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Black Artist and Creatives Talk Mistreatment at New Haven's Arts and Ideas Festival

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Disrespect and a feeling of not belonging were just a few of the raw emotions Black artists and creatives tell NBC Connecticut they experienced during New Haven's International Arts and Ideas Festival.

"It still makes me angry, just really angry and sad," said Rogodwynn, a performer at this year's festival. "Even when myself and other Black creatives have like such big moments and important moments, it seems like there's always somebody like waiting to take it from us."

The New Haven-based artist along with other Black creatives tell NBC Connecticut the festival's environment can be hostile for those preparing to get on the stage and when getting off.

Submitted photo

"Belittled the day of the event just for people to question if whether or not we were actually supposed to be there," said Dymin Ellis, a former art creative with 'The Word' non-profit.

Rogodwynn penned a letter describing her experience on June 18. In it, she states "crew members were cruel, unprofessional and made her and her band members wait to be addressed."

In response, the festival issued a series of statements, in them admitting that they have a culture of systemic racism and white supremacy as well as their commitment to change their culture.

"There are very few, if any, arts organizations especially historically predominately white-led organizations like the festival is, and my last organization was that do not have systemic racism," said Shelley Quiala, executive director for the Arts & Ideas Festival.

Quiala said in addition to personally apologizing to each artist, the festival is conducting an internal investigation and has suspended one employee and mentions that those steps are just the beginning as they work to implement anti-racism practices and create more opportunities for people of color.

"Articulating them…with examples of what does that look like when we say anti-racist, what does that look like when we say we’re going to center the humanity, what does that look like when that doesn’t happen," said Quiala.

As for the performers, they have a list of changes they would like to see from the festival.

"I feel like it would be really uplifting to see a person of color in authority at an organization like the festival," said Ellis. "I think the only way the organization can try to rectify the situation for artists like me and other artists who've had this type of experience should have dollars in hands because Black creatives artists play a key role in bringing the art to the festival," said Rogodwynn.

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