8 posts categorized "Racial Equity"

Cities Are Raising the Bar and Building Beloved Communities Where Black Men and Boys Can Thrive

February 16, 2018

Cbma_promise_of_placeTo build beloved communities across America where black men and boys are healthy, thriving, and able to achieve their fullest potential — that is the Campaign for Black Male Achievement's (CBMA) core mission and rallying cry.

CBMA's work is driven by the unwavering belief that black men and boys are assets to our communities and our country, that they possess untapped potential and brilliance, and that they thrive when given opportunities to succeed. We cannot truly prosper as a nation when any group is left behind and forced to exist on the fringes of society. The well-being of black men and boys is directly connected to the well-being and strength of our families, communities, and nation as a whole.

Over the past decade, CBMA has supported leaders in cities across the United States who are working to accelerate positive life outcomes for black men and boys and whose efforts are moving the needle in measurable ways. To chart and track the progress happening in these cities, in 2015 CBMA developed the Black Male Achievement (BMA) City Index, which scores cities based on their level of engagement with and investment in black men and boys. In conjunction with the new index, we released Promise of Place, a first-of-its-kind report series that assessed commitments and targeted initiatives across fifty cities focused on supporting black men and boys. A few weeks ago, we released a follow-up report, Promise of Place: Building Beloved Communities for Black Men and Boys, that explores whether those cities are keeping their promises. Encouragingly, we have found that most cities have in fact increased their investments and actions in support of black men and boys.

The new Promise of Place report finds that, since 2015, 62 percent of the cities included in the index have ramped up their efforts to support black males across a variety of focus areas and needs, with scores based on five key indicators: demographic mix, commitment to black men and boys, presence of national initiatives supporting black men and boys, targeted funding supporting black men and boys, and CBMA membership. Detroit and Washington, D.C., remain the two highest scoring cities, each with a score of 95, while Jackson (Mississippi), Seattle (Washington), Omaha (Nebraska), and Mobile (Alabama) saw the greatest improvements in their scores. Cities not captured in the first report — including Denver and Yonkers, New York — have since become highly engaged in leading black male achievement efforts.

To be clear, the BMA City Index is not a ranking of which cities are doing the best with respect to this work. Rather, it is meant to serve as a starting point to see what commitments and engagements cities are making to black men and boys. It is imperative that city and community leaders hold their cities accountable to these commitments and continue to collaborate on measuring the impact of their efforts.

Despite this progress, however, we still see a continued need for greater investment in black male achievement. As noted in the report, education is just one area of need: 25 percent of African-American children do not graduate from high school on time, compared with the national average of 17 percent. Similarly, the high school graduation rate for black males is 59 percent, compared with 65 percent for Latino males and 80 percent for white males.

In recent years, we have also seen the national discourse become increasingly divided along lines of race, social justice, and equity. In addition to the continued systemic violence against black men, women, children, and communities, we have witnessed tragedies in cities such as Charleston, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis, as well as an increase in hate crimes targeting both African-American and undocumented communities.

Still, there is good news when we look at how mayors and other city and community leaders have stepped up to address the challenges faced by black men and boys. The new edition of Promise of Place finds that even as support at the national level is being eliminated or scaled back, cities are leading the way in deepening and expanding programs and policies that help everyone, including black men and boys.

Ten years into our mission, CBMA likewise is deepening its commitment to the black male achievement movement and to helping all black males achieve their full potential. While we are ready to work at the national level to bring needed investments to scale, we are focused on where we know we can make the most difference — elevating local leaders and hometown heroes who are driving this important work forward in our cities. We are thrilled to be able to highlight these leaders and their dedicated work. Our hope is that the report series and BMA City Index will serve as a roadmap for cities, stakeholders, and all those who are interested in advancing black male achievement.

Sheba_rogers_for_philantopicSheba Rogers is a Promise of Place program manager for the Campaign for Black Male Achievement and co-author of the second edition of Promise of Place. A native of Detroit, she helps manage CBMA's Promise of Place city strategy and supports CBMA's High School Excellence and Black Male Achievement engagement activities.

What’s New at Foundation Center (February)

February 13, 2018

FC_logoLast month, we launched this monthly series as a way to keep you posted on what we at Foundation Center are learning, where we're speaking, what data we're collecting, and how you can contribute to that story. And while athletes from around the world are slipping, sliding, and jumping their way to glory in South Korea, we've been hard at work bringing data and knowledge to the fore for philanthropy globally. Here's the latest:

Projects Launched

  • Our Advancing Human Rights platform was updated with new trends data, revealing a 45 percent increase in human rights funding worldwide between 2011 and 2015, from $1.4 billion to more than $2 billion. In partnership with the Human Right Funders Network, we began to map the landscape of human rights grantmaking in 2010, which led to this first-ever five-year analysis. In addition to the site update, we also launched a blog series featuring human rights funders who provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse into key trends related to their areas of focus. And we created an infographic that distills the key findings from the analysis.

Content Published

What We're Excited About

  • We are a founding partner of the first U.S.-based Opportunity Collaboration Conference, taking place in Florida in May.
  • We answered nearly 900 questions about nonprofit management and the social sector more broadly through our online chat service in January.
  • We're giving GrantSpace — our website geared to grant seekers — a makeover so it's simpler to find what you're looking for. Keep your eyes peeled for the new site in April.
  • Our revamped custom training program for grantseekers uses in-person and online tools to connect participants in meaningful ways and promote concrete outcomes. Through assignments, peer review, expert coaching, and workshops, you'll be supported from start to finish. Email our training team at fctraining@foundationcenter.org for more information.
  • A soon-to-be-released GrantCraft Leadership Series paper by Barbara Chow focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy.

Projects in the Pipeline

  • In partnership with Sustain Arts and Audience Architects, a new report mapping the dance ecosystem in the Chicago area
  • In partnership with the Council on Foundations, a report on international grantmaking by U.S.-based foundations

For more on these projects or how to work with us, send us an email.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be speaking at these upcoming events:

Our staff will be attending and/or exhibiting at these events:

Data Spotlight

  • 328,486 new grants added to Foundation Maps since January 1, of which 4,045 were made to 2,591 organizations outside the U.S.
  • New data sharing partners: Austin Family Foundation, Charities Aid Foundation of America, ClimateWorks Foundation, Laffey-McHugh Foundation.

Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email! I'll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

A Conversation With Kavitha Mediratta, Executive Director, Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity

February 09, 2018

Chattel slavery — a practice (and later institution) in which enslaved Africans and African Americans were bought, sold, or traded as property at the whim of their "owners" — was common in British America from the earliest colonial days. Gaining a foothold in the tobacco country of Virginia and Maryland in the seventeenth century and spreading north and south from there, it was well established in the mid-Atlantic and South by the time of independence, reinforced, as historian Ira Berlin writes, by a regime of violence that was "systemic and relentless; the planters’ hegemony required that slaves stand in awe of their owners. Although they preferred obedience to be given rather than taken, planters understood that without a monopoly of firepower and a willingness to employ terror, plantation slavery would not long survive."

The violence employed by the slaveholding class to protect and extend its authority was, as Berlin notes, buttressed by special judicial codes, the courts (including the Supreme Court), and the U.S. Constitution itself. As the institution grew in scale and scope in the nineteenth century, driven in part by the invention of the cotton gin, which greatly boosted the profitability of cotton as a crop, and the outlawing of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the slaveholding class stepped up its efforts to promote ideologies that justified the institution’s existence — as well as the brutality and means, judicial and extra-judicial, used to maintain it.

While these explicitly racist attitudes were, as Eric Eustace Williams has argued, a consequence of slavery rather than its cause, their regrettable persistence has caused incalculable damage to American society, infected countries such as South Africa — which continues to struggle with its own history of racial apartheid — and even today divide Americans against each other. Indeed, whether America ever comes to grips with the pernicious legacy of slavery remains an open question.

Recently, PND spoke with Kavitha Mediratta, founding executive director of Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity, a ten-year, $60 million initiative launched by Atlantic Philanthropies, about that question and what her program is doing to support creative leaders dedicated to dismantling anti-black racism in both the United States and South Africa.

Mediratta previously served as chief strategy advisor for equity initiatives and human capital development at Atlantic and before that led the education program at the New York Community Trust and directed school reform programs at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and the Institute for Education and Social Policy at New York University. She has, in addition, written extensively on race and educational opportunity in the U.S., with a focus on inequalities in school discipline, and has taught in elementary and middle schools in New Jersey, Chicago, and India.

Headshot_kavitha_medirattaPhilanthropy News Digest: How did you get into philanthropy and racial equity work?

Kavitha Mediratta: Well, actually, racial equity work is what led me into philanthropy. I came to the United States with my parents, who are Indian, when I was three, and we settled in a community on Long Island where we were pretty isolated. This was in the 1970s, and we thought America's days as a segregated society were behind it, but that's not really how it was on Long Island when I was growing up, and from an early age I was exposed to some of the contradictions between the idea of America as a place of opportunity for all people, and the way in which black people in America and others who are seen as different often are treated.

As a result, I became interested in racial equity pretty early on. I worked as a teacher and then as an organizer and policy analyst before ending up doing a lot of work with parents and high school students to improve public schools, which I saw as a key locus of opportunity for young people of color but that too often failed to deliver on those opportunities to help children realize their full potential. And it's really the work I did with young people that brought me to philanthropy, and Atlantic [Philanthropies], which had long supported people of color who were working to reform public education, and public institutions more broadly, in America.

PND: What are we talking about when we talk about racial equity? Do you have a definition that informs your day-to-day work?

KM: For us, racial equity is about creating a society in which opportunities and outcomes for people are not defined on the basis of racial categories. But we go a little bit further than equity, in that we talk about dismantling anti-black racism, aka white supremacy, as an important step toward building a truly just and inclusive society. And what we mean by a just and inclusive society is a world in which everyone has the opportun­ities they need not only to thrive, but to be seen fully for who they are, which is an important thing, since, at the moment, only some people in America are seen fully. The question is, How can we build a world in which all people are seen fully for who and what they are, and who are treated with the dignity, respect, and right to self-determination that all members of our national and global community deserve?

PND: Is racial equity solely about color, or is it also about power and privilege and the way both are distri­buted in society?

KM: It is absolutely about power and privilege in society. Color is just one form of exclusion, one form of what John Powell calls "othering," that we do when defining who belongs and who doesn’t. Gender is another, and so is sexual orientation and religion and disability — there are so many different ways to deny people opportunities and justice and being seen for who they are as full human beings. So, our work uses race as one lens on the larger question of what it truly means to build a just and inclusive society. And it absolutely does involve power and privilege and recognizing that we're not talking about just switching who is on top but asking what we need to do to create a world in which opportunities and resources are distributed more fairly and equitably.

You know, I have conver­sa­tions with white people who express concern that we're moving to a world in which they will be discriminated against. And I tell them that it’s not a zero-sum game. Instead, they need to think of American society as a hundred-meter dash where some people, white people, get to start at the fifty-meter mark. All we're saying is that everyone should start from the same starting line. And that means people have to be aware of the privileges they have and be willing to extend those privileges to others.

The other issue that white people sometimes struggle with is understanding that racism and other forms of discrimination operate structurally. In our society, people often conflate racism with individual forms of bias and they miss the way in which racialized or genderized or heteronormative processes function systematically in our society to shape the opportunities and life trajectories of people, and also how these processes exist in a self-protective way to maintain the power and privilege of dominant groups. We see this shape-shifting phenomenon in almost every arena of public life. Look at schools: the desegregation efforts of the 1970s gave rise to in-school tracking that shunted black students into impoverished classroom settings, which in turn preserved white privilege despite efforts to disrupt it.

PND: If we've learned anything over the last year, it's that a lot of people with power and privilege aren't that interested in sharing it. Should we be surprised by that?

KM: No, I don't think we should be surprised. But I also don't think we should assume that people with power and privilege have no interest in sharing it. I think that's true for some people, certainly, but others are truly unaware of the power and privilege they have. They've moved through the world thinking of themselves as individuals who have succeeded on their own merit and are aghast at the idea that they may be complicit in a system that perpetuates discrimination against other people, and they want to do something about that.

It's important for us to bring some nuance to this conversation and understand that, while there are many people who have power who don’t want to share it, there are others who truly believe in the possibility of a just and equitable world and want to be part of creating such a world. So the question is, How do we tap into those people and enlist them as allies in the struggle and help them think about what they can do from their positions of power and privilege to educate others and to help us create new structures that uphold our values of justice, equity, inclusion, compassion, and the commitment to valuing people for the fullness of who they are? What do those new systems look like, at the base level of governmental and economic structures? Cultural narratives? Policy, practice? And for those who don't want to share their power and privilege, it becomes a question of what can we do to help create the conditions in which they see it in their own best interests to do so and to understand the relationship between the well-being of others and their own well-being.

PND: Let's talk about your program, Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity. What was the genesis of the program, and how did you become involved?

KM: I was chief strategy officer at Atlantic Philanthropies when the program was conceived. I had come to Atlantic from grassroots organizing work to work on school-to-prison pipeline issues, which at their core are about the racial injustice suffered by young people of color across the country. Atlantic is a limited-life foundation, as you know, and leadership was thinking deeply about how to end its work in a way that further advanced the work of people around the globe working for equity and inclusion. And one of the things they came up with was a strategy for supporting groups of leaders working around pressing social issues in countries where, historically, Atlantic had been engaged as a grantmaker. The Fellows for Racial Equity was part of that strategy. From the beginning, the program's focus was on the U.S. and South Africa, two countries where Atlantic has a long history of grantmaking, and it was developed with an understanding that issues of structural racism and inequality are not unique to the U.S. or South Africa but are actually global issues, and that by focusing on these two countries, the program might be able to contribute to a global shift in attitudes with respect to these issues, in addition to driving change in the two countries.

PND: The program just named its first cohort of fellows, and, as you mentioned, they hail from both the U.S. and South Africa. What criteria did you use in selecting the first group of fellows?

KM: First, let me say that this group of fellows is quite diverse. The majority of them are in their thirties, but they range in age from their twenties all the way up to sixty. When selecting them, we were looking for people who embody effective leadership and are working to dismantle anti-black racism and white supremacy. In addition to possessing an awareness of issues of racial exclusion, we also looked for a vision that understood the relationship between racialized forms of oppression and other types of exclu­sion, including those having to do with gender and gender identity, disability, religion, and so on.

In short, we were looking for people who were very thoughtful about what it means — and is required — to build a just and inclusive world. Some of them are artists, some are grassroots activists, some of them are lawyers, a few are academics, but all are on their own profes­sion­al journey and, for the most part, are sort of mid-career in the work they are doing. But at the same time they are looking to grow and develop and learn from other people that are working to make change happen.

One of the things we talk a lot about in AFRE is creating a program that provides an experience that supports fellows learning from other people, in other sectors, working on other issues, in other regions. A program that allows fellows to step back from their day-to-day work and develop a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view of the problem of racial exclusion and the things that can be done to address structural racism in our society. All our fellows bring a history and self-awareness to their work, but they’re also interested in learning and growing and developing their tools. And they want a space where they can get out of their own work silos, whether they're a lawyer working on criminal justice or an activist working on education, and spend time in a setting where they can learn from others and think about what more can be done to dismantle anti-black racism and white supremacy.

PND: Is AFRE a learning community?

KM: It is a learning community, but at the same time we have some goals for the program and for our fellows. We want them to deepen their understanding of structural racism, particularly in thinking about how it manifests itself in emerging global problems — for example in climate change, or the growing dominance of the tech sector, or the emergence of the surveillance state. How does it manifest itself in the way work is structured in the twenty-first century, both in the U.S. and in South Africa? We want our fellows to expand their understanding of these and other issues and, at the same time, expand the repertoire of strategies and tactics they're able to bring to bear on their own work. At the end of the day, it's really about giving them a broader set of tools they can use in their work.

The other thing our program focuses on is supporting fellows in their individual leadership trajectories. In other words, what does it mean to lead from your individual values and vision? So many times we see leaders running organizations in ways that are not equitable and that run counter to what they actually believe. Some­times they're aware of that, and sometimes they’re not. Part of what we're trying to do is to ask, How can you be the leader you want to be and that the world needs now? And we think that means being really clear about what your values are and developing the skills needed to build organizations and create interventions that reflect those values.

PND: Tell us about a couple of your fellows and the work they’re doing.

KM: Sure. We have a young man from South Africa named Brian Kamanzi who is black and Indian; his family has been there a long time. Brian went to the University of Cape Town to get a degree in engineering and is now working on his master’s, and at school he became involved in the #FeesMustFall movement, which is a student protest movement that spread across the country in 2015 in response to an increase in university fees. It's been twenty years since the end of apartheid in South Africa, and who is it that is able to access higher education there? The reality is that it's still very, very diffi­cult for black South Africans and South Africans of color to afford the costs associated with an advanced degree.

So, Brian became involved in the movement, challenging the history of structural racism in South Africa and the problems the country faces today. He has been thinking about how to bring his en­gineering training to bear on the unequal distribution of economic resources in the country, which led him to renewable energy models and how they might be used in a redistributive way to address inequality in South Africa.

Here in the U.S., Rasheedah Phillips, a lawyer from Philadelphia, has been doing a lot of work with black communities around dis­placement caused by gentrification and also working with members of those communities on issues of sexual assault and violence and looking at many of the structural issues and solutions to those problems.

She's very interested in the way in which policy and regulations frequently disadvantage black communities by impos­ing particular obstacles, for example a certain window of time in which you have to respond to a court order, or the imposition of fines and fees on defendants who cannot afford them, and other practices and policies that serve to disempower poor people who have fewer re­sources to bear in complying with the institutional demands of the court system, or any other system, for that matter. She is both supporting individuals who are trying to advocate on their own behalf but also looking at some of the ways policy could be changed to address both the constraints on and rights of black communities. She's done a lot of thinking and writing about the ways in which institutional cultures replicate particular patterns of disempowerment for black commun­ities and other communities of color.

PND:  What kinds of things are you planning over the next year to bring fellows together to facilitate shared learning and help them disseminate their work to a broader audience?

KM: We have eighteen fellows from the U.S. and eleven from South Africa, and we talk all the time about them belonging to a single cohort that extends across two nations. The first time we bring them together, they'll be introduced to the program and learn about each others' work. Later, all of them will spend some time in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, where they will learn about the important place of those two cities in the racial history of the United States and think about the ways in which that history has defined economic structures and opportunities, social relations, and political representation in those two communities, as well as in Alabama and the country more generally.

Obviously, the fellows here from the U.S. working on racial equity issues are more familiar with the history of slavery, of Reconstruction and Jim Crow and so on, but at the same time we want to use the convenings in Selma and Montgomery as an opportunity to build greater understanding among our South African fellows of America's racial history and to unpack the ways in which structural racism operates across different systems, regardless of country.

So, they will come together for that, and then they will spend time together in South Africa, looking at the evolution of competing narratives about what South Africa is, and the trajectory of political and economic activity from colonialism to apartheid and how race and structural inequality are playing out in South Africa today.

We think of the fellowship as an interactive, generative experience where fellows spend a fair amount of time together and explore a particular context through the eyes of someone who may not know that history as well, which in turn helps them think about what they might do differently.

PND: Will there be a second and third cohort of fellows?

KM: Right now, AFRE is conceived as a ten-year program, with a new cohort every year. This is the first of ten. Once the fellows go through what is essentially a one-year program of active learning sessions, they'll become senior fellows and will be part of a network that we hope continues to exist long after the end of the program. It will be a network where fellows remain connected and have oppor­tunities to get together and continue to think about what it is that they can be doing in their particular communities and countries to advance change. They'll also have opportunities to secure additional resources in the form of seed funding for their programs and to interact with fellows who are part of the larger global Atlantic Fellows network. And, of course, every year the network will get larger as more and more fellows are added, so that eventually we’re hoping there will be at least three hundred and fifty AFRE fellows, from both the U.S. and South Africa, in the larger Atlantic network.

PND: Do you have any advice for funders who are thinking about getting involved in racial equity work?

KM: First, I think people need to be aware that we're in a moment here in the United States where talking about issues of race and equity increasingly are seen as a form of identity politics. That said, it's im­portant for funders to stay the course and support grantees who are raising these issues, and to create space for grantees willing to take on these issues, even at the risk of being seen by some as acting politically or being divisive.

The second is to note that there's an assumption when we talk about issues of racial inequality and racial justice that we’re talking about an issue of concern only to black people. One of the things that's been really important for us at AFRE is to have a racially and ethnically diverse cohort of fellows. And that’s because we do not think that dismantling anti-black racism is the pro­vince or responsibility of black people only; this is something all of us need to be engaged in, because anti-black racism affects all of us. It affects us personally, in a variety of ways, whether we're a person of color whose opportunities and life trajectory have been shaped by racism, or a white person who has grown up in a society where racism and discrimination were the norm. And we think it's really important that funders, consciously and deliberately, are doing what they can to create spaces for grantees in diverse communities — black communities and white communities and Latino communities and Asian communities — to tackle these issues and help people understand the connections between racial equity and the work they do.

PND: What about ordinary Americans, people who don't live on one of the two coasts or in a city and who may be think­ing, What does all this have to do with me? I wish everyone the best, but it's really not something I need to worry about.

KM: Well, I certainly hope that the work of our fellows, and the support of funders like Atlantic and Kellogg and Ford and the Hazen Foundation and so many others, is raising the visi­bility and lifting up another set of stories about what it means to be American in ways that are contributing to ordinary Americans’ knowledge of the history of this country and why that history has to be acknowledged. For much of my life, the narratives put out by television and the movies about what it meant to be American almost always were driven by a limited range of experiences, mostly white experiences. But today, even with the rise of white nationalist sentiment, we're seeing and hearing more stories about other people, a whole diverse range of people, that speak to the culture as it is, and about our complicated history around issues of race, and about what it means to be American in the twenty-first century.

And I truly hope that by sharing those stories, by advancing a host of reforms to our public institutions, whether the justice system, education systems, or other systems, we get the attention of people who have never thought about these issues before and that they start to ask themselves, How am I connected to this, and what can I do? Earlier you asked me about power and privilege and the fact that a lot of people who have both are reluctant to give them up, which is all too true. But there are people — people with power and privilege, and people with neither — who truly do want to make this world a better place for others. And I hope our work, and the work of others, taps into that sentiment and helps motivate people to support efforts to build a more inclusive and racially equitable society. Maybe our work will inspire them to read and educate themselves a little bit more about the struggles of different communities. Maybe they'll be more willing to open themselves up to stories that are different than theirs and accept, if not embrace, those stories as important and valuable. That's my hope.

— Mitch Nauffts

Newsmaker: Fred Blackwell, CEO, The San Francisco Foundation

January 31, 2018

Fred Blackwell joined The San Francisco Foundation, one of the largest community foundations in the United States, as CEO in 2014. An Oakland native, he previously had served as interim administrator and assistant administrator for the city, led the San Francisco Mayor's Office of Community Development and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency; and directed the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Making Connections Initiative in Oakland.

In June 2016, TSFF announced a new commitment to racial and economic equity in the Bay Area. PND spoke with Blackwell about the foundation's racial equity lens, movement building in the wake of the 2016 elections and Charlottesville, and what it means for philanthropic organizations to speak out, step up, and actually try to achieve racial equity.

Fred_blackwellPhilanthropy News Digest: How do you define "racial equity"?

Fred Blackwell: I define it as just and fair inclusion in a society where everyone can participate, prosper, and thrive, regardless of their race or where they live or their family's economic status or any other defining characteristic. Obviously, the way we think about equity is colored by our particular focus on the Bay Area — a place where there is tremendous opportunity and prosperity being generated, but also where access to those opportunities is limited for many people. So from an institutional point of view, we need to answer the question: How do we make sure that the region prospers in a way that the rising tide lifts all boats?

PND: When you stepped into the top job at TSFF in 2014, the foundation already had a lengthy history of social justice work. How did the decision to focus the foundation's grantmaking on racial and economic equity come about?

FB: Shortly after I came to the foundation, we conducted a listening tour of the Bay Area. As part of that listening tour, we held what we called our VOICE: Bay Area sessions — a series of large public meetings in seven diverse low-income communities across the region. In addition, we held consultative sessions, half-day meetings with practitioners, policy people, and thought leaders to talk about trends, both positive and negative, they were seeing in the region and how those trends were affecting people. We did a lot of data collection and analysis. And the data all pointed in the same direction: the need for greater levels of inclusion here in the Bay Area. The fact that race and economic status and geography had predictive power over where people were headed and what they could accomplish concerned us, and it was important to try to respond to that.

There are two pieces of the foundation's history that we wanted to build on: one is the social justice orientation of our work, and the other is our regional footprint. We serve Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties. So in focusing on the equity issue, we're also thinking about it from a regional point of view. What makes the Bay Area unique is its diversity and prosperity, and yet we are a prime real-time example of the kinds of inequalities and inequities that you see on multiple levels across the country. It's important to us as a unit of analysis because equity and the issues that emanate from it — whether it's economic opportunity or housing or education or criminal justice or civic participation — none of those issues conform neatly to the boundaries of the various jurisdictions in the region. People may live in Oakland or San Francisco or Berkeley or Richmond, but they experience the Bay Area as a region.

What I think I brought to the foundation is a laser-like focus on the dimensions of social justice work with respect to racial and economic inclusion and equity — making sure that that "North Star" is something that is modeled at the top and cascades down through all levels of the organization. I would say that we are more explicit than we've been in the past about making equity the focus — not just in our grantmaking but also in how we work with donors, how we provide civic leadership in the region, and how we bring our voice to the table and those of our partners in order to make a difference. We view that North Star as guiding not only our programmatic work but everything we do here at the foundation.

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5 Questions for...Lateefah Simon, President, Akonadi Foundation

January 04, 2018

At 40, Lateefah Simon has spent more than half her life as a civil rights advocate and racial justice leader. She was a 17-year-old mother when she went to work for the Center for Young Women's Development and was just 19 when she became the organization's executive director. In the years that followed, she helped position the center as a national leader in the movement to empower young women of color — an achievement for which she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003. She later led the creation of San Francisco's first reentry services division, headed the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and served as a program director at the Rosenberg Foundation, where she helped launch the Leading Edge Fund in support of the next generation of progressive movement leaders in California.

In 2016, Simon became the second president of Akonadi Foundation, whose mission is "to eliminate structural racism that leads to inequity in the United States." PND spoke with her about the work required to build a movement focused on racial equity — and philanthropy's role in that effort.

Philanthropy News Digest: The Akonadi Foundation, which is headquartered in Oakland, is focused on "building a localized racial justice movement." Why is it important for the racial justice movement to act locally?

Headshot_lateefash_simon_2017Lateefah Simon: What those of us in philanthropy and those working on the ground doing movement-building work know is that many of the racialized policies that have divided communities, from juvenile justice to local policing to school policies, have taken place on the municipal level. We also know that our efforts have to be extremely strategic to undo these policies — for example, the disproportionate overuse of school suspensions and expulsions against black and brown students that has been standard policy for many, many years.

To create racial justice in our communities, we have to go deep — to the source, where the policies come from, and also to the culture. Our work is not just about going after and disrupting racist policy but also about ensuring that all communities of color are working together, understanding that one group's organizing, movement-building, and advocacy work will benefit other groups. If we're fighting for anti-gentrification policies in Chinatown, African-American and Latino communities are going to be able to use those efforts to inform their own organizing, and so on.

PND: The foundation takes an "ecosystem" approach to its grantmaking. What do you mean by ecosystem grantmaking, and why do you believe it's the right approach for your movement at this time?

LS: Five years ago, the Akonadi Foundation set out to envision what Oakland could look like in ten years. Oakland has been a cradle of social movements — and is best known, of course, as the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. There's a historical narrative here around race and the interconnectedness of people of color coming together to defeat horrific racist policies; it's our legacy. In our ambition to create a ten-year period of change, our thought was, even as a small foundation, we need to make grants that address the ecosystem in which "justice" is created and delivered. We know that here in Oakland, for example, we have a responsibility to fund base-building groups that are enlisting people willing to fight back, to fund groups that are going to craft policy prescriptions, and groups that will — when those campaigns have succeeded — ensure implementation of those prescriptions as well as follow-up advocacy and legal oversight of the policies.

And just as importantly, we know that if we are pushing communities to organize and fight campaigns, culture has to be at the center of this work; much of our cultural work as people of color is about staking claim to a city we helped build. So thinking about how change happens, about how the people of Oakland move toward justice — it's broad, and must be led by an "ecosystem" of grant partners who are in movement together.

In 2018, we're going to be engaging our grantees and having them give us a better idea of where we are. The world has completely changed in the last year. And because the world has changed, and the conditions of our city have changed, it's important for us to go back and look at our theory of change and redefine and reexamine how ecosystem grantmaking needs to work.

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The False Slogan of 'Right to Work': An Attack on Worker Freedom

December 18, 2017

NoRTW_buttonToday's economy is rigged against working families and in favor of the wealthy and the powerful. That's not by accident. CEOs and the politicians who do their bidding have written the rules that way, advancing their own interests at the expense of everyone else.

Now, they're trying to get the rigged system affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. In a few months, the justices will hear a case called Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which would make so-called "right-to-work" the law of the land in the public sector, threatening the freedom of working people to join together in strong unions.

The powerful backers in this case have made no secret about their true agenda. They have publicly said that they want to "defund and defang" unions like the one I lead. They know that unions level the economic playing field. They know that unions give working people the power in numbers to improve their lives and communities and negotiate a fair return on their work while keeping the greed of corporate special interests in check.

Union membership is especially important for people of color, historically providing them with a ladder to the middle class and helping them earn their fair share of the wealth and the value they generate. More than half of African-Americans make less than $15 per hour. But belonging to a union is likely to lead to a substantial pay raise and superior benefits. African-American union members earn 14.7 percent more than their non-union peers. The union advantage for Latinos is even greater: 21.8 percent.

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5 Questions for…Vanessa Daniel, Founder and Executive Director, Groundswell Fund

December 07, 2017


Groundswell Fund
 is the largest funder of the reproductive justice movement in the United States. In addition to its CatalystRapid Response, and Birth Justice funds, the organization created the Liberation Fund in the wake of the 2016 elections to support effective grassroots organizing efforts led by women and transgender people of color across the social justice sector. A joint project of the Groundswell Fund and the newly created 501(c)(4) Groundswell Action Fund, the Liberation Fund will announce inaugural grants next week to grassroots organizations selected with the help of women leaders of color, including Alicia Garza, Ai-Jen Poo, Mary Hooks, and Linda Sarsour. 

PND spoke with Vanessa Daniel, founder and executive director of the fund, about intersectionality in the context of reproductive justice and racial equity and her hopes for the Liberation Fund. Before founding the fund in 2010, Daniel worked in grassroots organizing, advocacy, and grantmaking at the Tides FoundationSEIU, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, and what is now Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation.

Philanthropy News Digest: You founded Groundswell Fund after working to advance LGBTQ rights as well as economic and environmental justice at various organizations. Why did you decide to focus on reproductive justice for women of color, low-income women, and transgender people?

Heashot_vanessa_danielVanessa Daniel: When I first learned about the reproductive justice (RJ) movement in 2005, I had been working in various social justice movements for ten years. The RJ movement had been founded a decade earlier by a group of black women and was on its way to becoming the largest force in the country in terms of engaging a multiracial base of women of color, low-income women, and LGBT people on reproductive issues and as grassroots organizers and activists. I was a young, twenty-something, queer, biracial woman of color from a working-class immigrant family on one side and raised by a second-wave white feminist single mother on the other.

I had, like many women of color, experienced what I lovingly refer to as a lot of bad "movement dates." Have you ever been on a date with someone who orders for you without asking what you want? Or people who talk about themselves the whole time without asking how your day was? Well, you can have the equivalent of that date with a social justice movement. It's not true for every organization, but for example, you have a lot of labor unions that invite women to the table but don't want to talk about reproductive issues, even though these issues are important to women. You have many immigrant rights groups that don't want to talk about LGBT rights, even though there are lots of LGBT people in the immigrant communities they are organizing. You have way too many white feminist organizations inviting women of color to the table and then not talking about race, even though racism is literally killing us. The reproductive justice movement was, quite simply, the best movement date I ever had, because it was the first time I had encountered a movement that didn't require me to leave any piece of myself or anyone I loved at the door in order to enter. I could be whole.

And here's why. There are three hallmarks of RJ: First, it's multi-issue. That means it says to people, yes, we are standing with you on the right to access abortion and contraception, but we are also standing with you to stop environmental pollution that is harming reproductive health; to stop mass incarceration and immigration detention and deportation that continues an ugly legacy of breaking up families of color that dates back to slavery and mission schools and immigration exclusion acts; to expand comprehensive sex ed in the public schools along with non-stigmatizing supports for young parents that don't shame and shut them out of their education; to expand access to birthing options like midwifery that are finally shifting racial disparities that have left black women four times more likely to die as a result of childbirth than white women in this country; to fight for LGBT rights. It's a holistic movement.

Second, it centers grassroots organizing as a strategy. It doesn't believe major social change trickles down from large organizations sitting "inside the beltway"; it believes it surges up from cities and states, from ordinary people holding their elected officials accountable in their home districts.

Third, it is a multiracial movement with significant leadership from women of color working alongside white women who are able to consider things through a racial justice lens. It is tactically impossible to move the needle on most social justice issues today without the leadership and engagement of communities of color, which, polls show us, vote in a more progressive direction down ballot on nearly every issue progressives care about.

The RJ movement exemplifies what it means to build a movement with the backbone to leave no one behind. And that, I believe, is the kind of movement that all social justice activists should be looking to build. RJ is shining a light on the path the larger progressive movement needs to walk in order to be successful.

PND: It's estimated that African-American women in the United States are three to four times more likely to die of childbirth-related complications than their white counterparts, while the infant mortality rate for babies of African-American mothers is more than twice that of babies of white mothers. What's behind these racial disparities?

VD: The data has perplexed many scientists, in part because when they control for education levels, economic status, diet and behavior, and other factors, the disparities still show up in the data. This means that middle-class, college-educated black women who take excellent care of their health are still dying at higher rates than low-income white women without a high school diploma. How does one explain that? There is a growing number of scientists, including epidemiologists who believe that racism itself is a major factor in these disparities. First, the racism and implicit bias of many medical practitioners often leads them to provide substandard care to women of color. Many studies back this up; one recent study, for example, shows that people of color, including children of color, are given significantly less pain medication than are white people.

Second, and very importantly, scientists are pointing to the impact that racism, experienced on a daily basis by people of color, has on the body. The midwifery and doula models of care we support are often run by women of color or by a multiracial staff that provides high-quality, culturally competent care. Our grantee Sacred Heart Birthplace in Espanola, New Mexico, has a 2 percent cesarean section rate, compared with a state average of 24 percent, and a 92 percent breastfeeding rate at six months post-delivery, compared with a state average of 26 percent. In Florida, our grantee Common Sense Childbirth has achieved a 0 percent preterm birth rate among black women, compared with the state average of 14.2 percent.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 28-29, 2017)

October 29, 2017

Tax_2Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Civic Tech

On the Getting Smart blog, Tom Vander Ark, former director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and author of Getting Smart: How Personal Digital Learning is Changing the World, highlights ten tech-driven developments (widespread unemployment, widening inequality, algorithmic bias, machine ethics, genome editing) that require decisions, sooner rather than later, we are not prepared to make.

In a new post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz wonders whether the social sector can "pre-emptively develop a set of guardrails for the application of new technologies so that predictable harm (at least) can be minimized or prevented?" 

Disaster Relief/Recovery

In Houston, the newly formed Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium is convening leading  researchers to compile, analyze, and share an array of scientifically-informed data about flooding risk and mitigation opportunities in the region. Three key stakeholders in the effort — Ann Stern, president and CEO of the Houston Endowment; Nancy Kinder, president of the Kinder Foundation; and Katherine Lorenz, president of the Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation — explain what the initiative hopes to accomplish.

Education

"It is the latest iteration for a philanthropy that has both had a significant influence on K-12 policy over its two-decades-long involvement in the sector — and drawn harsh criticism for pushing ideas that some see as technocratic." Education Week's Stephen Sawchuck examines what the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s recent strategy pivot and new investments in K-12 education signal for the field.

Giving

Donald Trump and his administration's policies appear to be behind a dramatic increase in giving to progress groups. Ben Paynter reports for Fast Company.

Forbes has published its annual list of the top givers in the U.S.

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