The Oude Kerk against racism

Marian Cousijn Nieuws

Amsterdam, June 6, 2020

Dear visitor, artist, neighbor, churchgoer and person involved,

Oude Kerk is in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and with black artists, colleagues, friends and others in the Black community. We share the outrage at the systemic and institutional racism, inequality and violence that permeates everyday life in the United States and around the world. This pandemic painfully exposes racism. We light candles daily to commemorate the lost lives: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jamel Floyd, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, Ahmaud Arber, Mitch Henriquez (2015, Den Haag), Tomy Holten (2020, Zwolle) and many, many more.

Protest has historically been an essential tool in the fight for human rights. We support everyone who has made their voice heard online, on the Dam and in conversations with the other. As a predominantly white organization, both historically and today, we promise to ensure that this is not the future of the Oude Kerk. We are going to expand our conversations and programs about racism, colonialism and inequality to hold ourselves accountable for our share in diversity, equality, accessibility, representation and inclusion. These conversations are driven by voices throughout the organization, near and far beyond. These form a sustainable, permanent and transparent part of our work in the Oude Kerk.

We are aware that the history of Oude Kerk is also connected with that of slavery. People are buried and venerated here, some of them have committed wrongdoings against black people. We see that this history has so far not come to light sufficiently, and in 2012 we therefore opted for an open (art) history to which pages can be added. Also forgotten, painful and silent pages.

We have a clear and fair step-by-step plan in which we ensure that in a year’s time we will be the optimally inclusive, diverse organization that we envisaged seven years ago. We come from far, and there is still a long way to go. We must be ambitious to embody the structural change we want to see in the (art) world. We commit here and now to put our words into action. We recognize that transparency must be a sustainable and concerted effort. We will keep you informed of the progress, development and decisiveness we want to show in this area. We ask you to speak to us about our behavior and our statements if this does not fit in with the above ambition.


Jacqueline Grandjean