On June 6, former faculty of the Joy of Motion Dance Center (JOMDC), a dance studio with several locations around the District–– including one housed within the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street between 13th and 14th Streets NE– wrote a poignant letter demanding that the Board of Directors address systemic problems within. They originally published this letter on Facebook, but approached me to share it on here and reach our readership. They’ve also started a petition to remove the board of directors of JOMDC on Change.org, which you can read and sign here. To date, the undersigned have yet to receive a response. I have reached out to one of the interim executive directors, Krystal Odom, for comment on the letter, and will update this post when I hear back from her. ––Maria Helena Carey
We, the former faculty of Joy Motion Dance Center, are writing to share our
experiences at JOMDC. As a collective staff and individually, we worked
tirelessly to provide the best education and experiences possible for our
students each and every day. As outlined in JOMDC’s mission, it is our goal to create and grow a thriving, creative community that celebrates its diversity through dance and a place where dance is for everyone.
However, there are a number of incidents (both past and present) that are in direct conflict with the stated mission. They reveal and describe an organization that is marked by deliberate discrimination; unabashed racism; outward contempt; exceptionally poor leadership; and an overall lack of respect for the students, faculty, staff, and community. The silence of the Board of Directors of JOMDC over this past week affirms that they are
complicit in condoning these behaviors and it is a silence that is deafening.
We have seen and experienced racial discrimination, where members of faculty were reprimanded for “music choices that were too ethnic,”
students referred to as “ghetto,” and a systematic, purposeful, and overt efforts to fire and replace instructors of color. Many of these instances involve one faculty member who also holds a leadership role at JOMDC. Additionally, we have seen faculty voices silenced as anyone who spoke up or expressed an opinion about programming, treatment of staff, or studio policies was quieted, reprimanded, or removed by JOMDC leadership.
These are just a few examples that we, the former faculty, brought to the
Board of Directors, Executive Director and leadership staff on April 4th, 2020. While JOMDC hired a legal team to defend themselves, they have yet to address the decades-long systemic issues facing the organization. The Board of Directors has not communicated with the former faculty regarding the detailed status of this investigation, providing only a message referencing their lawyer’s efforts to hear “our perspectives,” a clear indication that the Board is not willing to act at this time.
The DMV performing arts community, including many former faculty, came
together on Blackout Tuesday and subsequent days within the last week to
share messages of support, listen, learn, educate, promote growth and outline
actions to proactively address our country’s longstanding problem with
institutionalized racism and race relations. JOMDC posted a superficial
“blackout” picture, and just yesterday shared a late, albeit nicely written
message that does not align with their actions. The Board of Directors
communicated NOTHING to the former faculty in support of Black Lives
Matter, nor did they provide tangible plans to cultivate change. The Executive
Director put out a social media statement which skirted the issues at hand and does not address the concerns of the community. We will no longer allow JOMDC to pick and choose when to engage on issues of diversity and social justice on its terms and within its comfort zone. It is clear that JOMDC is complicit in supporting racism and discrimination. The Board of
Directors has shown that as an organization, JOMDC does not truly stand
with Black Lives Matter and does not support faculty, staff, students, and
We asked that JOMDC Board of Directors act immediately on the following:
● Remove the director in question from any role, formal or informal,
● Publicly share Board’s Articles of Incorporation and By-laws, and each
Board member’s biography, role, credentials and tenure
● Create a transparent process for faculty and staff to engage and
communicate with the Board, including an option for public meetings
and/or publicly available minutes from Board meetings
● Practice equity in hiring, pay, and treatment for people of color
● Formally include faculty (and former faculty) in the reopening
discussion and future decisions of the organization
● Offer all former faculty the option to return to their previous position at
To date, we have not received an adequate response from the Board of
Directors at JOMDC and can wait no longer. We ask that you and the
community stand with us in adding your name as a supporter, sharing this
post, and reaching out to JOMDC directly. We will no longer tolerate Joy of
Motion Dance Center masquerading and misrepresenting itself as an
organization that is fair, just, and equitable — while soliciting community
support and financial contributions.