A Statement to Our Community

OUR VISION FOR AGW

Sometimes we write to discover ourselves, sometimes we write to teach or tell stories, sometimes we just write to write, but at the end of the day, writing is an expression of who we are and how we see the world. 

We believe that Awful Good Writers is a platform where writers can study their craft, learn from each other, and experiment—where we are able to explore and honor the places inside ourselves that fuel our art and lives. 

We envision the Awful Good Writers community as a safe space that allows people to be vulnerable and open, to heal, and to be inspired—a space that helps all of its members grow, as writers and as human beings.

We understand that building and holding this space requires trust—and that trust is earned. 

WHAT HAPPENED

AGW offered our platform to Roger Bonair-Agard to teach a course in Spring 2021. We learned of his history of sexual predation during the development phase of his course. At AGW’s request, Bonair-Agard shared a three-page document acknowledging the accusations against him, naming his 30+ person accountability team, and detailing the restorative work he has undertaken in the past seven years. 

As a staff, AGW discussed and recognized that accountability is an appropriate part of an anti-carceral, community-based form of justice and accepted Bonair-Agard’s statement. 

At the request of another artist on the lineup, AGW implemented new safety measures to the platform so no one (student, instructor, or staff) could be contacted via the platform without consent. Additionally, AGW required that Bonair-Agard pledge that he would not work one-on-one with participants. Bonair-Agard agreed and taught his course in January-February 2021.

CONTINUED HARM

Shortly after Bonair-Agard’s AGW course ended, a survivor of Bonair-Agard’s harm posted a public statement expressing their perspective. The statement was unequivocal in rejecting Bonair-Agard’s accountability work and called for organizations to hold Bonair-Agard and other perpetrators of harm accountable.

If the survivor of his harm was not restored through the restorative justice and accountability processes that formed the basis for our decision to work with Bonair-Agard, then it is AGW’s responsibility to acknowledge the continued harm that we enabled by providing a platform to him. 

With this statement, we intend to take ownership of that harm, and acknowledge and understand where we fell short. Additionally, we aim to provide transparency in AGW’s decision-making process and set forth a plan for accountability to and within our community moving forward. 

WHERE WE FELL SHORT

First, our approach was not survivor-centered. AGW leadership accepted Bonair-Agard’s statement without further investigation, and did not request confirmation from Bonair-Agard’s accountability team until April 2. We centered Bonair-Agard’s experience over the survivors’ experience. 

Second, AGW did not share any part of the decision-making process publicly nor did AGW make a public statement about the decision to work with Roger Bonair-Agard. We provided a response when individuals expressed concern, sharing our process and documentation, but we did this privately and not publicly.

Third, when we learned from the survivor’s statement that Bonair-Agard’s accountability work was insufficient, AGW did not publicly re-align its position. We chose to remove Bonair-Agard’s course from the archives so he could no longer benefit from association with the platform, but we did this, again, without making any public statement.

OUR APOLOGIES

Personally, and on behalf of Awful Good Writers, we apologize to the survivors for not centering your experience. 

Additionally, we apologize to the Awful Good Writers and greater literary community for the lack of transparency in our decision-making process and the ambiguity in our position.

OUR WORK: PART I

We pledge to take steps to address the specific circumstances involving Bonair-Agard. After issuing this statement, we will:

  • Inform Bonair-Agard of our position to dissociate with him unless and until his survivors feel adequately restored.
  • Contact Bonair-Agard’s accountability team to inform them of our position and request they address inadequacies in the accountability process.

OUR WORK: PART II

In order to ensure the safety of community members using the platform moving forward, we will:

  • Create, publish publicly, and enforce a Code of Conduct for the AGW community as a whole.
  • Clearly identify contact channels for the AGW community to report any incidents or address any concerns.
  • Form an advisory group to consult with as issues of harm, accountability, and justice arise.
  • Refuse to platform those who have committed harm who have not completed a verified restorative program or whose victims have not otherwise been restored.
  • Openly, actively, and officially foster a culture of accountability within the AGW community, including students, staff, management, and artists.

OUR WORK: PART III

We emphatically commit to deepening our understanding of transformative justice, particularly as it applies to the AGW platform. Our next steps are to:

  • Codify our values and the values to be upheld by Awful Good Writers in writing, and display them publicly on our website.
  • Put a values-alignment clause in all of AGW’s contracts, including contracts for instructors and staff.
  • Provide clear public information on our website about who is part of AGW’s ownership, management, and staff, including, where appropriate, personal statements with regard to AGW’s values.
  • Publicly address and provide a transparent account of future values-based decisions made under a model of transformative justice.

OUR WORK: PART IV

We understand that we, as a society, are still working out the nuances of how transformative justice translates from theory into practice. We aim to support that effort by:

  • Providing a platform for and participating  in public conversations about healing, accountability, and the range of issues inherent in alternative forms of justice. 
  • Continuing to hire restorative and/or transformative justice consultants as needed to objectively evaluate and advise us on the alignment of our values with our internal and external operations and  partnerships.
  • Partnering with social and transformative justice organizations, particularly those that have a verified history of supporting people directly impacted by sexual assault, to create programming and opportunities that speak to the needs of survivors.

AN ONGOING DIALOGUE

We do not seek to move forward while leaving these issues behind us. Instead we seek to honor and acknowledge this experience and integrate these lessons into Awful Good Writers’ culture and daily operations.

We view this work—both the work of our own accountability and of transformative justice—as a practice. We undertake it knowing that we will continue to make mistakes, and we commit to acknowledging our mistakes and learning from them.

We welcome open dialogue and feedback from anyone that feels compelled to share and help shape the future of Awful Good Writers. Please email hello@awfulgoodwriters.com to reach us both directly.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Sé Reed and Katie Adams Farrell

WHO WE ARE

The “we” represented in this statement is Awful Good Writers, and its soon-to-be parent company, Kerredyn Collaborative. Kerredyn is owned by Sé Reed and Katie Adams Farrell and we are the authors of this statement. 

Awful Good Writers was founded in April 2020 by Buddy Wakefield. Over the course of 2020, Reed worked with Wakefield and his team in a volunteer capacity developing the technical and logistical components for the Heavy Hitters festival and the Awful Good Writers platform. In late 2020, Wakefield and the AGW staff began discussing the next stages of AGW as a company. Kerredyn began formally managing the administration of the AGW program on December 1. 

NEW OWNERSHIP

On February 25, 2021, Wakefield offered to sell the company to Reed in recognition of her work in developing the platform. 

When we discussed this offer, we decided that Awful Good Writers represented an opportunity to create a platform where we could put into practice the ethos that we had founded Kerredyn on: to work on projects that create a social impact. We imagined a platform where we could help amplify voices that need to be heard, properly pay artists for their work, and help students learn from some of the leading lights in the literary community.

On March 3, Reed and Adams Farrell formally accepted Wakefield’s offer and began the process of transferring AGW ownership to Kerredyn. The transfer is not yet finalized, though we have amended our agreements so we can make this public statement on behalf of ourselves and Awful Good Writers. 

MORE INFORMATION

If you feel that you need more information about what happened, we have created a detailed timeline that represents to the best of our ability AGW’s knowledge and actions with regard to these circumstances. 

We have provided this for the purpose of full disclosure and transparency. 

You can find that timeline at: https://awfulgoodwriters.com/accountability-timeline-nov2020-apr2021/

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