67 posts categorized "Criminal Justice"

5 Questions for...Frances Sykes, President and CEO, Pascale Sykes Foundation

April 27, 2021

For much of its existence, the New Jersey-based Pascale Sykes Foundation has worked to strengthen low-income working families in the New Jersey/New York region through what it calls the Whole Family Approach, a preventive (as opposed to crisis-driven) strategy that helps family members, both adults and children, support one another in achieving their long-term goals. With the understanding that financial stability, healthy relationships, and physical well-being are linked, families are matched with a coach who works alongside family members to identify and set their goals; ensure they have the resources and tools needed to achieve those goals; and connect them to a network of agencies able to deliver holistic, coordinated support. The approach has been applied in various settings and with immigrant families, foster youth, and families dealing with members who are re-entering society from the criminal justice system.

The foundation's work extends into other areas as well. After rural families in southern New Jersey identified transportation as a major challenge, the foundation supported an initiative known as Transportation Plus, which provides residents of the region with connections to NJ Transit. And through its Economic Initiative, a partnership with a community development financial institution, the foundation invests in a series of low-interest loan funds for small businesses and nonprofits in the region.

Frances P. Sykes has led the foundation since its founding in 1992. In 1995, Pascale Sykes trustees voted to sunset the foundation by 2022. PND spoke with Sykes about the foundation's Whole Family Approach, where things stand with the spend-down process, and her hopes for the field.

Headshot_frances_sykesPhilanthropy News Digest: You've said you created the Pascale Sykes Foundation with two intentions: to serve working low-income families that aren't eligible for many safety-net services, and to help reshape the way social services in the United States are delivered. How did you come to settle on those two objectives?

Frances Sykes: When I was teaching, I witnessed a working family struggle to get help for their eleven-year-old, who was in danger of going down the wrong path. The family made too much to qualify for free supportive services, and under a sliding scale they would have been asked to pay more than they could afford. They were stuck, whereas a middle-class family in the same situation more than likely would've been able to afford to pay out of pocket for counseling and other services for their child. It wasn't fair that the issue the child was experiencing wasn't severe enough, or that the family wasn't poor enough, to allow them to access the resources they needed. Far too many families are in that same position — living one step above the poverty line and lacking access to the kinds of support they need. I wanted my work to be a part of the solution to that challenge — to help build a bridge between what families need and the agencies that have the resources to empower them.

The Whole Family Approach evolved over ten years. By working alongside grantees, Pascale Sykes trustees, staff, and grantees could see what made a lasting difference in families' long-term well-being. And we also came to realize that families know what they want and are capable of achieving it if they are taught how to navigate the system. It's not complicated. Adults in charge. Financial stability, relationships, and physical/social/emotional health reinforcing each other. What happens to one person affects the entire family, and what happens to the family affects each individual within it. Root causes must be addressed or problems recur.

The approach turns traditional social work on its head. In our approach, social workers are no longer expected to fix problems or work with individuals in isolation or address isolated issues. Instead, coaches work to build trust and walk alongside every member of the family as they work to achieve their self-defined goals.

PND: A critical component of the Whole Family Approach is the requirement that two "dependable adult caregivers are actively engaged with the children in the family." Why is it important that two adults be involved?

FS: All families look different. But every adult needs someone to call or turn to in an emergency, or just to share good news with. The second adult not only supports the primary caregiver but is an additional support system for children in the family as well. And that's a win-win for everyone. The stronger the support system, the healthier the family and the more likely its members will reach their shared goals.

PND: A July 2020 report that examined the results achieved by eight collaboratives using the Whole Family Approach found that participating families were in a better position to handle the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis because of the stronger familial ties they had forged and the access they had to support networks, even though they still experienced anxiety and mental health issues in addition to the stressors they were facing pre-pandemic. Are you seeing any evidence that the field in general is shifting toward this type of strategy? And looking down the road five to ten years, where do you see challenges to more widespread adoption of the approach?

FS: The field has been shifting for a few years. You see variations of the Whole Family Approach promoted by larger funders like Kellogg, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and other high-profile organizations under names like "2Gen" or "Intergenerational Approach."

I really see no challenges to its adoption by others in the field — even if others give it another name and make it their own. It's a proven approach that we know works better for families. Our research has shown that adults have less financial stress, that ties between adults in a family are strengthened, that children's health and educational achievement improve, and that the academic aspirations of both adults and children are raised. In the time remaining before we officially sunset later this year, the foundation is on a mission to raise awareness of the approach and to get others to embrace it. We believe it can advance the field and put more of our working families on a path to stability.

PND: The foundation's approach emphasizes collaboration — among family members, nonprofits, and human services agencies, and between the foundation and its partners. In a 2019 post for our blog, you urged funders to shift their grantmaking so as to foster more collaboration and less competition among grantees. What are your thoughts about the state of collaboration in the social sector today?

FS: The competition for limited resources has resulted in a fragmented approach to service provision that undermines the value of those services for families in need. Too often, families are forced to start from scratch in their efforts to access services, filling out the same form multiple times for multiple agencies, then receiving a separate set of recommendations from each of those agencies. What's more, different agencies often will offer differing and/or conflicting advice. Families become overwhelmed. Parents become frustrated, unable to prioritize and plan their next steps. Children feel the lack of stability and bear the brunt of its effects. It's also difficult for busy family members to build solid, trusting relationships with representatives from multiple agencies.

We believe collaboration is key. That's what the Whole Family Approach is all about. To maximize their effectiveness, funders, nonprofits, and agencies that have bought into the approach capture and share information about their clients' goals, progress, and life changes in a centralized database, enabling partner agencies to see families as holistic entities with their own unique challenges, vulnerabilities, and strengths. Instead of operating individually, agencies begin to see other nonprofits in the collaboration not as competitors but as teammates they can lean on to organize priorities, share resources, and advance their mutual goals and objectives.

The more foundations see the benefits of the Whole Family Approach, the greater the chances we'll be able to change the system so that it is more efficient and effective in helping families thrive.

PND: In 1996, your board voted to sunset the foundation within thirty years, and in 2009 a non-trustee workgroup researched and set up plans for the spend-down process. How much of an impact has your status as a limited-life foundation had on your grantmaking strategies? And would you recommend the approach to others who may be thinking about establishing a private foundation?

FS: Being a limited-life foundation is necessary for any small foundation that wants to create real change. Change requires the flexibility to respond to unexpected situations. This can only happen if a funder is focused on making change, not preserving the corpus.

The decision to sunset was based on two key factors. First, the decision to make a large impact was critical, and distributing 5 percent to 6 percent of our investment income each year simply would not accomplish that goal. And second, when we started, the Whole Family Approach was not well known. Thirty years later, we're proud of the fact that more foundations and organizations are implementing a version of the approach, and that it is leading to greater impact. I have no doubt the approach will be accepted more broadly. And when it is, instead of shifting into a new focus area or something less relevant to us, we'll be able to say we accomplished our mission.

We look forward to more funders picking up the mantle and moving this work forward in their own way. And I highly recommend our grantmaking strategy and the Whole Family Approach as a way forward for others who want to make a big impact in a particular way.

Kyoko Uchida

5 Questions for...Starsky Wilson, President and CEO, Children's Defense Fund

December 18, 2020

In September, the Rev. Dr. Starsky D. Wilson was named president and CEO of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), succeeding Marian Wright Edelman, who in late 2018 transitioned into the role of president emerita of the organization she founded almost fifty years earlier. Wilson started his tenure as president and CEO of CDF on December 7.

Wilson previously served as president and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation, a faith-based philanthropy focused on child well-being in St. Louis, and as pastor of Saint John's Church, an interracial, inner-city congregation. In the wake of the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown, Wilson was asked to co-chair the Ferguson Commission, convened by then-Missouri governor Jay Nixon; the report issued by the commission, Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity, called for sweeping reforms to policing and the criminal justice system as well as a renewed commitment to child well-being and economic opportunity for all.

Earlier this month, PND spoke with Wilson, who serves as board chair of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and as vice chair of the Forum for Theological Exploration, about the intersection of faith, racial justice, and philanthropy; the rising generation of racial justice activists; and Marian Wright Edelman's legacy.

Headshot_Starsky-Wilson_childrens_defense_fundPhilanthropy News Digest: As the former co-chair of the Ferguson Commission, what was your reaction to the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the nationwide protests that followed? And have we made any progress toward racial justice since Michael Brown was shot dead by a Ferguson police officer?

Starsky Wilson: The video of the eight minutes and forty-six seconds in which George Floyd was killed by Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck in Minneapolis was a triggering reminder of the four hours Michael Brown, Jr. lay in the street in Ferguson, Missouri, after being killed by Darren Wilson. Six years passed between those tragedies, and yet so much was the same: the days waiting for the responsible police officers to be arrested, the outpouring of pent-up rage and pain from decades of oppression and brutality.

Six years have passed and little has changed in the response of these systems. On the other hand, much progress has been made in the activation and mobilization of community leaders on the ground, and in building the capacity to change narratives and organize people for long-term impact.

The only way to stop police violence is to address the root cause directly and deeply. Racist oppression and myths of criminality lead to public lynchings of Black people by those sworn to protect them. We need effective leaders who are not afraid to stand up and speak out about racial injustice. We must lift up and listen to the voices of impacted communities that for decades have been crying out about police brutality, violence that endangers our children and youth. We must take meaningful action on a systemic level: removing the police presence from our schools, ending the cradle-to-prison pipeline, and investing in programs that allow marginalized children and their families to thrive.

PND: As an early supporter of and participant in the Black Lives Matter movement, you're seen by many as a bridge between Marian Wright Edelman's generation of 1960s civil rights-era activists and a new generation of millennial and Gen-Z racial justice activists. As the new president and CEO of the Children's Defense Fund, how do you see your role in the movement for racial justice?

SW: Child well-being and racial justice are intimately and forever interconnected. Many people don't realize that 2020 is the first year in American history where the majority of children in this country are children of color. This makes the civil rights legacy and child advocacy vision that the Children's Defense Fund has woven together for nearly fifty years even more vital.

That's also why I am honored to join the organization built by Marian Wright Edelman. She has understood since she founded the Children's Defense Fund in 1973 that it is essential to weave together the struggle for civil rights and the fight for children in order for both movements to succeed. That means any action we can take toward providing opportunity, relieving social and economic burdens, and expanding healthcare access for the nation's children helps build a safer and more equitable society for people of color. At the same time, any action we can take to dismantle the policies and structures that uphold systems of racism in this country creates a better nation for our children.

Holding and earning the trust of leaders within the Movement for Black Lives is just as high an honor. I have been pleased to stand with, beside, and behind them on the streets and the public square, to invest in their work, and to strategize with them. At CDF, I look forward to working with these same leaders to extend the movement for justice that so many are inheriting at about the same age that Mrs. Edeleman was when she planted the flag of her work for justice.

PND: CDF recently was awarded a $1 million grant by the Thriving Congregations Initiative at the Lilly Endowment. As a pastor and a nonprofit leader, how do you see the relationship between faith and social justice advocacy? And how will the organization use the grant?

SW: Only faith in some idea, expression, or being greater than ourselves gives us the capacity to see justice in the face of injustice and to sustain strength to pursue it. Faith leaders like Rev. James Lawson and the late Rev. C.T. Vivian taught me that, at critical moments, we must win locally with spiritually grounded activism before we can win globally with on-the-ground activism. My job as a faith leader is to stir our collective imagination, encourage moral action, and pursue justice and righteousness as I encounter those themes in sacred texts and communities. When we bring our beliefs and bold action into the public square, we nurture the change that can transform a nation and help children flourish.

The Children's Defense Fund has a long history of working with faith leaders and communities to activate champions for our children through programs like the Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry and the annual National Children's Sabbath. The generous grant from the Lilly Endowment will take that work to new heights by allowing us to pursue a focused partnership with a small group of congregations to help strengthen the connections between the teachings and actions of their places of worship with the challenges facing children in their communities and across the country.

PND: Over the course of your career you've been focused on the well-being of children, and that includes your work on the CDF Freedom Schools summer literacy program and the Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry. Have you had time to determine what your top priorities for CDF are over the short to immediate term?

SW: There was already so much work to be done to make sure our most marginalized children can flourish — and that was before the COVID pandemic set those children back even further in their learning, their development, and their safety and well-being. The top priority at CDF will always be to be a strong, effective voice for the more than seventy-four million children who cannot vote, lobby, or make campaign donations to the lawmakers with the power to help them. Our immediate focus right now is urging Congress to pass robust COVID relief that will help our children and their families stay housed, fed, and safe in the difficult weeks ahead.

More broadly, we will continue to push those in power to take a holistic view of our children. They are not just students and future employees; they are entire human beings who need to be supported mentally and physically to lead joyful lives. We must be proactive in supporting children in all aspects of their life, not just working on the back end to dilute the damage after they have experienced a traumatic experience. We will not solve the complex, interconnected set of challenges facing our most vulnerable children unless we as a society adopt that kind of approach to serving them.

PND: Many foundations have come to the realization that they need to do more to address systemic racism and support efforts to advance racial justice. What are the one or two things foundations could do in 2021 to really accelerate progress toward a racially just society?

SW: First, foundations must make good on their public statements and commitments made in response to the reckoning we saw in 2020, from COVID-19 to racial uprisings to the presidential election. To truly and faithfully advance racial justice, they must invest in an equitable recovery from the pandemic, including supporting responses designed to correct the disproportionate health and economic impacts on Black and brown children and families. That will require higher payouts, the application of a racial equity lens to their grantmaking, and the adoption of a systems-change approach to everything they do.

Philanthropies must invest in Black-led social change and listen closely to leaders and organizations in impacted communities. Just before coming to CDF, I led the Deaconess Foundation's work to invest $4 million into Black-led pandemic response and racial healing initiatives. That type of deliberate, focused action is what is needed to produce the results foundations say they want in their mission statements and theories of change.

Finally, leaders of foundations can lift their own voices to amplify the demands of those whose voices are too often drowned out or ignored. The freedom to advocate afforded to foundations and their leaders is a powerful tool when it's used to shift narratives and educate the public. And I am truly glad to hear some of these leaders already speaking out loudly and forcefully.

Kyoko Uchida

5 Questions for Walter Katz, Vice President, Criminal Justice, Arnold Ventures

October 19, 2020

After beginning his career as a public defender in Southern California, Walter Katz spent the next three decades in public service, serving as an independent police auditor in San Jose, California, and as deputy inspector general for the County of Los Angeles Office of Inspector General (OIG) before returning to his hometown of Chicago in 2017 to serve as deputy chief of staff for public safety in the administration of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. In that role, Katz oversaw one of the most complex police reform efforts in the United States and served as a co-negotiator of a consent decree enacted in 2019 that resulted in the design and development of the city's Office of Violence Prevention.

PND recently spoke with Katz about the summer of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, what calls for defunding the police mean, and the role of philanthropy in driving change.

Headshot_walter_katzPhilanthropy News Digest: There have been a number of high-profile killings of unarmed African Americans by police officers over the last few years. What was different about George Floyd's death? And what do you make of the fact that protests across the nation sparked by his death were multi-racial and multi-generational?

Walter Katz: I think many people not involved in criminal justice reform had moved on from those earlier killings. There are so many other issues competing for our attention, from climate change, to political uncertainty, to the pandemic. But seeing video of that officer use his knee to choke the life out of George Floyd, with impunity and seemingly without any concern for George Floyd's humanity, really focused people on what is happening in this country. It was such a shocking thing that people across the country were forced to acknowledge that this kind of activity on the part of the police cannot be tolerated, that the reforms of the past several years have not had the anticipated effect, and that more urgent action is needed.

As for the protests, I think they're a reflection of the America in which we live. In the past, advocates and activists for change were maybe more siloed off into their own particular issues, but young people today are much more connected intersectionally. The connections between, say, housing policy and policing and underinvestment in communities of color are apparent and readily made; there's a broader understanding of how things connect to and influence each other.

Here at the foundation, we're encouraged by how well the public seems to understand the cross-cutting relationships between, say, police reform and public safety and what we need to do to reduce violent crime. And once you look at the connections between those kinds of issues, it immediately raises questions. How should we respond to people in real time who are in crisis? When someone calls 911 with a tip or problem, should the response always be to send a police officer to the scene? Might it be more effective, depending on the situation, to send a mental health worker or a social worker or a community intervention specialist? Does every single call to the police require an armed response? All of this calls for really thoughtful conversations and for good-faith efforts to dig into data about what works and what doesn't and seeing where that data leads us.

Our Data Driven Justice Project is expressly trying to ask those kinds of questions: What does an effective co-responder model look like? Law enforcement and other first-responders are sent to all sorts of calls, including people who are unhoused or people living with mental illness. First-responders, through no fault of their own, tend to only see the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface, however, the person may have a long history with a variety of social services. Being able to have that information is critical, and that requires that we break down silos — not only operational silos, but data silos. First-responders should have access to as much of the data that is out there as possible. Local governments may already have it, but it's often hidden away in a completely different data warehouse. The role of data in all this and how we help jurisdictions that are trying to make it more accessible is something the foundation is thinking carefully about.

PND: The signature demand of protests this summer was a call for the police to be "defunded." Is that something that could happen over the next couple of years?

WK: One of the challenges of the call to defund has been the lack of clarity as to what the term actually means. Some say "abolition" is the goal, but when asked what "abolition" means, some people will say "no police," while others will say "a transformation of public safety that's not necessarily exclusive to policing." The distinction depends on the messenger, and it's the cause of a lot of confusion. City councils that are grappling with these issues have been approving police budgets for years, and I'm concerned that some of the cuts we're hearing about are not being done with a lot of rigorous analysis. In the weeks after George Floyd's death, there was a sort of reflexive "respond in the moment" quality to some of the actions taken. But I believe the rhetoric around "defunding" will evolve into something more thoughtful with respect to what communities want, what they expect, and what the budgeting process should look like. I would say that, in general, we need to have better-informed policy making and budget making. Collective bargaining by our elected officials, for example, needs to be more transparent and we need more accountability from our law enforcement leadership.

PND:What else can policy makers do to make police departments more accountable to their communities?

WK: Elected officials need to be more engaged. They need to ask tougher questions of police departments about budgets and policies and union contracts, and tougher questions about legal settlements that are brought to city council for approval. I've had a lot of exposure to county boards and supervisors and city councils, and there's significant variation in the level of interest and engagement in those kinds of critical public policy issues. Our elected municipal leaders have to be just as accountable with respect to the current crisis as law enforcement officials. To those elected officials I would say, Get out and talk to people in the community. Get out and talk to street cops. Take a few ride-alongs and see for yourself what is going on in your community. I'm calling on politicians not only to be more engaged but to ask a lot of tough questions and to hold themselves, and their police departments, accountable.

PND:In the context of policing, what is qualified immunity? And are police unions a barrier to meaningful police reform?

WK: I'll give you the short answer: An officer is not liable for violating the civil rights of an individual when the court finds that the purported violation was not well-settled law. In essence, a qualified immunity hearing is a motion brought by a defendant officer in a civil rights action in federal court. And the defense is "the thing I'm accused of doing was either a) not a violation of civil rights, or b) even if it was, it was not well-settled law, so I, the officer, was not on proper notice that this would be a civil rights violation if I engaged in whatever conduct I'm accused of."

Traditionally, the qualified immunity decision by a judge would rest on that two-part formulation. But a lot of the courts have skipped to the second part — on whether or not it was well-settled law. The problem is that by ignoring the first part, the courts have not established good jurisprudence for the police as to what conduct is or is not constitutional. And that has become a grave difficulty for plaintiffs, who say there are plenty of cases where, for example, a police shooting has occurred at the end of a foot pursuit. We need to have clarity in cases like that, but instead the courts say, it's not well-settled law. Our argument is that the courts must provide guidance on what the law is. That is where some of the challenges have come from regarding qualified immunity.

With regard to the police unions, I would say that the academic evidence on their impact on reform is scanty. But the research published to date appears to demonstrate that collective bargaining leads to reduced accountability, more frequent use of force, and, from what I have heard about a soon-to-be published paper, more deadly force being brought to bear against Black people. All that is very concerning. When a union says it will fight a consent decree tooth and nail in court or mount an effort to recall a city council member — as a police union in Orange County, California, recently did successfully — I think the answer to your question is pretty clear: police unions are a barrier to policing reform. There are places where police unions have been partners in progress, but not nearly enough, and in general their focus is on pay and benefits and to make sure that the due process rights of their membership are protected.

PND: What is the role of philanthropy in this discussion? Can it actually do anything to move the needle on the reforms that African Americans and others around the country are demanding?

WK: In this moment, I think there are remarkable opportunities for philanthropy at all levels. Advocates and activists have been showing the way on reform for a number of years now, and philanthropy needs to follow. And as it supports calls for more accountability and transparency in policing — and criminal justice more generally — it should insist on having as much as information as it can about interventions and policies that work, and those that don't. It should insist on knowing as much as it can about various structural barriers to reform, about the impact of sunshine laws, about the so-called Law Enforcement Officers' Bills of Rights. Those are all things where we can help deepen the knowledge base, highlight what works, and support advocates pushing much-needed, thoughtful reform.

Matt Sinclair

[Review] Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City

September 23, 2020

Cover_five_daysFive years ago, antipoverty activist and nonprofit CEO Wes Moore found himself in Baltimore for the funeral of Freddie Gray, a young man from the "wrong side" of the city who had made eye contact with a Baltimore police officer on a bicycle and decided to run. The officer gave chase and, with two other officers, eventually caught Gray, searched him, and found a pocketknife in one of his pockets. The officers arrested Gray and, as Moore writes in the Prologue to his new book, Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City, "when he couldn't, or wouldn't walk, to their transport van, they dragged him along the sidewalk. What happened next was a matter of dispute, but when Freddie Gray died a week later, from a severed spine, much of Baltimore believed the police had killed him."

The day of Gray's funeral, thousands of people converged on New Shiloh Baptist Church, which Moore had attended while he was a student at Johns Hopkins University. Filing into pews in T-shirts and mourning black were men and women, rich and poor, young and old, and a who's who of Baltimore's political class. But the funeral of Freddie Gray was no celebratory homecoming for Moore, who couldn’t shake the feeling as he sat among the mourners that but for a few lucky breaks and a mother who wouldn’t take no for an answer, his road through life could’ve been much like the one traveled by Gray: born addicted to heroin, exposed to harmful concentrations of lead in public housing as a child, and, before his last encounter, involved in multiple altercations with the police. Reflecting on that day later, Moore was overwhelmed by frustration and a feeling of "intolerance for the system that had ended a young man's life."

Established in opposition to unaccountable authority, the United States is a country with protest and dissent embedded in its DNA. From the Boston Tea Party to the civil rights movement, Americans have been a people willing to fight for their rights — and to extend those rights beyond just white men of property. And yet progress toward a more perfect union often has been elusive and insufficient. There is no formula for how to create real social change, no model for how to mobilize the support needed to cause people to sit up and pay attention. The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police sparked protests and outrage around the globe — and caught many by surprise. There are many theories as to why Floyd's death was such a catalyst: the slow economic recovery from the Great Recession and the growing wealth inequality it spawned, the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on BIPOC individuals more likely to work in high-risk jobs deemed essential, and, thanks to COVID-related shelter-in-place orders, a global community on pause from the day-to-day noise of life and more willing to pay attention to suffering and injustice. Although not written in response to COVID-19 or the killing of Floyd, Moore’s timely account asks us to consider as well the burdens that systemic racism and income inequality place on people of color and goes a step further, asking the reader to think about how we are all connected to each other.

Written with New York Times journalist Erica L. Green, Five Days is structured as a series of vignettes based on the lived reality of eight Baltimoreans in April 2015. Three, of them — Tawanda, Anthony, and Greg — are African American and found themselves on the front lines of the civil unrest that followed Gray’s death. John Angelos, executive vice president of Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles franchise, was pulled into Gray's story in a way that forced him to face his own white privilege and power. And the others — Nick, Jenny, Marc, and Billy — function as representatives of a system forced to answer for the death, under questionable circumstances, of another young Black man. Moore himself, a native of Baltimore who was raised by his mother and grandparents and later graduated from Yale, personifies the struggle to rise above the systemic racism that traps so many people in lives of desperation, even as he makes a point of not minimizing the experiences lived by his book's Black protagonists, writing that the "sound of a siren strikes a different pitch depending on which neighborhood hears it." To read Five Days is to begin to know their stories — and, without necessarily becoming familiar with the specifics, to understand how a collective tragedy can bring people together. And yet… In the weeks and months after Gray's death, all the people whose stories Moore recounts did what they could to prevent what happened to Freddie Gray from happening elsewhere — with decidedly mixed results.

Beyond the stories of the eight individuals Moore and Green recount, Five Days is a conversation about how American society treats its economically vulnerable. When poverty is treated as something that Americans raised on the myth of "equal opportunity for all" fall into because of their own missteps and/or not trying hard enough, the conversation becomes about who deserves, or doesn't, assistance, rather than what can be done to create mechanisms and opportunities that actually lift people out of poverty. But with the 2019 Poverty and Inequality Report from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality suggesting that millennials could be the first American generation to experience as much downward as upward mobility, fully 49 percent of Americans born in the late 1980s ending up in a lower-paying job than those held by their parents, and poverty itself becoming all-too easy to correlate with ZIP code, race, and educational level, America has a problem; indeed, that is the core message of the book.

The kaleidoscopic structure of Five Days interlaces stories of loss and humanity with anecdotes from the social sector and a conversation about the limits of philanthropy. Moore, the CEO of Robin Hood, a New York City-based anti-poverty nonprofit that works with more than two hundred and fifty nonprofit partners to provide food, housing, education, legal, and workforce development programs and services to New Yorkers living in poverty, notes that nearly $700 billion is given to charitable and philanthropic causes every year. Take out endowment and capital gifts to private foundations, hospitals, and institutions of higher education, and about $175 billion is left to address every social (and environmental) issue under the sun. Philanthropy can be a powerful vehicle for driving change and doing good, and we should not underestimate its potential to do so. But if we fail to acknowledge the performative nature of much of the philanthropy one sees in the United States and the fact that philanthropy, both individual and institutional, all too often perpetuates negative power dynamics that impede rather than advance well-intentioned efforts, we will never see the kind of systemic change America needs.

In closing, Moore tries to give voice to a protagonist we never hear from in the book: Freddie Gray. "Loving your country means fighting for the institutionalization of its core goodness," he writes. "Loving your country does not mean lying about its past." For this reader, Moore's narrative demands we not lie about its present, either. Wealth inequality and lack of opportunity are not an abstractions; wealth inequality and lack of opportunity are five days in Baltimore where the frenetic actions of protestors, police, and politicians were galvanized by the death of a young man whose tragic end was inextricably linked to his ZIP code and our collective acquiescence in vilifying those deemed to be "undeserving" of help.

Headshot_Emilia CharnoEmilia Charno, a former intern with the Global Partnerships team at Candid, is studying for a BA in International Relations and Spanish at Tufts University.    

"I Am Tired...The Pandemic of Racism Must End"

June 08, 2020

Black_Lives_Matter_protestOver the past week, civil unrest has gripped the nation. Much of it was sparked by the unwarranted and senseless murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a police officer who held his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes as Floyd begged for his life and three other MPD officers stood by and did nothing. Tragically, it is only the latest example of an African-American citizen of this country being subjected to wanton police brutality and losing his life as a result. Enough is enough. I cannot, in all good conscience, remain silent while police violence against African Americans goes unchecked or unpunished.

I am a proud African-American man who loves this country. I have close friends and family of all races, and I pride myself on being measured and fair. I have always tried to view the "glass of life" as being "three-quarters full instead of a quarter empty," but my patience has run thin...and I am tired.

Tired of watching innocent black men being targeted with violence by police officers.

Tired of bigots taking the law into their own hands and feeling justified in confronting black citizens of this country.

Tired of negative, media-driven stereotypes that shape the dangerous narratives around young black men.

Tired of white people calling the police on black people, falling back on their feelings of entitlement and privilege to weaponize the police.

Tired of both the purposeful and passive suppression of talented black professionals by corporate America.

Tired of watching black-owned businesses struggle because they cannot access capital.

Tired of corporate America profiting from the fruit of black culture, but not nurturing the tree that bears it.

Tired of the word diversity, which is meant to deflect attention from the word black.

Tired of systemic and institutionalized corporate racism masked by flowery mission statements and codes of conduct that are rarely enforced.

Tired of the rise of the digital and social media economy without commensurate investment in populations that have driven much of its success.

Tired of being disrespected in restaurants as if I did not exist.

Tired of being followed in retail establishments as if I were about to commit a crime.

Tired of not being afforded the same assumption of competence and associated opportunities as my white high school, college, and business school classmates.

Tired of explaining why I like to spend time with black people, even as white people are never asked to explain why they like spending time with other white people.

Tired of the overall physical and psychological toll that being a black man takes on me every day.

As the father of two talented, charming, educated, young black men with unlimited potential, it pains me deeply that I needed to have "the conversation" with them when they were teenagers regarding their possible interaction with cops — the same conversation my dad had with me almost five decades earlier, and that no doubt his dad had with him. Every evening before I go to bed, I say a prayer that my boys will not be targeted and killed by law enforcement who see them as a threat — something none of my white friends or classmates have ever had to endure, much less think about.

Why are we having the same conversations about racism in America in 2020 that we've had for the past fifty, hundred, two hundred years? The reason is that we have never truly had a desire to actually address the "pandemic" of racism in this country. I guarantee you we will develop a vaccine for COVID-19 in short order, just like we've developed cures for other diseases that have plagued us over the centuries. We are a nation able to muster vast amounts of money and intelligence in service to a worthy cause, and the pandemic of racism should be no different. Racism can be cured, but black people alone cannot put an end to the disease. We need the commitment and engagement of consciously aware white people to do that.

Let me be clear: I do not condone violence and looting. But I fully understand the frustration and outrage sparked by yet another incident in which the life of a black person is considered to be worthless. The sight of so many young people — white, black, yellow, and brown — coming together across this country and around the world to protest the injustice of it gives me hope.

Corporate America is uniquely positioned to be a leader in this conversation and to drive the lasting change we so desperately need. As it has done throughout history, American business can offer viable solutions that address the disease of racism while setting an example for the country and the world. The initial response from dozens of CEOs and corporate leaders over the past week gives me cause to be optimistic. But I challenge all of corporate America to follow the lead of these men and women and develop a plan for their businesses informed by fairness, love, and compassion for everyone. Only then will we unlock the true greatness of America.

Headshots_earl_gravesEarl "Butch" Graves, Jr. is an American businessman and retired basketball player.

5 Questions for...Justin Steele, Director, Google.org Americas

February 24, 2020

Growing up, Justin Steele was "a sensitive, brainy kid" who spent a lot of time thinking about what he could do to improve people's lives. After earning an engineering degree from the University of Virginia, he received a master's in urban social policy and nonprofit management at Harvard and went to work in the nonprofit sector full-time. Since 2014, he has held senior positions with Google.org, where he's taken a lead role in the organization's work on inclusion, education, and economic opportunity.

PND recently spoke with Steele about Google.org, its efforts to develop AI tools for nonprofits, and what it is doing to address homelessness in the Bay Area.

JustinSteelePhilanthropy News Digest: What is Google.org, and how much does it award annually to nonprofits here in the United States and globally?

Justin Steele: Google.org is Google's philanthropic and charitable arm. We support nonprofits that are working to address challenging problems and try to apply scalable data-driven innovations in support of those efforts. What's unique about Google.org is that we were established when the company went public with a commitment of 1 percent of its equity and an ongoing commitment of 1 percent of its net profit for charity. Google.org is the biggest beneficiary of that 1 percent ongoing net-profit commitment, and we currently award more than $300 million in cash grants to nonprofits globally each year, roughly split 50/50 between the U.S. and internationally.

PND: Can any nonprofit apply for a grant?

JS: We are predominantly invite-only in our philanthropy, but we do have a model called the Impact Challenge where we invite nonprofits to participate by sending us their ideas. Sometimes the challenge is topic-based, sometimes it's based on geography.

In the U.S., we are currently running Impact Challenges in a number of geographies. We have a $10 million Impact Challenge open in the Bay Area and $1 million challenges open in Georgia, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Ohio. A panel of local experts who have influence in the states where the challenge is occurring help us narrow down the candidates. The panel chooses the finalists who receive funding, but we also open it up to a public vote. The People's Choice winners get extra funding at the end.

The state-level Impact Challenges change from year to year, although this is the third time we've run a challenge in the Bay Area, which is where we’re headquartered. Last year, we ran challenges in Illinois, Nevada, and Colorado, and we expect to launch new challenges in other states in 2020.

We also opened up the AI Impact Challenge globally in 2018 and 2019 for organizations that are working on interesting applications of artificial intelligence for social good.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 21-22, 2019)

December 22, 2019

48159486-boughs-of-holly-for-christmas-decorationWe're back with a special solstice edition of our roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Criminal Justice

In a post that originally appeared on the Heinz Endowments' blog, Heinz Endowment president and Center for Effective Philanthropy board chair Grant Oliphant examines some of the myths and fears behind the system of mass incarceration that has characterized American criminal justice for the last forty years.

Fundraising

With a handful of working days left in the year, lots of folks are feeling overwhelmed, panicky, and guilty. Instead of giving in to negative feelings, Kris Putnam-Walkerly tells her clients "to get clear on their top three priorities, block out time on their calendar to tackle their priorities, and get them done." It's good advice, she adds, any time of the year.

On the theory that good advice is better received late than never, check out Vu Le's sample annual appeal letter before you close the books on 2019.

Health

On the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, Monica Hobbs Vinluan looks at an RWJF-supported multi-state initiative that explores how programs and policies can be integrated to make it easier for all families to thrive.

Continue reading »

Memo to Foundation CEOs: Get a Youth Council

September 30, 2019

Calendow_presidents_youth_councilSeven years ago, we launched a President's Youth Council (PYC) at the California Endowment, and it seems like a good time to tell you that the young people who've served on the council over those seven years have significantly influenced our programming as a private foundation, been a source of reality-checking and ground-truthing on how our work "shows up" at the community level, and have substantially increased my own "woke-ness" as a foundation executive.

Before I get into the details, I'd like to briefly share why we decided we needed a President's Youth Council and how it works: In 2011, our foundation embarked on a ten-year, statewide Building Healthy Communities campaign that was designed to work in partnership with community leaders and advocates to improve wellness and health equity for young people in California. We had already been using a variation of a place-based approach in our work, and so we selected fourteen economically distressed communities to participate in the campaign — some urban, some rural, and all, taken together, representing the complex diversity of the state.

At the time, I was aware not only of the privileged position I occupied outside my organization, but also of how sheltered I was as a chief executive within my organization. More often than not, I received information about the effectiveness and impact of our work in the form of thoughtfully crafted memos from staff, PowerPoint presentations, and glossy evaluation reports filled with professionally designed charts and graphics. Even when feedback in the form of recommendations from consultants or comments from the community came my way, it was all carefully curated and edited. As I had learned — and this is especially true at large foundations — when members of the community get "face time" with the CEO, it is a carefully managed and considered process.

Being at least vaguely conscious of these issues early on in our Building Healthy Communities work, I wanted to ensure I would have some regularly calendared opportunities to meet face-to-face with young leaders from the communities we were serving. So, we solicited nominations from grantee-leaders in each of the fourteen program sites, and a President's Youth Council, featuring mostly young people of color between the ages of 17 and 21 and of varying sexual/gender orientations, was born.

Seven years later, here's what it looks like.

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'College Means Hope': A Path Forward for the Justice-Involved

July 12, 2019

Michelson_20MM_smart_justice"Former gang members make incredible students. The same skills that made me a good drug-dealer — resiliency, hustle, determination — I now use on campus to succeed in school," Jesse Fernandez tells the audience attending our panel discussion at this year's Gang Prevention and Intervention Conference in Long Beach.

I was on stage with Jesse as co-moderator for the first education-focused panel in the conference's history. (The Michelson 20MM Foundation convened the panel, tapping Jesse, Taffany Lim of California State University, Los Angeles, and Brittany Morton of Homeboy Industries to share their experiences.) Only 25, he has come a long way from the gang life he once knew. Today, he interns for Homeboy Industries, helping other students on their path to college; has finished an associate's program in Los Angeles; and has studied abroad at Oxford University. He may not look like a typical college student, but he speaks with the certainty and eloquence of someone who has been in school for years.

"College means hope. It means understanding your identity. For me, it was learning about my indigenous heritage, what it means to be Chicano, and how my community has been affected by violence and loss."

I first met Jesse over a lunch of chilaquiles (with salsa verde) and agua fresca (Angela's Green Potion is a "do not miss") at Homegirl Café, an L.A. staple since the 1990s. The café is run by former gang members and offers a safe space for people coming out of prison, providing many of them with their first job and creating a pipeline to sustainable employment. It's so popular that Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and other politicians on the national stage have stopped in for a bite while in town.

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5 Questions for...Tanya Coke, Director, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice, Ford Foundation

June 05, 2019

Tanya Coke has been involved in issues of criminal justice, mass incarceration, and immigration for more than thirty years. First as a researcher at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, then as a trial attorney in the Legal Aid Society‘s Federal Defender Division, and now as director of Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice at the Ford Foundation, Coke has been actively engaged in public interest law and social justice issues and, at Ford, leads a team focused on harnessing the resources and commitment needed to combat inequality based on gender, race, class, disability, and ethnicity.

PND spoke with Coke about the foundation’s efforts to reduce the U.S. prison population, decouple the criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems, and protect a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

Headshot_tanya_cokePhilanthropy News Digest: Your work with the Legal Aid Society, the Open Society Institute, and the U.S. Human Rights Fund has given you the kind of frontline exposure to the criminal justice system that few people ever get. You've said you hope to use your platform at the Ford Foundation to help reduce the U.S. prison population by 20 percent by 2022. What makes you believe that goal is achievable? And what kinds of things can the foundation do over the next few years to make that goal a reality?

Tanya Coke: When I began researching criminal justice issues in the late 1980s, politicians from both parties were falling over themselves to out-tough the other on crime. It is widely believed that Michael Dukakis lost the 1988 election over a flubbed debate answer over whether he would consider the death penalty if his wife were raped. It would have been hard to imagine back then that presidential candidates in 2020 would be competing to see who has the most progressive criminal justice reform platform.

That gives me hope and makes me believe we can make significant progress in taming the beast that is mass incarceration in America. Bipartisan momentum for reform is happening because of a confluence of several factors: low crime rates, tight state budgets, and a much greater understanding of how mass incarceration has decimated families and communities and made us all less safe. It is not a window that will remain open forever, however, so while it is open we have to work harder and more effectively to change not just minds about what we're doing but also hearts. That requires narrative change. It requires smart policy advocacy. And it requires more organizing in communities that are most impacted by mass incarceration.

The other thing that makes me feel optimistic is that we have seen prison populations in states like California, New York, and New Jersey drop by more than 30 percent in recent years, and in the past two years we've seen incarceration rates drop by more than 10 percent in very conservative states like Louisiana and Oklahoma. That gives me confidence we can achieve significant reductions in the incarceration rate in other states as well.

But it's not enough to focus on state prison populations. We also have to look at what’s happening in local jails, where people typically serve sentences of less than a year. While state prison populations are coming down, jail populations in many places are rising. To address the situation, we've been focusing on bail reform. Bail needlessly leads to the incarceration of people who shouldn’t be in jail, particularly poor people who don't have the wherewithal to pay cash bail. We're seeing growing awareness of that fact and momentum building across the country to do something about it. Another example is our work to effect broader change in the usual narratives about crime and criminal justice. That work takes the form of support for journalism projects, partnerships with Hollywood, and efforts to leverage other kinds of storytelling platforms, with a focus on trying to re-humanize people who are in the system and imagining a different approach to public safety.

PND: Many people have come to see the criminal justice system in the U.S. as an institutional manifestation of white supremacy. Is that an accurate characterization? And where are we as a society in terms of identifying and dismantling structural barriers to real racial equity and justice?

TC: That is the real work. There is no question that mass incarceration is driven by structural racism. To some degree it was set off by rising crime rates in the 1980s, but more than anything it has been powered by racial fear and a deep-seated instinct toward racial control of surplus labor. In my opinion, mass incarceration would not have been possible during the era of slavery because black bodies were too valuable as property in the South to let them sit idle in jail. Mass incarceration also was not possible in the 1940s or 1950s, the heyday of American manufacturing, again because black labor was needed to keep the auto factories and steel mills humming. But mass incarceration does become possible in the 1980s, after many of those manufacturing jobs had been shipped overseas and, suddenly, lots of people in black communities were forced into the underground economy of drug selling, which in turn led to a heightened, racialized fear of crime. Mass incarceration was a response not only to the advances of the civil rights movement, but also to the hollowing out of industries that employed blacks, and the racial fears that both spawned. In general, police are not comfortable with idle black men on street corners, and that fact accelerated the instinct to warehouse them in prison.

You have only to look at the difference in per capita incarceration rates in heavily black states like Louisiana, where eight hundred people per hundred thousand are incarcerated, and a homogeneous, largely white state like Vermont, where the rate is three hundred people per hundred thousand. Vermont is a state heavily affected by the opioid abuse epidemic, and yet it has made the choice not to incarcerate drug users or sellers at anything like the rate that prevails in states with large black populations such as Louisiana or Mississippi. Vermont is more inclined to treat opiod abuse as a public health problem.

In general, I think our field has not thought enough about the relationship between criminal justice, the control of labor, and the many ways in which black people in the United States have, in effect, become surplus labor. This has implications for social control as well as the rise of corporate interests that are profiting from mass incarceration. It's an under-studied area, and one where we need more research and advocacy to ensure that vulnerable people are reintegrated in a meaningful way into the economy.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 11-12, 2019)

May 12, 2019

0510_flooding_CNNA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Communications/Marketing

There’s been an email marketing paradigm shift in the nonprofit sector, writes Caroline Fothergill on the npEngage site. Whereas the size of a list used to be all that mattered, "collectively [we've] come to realize the value of quality over quantity." Today, open and click rates are where it's at, and Fothergill shares some practical advice designed to help nonprofits improve their results in both areas.

Criminal Justice

"As a person who uses drugs," writes Louise Vincent on the Open Society Foundation's Voices blog, "I know that no one person is to blame. What is responsible for the hundreds of thousands of deaths from drug overdose is a broken drug policy, a system that prioritizes punishment over treatment, and a culture of prohibition that leads us to use drugs alone and in shame." 

Health

What does it take to build fair opportunities for health in rural communities? On the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, Whitney Kimball Coe,  coordinator of the National Rural Assembly, a movement geared toward building better policy and greater opportunity across the country, shares some of the lessons she has learned in her work.

Book reading has been declining for decades, and language and communications experts are concerned. Markheim Heid, a health and lifestyle writer, takes a closer look at the research — and the implications for society.

Higher Education

It's time to shift the social contract of education away from short-term job training toward long-term development, writes David M. Perry, a former professor of history, on the Pacific Standard site. And free college has to be part of that shift.

In The Atlantic, Tom Nichols, author of the Death of Expertise, argues that the idea that students on college campuses should have "a say in the hiring and firing of faculty whose views they merely happen not to like...is a dangerous development — a triple threat to free speech, to the education of future citizens, and to the value of a college education." Readers of Nichols' article respond.

Continue reading »

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (March 2019)

April 01, 2019

It's April 1 and you're no fool — which is why you'll want to settle in with a glass of your favorite beverage and check out some of the posts PhilanTopic readers couldn't get enough of in March. We'll be back with new material in a day or two. Enjoy!

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

5 Questions for...James Cadogan, Vice President of Criminal Justice, Arnold Ventures

March 27, 2019

Arnold Ventures (formerly the Laura and John Arnold Foundation) has been a leading supporter of criminal justice reform since 2011. Under the leadership of James Cadogan, vice president of criminal justice, the organization recently launched the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice, a community of practice involving more than two dozen Arnold Ventures grantees working to eliminate unnecessary and unjust detention practices, with new investments totaling $39 million.

Cadogan joined the organization after serving as the inaugural director of the Thurgood Marshall Institute at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and as a counselor to the attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he helped design comprehensive federal reentry reforms; served as a lead staffer on an initiative to reduce the use of solitary confinement at the Federal Bureau of Prisons; developed national community policing initiatives; and supported access to justice programs.

PND asked Cadogan about the initiative's goals, the emerging field of pretrial justice reform, and the role of pretrial justice reform in advancing racial equity.

James Cadogan_PhilanTopic_squarePhilanthropy News Digest: Your organization is on record as saying "money bail obscures legally required risk analyses, traps people in jail, and contributes to unconscionable racial and economic disparities in our justice system." How does the cash bail system exacerbate the mass incarceration of people of color? And how central to the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice is the goal of advancing racial and economic equity?

James Cadogan: A fundamental principle of our justice system is the presumption of innocence: the idea that, when accused of a crime, you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But across the country — right now — there are hundreds of thousands of people sitting in jail who haven't been convicted of any crime, nearly half a million at any given moment. They haven't even been tried. That's because of our current system of money bail.

Generally, after an individual is arrested they go before a judge who reads the charges and sets bail — an amount of money that the arrestee must pay in order to be set free. If you can pay that money, you go free; if you can't afford it, you go to jail. In other words, the size of your bank account determines your freedom. Simply put: that is unjust.

To avoid jail, those who can't afford to pay the bail amount directly might turn to a bail bondsman who can post the amount with the court while charging the individual a fee, often 10 percent of the bail amount. But if bail is set at $2,000, many people are equally unable to afford the $200 fee a bondsman would charge as the $2,000 bail imposed by the court. The money bail system discriminates against the poor — and people of color are disproportionately poor. Research has also shown that people of color are treated more harshly within the money bail system: for example, African-American men on average receive 35 percent higher bail amounts than white men who are arrested for the exact same crime.

PND: Arnold Ventures, formerly the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, has supported pretrial justice reform since 2011 — support that has included efforts to increase transparency around and the use of validated, evidence-based risk assessments in judges' decisions to release or detain defendants. Beyond strengthening implementation of the Public Safety Assessment— which was created from a database of more than 1.5 million cases in over three hundred jurisdictions — what is the partnership planning to do to reduce "unnecessary and unjust detention"?

JC: Pretrial detention rates are driven by a number of decisions and processes under the control of judges, prosecutors, public defenders, court administrators, and other system actors and stakeholders. The National Partnership intentionally connects and elevates partners with different types of expertise — for example, research, policy development, or litigation — and supports them in taking on projects that span a range of pretrial justice challenges such as evaluating the impact of bail practices, working to expand the use of prosecutorial diversion that moves people out of the criminal just system, or undertaking advocacy related to the impossible caseloads many public defenders face.

Pretrial justice practices and operations vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so the breadth of the work we support to reduce unjust pretrial detention is important: National Partnership initiatives span four hundred counties across thirty-five states. At this pivotal time in the pretrial justice reform movement, it's important to understand that even though experts nationwide may have different approaches and don't agree on everything, they're all committed to the same end goal: reducing our unconscionable rates of pretrial detention. By supporting a diversity of efforts, we can help harness that momentum in a variety of places and spaces across the country and give ourselves the best chance of bringing about lasting policy change in pretrial justice. That's where see the biggest value of the partnership.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 2-3, 2019)

March 03, 2019

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

Criminal Justice

There's a gender imbalance in many African-American neighborhoods, and mass incarceration is largely to blame. Mike Maciag reports for Governing magazine.

Economy

"Much has been written about the massive changes that are underway in the nature and future of work, but we still have more questions than answers," writes Ritse Erumi on the Ford Foundation's Equals Change blog. "But the fact remains that the scale of this challenge requires new ideas, frameworks...experimentation" — and, not least, "the participation of workers."

Giving

When is giving $100 million not necessarily a brilliant act of generosity? When the giver is a Wall Street hedge fund manager and the recipient is...Harvard University. Larry Edelman reports for the Boston Globe.

Could the next big thing in philanthropy be the use of donor-advised funds to support marginalized groups and causes such as women's rights, LGBTQ rights, and climate funding? Gender lens expert Katherine Pease, managing director and head of impact strategies for Cornerstone Capital, thinks it could be, and tells Philanthropy Women's Kiersten Marek how it might work.

Leadership

The "default assumption" in the social sector "that people with for-profit or academic backgrounds are somehow better leaders in general, even in fields where they have no experience or knowledge," is, well, a questionable assumption. Nonprofit AF's Vu Le explains.

Nonprofits

What will nonprofit organizations look like in 2025? Nine members of the Forbes Nonprofit Council share their thoughts.

Can the experience of one San Francisco nonprofit tell us anything about why nonprofits, generally speaking, have short lives? Courtney E. Martin, the author most recently of The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream, reports for the New York Times

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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.

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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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