Anti-Racism Progress Report

In June of 2020, the Tenement Museum issued a statement committing ourselves and our institution to anti-racism work. Tasked to lead the effort to actualize these anti-racism commitments was the IDEA Council, an already existing body of Tenement Museum staff who had come together to bring forward institutional change related to issues of Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility.

The first step the IDEA Council took was to connect with leadership from the People of Color Caucus and the White Anti-Racist Allies Caucus, who were instrumental in the crafting of the commitments. For the past five years, the caucuses have taken the initiative, often voluntarily, to lead anti-racist work at the Museum, creating tremendous change. After an initial meeting, everyone in the institution was invited to be a part of this process. Because this is ongoing work, collaboration and connection across the Museum is essential. Comprised of staff across departments and management levels, the IDEA Council has expanded in size and is prioritizing projects and initiatives directly related to the anti-racism commitments. We have divided our efforts into four working groups: Equitable Hiring and Retention, Training and Resources, Community Relationships, and Accountability.

The IDEA Council is working to support the fulfillment of these commitments with urgency, sincerity, and intention.

Equitable Hiring and Retention

Equitable hiring and retention, as well as related efforts to diversify staff, are essential to an anti-racist work environment. In the past few years, individual departments within the Tenement Museum have taken crucial steps towards equitable hiring. However, these practices had not yet been adopted across the institution. Prior to the pandemic, the IDEA Council was working on a plan to begin this work Museum-wide, and the anti-racism statement put forward by the Museum renewed these efforts. Of the Museum staff who identified as BIPOC, about half were laid off this spring and summer when the Museum was forced to close due to the pandemic. This was a devastating loss, not only in the expertise and experience that staff brought to the institution, but also to many of the voices fighting for and building on these initiatives. Going forward, this working group will focus on the work of equitable hiring and retention in order to rebuild and strengthen our staff diversity and overall working environment for all employees – union and non-union, full-time and part-time.

Demographics of current staff, based on single selection categories in EEO-1 form completed upon hiring:

  • Asian: 7.14%
  • Black: 3.57%
  • Hispanic or Latino: 30.36%
  • Two or More Races: 1.79%
  • White: 57.14%


Our long-term goals are to increase staff diversity consistently over time, and strengthen practices that support employee retention focusing on transparency, performance reviews/training, benefits, community building, and recognition.

Training and Resources

The Museum’s anti-racism commitments call on us to adopt straightforward language about race and white supremacy with the aid of a language guide, and provide training for staff and board. In previous years, the Museum has held trainings that addressed race, identity, diversity, inclusion, and interpersonal communications. However, in almost every case, there was not sustained follow-up to continue the conversation to support their implementation into the Museum’s working culture. This Working Group will build a system to implement and sustain training and access to supportive resources necessary to be an anti-racist museum. Thus far we have:

  • Adopted an institutional language guide
  • Hosted trainings to support institution-wide implementation of the language guide
  • Started to compile resources on anti-racism, museums and equity, and scholarship by and about Black, Indigenous, and People of Color


The long-term goals of this Working Group is to ensuring we have a shared understanding of, and commitment to, anti-racism across all levels of the organization; to support the staff’s use of language by revising the language guide as new language comes into use and updating staff on a quarterly basis; and integrating training on anti-racism and language in the onboarding process with the Equitable Hiring and Retention Working Group.

Community Relationships

The Museum has established many long-standing formal and informal relationships with schools, cultural institutions, Lower East Side residents, community organizations, and local businesses. This work was beginning to take on a more intentional and formalized structure before the COVID-19 crisis interrupted those efforts. This type of connection-making allows our programming and staff to be more inclusive, strengthens our relationships with our neighbors, and helps identify alternatives to policing. To begin the work of cultivating local community relations, we have:  

  • Renewed our partnership with the American Indian Community House (AICH)exploring ways to collaborate on programs hat centers American Indian voices, histories and experiences, as well as shared use of virtual and physical space 
  • Reviewed our current strategies for calling 911 and engaging police 
  • Established a connection to a NYPD Neighborhood Coordinator to explore alternatives to policing  


The long-term goals of the Community Relations Working group are to establish a coalition of local settlement houses and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) organizations through which we create a regular series of low-cost and/or free accessible programming, develop comprehensive de-escalation training and new protocols for police involvement, and build relationships with with BIPOC scholars and communities to support the expansion of more inclusive and accessible program content. 


Accountability is an essential part of our work to ensure we are meeting the anti-racist commitments we made on June 12, 2020. In the past, our work with inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility was inconsistently shared both internally and externally, and the Accountability Working Group was created in order to help us to move towards our goals. Since its creation, the Accountability Working Group has:

  • Opened up the IDEA Council to anyone who wants to commit to the work  
  • Created an open digital workspace for any staff member who wants to explore and contribute the work we are doing 
  • Established a system for regular internal and external reporting 


The long-term goals of the Accountability Working Group are to maintain and improve reporting of all Working Groups, examine the barriers to internal accountability and work to eliminate them, and support the building of a culture of transparency, including involving the Board in accountability and anti-racism work.