54 posts categorized "Native 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

[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.

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.

Continue reading »

5 Questions for...Ruth LaToison Ifill, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Council on Foundations

July 05, 2018

Ruth LaToison Ifill was named vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Council on Foundations in May, succeeding Floyd Mills. A military spouse, LaToison Ifill previously served as the manager of national career development services for veterans and military family members for Goodwill Industries International, where she also spearheaded initiatives to improve organizational understanding of and engagement with diversity and inclusion issues internally and in program implementation.

PND spoke with LaToison Ifill about the ways in which the council is working with member foundations to promote DEI across the sector and support systems change; the importance of data and intersectionality to that work; and the impact funders can have on the racial leadership gap at nonprofits.

Headshot_Ruth_LaToison_IfillPhilanthropy News Digest: The position of vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion was created in 2016 "to advance the council's work to promote inclusiveness as a fundamental operating principle in philanthropic organizations." How has philanthropy's approach to DEI changed over the last two years? And do you feel there's a greater sense of urgency now given the current political environment?

Ruth LaToison Ifill: I think the biggest change is that there is now a very robust ecosystem of philanthropic organizations and philanthropy-serving organizations that are working to drive diversity in the field in a myriad of ways. The council, specifically, has been partnering with, but also is being held accountable by, its member organizations. Together, we are demonstrating leadership and developing a diverse talent pipeline in philanthropy through our Career Pathways program, which has already seen great success and graduated sixty-one people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and beliefs, 87 percent of whom have gone on to take senior and executive appointments at foundations. At the same time, the council's board is more diverse than it's ever been, which has led us to be more vocal and strategic in our internal efforts and in the services we deliver to our members.

We engage with over a thousand philanthropic organizations, and we are seeing incremental changes in the way our members are doing business. More and more of our members are focusing on racial equity and on the LGBTQ community in ways they were not before. So, we are seeing the sector change, but there's still much work that needs to be done, and we're collaborating with the sector and our partners to accomplish that work.

I hate to give credit to the current political environment, and I want to be fair to the previous administration, which was instrumental in raising DEI up as an issue. But the council had already been actively working to make the world a more inclusive place and highlighting the importance of respecting people regardless of which group they belong to or how they identify — and that became even more important as we saw people whom we love and care about being disparaged. We need to respond to that, of course, but our work on these issues started well before the current environment and only has become more urgent.

PND: What has the council been doing to support foundations' efforts to advance DEI in the field? And what is your number-one priority for that work over the next year or so?

RLI: It's about advancing the work and "inching" our members forward. The philanthropic sector is a big ship with a lot of moving parts and a complicated ecosystem of different types of organizations led by different kinds of people. We first need to demonstrate the cultural humility needed to do the hard work of expanding our perspective and understanding marginalized populations; there are leaders in this space who are already doing work that we can learn from. Philanthropy must be intentional about listening and learning, and that's a process that takes time. We at the council want to be a part of our members' process of learning and broadening their perspectives.

My priorities in this new role are intersectionality and data. Sometimes we can get stuck on the one issue we care about most or the one issue that gets the most attention, but I firmly believe this is not a zero-sum game. We really want people to see the importance of focusing on multiple communities and of paying attention to the data about how local communities are affected. For example, if you're a foundation and immigration is a major issue in your community, the data you are collecting about the impact of your work in that community should help you respond. Paying attention to the data specific to each community is how we want foundations to approach this work: to look at the focus on their giving, the composition of their boards, their staff, and then determine when and where they need to make changes in order to more closely align their work with their mission.

Continue reading »

[Review] Justice on Both Sides: Transforming Education Through Restorative Justice

June 07, 2018

These days, one doesn't have to look far to find a story about a confrontation involving a school officer and a student of color or to put her finger on a report detailing educational inequities associated with race, gender, and class. In her new book, Justice on Both Sides: Transforming Education Through Restorative JusticeMaisha T. Winn, a professor of education at the University of California, Davis, makes a compelling case for the use of restorative justice (RJ) practices in schools as both an antidote to these troubling trends and as a way to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline that has destroyed the lives of too many young people of color.

Book_justice_on_both_sidesMost readers are probably familiar with the case of Shakara, the sixteen-year-old student at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina who was put in a chokehold by a school officer, forcibly pulled out of her seat, and dragged across the floor and out of her classroom. Her crime? Refusing to put her cell phone away. Unfortunately, it wasn't an isolated incident, and Winn uses it to frame her questioning of the punitive practices and zero-tolerance policies in place at many public schools in the United States.

Indeed, it was Winn's own questions about Shakara's experience that became the impetus for her book. "What resources, other than arrest, were available to the administrators, teachers, and staff at Spring Valley High to address conflict in the classroom?" she asks. "How could the adults involved have responded differently? Why has it become standard practice to arrest students for such minor incidents?...I argue that we have yet to pause and thoughtfully examine such patterns as stakeholders, particularly from the perspectives of new and seasoned teachers, school staff, and students."

In her bookWinn does just that, reflecting on her experiences as a scholar, former teacher, and teacher researcher — experiences that inform her analysis of RJ practice and how best to apply that analysis to create lasting change. Having noted that under zero-tolerance policies, African-American, Latinx, and Native-American students are disproportionately subjected to harshly punitive practices, including removal from classrooms, suspension, and expulsion, she explains restorative justice as an approach to discipline that aims to address trauma that may be responsible for the student's behavior. The idea, she writes, is to build a sense of respect and mutual understanding while giving students space to take responsibility for their actions.

Perhaps most importantly, restorative justice requires both sides to be "open to the possibility of not always being right but instead making things right." As Winn explains, the three pillars of the approach are harms and needs, obligations, and engagement — in other words, determining the needs of students who cause harm and recognizing that they may have been harmed; creating a culture of accountability for both students and educators; and cultivating a participatory democracy model in the classroom.

Continue reading »

Building Democracy: People and Purpose in San Diego County

May 25, 2018

On a March evening at a community center in San Diego, Francisco "Panchito" Martinez stood at a public forum, a bedrock exercise of democracy, and before three District 8 City Council candidates.

With microphone in hand and more than a hundred people in the audience, several of whom wore headphones to listen in Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese, the college student asked the candidates about cultivating and supporting youth leaders in the eighth most-populous U.S. city.

Martinez's participation was a form of engagement in more ways than one. The youth questioned those seeking the privilege of representing people in government while also addressing the need for multi-generational civic involvement.

For Martinez, who often goes by Panchito, and other residents who questioned the candidates in English and Spanish, the forum marked a continuum of a broader community-leadership initiative in San Diego County — one driven by residents and grassroots organizations seeking greater voice and more meaningful representation in government and community affairs.

Like other parts of the U.S., San Diego County's population has been transformed dramatically over the last several decades. Today, people of color are the majority among the county's 3.3 million residents. Together, Latinos and Asian Pacific Islanders make up four out of every ten residents.

In Barrio Logan, the San Diego neighborhood that Panchito and about five thousand other people call home, there are industrial businesses as well as residences.

In this primarily Latino neighborhood south and east of the city's popular Gaslamp Quarter and within view of the Port of San Diego and U.S. Navy facilities, concerns over health are one reason why residents say local government should better mirror the makeup of this diverse region.

Continue reading »

Addressing Racial Equity With an Organizational Change Lens

May 21, 2018

Racial equity treeOrganizational change efforts can be daunting, even when the organization and its leaders know that such an effort will lead to a stronger, more sustainable organization in the long term. When it comes to racial equity, such efforts often carry an extra level of pressure. That's because change efforts seeking to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) can trigger both conscious and unconscious anxieties when staff and leadership are required to examine personal and organizational values, norms, behaviors, and perceptions. No matter what you do to create and communicate a compelling story and adjust policies and procedures, it all comes down to employee engagement, especially when it comes to "unfreezing" behavior and modeling change, both of which are key to ensuring employee buy-in and setting the stage for a successful change effort.

When tackling racial equity, the amount of individual energy and effort required to achieve a truly equitable and inclusive workplace can create stress at all levels of the organization — particularly for people of color. As with other change efforts, racial equity work requires staff members to personalize the process in order to find their own entry points into the work, and as each of us reflects on our own identity and what it means in both an individual and organizational context, frictions can arise. If not tactfully managed, issues of intersectionality, power dynamics, personal and work-related boundaries, and unconscious biases can become barriers that stand in the way of progress. But when implemented effectively, racial equity change initiatives can spark an examination of our lived experience, both at work and in our personal lives — as well as individual transformation. Not surprisingly then, if organizations can create a culture in which individuals are able to express and work through their own unconscious biases, uncertainty, and shame, they will experience a greater rate of change.

CRE's nearly four decades serving the nonprofit community has taught us that organizations ready to address and embrace racial equity must first examine how race interacts with all aspects of organizational culture, from board governance, to leadership and management, to staffing and talent management, to day-to-day work flow. While not an exhaustive list, below are four simple strategies for moving the needle on organizational change efforts intended to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion based on what we have learned from our experience promoting racial equity in our own organization and with our client partners.

Continue reading »

It’s Time to Invest in Youth Leaders

May 16, 2018

DCPSWalkout_AFA-1024x681In the months since the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, the response of youth activists has captured the attention of the nation. What has largely gone unnoticed, however, is that across the country a dynamic youth-organizing field has emerged. Over the past twenty years, groups — many of them led by low-income young people of color — have been organizing to improve education, end the school-to-prison pipeline, protect immigrant rights, and address other critical issues.

New research demonstrates that not only does youth organizing result in concrete policy changes, it also promotes positive academic, social/emotional, and civic engagement outcomes. Yet despite recent investment in youth organizing from funders like the Ford Foundation and the California Endowment, overall funding remains modest. That's unfortunate, because even as a new generation demonstrates its willingness to take on some of our toughest issues, the need for investment in the leadership of young people, especially those most impacted by injustice, has never been more important.

According to the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing's National Youth Organizing Landscape Map, there are more than two hundred youth organizing groups across the country, the majority of them focused on middle and high school students of color. These groups support the development of young leaders and organize campaigns to address inequity in their communities. In Los Angeles, Inner City Struggle and Community Coalition led the campaign to ensure a rigorous college preparatory curriculum for all students. Groups such as Communities United in Chicago, Padres y Jovenes Unidos in Denver, and the Philadelphia Student Union have gotten their school districts to create policies that address racial disparities in school discipline, resulting in changes that have benefited hundreds of thousands of students. 

Continue reading »

A Challenge to Philanthropy: Expand Health and Educational Opportunities for Native American Youth

March 30, 2018

Native_american_youth_standing_rockThese days, everyone is looking for new thinking about the tough challenges we face as a country. But perhaps what we need is not new thinking but the wisdom to revisit older approaches that have stood the test of time.

A value shared by many Native Americans is that all suffering is reciprocal, as is all healing. Each of us can only thrive when everyone does well.

The power of this wisdom is enormous. And it has endured despite a long history of genocide and racism toward Native Americans, helping our communities remain resilient in the face of tragedy, discrimination, and neglect.

For instance, Native American activists recently led one of the most galvanizing environmental justice campaigns in years — and it all began with a group of Native American youth leaders. Images of young people chanting "Mni wiconi — Water is life" showed up in mainstream news for the better part of 2016 in what became popularly known as the Movement at Standing Rock.

The leadership, conviction, and voices of these young people spoke to the hearts of millions of people around the globe. And their message was profound: We are protecting the most precious source of life — water. Not just for Native people, but for all humans and living beings. By having the guts to challenge the power and prerogatives of the oil industry, these youth — alongside an intergenerational community of "water protectors" — stood up for the inherent right of Native peoples to exist and determine their future.

Standing Rock showcased the power and potential Native American youth have as drivers of social change — both in their communities and across the nation.

Continue reading »

A Conversation With Sarah Eagle Heart, CEO, Native Americans in Philanthropy

March 21, 2018

In 2011, a report from Native Americans in Philanthropy and Foundation Center found that foundation funding explicitly benefiting Native Americans had declined from 0.5 percent of overall funding to 0.3 percent over the previous decade. While there has been no follow-up to that report, Sarah Eagle Heart, CEO of Native Americans in Philanthropy, recently told PND that philanthropic support of Native causes hasn't come close to reaching 1 percent of overall funding in any year since then. And while even that level of funding is inadequate, given the need in Native communities, Eagle Heart argues, "it would be equitable."

Last year, Eagle Heart was honored with the American Express NGen Leadership Award, which is presented at Independent Sector's annual conference each fall to a "next-generation" leader whose work and advocacy have had a transformative impact on a critical societal need. Praised for her abilities as a storyteller, Eagle Heart focuses her work at NAP on educating and advocating for the needs of Native communities across the country.

Earlier this year, PND spoke with Eagle Heart about the dearth of research on Native communities in the United States, the need for greater education to raise awareness of Native issues, and the role racial healing can and must play in bringing equity to indigenous cultures.

Headshot_sarah-eagle-heartPhilanthropy News Digest: In announcing you as the winner of the 2017 American Express NGen Leadership Award, Independent Sector praised your talent as a storyteller and your ability to bridge cultures. What's the biggest story today about Native Americans that other Americans aren't hearing or don't understand?

Sarah Eagle Heart: In general, people don't pay attention — and never have paid attention — to Native Americans or our issues. And I believe one of the reasons Independent Sector chose me for the award was to raise the visibility of Native Americans. When philanthropic organizations look at Native Americans, we're just not as noticeable, statistically speaking, as other ethnic groups. As you know, Native Americans in Philanthropy worked with Foundation Center in 2011 to create a report, Foundation Funding for Native American Issues and Peoples, which showed that less than 0.3 percent of philanthropic funding goes to Native communities, even though we’re between 1 percent and 2 percent of the overall population. So, even if philanthropy increased its giving for Native causes, issues, and nonprofits to 1 percent to 2 percent of total funding, it would still be a drop in the bucket. But we're not seeing that level of funding, and we haven't seen that level of funding at any point over the twenty-seven years of Native Americans in Philanthropy's existence.

PND: Why is that?

SEH: There's not enough research to answer that question. When I started at Native Americans in Philanthropy two and a half years ago, I noticed we were not included in a lot of research reports, there was no contextual research for our communities. In philanthropy, a lot of how you get noticed, or heard, or invited to the table has to do with research. In 2015-16, for example, many of the research reports that came out had a little asterisk that said Native American populations were statistically insignificant. The researchers have since tried to walk back some of those disclaimers, but it goes to show how much philanthropy has been paying attention to Native people. I'm aware that our community is hard to gather statistics on, in part because we live in both urban and rural communities. But I don't think that should be an obstacle to better research.

Another complication is that our communities constantly have to educate funders. Our country is slowly beginning to understand, thanks to issues like the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock protests, that we've been working for nearly thirty years to get school systems to portray American Indian history more accurately. We're doing our best to combat stereotypes and propaganda that have depicted Natives as being marginal and unimportant, that we don't count and can be ignored.

PND: Is the situation improving?

SEH: Not really. A recent study found that if you Google "Native American," it doesn't return an image of a contemporary Native person. Google another ethnic group, and you might get images of somebody sitting at a table or as part of a contemporary street scene. But for Native Americans, what you get are depictions of historical images from a hundred or two hundred years ago. You can almost understand why some people think we've vanished.

I really believe that one of the reasons it's so important Native people are heard and seen is that we have so much wisdom to share. When you look at some of the environmental and climate change issues we face, Native people saw it all coming a long time ago and have been raising the alarm for years. It's time philanthropy listened. That's where Native Americans in Philanthropy comes in. We're sharing some of that collective wisdom through our Indigenous Lifecourse research report, which is focused on sharing protective factors from an asset frame rather than a deficit frame.

Continue reading »

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

February 09, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading »

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

January 04, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading »

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

December 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

Continue reading »

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

December 07, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading »

5 Questions for...Laura Speer, Associate Director, Policy Reform and Advocacy, Annie E. Casey Foundation

October 30, 2017

Children are the future. In a country whose population is aging faster than expected, the implications of that truism should be of special concern. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropy based in Baltimore that works to improve the lives of America's children and their families, certainly believes so. And it backs that work up with data — lots of it, including its signature KIDS COUNT data book and center.

Earlier this month, the foundation published the second report (28 pages, PDF) in its Race for Results series, a KIDS COUNT spinoff that explores "the intersection of kids, race and opportunity" and describes many of the barriers to success facing children of color in America. The report also includes a section devoted to immigrant families and children, as well as policy recommendations designed to ensure that all children in America have the opportunity to realize their full potential.

PND spoke with Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation, about the new report's findings, the potential consequences of Trump administration policies for immigrant children, and the economic argument for boosting spending on programs designed to improve health, education, and economic outcomes for kids of all races and color.

Headshot_laura_speerPhilanthropy News Digest: Your new report, the second in the Race for Results series, is based on data from 2013 to 2015 and shows general improvement across the board in most of the twelve indicators the foundation uses to measure how children from different racial backgrounds are faring on the path to opportunity. Were you surprised by any findings in the report?

Laura Speer: Well, we were happy to see improvement across the board in many of the measures we track. Of course, both reports covered periods when the country was recovering from the Great Recession, so it wasn't a huge surprise to see improvement in many of the measures — things like the percentage of young people who are graduating from high school or teen pregnancy rates. Those are areas where we're seeing improvement for all kids. What is disheartening, however, is that there really wasn't much of a change in the gaps that existed previously for African American, Native American, and Latino kids, all of whom, in the aggregate, are still lagging behind other groups of kids in terms of meeting these milestones.

PND: The report argues that we can't afford to ignore those disparities any longer. Moral arguments aside, why do we need to pay more attention to the barriers that prevent kids of color from reaching their full potential?

LS: We made the case in the first report, and we reiterate it again here, that in the United States today, slightly less than 50 percent of the child population are kids of color. However, demographic pro­jections show that that is going to change pretty quickly, and that kids of color will be the majority of the child population in just a few years. And, because kids grow up to be adults, people of color will comprise the majority of the workforce within the next couple of decades and the population of the country itself will be majority people of color by 2040 or so. In other words, today's kids of color are our future work force, the future parents of the next generation of American kids, the future leaders of our country. And that is why it is more important than ever that we not accept or get comfortable with these disparities, and why we've got to identify the factors that are contributing to the barriers to success that exist for kids of color and figure out how, as a country, we can design policies and programs that help more young people achieve their full potential. We need these kids and all the talents they possess if we want to be able to compete on a global scale and be successful as a country in the long run.

Continue reading »

Contributors

Quote of the Week

  • "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)

Subscribe to Philantopic

Contributors

Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Archives

Other Blogs

Tags