Black Second City Performers and Alums Demand Change in Open Letter

The Second City. Photo: Management/Trip Advisor

Three days after Second City CEO Andrew Alexander stepped down from his position and called his inability to address the theater’s institutionalized racism “one of the great failures of my life,” a group of black Second City staffers, performers, and alums have banded together to hold the improv institution accountable going forward. On Monday afternoon, the group — which includes Late Night’s Amber Ruffin, Saturday Night Live’s Chris Redd, A Black Lady Sketch Show’s Ashley Nicole Black, and Detroiters’ Sam Richardson — shared an open letter on Twitter addressed to the Second City, in which the group states that the “erasure, racial discrimination, manipulation, pay inequity, tokenism, monetization of Black culture, and trauma-enducing [sic] experiences of Black artists at The Second City will no longer be tolerated.” You can read the full letter here:

The letter calls for multiple investigations into the Second City staffers who have either been racist against black performers or are found guilty of sexual misconduct and sexual assault. The letter notes that Anthony LeBlanc, who serves as Second City’s interim executive producer (and the theater’s first black EP) following Alexander’s resignation, has been put in a position the group of alums describes as “integration into a burning house,” so they are also calling for multiple changes to help guide the theater moving forward, including the hiring of an independent HR firm, an outside BIPOC-owned diversity and inclusion firm, and more staffer and student support in place for a new and BIPOC executive producer. “As Black alumni and current employees, we feel it is our responsibility to try to keep our brothers and sisters safe,” the letter concludes. “You use our names to market your business, however we cannot in good conscience recommend The Second City as an effective place for Black comedy to thrive.”

Second City’s current reckoning first unfolded after the theater tweeted a Black Lives Matter message of support on May 31, which said, “To say nothing is to be complicit. Black lives, stories, art, and souls matter.” The tweet prompted a widely circulated Twitter thread in response on June 4 by alum and Brooklyn Nine-Nine writer Dewayne Perkins, who shared multiple experiences he had over the years with the theater’s culture of racism. Perkins’s thread inspired other Second City performers and alums to share experiences of their own, which ultimately led to Alexander’s announcement of his departure on June 5. The theater has yet to comment on the open letter, but the group of performers and alums are demanding a response within 72 hours.

Black Second City Performers Demand Change in Open Letter