Over the last two weeks, SCBWI’s leadership, including our senior officers, our Board of Directors, our Board of Advisors, and our volunteers, have had many opportunities to reflect on recent events. We have had an outpouring of sentiment, through open letters, phone calls, and petitions, which has led us to acknowledge this moment as an inflection point in our organization. We greatly value and welcome this important dialogue.
Before we move forward, let’s briefly look at the most recent chain of events, so we can then begin this conversation with a common understanding:
On June 11, 2021, our Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, April Powers, posted on Twitter and Facebook a statement against antisemitism. That statement generated many responses and April both responded to and then deleted some comments. As a result of her mistakes, April Powers felt the need to resign and she did so of her own volition. This left some people with the belief that April was silenced and forced to resign. She has attested to the fact that this decision was solely her own. To be clear, she was not fired or forced to resign. Since April’s resignation, there has been a lack of clarity on this matter, which now hopefully you understand and if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out directly to Sarah Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amidst this lack of clarity, there have been untrue stories published about the events, as well as social media attacks against April and threats against the SCBWI, including threats so extreme that the FBI had to be contacted. In the immediate aftermath, we at SCBWI were focused on these incidents and on keeping our staff safe. In doing this, we were not able to provide a clear timeline of events as we are today. As previously stated, we are deeply sorry for any pain that has come from our words or actions.
In the days that followed, we saw the conversation shift from a reaction to a very specific event, to the overall concerns of some of our members. Through emails, phone calls, and open letters online, we have come to understand that there are questions and concerns from thoughtful and valued members of the SCBWI community that go beyond where this began. It is clear to us now that our lines of communication with our membership need to be better. There is a need for more transparency and a call for many reforms. We are ready to meet those needs.
SCBWI has a board of Advisors who advise on policy, a fiduciary Board of Directors, a body of high-level volunteers, and approximately 27,000 current members. You are our community, and your involvement in our organization is what makes us and our mission thrive. We can’t thrive unless we have your trust and your participation. We see this moment as pivotal and historic for the SCBWI, and we want to consider our community’s ideas for how we can change and improve the organization.
In the coming days, you will hear from us as we consider all of the ideas put forth so far. As a sign of good faith, here are a few suggested changes we can report immediately.
- We will be hiring an outside DEI consultancy firm to evaluate all aspects of our organization and help us move forward, and will make that information public and regularly give updates.
- The recommendation to have a rotating Board of Directors is a good one and we will undertake means to implement this according to the best practices of our bylaws and the rule sgoverning nonprofit organizations. We will list all new board members on our website.
- We are adapting our volunteer agreement to eliminate the standard non-disparagement clause. This action will guarantee free conversation in our volunteer community.
- We will continue to keep our financial operations transparent, maintain our listings on Charity Navigator, and publish our annual report highlighting details about the organization’s financials.
In the coming days and weeks, there will be more. We have to move forward with care and planning and respect for the ideas brought forth. Each suggestion requires thought, planning, and time to be implemented correctly.
It is time for us to evolve to become the organization that our current world needs. Keep raising your voices. We will show you how valuable you are to us. Together as a community, we will continue to support those who make books for children everywhere.