Indo-American Arts Council: Take Action Against Racist Post
South Asian Artist Collective is calling on South Asians, South Asian Artists, and Allies to hold the Indo American Arts Council (IAAC) accountable and respond publicly to the ill-informed, anti-Black statements made by their Founder and Emeritus Executive Director, Aroon Shivdasani, on Facebook on Friday, May 7, 2021 (among numerous past posts). The IAAC has been asked by members of our community to respond, but so far has been silent.
This is the letter you will be able to *edit* on the next page:
We, the undersigned, call on the Indo American Arts Council (IAAC) to respond publicly to the ill-informed, anti-Black statements made by their Founder and Emeritus Executive Director, Aroon Shivdasani, on Facebook on Friday, May 7, 2021. The IAAC has been asked by members of our community to respond, but so far has been silent.
Shivdasani wrote/posted last Friday (text transcribed from Shivdasani's post):
"I am beginning to feel sorry for white males. The NYT has decided to salve its own guilt by concentrating oNLY [sic] on black artists in every discipline - completely forgetting NY and US consists of every colour and ethnicity - and ALL of us have myriad talented individuals too. This practice has gone on for most of the year to date. Get real NYT. Rushing to the other extreme doesn't make things OK."
Shivdasani’s characterization of the NYT’s arts coverage is both factually inaccurate, and seemingly devoid of historical and social context. It presents a falsely aggrieved, divisive, and racist perspective that is completely unacceptable for an organization whose events so many in our communities have supported, funded, and attended. Furthermore, this and previous communications by Shivdasani tarnish the legacy of the Indo-American Art Council as a platform for South Asian artists in the diaspora, and will negatively affect future support and participation from artists, critics, and funders.
The post has been taken down, but without any statement from Shivdasani or the IAAC. In addition, important discussion sparked among members of the community was also deleted, erasing the labor of many former IAAC artists to challenge Shivdasani’s viewpoints and express solidarity with Black artists.
We the undersigned abhor the pitting of our interests as South Asians against those of Black artists and thereby Black peoples. We stand for the building of South Asian artistic spaces in solidarity with Black, Indigenous, Latino/a/x, Dalit/Bahujan, Muslim, and other Asian-American communities historically and currently facing police brutality, economic and environmental injustice, exclusion, and/or hate violence. We call on the Indo-American Arts Council, its current Executive Director Suman Gollamudi, its Board of Directors, Advisory Board, Brand Ambassador, and staff to take the following actions:
1) Share a formal and public apology from Aroon Shivdasani or remove her as Emeritus Executive Director.
2) Issue a statement from IAAC on its organizational commitment to incorporating
anti-racism into its codes of ethics, curation, and management.
3) Include anti-casteism as part of the IAAC's publicly stated organizational identity.
4) Conduct anti-racism training for IAAC staff and board to help them identify and remove structural and implicit biases.
5) Hold discussion series with Black and South Asian artists giving particular attention to
● our deeply interwoven diasporas and histories
● Black identities within Indian / South Asian communities .