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Becoming an actively anti-racist organisation

Our chief executive, Maisie Hulbert, makes a statement on behalf of Sing Inside reflecting on how we will now prioritise becoming actively anti-racist, and how you can follow our progress and hold us to account.


9 June 2020

Dear volunteers and supporters of Sing Inside,

Thank you to the many of you who have been protesting, speaking out and listening over the last few weeks as part of the movement which has come to the fore following the murder of George Floyd. The first thing to say is that we stand with our BAME colleagues, friends, and supporters at this time. I cannot imagine the pain associated with years of being unheard, of repeated traumas, and the frustration that these issues are apparently only achieving widespread recognition now. We are with you, and we care for you, and we will keep learning, protesting, and supporting you wherever we can.

This statement is the first time at Sing Inside we have spoken publicly about how the issue of race affects our work. It is important to us that we make a statement with tangible actions and promises within it, rather than stopping at making social media statements of solidarity - although we want to reiterate that that solidarity is there.

The first thing to say is this: there are clear cultures of institutional racism at play both across the criminal justice system and across the charity sector. We acknowledge today that in the past, Sing Inside has not taken enough direct action against these cultures, and so we have played a part in upholding them. Institutional racism relating to criminal justice is not news to us: the Lammy Review in 2017 found that “despite making up just 14% of the population, BAME men and women make up 25% of prisoners, while over 40% of young people in custody are from BAME backgrounds.” (p. 3). We are aware of this reality and have discussed it. We have also discussed at senior and board level meetings that our volunteer base is not as representative or accessible as it should be, and have considered what we could do. What we haven’t previously discussed in depth is how to be actively critical of our own cultures and practices, and how we must reflect on our privileges and power.

Sing Inside is a young, small organisation – we only became a registered charity in March 2019. The fact we are small, volunteer-led, and do not have a specific focus on racial justice has - both consciously and subconsciously - made us feel and behave as if we didn’t have any meaningful power to effect change in this area. We are sorry that we have not given this issue the time it needed when building ourselves as a charity. This is not just about numbers or data; it is about racism. We need to name that problem for what it is and tackle what we can by taking time to look at how we currently work, how we have worked in the past, and what must change.

So as a first step towards that change, we are committing to Charity So White’s calls to action for voluntary organisations. Sing Inside will:

  1. Prioritise candid and honest conversations about racism.

  2. Publicly acknowledge racism within the sector and within our organisation.

  3. Commit to tackling institutional racism within our organisation and in the sector.

We are also signing their letter to demand specific ring-fencing of funding for BAME voluntary organisations in the sector response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In previous conversations about racism within Sing Inside we have considered several courses of action. We will now accelerate progress on deciding which actions to take by, as a starting point, asking all members of our senior leadership team to answer the six questions posed by Charity So White (see the bottom of their FAQs page). Our leadership team is all white: we expect these conversations to be uncomfortable, and they are therefore all the more important to have. These initial steps mark the start of our long-term commitment to playing our part in challenging racism.

On behalf of Sing Inside, I commit today to being held personally accountable for making sure our actions on this issue are made public via our website and social media channels. If you want to discuss our approach, the current situation at Sing Inside, or anything else on this issue, please contact me directly on maisie@singinside.org.

I believe Sing Inside has a bright future ahead of it, and I am proud of so much of what we have achieved. Nonetheless to realise our potential we must acknowledge where we have made errors, and work now to make things right. Our team has shown the energy and commitment to do this work, and to do it well. We are ready to start it and we know it will make us a stronger, better, and more socially just organisation.

Maisie Hulbert, chief executive

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