White Boxes

We check them for identification.
We dance within them, calling them studios.
We adorn their walls with art and call them galleries.

These boxes often helps spaces function and run smoothly, particularly WHITE SPACES.

Spaces that exist in the service of whiteness through a implicit absence of blackness or any people of color for that matter.

Spaces of affluence, exclusivity, wealth and power.

We (black folks) want to be in these spaces, learn how to behave in these spaces, and are praised for successfully navigating these spaces…so much so that we forget that these behaviors are just that, LEARNED.

Learned and mastered to the point of erasing who we are in exchange to validate or justify our right to the resources prioritized within these spaces.

This exchange becomes a sickness of silence. An addiction of complacency.

Well, where there is addiction, there is the possibility of recovery.

And yes, we need recovery from these oppressive spaces.




Today’s strategy for white box recovery…


…Thoroughly and maybe with a friend. If you don’t like something or have questions, ask. Don’t feel you have to accept any document as is. Negotiate, if you have too, to feel comfortable about the documents you sign, the boxes you check.

A contract is a conversation, an agreement, a negotiation. And here are a couple of things you can negotiate…

One thing you can negotiate is the perpetuity clause. What is that you ask? Well, perpetuity describes to something that will last forever or for an indefinite amount of time. You may read something like “ARTIST agrees that photos, video and related materials provided by ARTIST or resulting from ARTIST’s presentation by PRESENTER can be used in perpetuity to promote Organizations activities. ARTIST confirms that all rights to use photography and video provided by ARTIST have been secured for promotional use.”

So basically an organization is claiming the rights to your images, at any time, by getting you to sign away your rights to said image. BEWARE! If you see this language or any that you aren’t sure about, ask questions about what exactly it means for your work. You can also suggest alternative conditions like “ARTIST agrees that photos, videos, etc provided by ARTIST or resulting from ARTIST’s presentation by PRESENTER can be used to promote organization’s activities with explicit written consent by ARTIST for each incident.” In the end, if you’re not satisfied with the conditions, request that it be taken out.

Another thing you may negotiate is your compensation or how much money you make on a project or services rendered. You can break it down to how much money you make an hour or for the lifespan of a project. For instance, if your going rate is $20hr and a project or show is offering $400 that project will occupy approximately cost you 20hrs of your time. Knowing your ballpark rate will help you decide how much work to do or how much additional compensation you’ll need to request.

Lastly, you can look into negotiating the timeline of a project. When it’s within your power, be as realistic as possible about the amount of time it takes to do things. If you are juggling several projects, look to see how much time they may take across days/weeks/months. For instance if you are simultaneously working on three projects that take up about 60 hours a week it might be unwise to add additional projects onto your plate unless you can postpone something, spread something out over a longer period of time, delegate action steps, or outsource some task. Keeping a calendar of your artistic obligations and important action items leading up to due dates can be helpful. A calendar can be a good visual indicator of where and how you were spending your time.

But what if I don’t feel comfortable pushing back? Finding your agency is like a muscle, the more you flex it the stronger it will become.


Today’s strategy for white box recovery…


Like this, NO. It could be the conditions, a contract, the tasks, an ‘opportunity.’ If you don’t feel comfortable, feel spread too thin, not aligned with your mission, you can say NO, thank you.

An important thing about saying no, is knowing what you’re saying YES to.

If you’re saying NO to something not aligned with your mission or artistic intentions, you’re are saying YES to things that are. You can check in with your mission by looking at your artistic statement that will detail what you do, why you do it and possibly why people should care. Your artistic statement will detail your wildest imaginings or realistic projections. You’ll feel it in your gut. Need help creating an artistic statement? Look at examples, or ask an artistic friend.

Here are a couple of other ways saying no IS saying yes…

Saying no to overwhelm, saying yes to less stress. If you’re already juggling several projects, saying no to a new project may be advantageous for your sanity. You are saying no to additional work but yes to the work you’re currently engaged in.

Another example when saying no is saying yes is saying no to working for free, which means saying yes to personal investment or what can you afford. There may be an amazing project you want to do for free, but be mindful that in doing so you are allocating resources (aka your time) away from money making opportunities…and let’s face it, bills don’t get paid with FREE. Think of it this way, saying no to working for free is you choosing to say yes to allocating resources a.k.a. your time, energy, and artistic genius to projects that generate revenue. Sometimes artist make such good money on one project that they can afford to work for free on another project. You have to play this by ear on a case by case basis. It’s all a matter of what you can afford.

Our last say no for the day is… Saying no to unfavorable conditions which means saying yes to spaces where you are comfortable to grow and thrive. Unfavorable conditions many include spaces taut with verbally abusive directors, collaborators, or community members. It could also refer to other unfavorable work conditions that make it impossible for you to safely and efficiently execute your artistic practice with integrity. Saying no to the unfavorable conditions helps you recognize spaces that are more aligned with what you need to produce your best work.


Today’s strategy for white box recovery…


Don’t be afraid to expand
Be small for no one
Feel your light
From your corridor on the sidewalk, spot on the train, to access to resources
Claim your space

Well how do I claim space without being obnoxious?

Check in with people you trust to be honest with you and check you if your space claiming becomes toxic.

I reached out to a sample group to inquire how you claim your right to space and here’s what some of you said…

I don’t apologize for being or negate my worth with phrases like: sorry i’m in the way or this may be dumb but…

I try not to remain silent out of fear of looking stupid or because I feel I can’t provide a worthy contribution.

As a woman, I don’t move out the way on the sidewalk for white men or make myself small for their right of way. I claim my space.

I play my music in white spaces. Specifically trap and hood music in spaces where it isn’t allowed.

I remember that my life matters, my right to space, respect, compassion, love, and abundance matters.

To these examples and more, I say go gettem you space claimers!

That’s all for now! Thank you for tuning into WHITE BOX RECOVERY.
And now you. How do you ________?

Disclaimer: These strategies have not been thoroughly tested. These strategies are suggestions. If you feel you are in immediate assistance of white box recovery, please contact your nearest radical, woke, liberated, Black friend or family member.

About the Author: Melanie Greene
About the Editor: Paloma McGregor