Our recent efforts follow a number of previous actions intended to advance EDI by our organization. However, it’s important to note that, though Milwaukee Film had already taken important steps on EDI in recent years, we acknowledge that we had not sufficiently elevated the importance or the urgency of this work and that it had not permeated all areas of our organization.
Establishing Black Lens (2014), Cine Sin Fronteras (2015), GenreQueer (2018), and the Black Lens Council membership program (2016)
Through our Black Lens, Cine Sin Fronteras, and GenreQueer programs, we aimed to help our staff and our audience become more reflective of Milwaukee’s population and to elevate diverse voices in all aspects of our programming. These programs were created to be transformative for our community and our organization. However, we now fully understand that these programs were just a first step toward engaging diverse audiences throughout Milwaukee, diversifying our staff, and incorporating equity practices. The launching and administering of these programs exposed organizational deficiencies and challenges that previously we did not work quickly enough to address and solve.
Creating education programs that expand access
Our education department has worked since 2009 to establish a number of programs that seek to remove barriers of access to theater experiences and classroom resources, as well as create inclusive programs to serve all students. For our education screenings, our priority has been to work with schools in the MPS district. In addition, our Reel Talks, Melinda Krei Educator Fellowship, Teen Screen programming committee, and high school filmmaking course have served students and educators from a broad range of schools in the Milwaukee region.
Hosting members of the Public Allies program
Public Allies is a national movement committed to advancing social justice and equity by engaging and activating leadership for young people. From 2017 until the pandemic caused us to reduce our staffing level in 2020, Milwaukee Film consistently hosted a public ally from this program on our staff.
Training opportunities for staff, volunteers
Understanding the need for leadership and staff training in EDI, Milwaukee Film commissioned Ubuntu Consulting to create an EDI learning component for the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival staff orientation and volunteer training program. For 2019, the LGBT Community Center facilitated a workshop on gender diversity during the Festival orientation. Because seasonal staff and volunteers were not part of 2020’s virtual Festival, staff orientation was not required and volunteer trainings were not held.
Diversifying the board of directors
Recognizing that our board of directors would benefit from more diverse perspectives and the experience of EDI professionals, starting in 2019 Milwaukee Film actively sought to elevate additional members of groups that are underrepresented in nonprofit boards to its leadership. These recruitment efforts led to the addition of two EDI professionals to the board in 2020.
Creating the Minority Health Film Festival
Through the combined leadership of our Black Lens program and our partners, Milwaukee Film created a first-of-its kind festival to focus on reducing stigmas and improving wellness of communities traditionally marginalized based on race, culture, gender, orientation, age, or citizenship status. The Festival began in 2019, and the third annual event will be held in September 2021.
Improving accessibility at the Oriental Theatre
As part of our extensive renovations to the historic Oriental Theatre, we have prioritized increasing accessibility for all audiences. Since taking over operations of the theater in 2018, we have added an accessible first-floor women's restroom, established a gender-neutral restroom, added accessible seating, improved lighting, and installed a hearing loop system in the west and main houses. Ongoing renovations will continue to improve accessibility throughout the theater.