13 posts categorized "9/11"

Fighting hate and racism, uplifiting our stories: A commentary by Anisha Singh

June 03, 2022

Sikh_family_GettyImages_kadmy-155656880As our nation continues to grieve for the victims of the May 14 terrorist attack in Buffalo, New York, we once again find ourselves painfully reminded of the ever-present threat that white supremacy poses to marginalized communities in the United States.

Our first responsibility is to center the pain the Black community is experiencing in this moment. At the same time, we must also recognize that the horrific ideology that underpinned this violence stems from a more expansive racism and anti-Semitism—the same toxic hate behind numerous deadly assaults in recent years, from Pittsburgh to Charlottesville and Oak Creek to El Paso. And as Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month draws to a close, the recognition of this far-reaching threat comes with a challenge to all communities of color: How do we balance the urgent need to fight against the hate that plagues our communities and the need to take the time and space to uplift and celebrate our unique stories, identities, and contributions to our country?

This question is at the forefront of my mind as I join the Sikh Coalition, the nation’s largest Sikh civil rights organization, as its new executive director. The Sikh Coalition was founded in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when Sikhs and other religious minorities found themselves facing unprecedented levels of hate violence in the wake of that national tragedy. Many Sikhs—members of the fifth largest organized faith tradition in the world—keep visible articles of faith, including turbans and unshorn beards, which some Americans began conflating with images of the Taliban. In the days, weeks, and months that followed, the Sikh Coalition emerged as a network of attorneys, advocates, and experts who stepped up to provide free aid to community members who had been subjected to hate crimes or workplace discrimination....

Read the full commentary by Anisha Singh, executive director of the Sikh Coalition

(Photo credit: Getty Images/kadmy)

'The best way to assist families with dignity and grace is to give them direct financial assistance': A Q&A with Allison Lutnick, Director of Disaster Relief Operations, Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund

September 13, 2021

Headshot_Allison_Lutnick_Cantor_Fitzgerald_Relief_Fund_2_croppedOn September 11, 2001, 658 Cantor Fitzgerald and sixty-one Eurobrokers employees lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund was founded on September 14 with a $1 million personal donation from Cantor Fitzgerald chairman and CEO Howard W. Lutnick, whose brother, Gary, was among those killed. The fund raised and distributed over $180 million for more than eight hundred families — including 932 children — of the victims of that tragedy; the fund has since expanded its focus and distributed $357 million to date in support of families impacted by acts of terrorism, emergencies, and natural disasters, as well as direct service charities and wounded service members.

Allison Lutnick, Howard Lutnick's wife, set up the Cantor Fitzgerald Crisis Center and ran support groups for the thirty-six Cantor women who were pregnant on 9/11 and the fiancées of employees who were killed. PND asked Lutnick, now the director of relief operations for the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, about the lessons of 9/11, the fund's evolution over the last two decades, its annual Charity Day event, and corporate partnerships. Here is an excerpt:

Philanthropy News Digest: What were the goals of the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund at the time of its inception, and how has it changed over time? 

Allison Lutnick: The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund (CFRF) was created within three days of 9/11 solely to help take care of the 658 Cantor families who had lost loved ones in the attack. We provided financial, emotional, and legal support to our families. Howard gave the families ten years of health insurance and 25 percent of the firm's profits for five years.

As time passed, the CFRF expanded its mission to include, among other things, providing direct financial assistance to military families and victims of natural disasters.  

We learned that the best way to assist other families with dignity and grace is to give them direct financial assistance. We also witnessed the resilience of young moms — we learned that in the face of tragedy, they have no choice but to raise themselves up and carry on for the sake of their children, to bring happiness into their lives despite loss and pain. So, we focus our resources on families with young children that are financially struggling as a result of a trauma in their life....

Read the full Q&A with Allison Lutnick.

'A roadmap for how to respond to and provide funding for addressing collective traumas': A commentary by Stephanie Berkowitz

September 09, 2021

Headshot_Stephanie_Berkowitz_2_NVFSTwenty years after 9/11: Prioritizing trauma-informed mental health care

Twenty years after the September 11 attacks, lessons from that experience continue to inform the most effective ways to provide mental health support to individuals, families, and communities in crisis. At the same time, new lessons have emerged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing demand for racial justice. Together, these insights provide a roadmap for how to respond to and provide funding for addressing collective traumas for families as diverse as refugees arriving in this country from Afghanistan to those displaced by hurricanes. 

In 2001, the Greater Washington Community Foundation tapped Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) to provide trauma recovery services to survivors of the attack on the Pentagon. The September 11 Survivors' Fund was intentionally set up to be flexible and broadly focused. While we provided services to survivors most obviously impacted — those who were physically injured in the attack — we also supported a flight attendant who lost colleagues on the plane that flew into the Pentagon, a firefighter who saw the unimaginable and chose to change professions, and anguished family members who lost loved ones, among others. In all, the $25 million fund helped 1,051 people.

Years later, we learned of a group of construction workers from El Salvador who participated in clean-up efforts at the Pentagon but did not receive Survivors' Fund services. Only then did we recognize a significant shortcoming on our part. Since then, we have come to understand that targeted outreach to underserved populations in multiple languages by professionals with fluency in a variety of cultural traditions is the most effective way to reach neighbors who are frequently overlooked and disproportionately impacted by communitywide crises....

Read the full commentary by Stephanie Berkowitz, president and CEO of Northern Virginia Family Service.

Twenty years after 9/11, still fighting the criminalization and dehumanization of our communities

July 15, 2021

DRUM protest for excluded workers_risetogether_philantopicOn September 15, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi was planting flowers outside the gas station he owned in Mesa, Arizona, when Frank Silva Roque, a white Boeing aircraft mechanic, saw Sodhi's turban, a sign of his Sikh faith, and shot and killed him. Silva Roque then drove through town and shot two people of Middle Eastern descent, who thankfully survived. Roque was apprehended the next day and is now serving a life sentence.

Sodhi's murder was just one of an onslaught of hate crimes committed in the wake of 9/11. Nor were hate crimes committed by individuals the only threat to targeted communities. The Department of Homeland Security spearheaded the criminalization of Black, African, Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (BAMEMSA) immigrant men through humiliating racial profiling programs like the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). Tens of thousands of Black and Brown men were forced to line up at federal agencies to register for ongoing government surveillance based on religion, ethnicity, and national origin, targeting foreign nationals from twenty-five countries. Before the program was finally dismantled in 2016, thousands of families were torn apart and entire communities were devastated by job losses, deportations, and ongoing harassment.

Stories of interpersonal and structural violence against BAMEMSA communities after 9/11 are ubiquitous, but so are the stories of activists rising to these challenges and leading a vibrant movement to secure their rights and inclusion. Members of the Sikh community formed the Sikh Coalition, a nonprofit that has won numerous court cases against workplace discrimination, school bullying, racial profiling, and hate crimes and has secured the passage of groundbreaking religious rights laws and significant policy improvements. Community-based activist organizations like Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM), founded in 2000 to build the power of South Asian and Indo-Caribbean low wage immigrant workers, youth, and families in New York City, mobilized to support the victims of state-sponsored discrimination, offering "know your rights" training, holding vigils and protests at federal agencies, documenting civil rights violations, and working in solidarity with other social justice organizations to demand policy change.

That movement includes the founding of the RISE Together Fund (RTF) in 2008, the first national donor collaborative dedicated to supporting directly impacted voices to lead policy and social change in BAMEMSA communities. Housed at Proteus Fund, the RISE Together Fund is led by an all-women team, each of whom identifies with the communities we support, connecting our personal and political commitments to build a just, multiracial, feminist democracy.

This year, as we mark two decades since 9/11, we're reflecting on the milestones of our movement, including working with grassroots organizations over four years to organize against the Muslim & Africa Bans, a series of Supreme Court-approved restrictions on travel to the United States from thirteen countries — which was finally rescinded on day one of the Biden administration. We also helped increase voter turnout among BAMEMSA communities by mobilizing significant support for civic engagement initiatives. We partnered with Dr. Tom Wong, a specialist in identifying high-potential voters of color, who worked with twelve grantees, including the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, on non-partisan voter messaging, outreach, and technical support.

Despite these many successes, BAMEMSA communities continue to be underinvested in and excluded from broader conversations and philanthropic opportunities around racial justice and immigrant justice. We also are up against a tidal wave of funding in support of efforts to demonize and criminalize our communities. According to a 2019 report authored by Abbas Barzegar and Zainab Arain, between 2014 and 2016, more than a thousand organizations funded thirty-nine groups with a total revenue capacity of $1.5 billion that foment hate toward BAMEMSA communities. While RTF and our philanthropic partners are making great strides in supporting BAMEMSA communities, we have a long way to go to fully address their continued criminalization and dehumanization.

Since 2009, RTF has worked with longtime field partner ReThink Media to ensure that BAMEMSA movement leaders speak for themselves and build media savvy. ReThink offers fieldwide spokesperson training, messaging research and guidance, op-ed writing support, and direct connections to journalists. The overarching goal of RTF is to direct grants toward building a long-term, sustainable movement and work alongside grantees and the wider BAMEMSA field to develop and amplify a collective voice — a voice that is particularly critical this year in countering nationalistic sloganeering and offering more critical perspectives that address the ongoing harms of the 9/11 era.

Throughout 2021 and 2022, RTF is offering a variety of opportunities for funders to learn more about our communities and support their efforts to build a stronger democracy — through funder briefings, panel discussions, and blog posts. In June we co-hosted a funder briefing with Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) about supporting impacted communities; in October we will hold a panel discussion on "The 20th Anniversary of 9/11: BAMEMSA Women Activists Leading Resistance and Resilience" at the CHANGE Philanthropy UNITY Summit; and in collaboration with Democracy Fund and Mission Partners, we are working to publish a series of blog posts to educate philanthropy about the successes and challenges of the BAMEMSA movement. We are speaking with funders about opportunities to support the urgent needs of grantees in their efforts to mobilize around the 9/11 anniversary, such as locally focused arts and culture programming to share the experiences of BAMEMSA communities over the past two decades. There are opportunities for partners to support BAMEMSA field leaders with long-term cultural strategy training and coaching to help them communicate their work more effectively to wider audiences and coherently connect post-9/11 harms to broader conversations on surveillance, policing, and racial justice.

While the anniversary is an important moment for us to reflect on the successes and challenges of the BAMEMSA field, our work is ongoing. Policy advocacy is needed to address the ongoing criminalization of our communities, such as efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp and defund Homeland Security grants used to support spying and psychological warfare in BAMEMSA communities. We must fund ongoing nonpartisan voter engagement efforts outside of federal election years, and we need to protect field leaders who face doxxing and threats online with robust digital security support. Given that 80 percent of our grantee organizations are led by women of color, we need to support their leadership with resiliency training and capacity building efforts to empower their work well into the future.

As we approach the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, we at RTF reaffirm our commitment to support communities who have been on the front lines of creating a just society and we invite fellow funders to support BAMEMSA communities in this important year.

(Photo credit: Desis Rising Up & Moving)

SheilaBapat_ClaireDowning_AlisonKysia_DeborahMkari_RTF_philantopicSheila Bapat, is senior program officer, Claire Downing is program officer, Alison Kysia is grant writer, and Deborah Makari is program assistant for the RISE Together Fund at Proteus Fund.

5 Questions for...Kashif Shaikh, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Pillars Fund

August 27, 2019

Kashif Shaikh is co-founder and executive director of the Chicago-based Pillars Fund, a grantmaking organization that invests in American Muslim organizations, leaders, and storytellers in order to advance equity and inclusion. Established in 2010 as a donor-advised fund at the Chicago Community Trust with investments of $25,000 each from five Muslim-American philanthropists, the fund became an independent organization in 2016 with seed funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. To date, the fund has awarded $4 million in grants to small and midsize nonprofits to help ensure that American Muslims are able to thrive and live with dignity — and continue to have opportunities to contribute to civil society and public discourse.

PND asked Shaikh about the role of Muslim philanthropy in American society, the importance of supporting "culture work," and the fund’s current priorities.

Kashif_Shaikh_pillars_fundPhilanthropy News Digest: Your website states that the fund’s grantmaking "is inspired by Muslim tradition, which includes respect, conviction, sacrifice, action, and generosity." Why don't Muslim philanthropies and charities have a higher profile in the United States?

Kashif Shaikh: Giving of one's wealth, time, or effort is deeply embedded in the Muslim tradition. And in the United States, the earliest recorded example of Muslim giving was by enslaved Muslims, who in the nineteenth century distributed saraka in the form of small cakes to children on plantations off the coast of Georgia, continuing a tradition from West Africa. The word saraka is closely related to the word sadaqah, the Arabic word for "charity." This is important to acknowledge as we try to build on what generations of Muslims have already done in this land.

Three-quarters of Muslims in the United States today are immigrants or children of immigrants, and half of all U.S. Muslims arrived after 1970. Over the last fifty years Muslim communities put a lot of resources into building mosques and other communal spaces as they put down new roots here. A significant portion of this giving happened through informal networks rather than through established foundations and funds.

More recently, Muslim giving has been gaining greater visibility for a number of reasons. Many of our philanthropic and nonprofit institutions are relatively new to the scene. Among our grant applicants, 20 percent of the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian-led organizations were founded before September 11 and 80 percent were established on or after September 12, 2001. This tells us that many charitable efforts in our communities have been launched in response to the crises we faced. And, we've seen another burst of need  — as well as innovation — since the 2016 general election, which signaled another moment of crisis and "profiling" of our communities.

Unfortunately, many philanthropic efforts led by people of color have been historically overlooked and undervalued in this country. "Our issues" have not been seen as relevant to American society overall. More recently, however, attacks on the civil and human rights of Muslims in the U.S. have signaled a broader erosion of rights across communities. It has become increasingly clear to us that Muslim communities are going to have to coordinate our efforts to defend ourselves against these threats and work more closely with other impacted communities to protect ourselves.

At Pillars, we've recognized the need to target our resources, which includes funding those who are at the forefront of some of these challenges. As Muslims have entered more civic spaces and joined more networks and coalitions — and have been recognized for our work in doing so — our profile has been rising. We are intentional about raising our visibility because it is important for everyone to understand the role Muslims have played, and continue to play, in bettering society, whether through our philanthropic, cultural, or civic contributions.

PND: The fund works to achieve its goals through three program areas — grantmaking in support of "rights, wellness, and understanding"; empowering American Muslims to tell their own stories and ensure more accurate and authentic representations of Muslims in the media and culture; and providing thought leadership to foundations, think tanks, media, and civic leaders. Why is culture-focused work — for example, the multiyear public arts and oral history project you funded at Brooklyn Historical Society — so central to your efforts?

KS: Culture plays a tremendous role in shaping our beliefs about ourselves and others. Unfortunately, many people in the U.S. still hold a low opinion of Muslims, and much of that is rooted in the damaging narratives we’ve all been exposed to through popular culture, especially film and television, over many decades. If we want to shift how people perceive Muslims, we can't afford to ignore culture. Brooklyn Historical Society’s Muslims in Brooklyn oral history project, led by historian Zaheer Ali, empowers the borough’s Muslim communities to narrate a piece of New York City history. By listening to their stories, told in their own words, anyone can learn how Muslims have helped shape one of the world's most influential metropolises.

There is so much power in crafting and sharing your own story, which is why we are inspired by the oral history project. There is also a vast untapped reservoir of Muslim storytellers that we want to help organize and nurture. Muslims are one of the most racially and ethnically diverse faith communities in the U.S., and only when we appreciate the many perspectives within our community will we begin to understand what it means to be a Muslim in America. For example, the perspective of a newly arrived Syrian refugee could not be more different from the perspective of a fourth-generation African-American Muslim. We want to help create space to honor and share all of these stories.

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Readings: 9/11 – Eleven Years Later

September 11, 2012

Sept-11-2012anniversaryLast year, to mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, PND interviewed a handful of thought leaders from philanthropy and the civil society space about the philanthropic response to the events of that day. Today, eleven years after that fateful morning, we encourage you to revisit some (or all) of those Q&As and reflect on our collective efforts to make sense of the events of 9/11. What have we learned? What have we maybe forgotten? And what remains to be done? Share your thoughts in the comments section below....

 -- The Editors

A 'Flip' Chat With...Gara LaMarche, Senior Fellow, NYU Wagner School of Public Service

September 19, 2011

(This video was recorded as part of our 'Flip' chat series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our previous chat with NextGen:Charity co-founder Jonah Halper.)

In conjunction with the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I attended a Philanthropy New York event last week titled "Balancing Civil Rights & National Security: A Debate Led by Gara LaMarche."

During the event, LaMarche, now a senior fellow at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service and until this summer the president and CEO of the Atlantic Philanthropies -- a New York City-based foundation that endeavours "to make lasting changes for people who are disadvantaged by their economic situation, race, nationality, gender, age, disabilities, immigration status, sexual orientation, political affiliation or religion" -- moderated a discussion on how the Bush administration's efforts to protect Americans after 9/11 led to an increase in civil rights violations around the country.  LaMarche also invited the panelists -- American Civil Liberties Union board president Susan Herman, author of Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy; Eric Ward, program executive for the human rights and reconciliation initiative at Atlantic Philanthropies; Rosa Brooks, a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center; and Karen J. Greenberg, visiting fellow and director of Fordham Law School's Center on National Security -- to weigh in on what future administrations (and the current one) could do to protect and extend civil liberties while keeping the country safe from terrorist attack.

After the session, I had a chance to chat with LaMarche about the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, the successes and failures of the "war on terrror," the philanthropic response to 9/11, and some of the big challenges confronting the United States today.

(If you're reading this in an e-mail, click here.)


(Running time: 12 minutes, 46 seconds)

What do you think? Has the "war on terror" outlived its usefulness as a metaphor? To what extent does "national security" involve more than just physical attacks on the homeland? And, in an increasingly interdependent world, what should organized philanthropy be doing to help defuse the many threats to security confronting the U.S.? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

-- Regina Mahone

Ten Years Later: A Q&A With Joel R. Charny, Vice President for Humanitarian Policy and Practice, InterAction

September 11, 2011

If 9/11 didn't change everything, it certainly changed many things. From the way we fly, to our awareness and knowledge of Islam, to the war on terror, the events of September 11 changed us as individuals and as a country and society. One of its most telling legacies, the USA Patriot Act, was signed into law by then-President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001, reauthorized (with most of its provisions intact) by Congress in 2006, and extended in large part by President Barack Obama earlier this year. The act, which includes watch list and anti-money-laundering provisions intended to impede the flow of funds to suspected terrorist groups, has had a significant impact on international aid organizations working in some of the most unsettled and impoverished regions of the world.

Joel_charney_interaction Last week, as part of our "Ten Years Later" series, we asked Joel Charny, Vice President for Humanitarian Policy and Practice at InterAction, an alliance of U.S.-based relief and development organizations, to comment on how the funding and operating environment for U.S.-based nonprofits working overseas has changed since 9/11, what aid groups can do to combat the waste and corruption that hampers so many international aid operations, and whether the recent easing of restrictions on NGOs working in the Horn of Africa represents a permanent change in U.S. policy.

To access the other Q&As in our 9/11 series, click here.

Philanthropy News Digest: How has the funding and operating environment for U.S.-based nonprofits working on international issues changed since 9/11? Do those changes represent a seismic shift in the international aid paradigm, or has the impact of 9/11 on nonprofits working internationally been less than predicted?

Joel Charny: Since 9/11, the global war on terror has become the dominant paradigm for U.S. foreign assistance. One consequence -- until the very recent emphasis on reducing the budget deficit -- has been strong bipartisan support for increases in overseas aid in the name of addressing the root causes of extremism and winning the "hearts and minds" of people who may be susceptible to affiliation with terrorist groups. U.S. programs in countries on the front lines of the war on terror, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, have received huge budget allocations, while programs in more peripheral countries have been sustained.

The strong support for international relief and development programs has been a boon, but not an unmitigated one. Groups accepting U.S. government funding in the battleground countries are de facto signing up for the war on terror, with the expectation that they will collaborate closely with the joint U.S. civil, military, and diplomatic effort in the affected countries. This compromises their ability to act independently. Further, the post-9/11 decade has seen a dramatic increase in the direct involvement of the U.S. military in relief and development work, which means that even groups that strive to retain their independence of the U.S. war effort may find themselves working in the same locations as the military, creating confusion in the minds of local people and jeopardizing their security.

The past decade has seen erosion in the respect for and the possibility of humanitarian action. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously described the Geneva Conventions as "quaint," undermining the very foundation of international humanitarian law that has protected civilians in armed conflict for six decades. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the organization mandated to ensure the implementation of the conventions' provisions, has seen their staff targeted and killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Governments from Sudan and Zimbabwe to Sri Lanka and Pakistan have aggressively restricted the access of international and local agencies to vulnerable people, often using the imperative of combating terror as the rationale. The ruthlessness of governments and the nihilism of extremists have mutually reinforced the assault on humanitarian agencies and the values that they represent.

Nonetheless, the post-9/11 world in the relief and development sphere is largely familiar to anyone who tried to implement and support independent assistance during the Cold War period, when both the U.S. and the Soviet bloc identified enemy countries and movements and subjected aid agencies to political manipulation. The comprehensiveness of the war on terror as a guiding framework is reminiscent of the anti-communist one that prevailed from the 1950s to the early 1990s. While the erosion of the respect for humanitarian action is disturbing, on the whole the post-9/11 decade does not represent a seismic shift in the funding and operating environment for U.S.-based nonprofits working on international issues.

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Ten Years Later: Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York

September 10, 2011

Vartan_gregorian_centennial We had hoped, as part of our "Ten Years Later" series, to share the 9/11 reflections of Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. (You can read our earlier interviews with Gregorian here and here.) Unfortunately, Dr. Gregorian was busy with 9/11 commemorative events and his responsibilities as a member of the 9/11 Memorial board.

However, the folks at Carnegie did graciously allow us to reprint an essay written by Dr. Gregorian that appeared in the September/October issue of World Affairs. We hope you enjoy it.


It is still shocking to remember how utterly the peace of that beautiful September day was shattered. The image of the Twin Towers as they fell to earth, carrying with them so many souls, became the collective symbol of our grief. After all, the World Trade Center towers were the icon of American strength and economic power and emblematic of New York City as a world capital of finance.

It was possible, that day, to believe that the towering strength of our nation was itself, in some fundamental way, at risk. But that did not prove to be so. The cowardly attacks that we endured, which did not distinguish between people of different races, ethnicities, faiths, or beliefs, did not divide us but instead forged stronger bonds between us. And nowhere was the indivisibility of those bonds more evident than at the memorial service at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx on September 23.

Prior to that service, most Americans had seen or taken part in religious ceremonies particular to their own faith, be it Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, or other. But it is probably fair to say that most Americans had never seen or heard a Muslim cleric, let alone a group of Muslim imams taking part in an ecumenical service. On September 23, however, that is exactly what happened. I was watching the service on television, and as the rabbis, priests, ministers, and other members of the clergy made deeply moving and heartfelt remarks, I found myself greatly affected by their words. Still, it was with a mounting sense of apprehension that I waited to hear what would happen when Muslim clerics came to the podium to speak. As I waited for the first of them to utter the first words of prayer in Arabic, my heart, as they say, was in my mouth. I thought that members of the victims’ families, as well as others in the audience, might send the imams off the stage amid a flurry of catcalls. They did not. Everyone present listened with the same attention and respect as had been accorded the representatives of all the other religions. The dignity and solemnity of the day was unbroken. The memory of those who had died was uniformly held in reverence because it was understood by every individual at Yankee Stadium that day, and the millions watching and listening elsewhere, that the terrorists had targeted all of us who happened to be on American soil the morning of September 11. They recognized no differences between us. They spared no one based on class or race or nationality, or even religion.

Those who spoke at the "Prayer for America" service were eloquent in expressing how, as Americans, we are one people sharing one ideal of peace and solidarity. Imam Izak-El Mu'eed Pasha, who was the first Muslim chaplain of the New York City Police Department, said, "We, Muslims, Americans, stand today with a heavy weight on our shoulders that those who would dare do such dastardly acts claim our faith. They are no believers in God at all....We condemn them and their cowardly acts, and we stand with our country against all that would come against us."

Edward Egan, then the archbishop of New York, said, "Almighty and eternal father, we are gathered here as your people and your children....We need courage to deal with our pain, we need justice to deal with the evil doers who have harmed us so fiercely. We need faith, wisdom and strength of soul for ourselves, each and every one."

Rabbi Marc Gellman, the senior rabbi of Temple Beth Torah in Melville, New York, said, "The Talmud and the African tribe, the Maasai tribe, both teach a wisdom for our wounded world. They both taught sticks alone can be broken by a child, but sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. The fears and sorrows of this moment are so heavy, they can break us if we try to bear them alone. But if we are bundled together, if we stick together, we are unbreakable."

Calvin Butts, the noted pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City, said -- simply and powerfully -- "Be not afraid. Together we will get through [this], because we are the United States of America."

As an Armenian Christian born in Iran, I am aware of the historical vulnerability of ethnic and religious minorities. Hence, as I watched the service, I found myself thinking that I could not imagine such a peaceful, even loving coming together of different peoples and groups if the terrorist attacks of 9/11 had taken place in the Middle East or Africa, or Eastern Europe, or Asia. In those regions, nationalist and religious fervor would have likely led to atrocities visited upon those who happened to share the faith of the perpetrators of such attacks. Imagine if the attacks had been carried out in Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, India, Pakistan, Kenya, or Sudan. We have already seen the kinds of horrendous reprisals that have sometimes followed acts of sectarian violence in those countries and others.

But thank God that is not the path we followed. On September 23, watching the service at Yankee Stadium, I felt that I was bearing witness to a maturing of America. I saw an educated citizenry sharing the common experience of almost unspeakable loss, unbearable pain. I saw intelligent men and women who understood the historical significance of the heartbreaking events they were memorializing, and who did not want those who had attacked us to succeed in dividing our nation or weakening our resolve to go forward, to go on.

I also saw America as a mature political power, with resolute and steady leaders such as Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and President George W. Bush, with the entire bipartisan New York delegation and all members of Congress standing behind them. On that day, the entire political leadership of America acted as one. There were no Democrats or Republicans, no Independents or Libertarians. They were all Americans. And as Americans, they transcended their ideological differences in order to honor the victims of our national tragedy.

President Bush, among many others, continued to reflect about the meaning of 9/11, forcefully declaring that "Americans understand we fight not a religion; ours is not a campaign against the Muslim faith. Ours is a campaign against evil." He made those remarks to airline employees at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on September 27, 2001, but this was a concept he repeated many times over, in many venues, in many different ways. In the days following 9/11, President Bush also visited several mosques to reinforce the idea that Muslim Americans were an integral part of American society and that indeed, their faith and support were a critical component of the struggle against terrorism. The president made this clear on September 17, 2001, at the Washington Islam Center mosque, one of the oldest mosques in the United States, when he read this verse from the Koran: "In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule."

It was during this time that I stumbled across a sermon by C. S. Lewis. This was purely coincidence, but a comforting and uplifting one. The sermon is called "Learning in Wartime" and was delivered in the autumn of 1939 when Britain stood alone against the Nazis. Among the most evocative passages in the sermon are these extraordinary words: "I think it is important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective. The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would have never begun....[People] propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffolds, discuss poetry while advancing on the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache; it is our nature."

I sent copies of this sermon to my friends and to my colleagues, hoping that it helped them, as it helped me, to regain my feeling of optimism about our nation and our future. That is because indeed, it is in the nature of men and women to look ahead, past the darkest of times, to the brighter days that always follow. All of human history is a play of light and darkness. And through all of human history, we travel together through the longest night into the dawn.

-- Vartan Gregorian

Ten Years Later: A Q&A With Mary Marshall Clark, Director, Columbia Center for Oral History

September 09, 2011

For many people, the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks promises, as FDNY lieutenant Adrienne Walsh recently told New York magazine, "to be huge. An end point of sorts." We will always remember, Walsh added, but "the city can't stop." And life goes on.

Mary_marshall_clark_2011 Collective memory, in all its mutability, is the specialty of Mary Marshall Clark, director of the Columbia (University) Center for Oral History. When we first spoke to Clark, in 2003, she and her colleagues were wrapping up their work on the September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project. That project eventually became part of the larger 9/11 Oral History Project, which comprises more than nine hundred recorded hours with over six hundred individuals. Many of the accounts gathered for the project have been collected in After the Fall: New Yorkers Remember September 2001 and the Years That Followed.)

Earlier this week, we asked Clark about the project, the difference between the mainstream media's version of 9/11 and the individual stories collected by Clark and her colleagues, and what has changed over the last ten years in the way individuals construct meaning out the events of September 11.

This is the fourth in our series of Q&As with executives and thought leaders in the field about the meaning and impact of 9/11. (Click here for our Q&A with Gordon J. Campbell, president/CEO, United Way of New York City; here for our Q&A with Lorie Slutsky, president, New York Community Trust; and here for our Q&A with David R. Jones, President/CEO, Community Service Society of New York.) Check back over the weekend for additional 9/11 reflections.

Philanthropy News Digest: What has the September 11th Oral History Narrative and Memory Project done to preserve the events of 9/11 for historians, scholars, and others?

Mary Marshall Clark: We at the Columbia Center for Oral History have conducted nearly one thousand hours of interviews with around six hundred people on the effects of September 11, 2001, as event and aftermath, on the city as a whole. We began our work in the immediate aftermath of September 11 and went back to those we interviewed in 2001 in 2002 and 2003. We interviewed additional people in 2004 and 2005, when the project officially closed. The scholarly value of these interviews lies in the fact that the project was interdisciplinary in nature. Peter Bearman, sociologist and head of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia University, was critical in establishing the intellectual framework and methodology for the project, teaching oral historians how to think about conducting interviews in the present and how to widen their curiosity to include people who might not be in their personal and professional networks.

The life histories we took with people at the site and people dispersed throughout New York City -- immigrants, Muslims, Afghans, Sikhs and Latinos -- together form a living quilt of memory that shows how 9/11 was perceived distinctively by New Yorkers. We conducted life histories that demonstrated how differently 9/11 was experienced by people according to class structures, ethnic and national origins, immigrant history, proximity to the towers and those who lived at a greater distance but might have been vulnerable in other ways. It is too soon to describe our archive, now fully accessible and available to the public, as a collective memory of New York City over the last decade. But we believe that along with other distinctive and important oral history projects like Ruth Sergel and Pamela Griffiths' Voices of 9.11 Project, we have created the basis for an oral collective memory of the last decade that can serve historians and others for the next fifty to a hundred years.

PND: Is the mainstream media's version of 9/11 different from the version, or versions, you're hearing in individual oral histories?

MMC: The mainstream media cannot contain a collective or even social memory of the events. What it is good at is highlighting individual stories, usually those that revolve around dramatic escape, dramatic loss, or highly personalized stories of recovery. Peter Bearman, co-founder and co-director of the Narrative and Memory Project, was especially interested in how the mainstream media might tempt people to talk in formulaic ways about the tragedy, and made it possible by securing an emergency fieldwork grant from the National Science Foundation to get out into the field quickly before that happened.

We agreed that the life history method is the finest way to mine the rich diversity and multi-generational history of New Yorkers, and that approach worked against a sound-bite or greatest-hits approach to telling stories. As we invited people to tell their stories of origin and personal development before and after their 9/11 story, the temporal and geographical span of the interviews was a large one. To give you an example, one of the Afghan cultural leaders we interviewed began his personal history by reaching four hundred years into the past, in his effort to establish the historical context in which the story should be listened to and interpreted.

PND: What, if anything, has changed over the last ten years about how people construct meaning out of the events of 9/11?

MMC: We see both subtle changes and more profound changes in individual life stories. For those who experienced extreme loss or injury, of course there was change and struggle. But we also see tremendous resilience and recovery, especially for those who crossed lines of social difference to embrace Muslims, Arab Americans, Sikhs, Latinos, and people of lower-economic status who were very affected in the aftermath. In many ways, New York recovered more quickly and effectively than we could have anticipated. This is no surprise, as it is a global city made up of refugees, immigrants, and sympathetic people who embrace difference as a natural part of daily life. And individuals, institutions, and organizations worked extremely effectively with each other to help those in need.

Strange as it may seem, it is still too soon to say what 9/11 meant to the city as a whole. We asked questions we knew were important to this generation. We hope those were the right questions, but we also hope that we have collected the kinds of narratives that can answer the questions of the next generation.

PND: When we last spoke, you said that new technologies such as e-mail did not pose a threat to oral history. With the advent of social media, do you still feel the same way?

MMC: I do. Twitter doesn’t impress me or scare me. The process of telling, face-to-face, in uninterruptable ways will never be replaced by the social media, not in a city like this one.

-- The Editors

Ten Years Later: A Q&A With David R. Jones, President and CEO, Community Service Society of New York

When we last spoke with David Jones, president and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York, in December 2002, the New York City economy had, in his words, come "unglued." As we noted then, the city lost 83,000 actual jobs and more than 60,000 that would have been created had the attacks not occurred, with job losses spread evenly over a range of industries, including financial services, aviation, apparel manufacturing, retailing, and tourism. Estimates of the negative impact on the city's economic output ranged from $20 billion to $39 billion. And, of course, the toll in human terms was incalculable.

David_jones_css Earlier this month, we reached out to Jones to get his views on whether New York City had recovered economically from 9/11, what had happened to the "gentler, kinder" New York of the immediate post-9/11 period, and whether he thought New York was still seen as a gateway to opportunity by the poor, the persecuted, and the downtrodden.

This is the third in our series of Q&As with executives and thought leaders in the field about the meaning and impact of 9/11. (Click here for the first, with Gordon J. Campbell, president/CEO, United Way of New York City, and here for the second, with Lorie Slutsky, president, New York Community Trust.) Check back over the weekend for additional 9/11 reflections.

Philanthropy News Digest: Has New York City recovered from the economic impact of 9/11?

David Jones: Perhaps we have recovered somewhat psychologically, although the tenth anniversary will inevitably bring back bad memories. Economically, it depends on who we are talking about. The poverty rate in New York City is higher today than ten years ago. There are more people working, but there are also more people living in poverty. In fact, a large portion of the poor are the working poor, those who toil in low-wage jobs with little or no job benefits. And long-term unemployment is endemic today among people of color, especially young people. A recent CSS report revealed that in the eighteen-month period from January 2009 to June 2010 a third of black men in New York City between the ages of 16 to 24 were unemployed. And over 50 percent of young black men without a high school diploma were jobless. This in a city where the rate of success on the GED was abysmal -- less than half taking the exam passed -- and little more than half of black youth graduate from our public high schools. All of this has a detrimental impact on the city's economy -- and on our quality of life.

PND: In the weeks and months after the attacks, residents of the city seemed to see their fellow New Yorkers in a new, more sympathetic light. Have we lost the connection to that kinder, gentler New York?

DJ: I think that when disaster strikes, New Yorkers pull together. We saw it when Irene threatened the city last month. After 9/11, using our portion of a special Neediest Cases drive in 2001, CSS provided about $5 million in aid to about two thousand families who lost loved ones, jobs, or homes. That may not be true in everyday life. Public officials and the media don't often focus on the problems of the city's most vulnerable populations. They talk about "shared pain" in hard times, but budgets are still balanced on the backs of the poor. This is why the annual New York Times Neediest Cases stories are so important. They give a public stage to New Yorkers who are striving to better themselves in often-desperate situations. We should be more inclusive as a society. Poor New Yorkers should not have to worry about losing their jobs or their family health insurance every time there's an economic downturn.

PND: The city has received its share of economic and psychological blows over the last decade. Yet a new study by Crain's New York finds that more people call the city home than ever and that New York is within 56,300 jobs of its 1969 employment peak. Is New York still a gateway to opportunity for the poor, the persecuted, and the downtrodden?

DJ: To a certain extent. But over the past several decades, economic mobility -- the idea that with hard work you can rise from the working poor to the middle class, a historically American ideal -- is no longer widely true. In fact, this latest recession has caused many black and Latino families who reached the middle class in terms of family income because of the boom times of the 1990s to fall back economically. It is not just a question of the number of jobs. NYC has been producing jobs lately, but they are overwhelmingly low-wage, dead-end jobs, with little or no opportunity for advancement.

PND: What can philanthropy do to help the city, and the country, live up to that ideal?

DJ: There was a time when philanthropy meant providing resources to the poor. But the tax code has been manipulated to the point where much that is called charity now goes to places and institutions that would never qualify as needy -- universities with billion-dollar endowments, museums, performing arts organizations -- places that the wealthy enjoy and support. Also, many foundations that provide philanthropic support are characterized by boards that usually consist of upper class white men who have little understanding of or connection to the real poverty that still exists in the city. Foundations have a responsibility to provide long-term support for issues like employment, wages, and poverty. That's not happening.

-- The Editors

Ten Years Later: A Q&A With Lorie A. Slutsky, President, New York Community Trust

September 08, 2011

On September 11, 2001, Lorie Slutsky was president of the New York Community Trust -- a position she was appointed to in 1990 (and still holds). Early that afternoon, as Manhattan slowed to a standstill, Slutsky began to talk to executives of the United Way of New York City about a joint response. The result of those discussions, the September 11th Fund, was announced by the end of the day, and the fund began to make emergency cash-assistance grants a week later. Nine months later, PND sat down with Slutsky to discuss the events of September 11, the thinking behind the creation of the September 11th Fund, and the effectiveness of the philanthropic response to what many people at the time were calling the worst day in the history of New York City.

Lorie_slutsky Earlier this month, we reached out to Slutsky to ask whether she thought the city had recovered from 9/11, whether the September 11th Fund had achieved its purpose, and what she might have done differently as president of the Trust in the weeks and months after the attacks.

This is the second in a series of Q&As with executives and thought leaders in the field about the meaning and impact of 9/11. (Click here for the first, with Gordon J. Campbell, president/CEO, United Way of New York City.) Check back tomorrow and over the weekend for additional 9/11 reflections.

Philanthropy News Digest: As the president of the largest private funder of nonprofits in New York City -- a position you've held since 1990 -- you’re uniquely qualified to comment on whether the city has fully recovered from the September 11 attacks. Has it?

Lorie Slutsky: Given the market collapse of 2008, a struggling economy, the job loss, and a jittery Wall Street, it's hard to evaluate the city's recovery. Certainly, downtown has come back, perhaps even stronger than it was before September 11. New Yorkers always adapt to change, and we were already a suspicious lot, aware of our surroundings. And as much of the country has descended into deadly partisan and ethnic battle, New Yorkers still manage to get along -- although I think many of us miss the added feeling of community that animated us after the tragedy.

PND: Did the September 11th Fund, which was set up by the Trust and United Way of New York City on the afternoon of the attacks, achieve its intended purpose? Looking back, is there anything you and your colleagues would have done differently with respect to the fund?

LS: The short answer is yes, we achieved our purpose. As experienced grantmakers who know the city, we knew that needs would emerge weeks, months, and years after the event. And as a community foundation, we knew that giving narrow definitions to both victims and geography would restrict our ability to respond to problems we didn't yet understand. We were able to ensure that a broad swath of people, institutions, and geography were included as "victims" and would be eligible for funding. That allowed the fund to support a review of the environmental impact of the collapse, which ultimately led it to fund health care for first responders, cleanup workers, and residents until government stepped in. It enabled the fund to bring relief to residents and businesses in Chinatown, which was part of the "frozen zone" yet not recognized as a "victim."

Although there isn't much I'd do differently, I wish I'd been more mindful of the difficulties of partnerships, something that foundations, including mine, sometimes push on their grantees while not doing much of it ourselves. Here we were dealing with two old institutions, each with its own culture, structure, fees, expectations, and personalities. But because we didn't want to create another nonprofit, which might have been hard to close when its work was done, and we sought to reduce confusion for the millions of people who wanted to donate, I'd do it again.

PND: Not a philanthropy question per se, but are you surprised it has taken as long as it has to build the 9/11 memorial and redevelop the WTC site?

LS: I haven't been following the memorial or rebuilding of the site, but I can tell you that any real estate project in New York City is beyond complicated and always takes longer and costs more than projected.

PND: When we spoke back in 2002, you expressed some concern that the line between philanthropy and charity, in the public's mind, was becoming blurred. Do you still have those concerns? And why is it important to preserve the distinction between the two?

LS: At the time, my concern about blurring philanthropy with charity was the notion that "charity" helps individuals and families -- the "victims." With that definition, the press immediately attacked some of the September 11th Fund's most important grants. For example, initial cash awards to the families of victims were perceived by some as too small, despite the fact that they were for immediate basic needs and that we were awaiting the announcement of federal compensation, which ultimately was considerable. The fund was criticized for making grants to nonprofits that had lost revenue because they were not "victims," as defined by this notion of charity. But as a philanthropic institution, the fund was obligated to broadly support recovery, which meant making grants to retrain displaced workers, help arts organizations revitalize downtown, shore up nonprofits that provide critical services, as well as contributing to initial emergency efforts and supporting victims and their families.

-- The Editors

Ten Years Later: A Q&A With Gordon J. Campbell, President/CEO, United Way of New York City

September 07, 2011

For most Americans, New Yorkers in particular, September 11, 2001, is a day they will never forget. As the towers burned, then collapsed, and as we waited -- hopefully but helplessly -- for survivors to emerge from the rubble, many took it as a given that everything had changed. In the months that followed, PND interviewed dozens of thought leaders from philanthropy and the civil society space about the philanthropic response to the attacks and the meaning of 9/11. Those interviews subsequently were collected in two volumes and made available as downloadable PDFs on the Foundation Center's Web site.

Gordon_campbell_UWNYC Ten years later, we know that 9/11 didn't change everything -- although it changed much. With the ten-year anniversary of the attacks approaching, PND reached out to some of the people we interviewed back then -- and a few we didn't -- to ask them what had, and hadn't, changed in the ten years since that terrible day.

On September 11, 2001, Gordon Campbell was chief executive of Safe Horizon, the largest victims' services agency in the United States and -- through the September 11th Fund -- the first organization to issue emergency-relief checks to 9/11 families on a same-day basis. In July 2007, Campbell was named president and CEO of the United Way of New York City, another critical provider of short- and long-term services after the attacks. Check back throughout the week for additional 9/11 Q&As.

Philanthropy News Digest: Did 9/11 change the way human service organizations in the city work together?

Gordon J. Campbell: I have long felt that the Family Assistance Center set up on Pier 94 represented "best in class" from a social services perspective. Federal, state and city agencies, along with local human service organizations were co-located under one roof -- providing victims and family members with a "one-stop shopping" experience in meeting their immediate needs. It was not about one organization, but many organizations collaborating in a client-focused, results-oriented way. Just imagine the progress we could make if we could use that model in helping everyday New Yorkers access the benefits, supports, and assistance they need to lead safe, healthy, and productive lives.

PND: Did the United Way of New York City change the way it does its business as a result of 9/11?

GJC: On the day of the attacks, United Way of New York City joined the New York Community Trust in establishing the September 11th Fund to meet both the immediate and longer-term needs of victims, families, and communities that were affected. Time has shown that the Trust and United Way made the right decision when they kept the fund's mission broad and recognized that mental health and other needs created by the tragedy would last for many years.

God forbid New York City should have another disaster on that level, but if that were to happen, United Way would be prepared to step up and create a similar fund to channel the world's generosity to where it is needed most. I think we also learned a great deal about harnessing the skills and in-kind resources made available by corporate America. IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and McKinsey & Company are just some of the corporate partners whose pro-bono assistance was crucial, especially during the early days of the fund.

PND: Did 9/11 create needs in the greater New York area that have not been addressed? Is the United Way doing anything to address those needs?

GJC: We now know that first responders, day laborers, and volunteers who were part of the rescue and recovery effort in Lower Manhattan were exposed to hazardous environmental conditions, as were residents and workers who fled the area. The effects of that exposure are really coming to the fore ten years later, as more and more of these people are diagnosed with cancer and devastating lung ailments.

A little over a year ago, United Way of New York City awarded a one-time grant of almost $750,000 to the WTC Health Program at Mount Sinai Medical Center to provide a comprehensive range of treatment services to responders to the 9/11 attacks who lack adequate health insurance and require treatment for life-threatening conditions not covered by federal funding. Truth be told, we all recognize that this is a relative drop in the bucket compared to the medical needs that will inevitably crop up in the years ahead.

PND: Are social service organizations in the city better prepared to respond to a disaster of the magnitude of 9/11 than they were on September 10, 2001?

GJC: Before 9/11 there was no single go-to organization when it came to coordinating post-disaster services, ensuring consistent case management, tracking clients, and the like. The September 11th Fund supported the 9/11 United Services Group, an organization created to maintain a database of victims and coordinate the efforts of forty charities. USG ensured that agencies talked to each other so people in need would not fall between the cracks. USG is now dormant, housed by the Human Services Council; however, should a similar disaster occur, the organization would be in an excellent position to take a leadership role. Unfortunately, there hasn't been funding to support the kind of disaster planning that would ensure that the city's nonprofit sector would be fully prepared to respond.

-- The Editors

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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