224 posts categorized "African Americans"

Newsmaker: Cathy Cha, President, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund

February 07, 2019

Cathy Cha, who officially stepped into the role of president of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund in January, has long worked to advance new models for how foundations can collaborate with advocates, communities, and government to achieve greater impact. Cha joined the Haas, Jr. Fund in 2003 as a program officer. From 2009 to 2016, she managed its immigrant rights >portfolio, leading efforts to bring together funders and local leaders to strengthen the immigration movement in California. For the past two years, Cha served as vice president of programs at the Fund.

Cha co-created and led the California Civic Participation Funders, an innovative funder collaborative that is supporting grassroots efforts across California to increase civic participation and voting among immigrants, African Americans, and other underrepresented populations. She also worked with legal service providers and funder partners to launch the New Americans Campaign, which has helped more than 370,000 legal permanent residents in eighteen cities become U.S. citizens, and helped jumpstart efforts to create the African American Civic Engagement Project, an alliance of community leaders, funders, and local groups working to empower African-American communities.

PND asked Cha about new efforts at the fund, its priorities for 2019, and the evolving role of philanthropy in bringing about a more just and equal society.

Headshot_Cathy_ChaPhilanthropy News Digest: Your appointment to the top job at the fund was announced in January 2017, and you're stepping into the shoes of Ira S. Hirschfield, who led the fund for twenty-eight years. What did you do to prepare during the two-year transition period? And what was the most important thing you learned from Ira?

Cathy Cha: One of Ira's greatest contributions was the way he encouraged the fund's board, staff, and grantees to really dream about how to have more impact in the world. That dare-to-dream philosophy has allowed us and our partners to reach ambitious goals — from achieving marriage equality to making California the most immigrant-affirming state in the country.

Today, the fund remains committed to supporting people's best aspirations of what's possible for their communities. In 2018, we co-launched the California Campus Catalyst Fund with a group of undocumented student advocates and community experts. With investment from thirteen funders, we're now supporting thirty-two urban, suburban, and rural public college and university campuses across the state to significantly expand legal and other support services for undocumented students and their families at a time of incredible need. It's a great example of how philanthropy can work with community partners to catalyze and support solutions that make a real difference.

PND: Over the last two years, the fund managed an organizational transition that included the expansion of the board to include members of the next generation of the Haas family and the hiring of new staff at both the program and senior leadership levels. What was the overarching strategy behind those moves, and what kind of changes do you hope they lead to?

CC: During this transition, we were intentional about addressing a couple of key questions. How can we keep this organization relevant and responsive in a volatile and changing environment? And how can we set ourselves up to write a bold new chapter in the Haas, Jr. Fund's work? We want to be positioned for bigger impact to meet today's and tomorrow's challenges. We're building a leadership and staff team that represents and affirms the fund's enduring values. Our new board members are committed to building on their grandparents' legacy, and they bring new and valuable perspectives to the fund's work. We have staff members who have lived the immigrant experience, people who are LGBT, and individuals who are the first in their families to go to college. Whether I'm working with our board or the staff, I see a team with deep connections to the communities and the issues we care about, a profound belief in civil rights values and leveling the playing field, and an abiding commitment to excellence and progress. That gives me real hope and confidence for the future.

PND: In January you said you would "be launching a process in the weeks ahead to explore how the fund and our partners can strengthen our impact." What can you tell us about that process?

CC: These are extremely trying times for our country. Many communities we care about are feeling threatened and vulnerable. Given the challenges of this moment, as well as the opportunities that come with the changes we've experienced at the fund, it's an opportune time for us to think creatively about how we can have more impact.

Like any other foundation, we are always evaluating how we can do a better job. But in the coming months, we want to take some time to think in new ways about how to make sure we're doing everything we can to make a positive difference and up our game. That's going to mean reflecting on some of the lessons from our recent work, weighing where we've made mistakes and why, and understanding how we can maximize the huge potential of our staff and our nonprofit, government, and business partners to make the world a better, fairer place.

PND: What is your top priority in 2019?

CC: I'll share two key priorities. The first is to work with our board and staff so that we're clearer on how the fund will have continued impact. The second is to make sure we're moving full speed ahead with our work at a time when fundamental rights and opportunities hang in the balance. That's why we're investing in the drive for equal civil rights protections for LGBT Americans. It's why we're working with the San Francisco Unified School District to help all children reach their potential. And it's why we're supporting new racial equity work and helping movement nonprofits strengthen their leadership and their ability to raise the resources they need to make a difference. We want to make sure we are doing everything we can in 2019 to stand up for the idea that this is a better nation when everyone has a chance to thrive.

PND: In addition to leading the fund's immigrant rights grantmaking, you served on the board of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) for seven years, including two years as co-chair. Are grantmakers in the field of immigrant rights more open to collaboration today than they were, say, a decade ago, and if so, why? Do you think that's the case in other fields as well?

CC: GCIR has been at the leading edge in facilitating funder collaboration to get better results. It's part of a sea change over the last decade in philanthropy's approach to working together. No matter the size of our grantmaking budgets, there's a growing understanding that we can't solve big, intractable problems alone. We're more effective when we form strategic partnerships and check our institutional egos at the door.

You only need to look at the incredible surge in voter turnout in Orange County last November, particularly in communities of color, to see how funder collaboration pays off. We've been working with other funders and local partners for years — in Orange County and other parts of California — to build power and voice in low-income communities. Those partnerships are starting to deliver real results. The Haas, Jr. Fund could have invested in this work on our own, but we're achieving so much more by teaming up with our funder partners.

PND: In July 2017, you wrote in a blog post, "Why I am Hopeful," that "[t]he bottom line is that 'We the People' need to stand up and use our voices — and our votes — to make a difference...and it will require deep investments in community organizing, civic participation, movement-building, and leadership development." Are you more hopeful today? Are you seeing those kinds of philanthropic investments at the levels needed?

CC: The results of the November 2018 elections make me more hopeful. We had record numbers of women, LGBT candidates, and people of color running for office in California and nationally. We had millennials voting in record numbers. And in many communities, it was low-income voters and voters of color who put their favored candidates or issues over the top. A lot of that is the result of local groups doing the hard work of organizing, lifting up community leaders, and educating people about important policy issues.

We have a long way to go, but we're finally starting to see the electorate and our elected leadership moving in the direction where they resemble the larger population, and that's great for our democracy. But it's never a given that this kind of progress will continue or that we won't backtrack. There are real barriers in the way of broader participation for many communities, and voter disenfranchisement is real. No matter what issues our foundations are focused on, we can go a long way to achieving the goal of a fairer, more equal, more representative society if we invest in the work of organizing and voting.

PND: Before joining the fund, you worked on issues such as affordable housing, homelessness, workforce development, and community development. From your perspective, what, if we're able to achieve it, would "a society that supports, respects, and values the contributions of all people" look like?

CC: When I drop off my six-year-old daughter at school in the morning, I see all these beautiful kids of different races, ethnicities, backgrounds, and talents. I look at those little faces and I wish every one of those kids, along with every other child across this country, got a fair shot at reaching their full potential. That's one way to measure how we're doing when it comes to creating a more just and equal society. What would it look like to give every child and every person an equitable chance at opportunity?

Looking at it that way can take us out of our silos and help us see how our work connects across issues and communities. In California's K-12 public schools, more than half of all students are Latino. So you can't really look at education in California without looking simultaneously at immigration. And what about those students who are African American, or LGBT, or from homes where parents are struggling to get by? It's hard to separate what's happening in our schools from all the other things happening in kids' lives. All these issues are interconnected, and we will have greater impact to the extent that we think holistically about how to solve problems and spur real change.

PND: The lack of diversity in leadership positions within the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors is a continuing topic of discussion. What needs to happen for that to change?

CC: On my first day in my new role at the fund, a colleague told me that only 1.3 percent of foundations are led by API (Asian Pacific Islander) women. That really surprised me. So did the fact that only around 10 percent of foundation CEOs are people of color. Philanthropy clearly has a ways to go before we can say our field is truly representative of our society.

That said, I am starting to see some positive movement. I think the path to continued progress lies in changing how philanthropy values talent and experience. Traditionally, the philanthropic field has valued academics with PhDs and those from elite educational backgrounds. But increasingly, I think philanthropy is recognizing what leaders bring to a foundation when they are closer to communities and community issues. There is a trend toward valuing lived experience. At the Haas, Jr. Fund and other foundations, you increasingly see staff who have experienced firsthand some of the fundamental inequities in our society. And you see foundations placing a real value on their staff's ability to connect and partner with people across races and cultures, whether in our local communities or around our interconnected world. Philanthropy is more effective when leaders and staff reflect — and deeply understand — the communities at the heart of our work.

Kyoko Uchida

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (January 2019)

February 01, 2019

The weather outside is frightful, but we've got some January reads that are downright insightful. So grab a throw, a cup of your favorite warm beverage, and enjoy.

Interested in contributing to PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

The Persistence of False and Harmful Narratives About Boys and Men of Color

January 17, 2019

The following essay is adapted from His Story: Shifting Narratives for Boys of Men of Color: A Guide for Philanthropy (66 pages, PDF), which was developed by the Perception Institute for the Executives' Alliance for Boys and Men of Color. The guide is based on discussions and learnings from the 2015-2017 Narrative Change Collective Action Table hosted by the Executives' Alliance for Boys and Men of Color and was largely written by the Perception Institute's Alexis McGill Johnson and Rachel Godsil.

Toolkit_singlePages-pdf-v2-640x822The tragic, brutal, and untimely deaths of boys and men of color in the last few years reinforce an all-too-familiar feeling:  being a male of color in the United States is perilous. What boys and men of color are experiencing in the real world, we also know, does not veer too far from what's happening in the narratives that have come to shape the lived experience for many boys and men of color. Stories that "dehumanize" young men of color and question their value to society abound. And stories that "super-humanize" the physical characteristics of boys and men of color create fear and distrust. The common denominators in these stories are dominant narratives — stories about boys and men of color that are distorted, repeated, and amplified through media platforms, both traditional media and social media, which fuel negative and vilifying perceptions and bring them to scale. In our work, we've come to define these dominant narratives as the "dragon" we are trying to "slay."

In order to slay the dragon, we first need to understand what a narrative is, how it becomes dominant, and then how current narratives cause harm to our boys and men of color. A narrative is a spoken or written account of connected events. In other words, it is a story we tell to make meaning. Narratives become dominant through repetition, particularly when told about a minority culture through the lens of the ruling culture.

Dominant narratives inform how a majority of people in society perceive and interact with one another. They are comprised of stories and archetypes that portray people of different races and ethnicities — black, Latino, Asian, or Native American — as caricatures rather than as distinct and unique human beings. For boys and men of color, the stereotypes may differ depending upon the particular race or ethnicity and historical context, but for each group, these stereotypes are distorted and limiting. Think, for example, of Black and Latino men and how stereotypes depict them as dangerous, threatening, and poor. In contrast, the dominant narratives of white men portray them as hardworking, industrious, innovative, and successful.

Dominant narratives, while constantly evolving, are rooted in the racial history of the United States, specifically the parts of that history that we do not often discuss, such as slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and other times of racial bias. As we describe in more detail in the toolkit, the effects of being defined by a dominant narrative infuse every aspect of life for boys and men of color, from housing and education to health care and career opportunities, making them more vulnerable to violence and more likely to end up in jail.

Dominant narratives about boys and men of color can also trigger or be reinforced by internalized negative self-perceptions among community members. The stories we tell about each other influence the stories we see in ourselves, making our narrative challenges both interrelated and mutually reinforcing — the external reinforcing the internal and vice versa. But it is often the dominant narrative that does the most work in driving how others see boys and men of color and how they see themselves. While the toolkit focuses on boys and men of color, these same processes are also applicable to narratives about other populations, including women and girls of color.

The Impact of Dominant Narratives

Dominant narratives of boys and men of color constrain how we perceive their potential and limit our expectations of them. In a sense, narratives become reality as boys and young men of color have their opportunities for advancement truncated throughout their lives. As boys, they are irrationally perceived as threatening rather than innocent; as students, they are labeled as disruptive rather than recognized for their academic potential; as job applicants, they are disproportionately passed over, sometimes for less-qualified candidates.

At the same time, boys of color are more likely than their peers to attend schools that have fewer experienced educators and lack resources. They are less likely to emerge from high school prepared for college and less able to compete for good jobs or access startup capital for business ventures. Most unjustifiably — and shamefully for the broader culture around them — they experience extremely high levels of contact with the juvenile and criminal justice systems. In moments of crisis, dominant narratives lead to the assumption that the behavior of boys of color must be harmful and deadly, which in turn precipitates unjust and dangerously false interpretations of this behavior. When held as a society, dominant narratives both mirror and, perversely, provide justification for the scant allocation of institutional resources for boys and men of color, limiting their opportunities and providing system-wide barriers to their success.

All of these factors can also lead to internalized racism or internalized oppression, causing boys and men of color to see themselves through the lens of the false dominant narratives that limit their opportunity and shape their lives. As Professor Laura Padilla has noted, internalized oppression and racism are insidious forces that cause marginalized groups to turn on themselves, often without even realizing it. The combined effect of internalized oppression and internalized racism is often devastating — it can reinforce self-fulfilling negative stereotypes, resulting in self-destructive behavior.

Donna Bivens has described the phenomenon further:

Because internalized racism is a systemic oppression, it must be distinguished from human wounds like self-hatred or "low self esteem," to which all people are vulnerable. It is important to understand it as systemic because that makes it clear that it is not a problem simply of individuals. It is structural. Thus, even people of color who have "high self-esteem" must wrestle with the internalized racism that infects us, our loved ones, our
institutions, and our communities....

This last point is a crucial reminder that as we pursue our work, we must be mindful that dominant narratives affect communities internally as well as externally. This phenomenon is particularly noteworthy given the far reach and impact of media with the advancement of technology. For this reason, we can no longer have separate messages for an internal and external audience; rather, narrative change work must effectively address both audiences collectively and consistently.

Framing and the Limits of Traditional Responses

Given what we know about how dominant narratives and the damage they can inflict, why can we not seem to do more to address them? The simple answer is that the go-to approaches we have used for decades are either outdated or ineffective to address the scale of the challenge. In fact, they can even backfire on us.

Since the civil rights movement, three major innovations in communications and thinking about race and racism have furthered our understanding about how race functions in our society and provided the basis for our appeals beyond the civil rights community for progressive policies and changes in practice:

Disparity Documentation: data-driven analysis used to demonstrate the lack of full inclusion of people of color in society.

Structural Analysis of Policy and Opportunity: recognition that racial and economic inequalities stem from policies that determine institutional opportunities or create exclusionary barriers for people of color.

Intersectionality: recognition of the complex means by which marginalization and oppression operate in a person's everyday life as a result of embodying multiple interconnected and overlapping stigmatized social identities such as race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.

While these approaches are critical to analysis and determining policy positions, they can be detrimental to the work of persuading the broader public that the policy position should be adopted. These approaches are not only insufficient to challenge dominant narratives, they may reinforce them. Egalitarian thinking has prevailed, yet our unconscious mind, which determines most of our behavior, remains highly influenced by stereotypes, racial anxiety, and preference for the dominant in-group. Our data, history, and logic are sound; however, social science research over the past two decades tells us that we need to move beyond the rational in order to compel change.

As a result, these approaches — which have helped paint a broad portrait of the experiences of people of color in America — cannot translate data into a sense of moral urgency or empathy. With competing explanations for racial gaps and disparities, they do not inspire those not affected directly by racial bias to create change. They do not help manage racial anxiety or racial tension, which seem to have spiked in recent years. And most importantly, they can create a sense of inevitability or intractability of racial subordination within communities of color that triggers hopelessness and despair.

When emotions and fear are primary drivers of human behavior, "rationality" becomes irrelevant. To be successful in persuading others, we must affirm the centrality of emotions and values in our reactions to race and gender. We need to create a meaningful cultural shift in the conversation about race when ideas about race are entrenched in both our discourse and language (prompting predictable reactions) and also in our unconscious minds.

Advocates should be aware of the missteps, or insufficiencies, in every stage of the narrative-building process so that we can foster open-mindedness and collaboration rather than cause further polarization. Through this work, then, we need to build upon, supplement, critique — and most importantly not be limited to — the frames we have used in the past.

The toolkit includes some often-used frames derived from our policy-driven approaches that have been developed over the years. Each has done valuable and important work in the fight against racism. But each frame also has accompanying challenges or limitations that can impede the narrative expansion we seek.

The frames described are critical components of our work: we must teach more accurate history; "whiteness as a default" is a reality we must address; identifying and building upon our shared values will be part of coalition building; and we must work to prevent the harms that stem from both implicit and explicit biases. However, these frames are inadequate and incomplete. The focus of our shared work is to create opportunities for sustained behavior change. If our current frames haven't been effective in challenging the distorted perceptions and dominant narratives about boys and men of color and people of color overall — and evidence suggests we have not — we need to find new approaches.

[Review] 'Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance'

January 16, 2019

In Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance, Edgar Villanueva, vice president of programs and advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education, asserts that colonialism is not a thing of the past, but lives on, like a virus, in existing systems and structures, including philanthropy and social finance. In the book, Villanueva, an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe and a veteran of the philanthropic sector who has worked in program positions at the Marguerite Casey Foundation and Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, examines how colonization has affected the sector and his own life, and offers a prescription for rectifying its most pernicious consequences.

Decolonizing_wealth_shadowOne of the first things he does is draw a distinction between colonialism and immigration: immigrants come to a new country expecting to abide by the existing laws of the land; colonialism, in contrast, is all about imposing control over new lands and expropriating their resources — by force, if necessary. Colonialism is about establishing dominance over others, which Villanueva likens to a "zombie invasion" in that "[c]olonizers insist on taking over the bodies, minds, and souls of the colonized."

To make his point, Villanueva points to the history of Indian boarding schools in the United States. In the late nineteenth century, as the so-called Indian wars were winding down, the federal government forcibly separated tens of thousands of Native children from their families and communities and sent them off to schools where their "education" included being stripped of their cultural identity. Children were not allowed to use or be called by their own names or to speak their Native language. The philosophy, as the founder of the first off-reservation boarding school put it, was to "kill the Indian, and save the man." The psychic, social, and cultural trauma experienced by Native children in these often-brutal environments was compounded by malnutrition, forced labor, and other forms of physical abuse that went unmarked and unaddressed.

At its heart, though, colonialism is about white supremacy; it is, writes Villanueva, "racism in institutional form," and all institutions and systems in the United States, even the most well-intentioned, have been distorted by its legacy. In the first half of the book, Villanueva provocatively describes the way this has played out over time using the slave plantation as an analogy. Overseers are generally white men or white-controlled institutions, the owners of wealth and power whose ill-gotten gains derive from the exploitation of land, resources, and people. People of color working within these institutions are like house slaves, often silenced or pushed out if they do not go along with the status quo. Communities of color are the field slaves, supplicants for assistance whose need was caused by exploitation.

According to Villanueva, the goal of the colonizer is to accumulate as much wealth as possible. In the U.S., that wealth was created by centuries of genocidal policies, land confiscation, and slavery, followed by a century of discriminatory laws and practices that denied communities of color access to white-controlled sources of wealth.

But if the love of money is the root of all evil, money itself, for Villanueva, is value neutral, neither good nor evil. Which means it can be used to help facilitate healing from trauma and restore harmony to a world out of balance. In the second half of the book, Villanueva suggests what this "decolonizing" of wealth might look like.

It begins with an acknowledgement of our history, deep grief over how the colonizer mindset has affected us all (regardless of the color of our skin), and genuine apologies. It also requires moving money to where the trauma is deepest — something that can only be known by those who have experienced it. Just as federally qualified health centers must have a governing board comprised of a majority (at least 51 percent) of patients in order to qualify for federal funds, Villanueva wonders what things would look like if half of all foundation staff and boards were comprised of individuals from the communities being served. One example: the Potlatch Fund, a Native-led nonprofit in Seattle, Washington, allocates all of its grant dollars to Native peoples, and its by-laws require that two-thirds of its board seats be held by Native Americans. He then points to the emergence of participatory grantmaking in philanthropy and participatory budgeting at the municipal level as signs of the growing democratization of institutional decision-making.

At the same time, a foundation's investment strategies cannot be divorced from its mission. Institutional philanthropy cannot expect to drive meaningful change when only 5 percent of the assets it controls is allocated to grantmaking while the other 95 percent is invested in pursuit of financial returns — often in the very companies creating the social and environmental problems foundations are trying to address. Aware of this conundrum, the F.B. Heron Foundation, in 1996, began taking steps to use its corpus more intentionally as a means of generating greater social impact. Half a dozen years later, in 2012, the foundation made the decision to invest a hundred percent of its assets in service to its mission. What might happen if every foundation committed to using its assets the same way?

Inevitably, decolonizing wealth must address the issue of reparations — an issue, writes Villanueva, that institutional philanthropy, with more than $800 billion sitting in endowments, has the means to address. Of that $800 billion, only 5 percent is distributed in the form of grants each year, and only 8 percent of that is explicitly targeted to communities of color. A sector created to do good, says Villanueva, simply must do better. To that end, he floats the idea of a "reparations tithe" — a voluntary commitment by foundations to direct 10 percent of their assets to the establishment of a trust fund that would provide grants to Native American and African American communities in support of asset- and wealth-building initiatives.

Villanueva closes his book by reminding readers of the Native principle of "All My Relations" — a world in which everyone and everything is interconnected and interdependent. "All My Relations means that everyone is at home here," he writes. “Everyone has a responsibility in making things right. Everyone has a role in the process of healing, regardless of whether they caused or received more harm. All our suffering is mutual. All our healing is mutual. All our thriving is mutual.” Like two other recent publications, Anand Giridharadas' Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World and Rob Reich's Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better, his book is a valuable critique of the ways in which philanthropy perpetuates inequities, hierarchy, and oppression and an urgent call for it to engage more deeply in the healing process.

Grace Sato is a Knowledge Services manager at Foundation Center. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

Most Popular Posts of 2018

December 28, 2018

New-Years-Eve-2018.jpgHere they are: the most popular posts on PhilanTopic in 2018 as determined over the last twelve months by your clicks! 

It's a great group of reads, and includes posts from 2017 (Lauren Bradford, Gasby Brown, Rebekah Levin, and Susan Medina), 2016 (by Nathalie Laidler-Kylander, May Samali, Bernard Simonin, and Nada Zohdy), 2015 (Bethany Lampland), 2014 (Richard Brewster), 2013 (Allison Shirk), and oldies but goodies from 2012 (Michael Edwards) and 2010 (Thaler Pekar).

Check 'em out — we guarantee you'll find something that gives you pause or makes you think.

Interested in writing for PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Send a few lines about your idea/article/post to mfn@foundationcenter.org.

The Migrant Crisis Isn’t Just About Migrants

December 14, 2018

181019-migrants-45As a descendant of Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe, I'm painfully aware of how fortunate I am to live in the United States. Thousands of my grandfather's peers were accused of being Nazi spies and denied asylum by the U.S. State Department and Franklin D. Roosevelt on the grounds they were a threat to national security. In one infamous incident, the German ocean liner St. Louis and its 937 passengers, almost all Jewish, were turned away from the port of Miami in June 1939 and forced to return to Europe. More than a quarter of those passengers died in the Holocaust.

As absurd as it feels to write this, Americans seem to agree that separating infants from their parents and holding them in cages is a less-than-ideal border policy. Yet, after the initial outrage, followed by weeks of protest and political handwringing, we are no closer to agreeing on a humane policy response to those seeking a brighter future for themselves and their children in the United States.

What do we owe asylum seekers from Central America? For the current administration, the answer is "nothing." As far as it is concerned, "caravans" of "illegal aliens" are blatantly disregarding the rule of law and bringing poverty, violence, drugs, and terrorism across the border — or would, if they were allowed to enter. Tear-gassing migrants at the border and separating them from their children might look cruel, but for this administration it is a small price to pay when, it would have you believe, the safety and security of the American people is at stake.

Of course, a full, honest accounting of the situation would require acknowledging our collective responsibility for the violent, wretched conditions under which so many migrant families have suffered. After all, the United States repeatedly has fomented political chaos and instability in Central America, resulting in decades of authoritarian rule and civil strife in most countries in the region, while Americans’ insatiable appetite for cocaine and heroin continues to fund the brutally-violent cartels behind the Latin America drug trade.

To Donald Trump, Mexico and Central America are violent and poor not for reasons of politics or economics; they are violent and poor because Mexicans and Central Americans are less than human. And if one is unashamed to call migrants "animals" and "criminals" looking to "infest" our country, why would one spend even a minute wondering what is causing them to flee their homes?

This mind-set attributes suffering to the personal moral failings of an individual or group of people rather than seeing it as a natural outgrowth of deliberate policy choices. It also knowingly evades responsibility. Persistent poverty and violence in African-American communities are attributed to the cultural or psychological flaws of black people, rather than recognized as the devastating consequence of hundreds of years of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, police brutality, and racist housing legislation. Falling incomes are seen as the product of laziness rather than the result of anti-tax policies, the offshoring of millions of manufacturing jobs, and decades of legislation that have concentrated much of the country’s wealth in the hands of a tiny subset of the population.

The manufactured crisis on our southern border is merely the latest symptom of a collective inability to recognize the basic humanity of others and come to terms with the consequences of past actions. If we acknowledge that political decisions made by American elites are partly responsible for the violence, extortion, sexual abuse, and mental and physical trauma that migrants are subject to on their journey to the United States, our collective obligation to help them becomes a moral imperative. Migrants are the victims in this crisis, not its creators.

This shameful moment in American history requires a philanthropic sector that is actively willing to support the two pillars of social change: charity and justice.

There are urgent humanitarian needs being unmet. Food, shelter, basic supplies, and asylum application assistance are all in short supply at the border, while for direct-service providers like those that make up the California United Fund, dealing with a large volume of migrants in a rapidly deteriorating situation has strained their capacity to the breaking point. The situation also demands a robust legal response. Organizations such as the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Southern Poverty Law Center need support as they bring suit against the administration on behalf of nonprofits working to provide assistance to refugees and asylum seekers. My organization, PICO California — the largest faith-based community organizing network in the state — will be holding a series of vigils, protests, and meetings at congressional offices and federal buildings in the months ahead to demand that Congress assign more judges to the border to speed up migrant asylum applications, send humanitarian aid to all migrants, provide job creation and violence prevention assistance to Central American countries, and vote "no" on expanded budgets for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

And yet, the focus on direct services, advocacy campaigns, legal challenges, and voter outreach is only a start. The polarization of our communities is so significant that nothing less than societal transformation is likely to bring about the changes we need. If we don't start to create pathways to reconciliation, progressive power will merely reproduce a different kind of hegemony.

At their core, the fights over immigration, housing policy, criminal justice reform, gun control, and tax policy are fights over who is seen and who matters. As a movement for racial and economic justice, we believe that everyone belongs, and we are committed to resisting the xenophobia and scapegoating that is corrupting our democracy. By investing in movement-building strategies that bridge differences, funders can help create a more inclusive society that is responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable. Only then will justice become a public form of love.

Headshot_jeremy_ziskind

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Jeremy Ziskind is grants manager for PICO California, the largest faith-based community organizing network in the state.

Don’t Wait Until 2020 to Invest in Youth Leaders

December 13, 2018

Youth_engagementFor anyone interested in increasing youth civic engagement, the midterm elections are a cause for celebration. In the election,
31 percent of youth (ages 18-29) voted — according to at least one source, the highest level of participation among youth in the past quarter-century.

Traditionally, support for youth civic engagement declines at the end of an election cycle and resumes as the next cycle starts to heat up — along with thought pieces about why young people don’t vote. To break this pattern, I offer a suggestion: increase investment in youth organizing groups now; don't wait until 2020.

The country is in the middle of a massive demographic shift, with young people of color the fastest-growing segment of the population. The key to developing a robust and inclusive democracy that reflects this shift is to support the active civic participation and leadership of this group. And the best way to do that is not to wait until the start of the next election cycle to pour millions of dollars into advertising to reach young voters.

Instead, we should support organizations led by young people of color that are engaged in year-round organizing around both voter engagement campaigns and efforts to address issues in their local communities. Issue campaigns focused on quality schools, immigrants' rights, ending mass incarceration, and preserving reproductive rights are what motivate young people to become engaged in the world around them and, by extension, the electoral process.

Take the Power U Center for Social Change and Dream Defenders, youth organizing groups in Florida that have been organizing to end mass incarceration and the school-to-prison-pipeline. In the lead up to the midterms, both groups worked tirelessly in support of a ballot measure to restore voting eligibility to formerly convicted persons, and as a result 1.4 million people in Florida have had their voting rights restored. If those ex-offenders are organized effectively, most of them will vote — and in ways, hopefully, that strengthen their communities.

From where I sit, there are three reasons to double down on investments in youth organizing groups:

Youth organizers are good at engaging voters of all ages. Some youth organizing groups have focused on engaging young voters; others are organizing whole communities. Power California, a statewide alliance of more than twenty-five organizations, works to harness the power of young voters of color and their families. Between September and November, the organization and its partners worked in forty counties to get young Californians to head to the polls and make their voices heard on issues that affect them. Through phone calls, texting, and targeted social media, the organization talked to more than a hundred and fifteen thousand young voters and registered and pre-registered more than twenty-five thousand young people of color. Other organizations such as Poder in Action in Phoenix, Arizona, engaged young people in their communities because these young people are knowledgeable and passionate about the issues in play and serve as highly effective messengers. Our takeaway: investing in youth leaders generates results, now and for decades to come.

Engaging the pre-electorate now increases civic participation in the future. Many of the young people organizing and canvassing with grantees of the Funders' Collaborative for Youth Organizing were ineligible to vote because they hadn't turned 18. But while they weren't old enough to cast a ballot, many of them were active in knocking on doors and making calls to encourage others to vote. Today's 16- and 17-year-olds will be voting in 2020, and we should be supporting organizations working to engage them. These organizations are a vital resource for developing the next generation of civic leaders.

Youth organizers play a vital role in connecting issues and voting. Over the last several years, we've seen the emergence of a number of organizations that are organizing young people of color around issues in their communities and helping them engage electorally as part of a broader goal of creating a just and equitable society. These groups are developing the next generation of young leaders, organizing campaigns aimed at improving quality of life in their communities, and encouraging people, young and old, to get out and vote. Recent research shows that this kind of organizing is one of the best ways to support the academic growth, social and emotional development, and civic engagement of young people, and these groups are our best hope for actively engaging young people today, as well as developing a pipeline of leaders equipped to solve future challenges.

Unfortunately, funding for this work has been sporadic, often showing up — in insufficient amounts — just before elections and then disappearing as soon as the last vote has been counted. To build a just and inclusive society, we must make a significant, long-term investment in the leadership of young people of color willing to organize around issues and engage voters, both young and old.

The 2018 election cycle has come to an end. Our investment in youth organizing shouldn't. It is time to get serious about supporting the next generation of leaders.

By 2020, it'll be too late.

Headshot_Eric BraxtonEric Braxton is executive director of the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing, a collective of social justice funders and youth organizing practitioners that works to advance youth organizing as a strategy for youth development and social change.

NoVo Foundation: Empowering Marginalized Women to Drive Change

December 08, 2018

Too often funders doubt the ability of grassroots leaders to drive change, but NoVo Foundation's grantee partners are proving them wrong.

NCRP-2013logo-color-no-taglineNoVo believes that centering the leadership of people who live every day with injustice is the single most powerful way to create transformative change.

The foundation's consistent adherence to its values was a major factor in it being named an NCRP Impact Award winner in 2013. In making the announcement, NCRP highlighted the foundation’s investment in training, coaching, and networking grassroots women leaders through its Move to End Violence initiative, which continues to support leaders in the U.S. working to end violence against girls and women.

Today, NoVo is putting these values to work in even more ways.

Against the backdrop of the #MeToo revolution, NoVo has spent the last year convening hundreds of donors and funders to hear directly from activists working to end violence against girls and women. In New York, London and Los Angeles, these activists challenged philanthropy to meet this once-in-a-lifetime moment of opportunity for transformative change, made possible by millions of girls and women speaking truth to power, sharing their stories, and demanding safety and dignity. Now that effort is poised to bring new resources to the table. In the coming weeks, NoVo will stand with a dynamic group of funders to launch a new landmark fund to end gender-based violence and build women's power.

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Rooted Communities: Placemaking, Placekeeping

December 06, 2018

IRetail for rentn Seattle's Central District, or "CD," gentrification and rapid development are displacing the largest African-American community in the state, reducing opportunities for wealth creation and accumulation among thousands of lower- and middle-class people and threatening the black community's political representation in city government, as well as its social, cultural, and economic capital.

In just a single generation, the African-American share of the neighborhood's population has fallen from 70 percent to under 20 percent, creating a cultural "diaspora" from what had been a diverse, welcoming neighborhood for more than a hundred and thirty years. Shaped early on by racist housing policies that pushed families of color into the neighborhood and limited their access to economic opportunity, African-American members of the community responded by building powerful neighborhood businesses and institutions. Now, those businesses and institutions are being forced out by surging rents and taxes, eroding the sense of community in the district.

Nationally, African Americans have a homeownership rate of 42 percent, a rate virtually unchanged since 1968 and a third less than the 70 percent enjoyed by whites. In Seattle, the home ownership rate for African Americans is just 24 percent. Low rates of home ownership, in both Seattle and nationally, increase African Americans' vulnerability to gentrification, which inevitably leads to rent increases, reduces the stock of affordable housing, and decreases economic opportunity for long-time members of the community.

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Woods Fund Rejects Notion of Philanthropic Risk, Acknowledges Risk of Status Quo

December 03, 2018

Grantees of Woods Fund Chicago are working to move $25 million from Chicago's operating budget to support trauma-focused and mental health services for some of the most marginalized and vulnerable residents of the city. Without the investment, people in areas without city-run clinics may lose access to much-needed healthcare services. Winning the budget fight will save people's lives.

NCRP-2013logo-color-no-taglineSouthside Together Organizing for Progress, better known as STOP, is one of the organizations working to secure the $25 million, and it knows what it takes to win. In 2016, the organization was part of the Trauma Care Coalition, a group of community-based organizations that mounted a campaign demanding that the University of Chicago open a Level 1 adult trauma center in its South Chicago neighborhood.

When one compares the value of an adult trauma center (not to mention a $25 million investment) for a community like the South Side with the $30,000 general operating support grants the Woods Fund has awarded to STOP annually since 2005, one quickly realizes that any risk for the funder is slight.

Yet many funders look at community organizing and advocacy as something too risky for them to support. Yes, strategies that seek to change systems and advance equity can create conflict and challenge powerful individuals and institutions, but they are also the drivers of the kinds of long-term solutions that philanthropy considers its raison d'être. Funders must always remember that the perceived risk of investing in systems change strategies led by marginalized people cannot compare to the actual physical, financial, and emotional risks of grassroots leaders.

The Woods Fund makes a habit of the kind of "risky" grantmaking so many other funders avoid. Its 2013 NCRP Impact Award acknowledged its support for grantees like the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the SouthWest Organizing Project, which helped win policy changes allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

And the foundation not only shares its power and resources with marginalized leaders through its grantmaking but also in the way it goes about its work. For example:

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (November 2018)

December 02, 2018

Devastating wildfires in California, a freak early season snowstorm in the Northeast, and a blue wave that flipped control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the Democrats' favor — November was at times harrowing and never less than surprising. Here on PhilanTopic, your favorite reads included new posts by John Mullaney, executive director of the Nord Family Foundation in Amherst, Ohio, and Jeanné L.L. Isler, vice president and chief engagement officer at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy; three posts by Larry McGill, vice president of knowledge services at Foundation Center, from our ongoing "Current Trends in Philanthropy" series; and oldies but goodies by Thaler Pekar and Gasby Brown, as well as a group-authored post by Nathalie Laidler-Kylander, May Samali, Bernard Simonin, and Nada Zohdy. Enjoy!

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

Interested in writing for PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Send a few lines about your idea/article/post to mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Hill-Snowdon Foundation's Courageous Philanthropy Defends Democracy

November 28, 2018

Since winning an NCRP Impact Award in 2014, the Hill-Snowdon Foundation has been unrelenting in calling out white supremacy and anti-black racism while taking risks to invest in black-led social change work.

2014-ncrp-impact-awards-winner-badgeThe D.C.-based foundation's grantmaking has long been bold, but the leadership it has modeled through its Defending the Dream Fund matches the urgency of the real threats to our democracy. The foundation's decision in 2017 to simplify its practices and collaborate with other funders in creating the fund has resulted in more than $1 million in rapid-response grants being moved to groups working to fight policies that threaten the most vulnerable populations in the United States.

Even in 2015, however, the foundation knew this moment in American history — one that has seen the emergence of movements calling for just and fair elections, human rights for LGBTQ people and people of color, and economic equity — would not last forever.

So the foundation launched its Making Black Lives Matter initiative (MBLM), pushing philanthropy to look beyond the immediate moment and invest in longer-term infrastructure for black-led social change work. Grantees, funding partners, and other nonprofit groups in the community have rated that work as the most impactful they have done in recent years.

How did the foundation do it?

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'The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America': Exhibit at Haverford College

November 21, 2018

"They're selling postcards of the hanging…"
— Bob Dylan, “Desolation Row”

Hank Willis ThomasI've listened to "Desolation Row" hundreds of times since it was first released in 1965, but only recently did I learn that it tells the story of the 1920 lynching of three African-American men in Duluth, Minnesota, where Dylan was born. On an interactive map at a current exhibit about lynching at Haverford College, on the Main Line west of Philadelphia, I found that horrific event — and discovered in the exhibit a group of artists whose response to the history of lynching brings the issue into the present in forceful and creative ways.

The history of lynching is generally known to mainstream American society and is better known to the African-American community, the primary target of lynching, as well as other targeted communities, including foreigners, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos. But like so much of the history of slavery and Jim Crow, the details have often been lacking or relegated to the background. Now, thanks to new digital technologies that make it easier to access and cross-reference public records, oral histories, and other types of documentation, researchers are creating a more complete understanding of lynching in the post-bellum and Jim Crow eras. For instance, while it has long been known that the states of the Confederacy were the scene of most lynchings, we are learning that communities in the North and West like Duluth were also the scene of lynchings, leading to the inescapable conclusion that the message implicit in such atrocities was intended to be a national one.

The challenge for all of us is what to do with that knowledge.

The Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit legal assistance and advocacy organization based in Montgomery, Alabama, has documented more than four thousand lynchings in the U.S. between 1877 and 1950. The organization published a report on its findings (now in its third edition) and has established a National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a museum, a research center, and community-based partnerships focused on registering lynching sites.

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Philanthropy's Under-Investment in Holding High Finance Accountable: A Gamble We Can’t Afford

October 17, 2018

Monopoly_top_hatTen years ago, President George W. Bush signed into law the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, authorizing $700 billion in federal funding to buy troubled assets from banks deemed to be in danger of failing as a result of the subprime foreclosure crisis.

A lot has changed since then, but one thing has remained the same: progressive philanthropy continues to under-prioritize efforts to hold the financial industry accountable.

It's a choice that risks undermining the headway progressive foundations are making on issues of inequality and wealth building. Placing big bets on policies designed to lift up low- and moderate-income communities while failing to address the accountability of financial institutions is a gamble we cannot afford to take — not least because it puts at risk the very people we are trying to serve.

American households lost $16 trillion in wealth in the years after the 2007-08 financial crisis. And while some experts estimate that Americans have regained $14.6 trillion, or 91 percent, of those losses in the decade since, the collapse affected different segments of society unequally, with the gains just as unequally distributed. In other words, both the crash and the recovery increased inequality in America.

The impact on African Americans was especially profound. Nearly 8 percent of African-American homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure in the years after the crisis, compared with only 4.5 percent of white homeowners, and between 2007 and 2010 African Americans saw their retirement accounts lose 35 percent of their value. Indeed, according to the National Association of Realtors, African Americans lost fully half their wealth as a result of the financial crisis.

It's not just the likelihood of future financial crises that should give philanthropic leaders pause; it's also the fact that an under-regulated and unaccountable financial industry will continue to target communities of color and low-income communities with sketchy products and put vulnerable households at risk.

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[Review] 'You Can't Be What You Can't See: The Power of Opportunity to Change Young Lives'

September 26, 2018

Concrete, practicable solutions to society's urgent challenges are rare, in part because the debate around such issues too often is driven by philosophical differences and partisan political calculation. What is needed instead are compelling stories that explain those challenges through the eyes of the people affected and suggest possible solutions based on their lived reality. You Cant Be What You Can't See, by Milbrey W. McLaughlin, tells one such story.

Book_you_cant_be_what_you_cant_seeIn the book, McLaughlin, the David Jack Professor Emeritus of Education and Public Policy at Stanford University and founding director of the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities, documents what happened to more than seven hundred young people from Chicago's Cabrini-Green public housing project who participated in CYCLE, an out-of-school-time tutoring program started in 1978 in the basement of Cabrini-Green's LaSalle Street Church. Over the next decade and a half the program evolved into a comprehensive afterschool and summer support program for neighborhood youth, the history of which McLaughlin traces through the lives of the young people who participated. Along the way, we learn, through the kids' own voices, how the program altered the trajectory of their lives for the better.

For much of its existence, Cabrini-Green — which comprised the Frances Cabrini Row-houses and the William Green Homes — was portrayed by the national media as a sort of urban version of the Wild West, a place where crime, drugs, and guns were all-too-common and lawlessness prevailed. Like many narratives, this one was overly simplistic. McLaughlin starts her story at the beginning, in the early 1940s, when the Chicago Housing Project built Cabrini-Green "to replace the crime-ridden slum widely known as Little Hell with clean, family-friendly, affordable housing" for (mostly) white families. As those families grew more prosperous in the post-WWII boom and began moving to suburbs, low-income black families, many on public assistance, moved in.

The 1950s and 1960s were "a time of hope and relative racial calm" in Cabrini-Green. The two-story row houses were a great option for low-income families with children, and major high-rise expansions of the complex in 1958 and 1962 meant that more low-income families could afford to live there. "It was paradise compared to what you had before," remembers Craig Nash, a CYCLE alum who became coordinator of CYCLE's I Have Dream scholarship program. "When the high-rises first went up, they were beautiful. There were trees, there were families — mother, father, children, working families."

But over time, the effects of the "redlining" practices that were common at the Chicago Housing Authority during the period began to shift "the make-up of Cabrini-Green from the 1960s-era community of two-parent, working families to, by the late 1970s, "an economically, racially, and socially segregated" series of projects comprising thousands of units, mostly occupied by struggling black single mothers. "Neighborhoods are not accidents," Tim Huizenga, an early CYCLE board member, told McLaughlin. "They are the products of systematic sorting processes….For a while, the high-rises were decent places to live. But, for a variety of reasons, eventually they became the place where people that just had no options were living." As the condition of the buildings and in the neighborhood declined along with expectations, gang violence, teenage pregnancy rates, and social and institutional isolation increased, creating a toxic dynamic that fed on itself.

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  • "Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary...."

    — Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

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