuing to develop new and more equitable systems of communication and de-escalation, grievance channels, and procedures to ensure VIDA is as safe a space as possible. We envision a VIDA that is capable not only of doing the work we originally set out to do better than we have ever done it, but also a VIDA that will invite leaders from all communities we hope to serve; especially those most excluded by the white, male, cis-hetero, neurotypical, and affluent literary landscape against and within which we work.
The task ahead of us requires transformation of VIDA from within. Therefore, some VIDA operations will temporarily be put on hold, and some will continue on an altered schedule.
The 2018 VIDA Count will be released Spring 2019, and the newly-announced PEN/VIDA Count partnership will continue. The 2018 Intersectional VIDA Count will be conducted and published at a later date, once we have refined our survey methodologies to more accurately and meaningfully represent the intersectional identities of the writers we hope to serve.
VIDA Review will temporarily adopt a less-frequent publication schedule, and writers can expect longer response times. Reports from the Field will continue its hiatus until late Summer 2019, while we review protocols and safety measures. VIDA will not have a booth at AWP 2019.
The previous VIDA Board chose to remove #saferLIT as a VIDA program. While we are no longer affiliated, VIDA remains committed to supporting and advocating for survivors in the literary community.
Over the next several months, we will be focused inward: strengthening our foundation, reimagining our potential, and continuing to build VIDA into the equitable literary organization it needs to be.
VIDA’s mission has always involved asking ourselves how we can do better, and the new VIDA Board intends to continue that work—work that is ever dynamic, open to critique, and always in tandem with education and humility.