Dear President of the Board:
I would like to address and clarify a few things that you stated in your last email to me regarding my role on the Board of Bay Area Girls Rock Camp and my affiliation with the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (“MWMF”). I do not think some of the statements in your email were an adequate reflection of what we’ve previously discussed; accordingly, I’d like to shine some light on them before they become calcified into an alternate version of communications between myself and Bay Area Girls Rock Camp (“BAGRC”).
You have stated very clearly that you do not believe there is any personal conflict between myself and BAGRC. You have also clearly stated that you see no reason to remove me from Board of BAGRC. Rather, you asked me to “step down” if I was not comfortable as a Board Member in light of the political and personal conflict you and the staff have expressed regarding my attendance at the MWMF. You have also stated a concern that the presence of and support from women in the MWMF community may reflect negatively on BAGRC.
As I have stated repeatedly, I have always been fully committed to Bay Area Girls Rock Camp. I deeply believe in BAGRC’s mission. The issue here–the only one– is my association with the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. I want to state unequivocally my belief that this conflict lives solely in the political constitution of yourself and the staff. As is clear from the obvious facts, neither I, nor anyone that I know of who participates in or supports MWMF, has any issues supporting Bay Area Girls Rock Camp nor any group that holds as part of its integral values and mission the support and empowerment of self-identified girls and/or women.
I did approach you in July to voice my concerns and initiate a meeting with yourself and the staff over a conflict that one particular staff member seemed to have with regard to accepting support for BAGRC from the MWMF community. My unease arose from what I felt was an uncalled for lack of interaction with and recognition of a MWMF comprised team at the BAGRC Bowl-a-Thon; a team, it should be stated, that raised over $4200 for the organization in less than a week, thus surpassing the fundraising efforts of all the other teams by more than $2,000.
These concerns were validated at our meeting on September 3, when it was revealed to me that the Director of Development was in fact so conflicted about the participation of a MWMF team and specifically Lisa Vogel’s (the producer of MWMF) presence at the Bowl-a-thon that she consulted with her friend, Red Durkin, who authored a recent petition calling for a boycott of the festival and asking the independent female musicians who were booked to perform to cancel in support of the boycott. In light of receiving that information at our meeting, I acknowledged to you and the staff that while it was possible that we may have some differences of opinion regarding the MWMF intention, my goal remained to resolve any misunderstandings between us. I sought to address how we could continue to collaborate in supporting the mission and goals of BAGRC. My suggestion at the end of that meeting was that we open up this dialogue to include the rest of the Board.
Your statement that I agreed my presence on the Board could have a negative impact on BAGRC due to my affiliation with MWMF and that I was choosing to stay anyway is a misinterpretation and a misrepresentation of my response to the concerns that were raised by you and the staff regarding my affiliation with MWMF. I did acknowledge that I understood the political climate that has shaped and informed the concerns expressed by you and the staff. I did acknowledge that some LGBTQI funders might question my affiliation with the festival. I did acknowledge the possibility that some trans identified and queer adults (or allies) in the BAGRC community could potentially feel uncomfortable with a MWMF presence at BAGRC community events.
I have also stated repeatedly that I believe that any potential negative impact on BAGRC associated with my affiliation with MWMF (or the assumption that one might ensue) is based on a myopic and one-sided view of this incredibly complex political and social issue. Such complexity demands open, heartfelt, and difficult conversations across the belief spectrum. It is this sort of non-“dialogue” echo chamber that has created an environment where it is perceived to be a righteous political action to exclude, silence and bully women who attend MWMF. I have stated verbally as well as in writing that this dialogue is riddled with misinformation and assumptions about the women (myself included) who attend, perform and produce the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. I had hoped that Bay Area Girls Rock Camp would have the integrity, impartiality, and, frankly the courage, to resist making assumptions and accusations of transphobia and that the organization would (for the sake of all of the girls and the women that is serves) dive deep into the intricacy of this communal struggle without embracing the rhetoric that has created the current atmosphere of political shaming. An atmosphere, it should be noted, that has set the stage upon which this very conversation is now unfolding. I simply do not see the rejection of social or political participation from individuals or artists based on an affiliation with or attendance at MWMF as righteous action. I see it as silencing. I see it as bullying. I see it as sanctimonious assumption deeply rooted in age-old misogynist practices. I see this sort of capitulation to pressure (real or perceived) as political and social cowardice.
You stated that if Lisa Vogel’s most recent statement had been published before I was elected to the Board, we would have discussed my attendance at MWMF during the recruitment process. Had I been aware that BAGRC’s conflict with the intention of the festival could have impacted my eligibility as a Board member, I would have felt it necessary to broach this conversation myself. For context, the conversation about the festival’s intention has been going on for 20 years. As a point of information, Ms. Vogel’s most recent statement about the festival’s intention can be found HERE. It would behoove the Board and the staff to read the entire statement carefully and not to condense it into a reductive and sloppy six words that hardly encompass the scope and range of this discussion.
Similarly, BAGRC’s own reaction has been reductive. As reflected in my numerous requests to bring this conversation to the attention of the entire Board, I think it is in the best interest of BAGRC (with Board participation) to articulate what other associations and “de facto links” you find to be so problematic as to require a specific vetting of candidates, or as in this case, would cause you to ask a board member to “step down”. Does BAGRC feel this way about those who might attend a Mormon or Catholic church or identify as an Orthodox Jew? About those who work for the federal government?
Will BAGRC continue to accept financial support from corporations whose politics and gift giving do not reflect all of BAGRC’s mission and values?
If this organization’s true intention is to only serve and work with people who are politically in agreement on all issues, then BAGRC should articulate that requirement. To this end, I would recommend that BAGRC articulate the process by which you have examined other associations (held by Board members or staff) that could similarly “damage” BAGRC community members, the organization itself, or the girls that BAGRC serves. If this process has not occurred or if no other such affiliations exist, I would ask BAGRC to clearly articulate and make transparent why MWMF is the sole organization requiring a purity test of complete disavowal for participation in BAGRC leadership and community.
As a very small part of my extensive “strengths” profile, I raised a large amount of money for this organization in a very short period of time. Indeed, my team for the bowl-a-thon (Team Belly Bowl) raised almost a quarter of the funds that were raised for the entire annual fundraiser. We accomplished this in six days. My team of MWMF workers, supporters and the producer raised money for all girls to benefit from BAGRC programming. I also brought BAGRC to the attention of a plethora of amazing female musicians (including, but not limited to, “Vicki Randle – The Tonight Show, Mavis Staples” and “Julie Wolf – Ani Difranco, Indigo Girls, Dar Williams”). I raised the organization’s profile with donors across the country and internationally, from New York to Chicago to Austin as well as Australia, Ireland, and the UK. To be clear, I will make it known to those donors and that I was asked to leave the organization because the presence of and support from women in the MWMF community was seen by BAGRC as problematic.
You have yet to explain how a single self-identified girl has been adversely affected by the support given by MWMF women to BAGRC. You have yet to explain how my presence has or could adversely affect a single self-identified girl or woman. You have yet to cite an example of a single self-identified girl or woman saying that she did not want to be a part of BAGRC because of my MWMF attendance. You have yet to cite a single example of how my attendance at MWMF would impact the experience of any self-identified girl who is or will benefit from BAGRC programming. You have not explained–in light of your views around my own participation–how you will handle the participation of self-identified girls or women who choose (and love to) attend MWMF and also want to participate in BAGRC programming. You have yet to offer a concrete example of a funder, donor or volunteer withholding their support from BAGRC because of my attendance at MWMF.
In looking at all of these holes in our communication, it is beginning to seem that perhaps this isn’t about the girls who are supposedly at the heart of the BAGRC mission at all. Rather, the current imbroglio is merely a thinly veiled attempt to make your own political statement, one that leaves all other values in the mud.
In light of all of these issues and after much careful introspection and consideration, I have made the decision to resign my position from the Board of Bay Area Girls Rock Camp, effective immediately.
Sara St. Martin Lynne