107 posts categorized "Racial Equity"

'What happens when funders don't center community voice in decision making': A commentary by Hannah Lee

September 07, 2021

Headshot_Hannah Lee_Cognizant_FoundationIt's time for philanthropy to trust and listen better to grantee partners

When Ralph Hoagland, the founder of CVS, recruited three hundred of his neighbors from the wealthy, liberal, and largely white Boston suburbs to donate to the Fund for Urban Negro Development (FUND) to support Black entrepreneurs, he promised a “no strings attached” approach to philanthropy. The group's aim was to support Black businesses and community organizations, build Black wealth, and foster community development across the city. FUND emphasized that Boston's Black leaders already had "the ability to solve the problems” facing their communities but just lacked the necessary resources to do so.

Importantly, the group promised not to interfere through "white controls, advice, or helpful hints." At the same time, FUND's white members did expect to serve as coaches and mentors. When Black leaders rejected some of the mentors' advice, members began pulling their support to FUND — and just four years after its launch, the group disbanded.

The story of FUND, more fully detailed in a research paper, took place more than half a century ago. But the rhetoric and eventual outcomes feel all too familiar. It serves as a powerful reminder about what happens when funders don't center community voice in decision making. And it remains a cautionary tale for those working in philanthropy today — especially in the wake of COVID-19 and our nationwide reckoning around racial justice....

Read the full commentary by Hannah Lee, a director at the Cognizant Foundation.

 

 

'We have to infuse equity into every part of the system': A Q&A with Priti Krishtel

September 02, 2021

Headshot_Priti Krishtel_I-MAKlPriti Krishtel is a health justice lawyer who has spent nearly two decades exposing structural inequities that limit access to medicines and vaccines across the Global South and the United States. She is the co-founder and co-executive director of I-MAK (Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge), a nonprofit organization building a more just and equitable medicines system. An Echoing Green Global Fellow, TED speaker, Presidential Leadership Scholar, and Ashoka Fellow, she is a frequent contributor to leading international and national news outlets on issues of domestic and global health equity.

PND asked Krishtel about inequity across the globe as it relates to COVID-19 vaccines, challenges in the United States of ensuring an equitable medicines system, the drug pricing crisis, and what funders can do to bring about change. Here is an excerpt:

Philanthropy News Digest: I-MAK states that a global pandemic, economic and racial awakening, and skyrocketing costs of medicine have created a crucial mandate for equity in the drug development system, especially with growing inequity across the globe as it relates to COVID-19 vaccines. What action do you believe leaders of national governments should be engaged in to mitigate those disparities? And what are the most significant barriers to improving vaccine access worldwide?                       

Priti Krishtel: I cannot stress this point enough: In a pandemic, no country is safe until every country is safe. Today, vaccinations are readily available in wealthy countries like the U.S. However, it's a completely different situation for most of the world's population: so far, less than 2 percent of residents in low-income countries have been vaccinated. Until we employ an equitable system to make sure that vaccines are available everywhere, that all countries have access to the vaccine, and that everyone who is willing and able is vaccinated, variants will not stop. Governments — and wealthy nations in particular — have to stop taking a country-by-country, nationalistic approach to pandemic responses and instead start looking at the system holistically. With every passing day, the risk of a mutated COVID-19 variant that is resistant to vaccines grows.

The Delta variant teaches us that we have to radically and rapidly rethink our approach to recover from this pandemic and adequately prepare for the next. We can't do this by relying on market incentives alone. Right now, pharmaceutical companies are incentivized to lock up knowledge to maximize profits to serve shareholder interests rather than share that knowledge and bring this pandemic to an end.

Philanthropy can play a catalytic role in this moment. Philanthropy is the only sector with the resources, capacity, and global connections to resource organizations and individuals leading the fight for a globally more just and equitable medicines system. It can and must play a connective and transformative role in stemming the gap in places where countries, communities, and individuals are being left behind....

Read the full Q&A with Priti Krishtel.

'Accelerating a cultural shift toward justice': A commentary by Favianna Rodriguez

August 23, 2021

CreatingConstellations_center_for_cultural_powerThe roots that grow the cultural field we need today

Earlier this summer, Mackenzie Scott made a massive $2.7 billion investment in support of 286 organizations working to spark change and empower individuals. My organization, the Center for Cultural Power, was one of them. We received a gift of $11 million — $3 million to build our long-term capacity and $8 million for the Constellations Culture Change Fund, which is developing a multiracial field at the intersection of arts and social justice. Now, two months later, the impact of the donation is visible in the acceleration of our implementation plans to provide funds to communities still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The water that Scott's gift pours on the deep roots many local arts organizations have grown in our cultural ecosystem is a lifeline. She relied on the principles of Trust-Based Philanthropy to surface trusted movement leaders and organizations that are underresourced. If other philanthropists were to follow her lead, they could nourish a nascent field that would not only disrupt inequities in the arts but accelerate a cultural shift toward justice....

Read the full commentary by Favianna Rodriguez, founder of the Center for Cultural Power.

'Toward sharing, ceding, and building political, economic, social, and cultural power': A Q&A with Cheryl Dorsey

August 18, 2021

Headshot_Echoing-Green-Cheryl-L-DorseyCheryl Dorsey has served as president of Echoing Green since 2002, after having received an Echoing Green Fellowship a decade earlier to help launch the Family Van, a community-based mobile health unit in Boston. In the interim, she served as a White House fellow and special assistant to the U.S. secretary of labor (1997-98) and as special assistant to the director of the Women's Bureau of the U.S. Labor Department (1998-99). More recently, she served as vice chair for the President's Commission on White House Fellowships (2009-17).

PND asked Dorsey about efforts to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, changes in philanthropic practice to advance racial equity, and Echoing Green's ongoing work to create a support network for social entrepreneurs of color working to create a more just, sustainable, and equitable future for all. Here is an excerpt:

Philanthropy News Digest: Since the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted myriad structural inequities — for example, the impact on essential workers, who are disproportionately people of color and who also have limited access to health care — and the police killing of George Floyd ignited demonstrations calling for racial justice nationwide, the philanthropic sector has had to reckon with the role that many foundations have played in helping to perpetuate an inequitable system. As a woman of color leading a grantmaking public charity, how do you assess philanthropy's efforts at self-examination?

Cheryl Dorsey: [...] The ongoing global pandemic and moment of racial reckoning have certainly challenged philanthropy to reform old ways of working. There have been important and positive signs of momentum. Last year, more than eight hundred organizations signed a Council on Foundations pledge to eliminate burdens in grantmaking by implementing flexible and unrestricted models of giving. And more than four hundred funders have signed the Groundswell Fund open letter, authored by people of color-led public foundations, calling on funders to direct resources to grassroots racial justice movements and organizations. However, changes in funding behavior and capital flows are happening much too slowly. Though philanthropy deployed a record-breaking amount in funds after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, these funds failed to reach the communities of color most affected by the pandemic at a critical time. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Candid found that only 23 percent of dollars distributed in 2020 were explicitly designated for persons and communities of color globally. This number drops down to 13 percent when looking specifically at institutional philanthropy.

To ensure that this momentum of change is sustained, there must be a fundamental transformation of philanthropic norms and practices toward sharing, ceding, and building political, economic, social, and cultural power for racial equity leaders and communities of color. As we think about meeting this moment, we are witnessing retrenchment and backlash from inequitable systems including declining support for the Black Lives Matter movement and mounting restrictions on Black voting rights. The enduring assaults on our collective liberation require urgent action and staying on course, but they also require accountability and forward-thinking. What are the structures and systems we can put in place now to ensure that we remain resilient when met with the inevitable backlash?...

Read the full Q&A with Cheryl Dorsey.

Unpaid internships and the pipeline of privilege: A commentary by Kyra Kyles

August 16, 2021

Women_high_fives_GettyImagesEnding the pipeline of privilege: Why unpaid internships perpetuate inequities

Though the days of the coffee-fetching, fax-sending, thumb-twiddling intern are all but over, there is one vestige of the "first rite" of career passage that is stubbornly stuck in the past: the unpaid part.

In an era when tween and teen content creators can make thousands of dollars for a single TikTok or Instagram post, it is ridiculous that there are employers who don't make the connection between younger workers' efforts and meaningful compensation. Nor do these employers see the throughline between the absence of said compensation and the predominantly white pipeline of privilege that continues to flow into their workplaces.

Make no mistake: There is enough evidence to demonstrate that the pipeline of privilege is skewed to the white and male side of the spectrum....

Read the full commentary by Kyra Kyles, CEO of YR Media.

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

MyCareer@PND: Four trends shaping the post-COVID recruiting and hiring experience

August 11, 2021

African_American_woman_laptop_GettyImages_PoikePost-COVID-19 trends shaping the recruiting and hiring experience

As with just about every aspect of life, the world of executive recruiting has evolved at rapid pace over the last year and a half. Now that we're moving into what may be the beginnings of a period of stability, it's become clear that some of the recruiting and hiring trends that have recently evolved are here to stay, at least in some form.

Here are four strong trends that are shaping the hiring experience for both candidates and hiring teams:

1. A focus on recruiting leaders of color. The murder of George Floyd and the ensuing civil unrest have had an extraordinarily strong impact on hiring. Hiring managers, teams, and organizations reacted to these events by looking inward and, in most cases, realizing that their teams are not diverse. This led to a sudden, intense demand for leaders of color, which has not abated. Leaders of color are reporting being recruited at higher rates than they've ever experienced, and hiring managers are prioritizing diversity in their pools and processes more than ever....

Read the full column article by Molly Brennan, founding partner and executive vice president of Koya Partners.

(Photo credit: GettyImages/Poike)

Impact investing in the 'creative economy' to strengthen local economies: A commentary by Deb Parsons

August 10, 2021

Fabric_bolts_arts_creative_GettyImages_oksixImpacting the creative economy with philanthropic funds

What do film and fashion have to do with philanthropy?

For a growing number of impact investors, these industries and others that make up the "creative economy" are a powerful lever to strengthen local economies, build resilient communities, and support an equitable COVID-19 recovery. Increasingly, impact investors are using foundations and donor-advised funds to make investments in a variety of local, national, and even international creative economy enterprises that are driving positive social and environmental change. With its focus on solutions that prioritize people and the planet, impact investing complements traditional grantmaking by leveraging the power of markets to create positive change....

Read the full commentary by Deb Parsons, managing director at ImpactAssets.

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

'Systems change work is intrinsic to creative youth development': A commentary by Daniel R. Lewis

August 09, 2021

Lewis_Prize_for_Music_awardeeSupporting creative youth development as systems change work

In her recent blog post announcing $2.7 billion in commitments to equity-oriented nonprofits across the country, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott writes: "Arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility, improving academic outcomes, lowering crime rates, and improving mental health."

[...] As a longtime arts philanthropist, reading Ms. Scott's post, I couldn't help but recognize the work she was describing as systems change — a vision my organization, the Lewis Prize for Music, has set for itself [...] While the pandemic magnified the already apparent need for young people to develop artistic and employable media arts skills, calls for racial justice showed the imperative for adults to provide movement-building support and guidance to young people. The CYD field has simultaneously addressed both of these needs.

Systems change work is intrinsic to CYD, and the holistic approach of CYD is itself systems change....

Read the full commentary by Daniel R. Lewis, founder and chair of the Lewis Prize for Music.

The Sustainable Nonprofit: 'A fundamental shift in the mindset of young Americans'

August 04, 2021

Diversity_GettyImages_gmast3rA mindset shift among young American nonprofit employees

We've all seen people across the country and around the world struggling financially from the fallout of COVID-19. As our Cause and Social Influence researchers have continued to track young Americans' (ages 18-30) behavior related to causes during this time, we sought to understand the ramifications of these financial struggles from two perspectives: that of a young employee and that of a nonprofit. What we found is a fundamental shift in the mindset of young Americans that could hinder nonprofits' ability to recruit and retain talented staff.

Each quarter, our researchers track this age group's behaviors and motivations related to social issues and major moments and movements. In the first report of 2021, we found that their interest in social issues had become much more personal, thanks largely to their experiences during the pandemic. Now, findings from our research conducted in June underscore just how personal those issues have become....

Read the full column article by Derrick Feldmann, lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

'We have to rise up and do better': A commentary by Donita Volkwijn

August 02, 2021

Black_lives_matter_james-eades_unsplashContinuing the conversation: How philanthropy is changing how it talks about race

In June 2020, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors responded to questions in the sector about how to begin difficult conversations in the workplace. Our response was meant to provide guidance on how to talk about a reality that had left many of us in the philanthropic sector and beyond speechless. One in which the dual crises of the pandemic and racial injustice were shifting how we lived, thought, and yes, even breathed.

A little more than a year later, we are exploring how, if at all, these workplace conversations have evolved. As we enter yet another new reality, the most obvious shift in direction is to the talk of reopening (if we were privileged enough to work remotely). A friend recently shared a statement that captures what many of us are feeling: "Nothing should go back to normal. Normal wasn't working. If we go back to the way things were, we will have lost the lesson. May we rise up and do better."...

Read the full commentary by Donita Volkwijn, outgoing manager of knowledge management at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

'Philanthropy must have its own racial reckoning': A Q&A with Rashid Shabazz

July 30, 2021

Headshot_rashid_shabazz_critical_mindedRashid Shabazz is the inaugural executive director of Critical Minded, a grantmaking and advocacy initiative founded in 2017 by the Ford and Nathan Cummings foundations to support cultural critics of color in the United States by building a cultural ecosystem celebrating the multiplicity of perspectives from critics of color. Shabazz joined Critical Minded after serving as the chief marketing and storytelling officer for Color of Change, where he helped push for accountability within the media to more accurately portray Black narratives, and as vice president of communications for Campaign for Black Male Achievement, where he created programs that directly challenged false narratives about Black men and boys and expanded access to resources and financial support.

PND asked Shabazz about how philanthropy could more systematically address social inequities in arts funding practices, the steps museums and galleries should take to advance equity, and how Critical Minded is working to narrow gaps found in the underrepresentation of cultural critics of color in art spaces. Here is an excerpt:

Philanthropy News Digest: Despite the efforts of several leading foundations, arts organizations of color and those serving low-income communities in both urban and rural communities face distinct challenges in securing equitable funding. In what ways can philanthropy more systematically address social inequities in its arts funding practices?

Rashid Shabazz: Philanthropy must have its own racial reckoning. It must acknowledge its role in fostering disparities and reinforcing the systems that we are working to dismantle. Foundations generally are not accountable to anyone outside of their donors and boards, so how do we ensure communities of color become part of the decision-making processes? In the past decade, there has been a movement to see grantees as partners and collaborators who specifically address the racial disparities in how funding reaches organizations led by people of color. Yet we know that the funding remains embarrassingly minuscule. So, it means philanthropy must take more risks and be more disruptive. It must be "decolonized," as Edgar Villanueva says. This means shifting the measures and requirements so that more racial equity can be achieved by allowing resources to flow not only to the largest, most sophisticated, and strongest organizations with existing infrastructure but also making big bets on communities of color and shifting wealth so the infrastructure can be created for BIPOC-led organizations to also thrive....

Read the full Q&A with Rashid Shabazz here.

 

 

 

 

'Now is the time for philanthropy to support today's brave movements for justice': A commentary by Jesenia A. Santana

July 28, 2021

Black Lives Matter Phoenix MetroToday's racial justice movements need protection — and funders must respond

Like so many others across the country, members of Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro have organized and participated in numerous protests and public calls for racial justice in the past year. Their activism has kept a powerful spotlight on the harms and trauma caused by white supremacy and the need for healing and liberation for Black communities and other oppressed people. But that work has come at a great cost to the safety and security of people and organizations on the front lines.[...]

Across the country, activists and movement leaders are facing heightened levels of risk, trauma, and violence simply for speaking out for our collective rights and standing up for Black lives and communities of color. If it is not trumped-up charges and police violence, it is vicious harassment delivered both digitally and physically by people and groups spewing racism and hate. The problem has only gotten worse since the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Now is the time for philanthropy to support today's brave movements for justice....

Read the full commentary by Jesenia A. Santana, senior resource strategist at Solidaire Network.

'We understood what it meant to be silenced, afraid, and vulnerable': A Q&A with Mónica Ramírez

July 26, 2021

Headshot_Monica Ramirez_Justice_for_Migrant_WomenMónica Ramírez is an organizer, attorney, social entrepreneur, and founder and president of Justice for Migrant Women, whose work includes policy advocacy, civic and political engagement, public awareness and education campaigns, narrative shift initiatives, and multi-sector and multi-ethnic power-building collaborations. For two decades she has worked to protect the civil and human rights of women, children, workers, Latinos/as, and immigrants and to eliminate gender-based violence and secure gender equity, launching Esperanza: The Immigrant Women's Legal Initiative at the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2003. Ramírez also is co-founder of the Latinx House and Alianza Nacional de Campesinos, where she served as board president until 2018.

In our latest '5 Questions for...' feature, PND spoke with Ramírez about the intersectionality of women's, farmworkers', and immigrants' rights; the impact of COVID-19 on farmworkers; and the Healing Voices program. Here is an excerpt:

Philanthropy News Digest: You're credited with helping to galvanize the TIME'S UP movement against sexual harassment by publishing the "Dear Sisters" letter on behalf of farmworker women, addressed to women in the entertainment industry. What factors put migrant farmworkers at particularly high risk of sexual harassment, in both similar and disparate ways from women in Hollywood?

Mónica Ramírez: Women of color have historically been left out of the narratives featured in TV shows or movies, much less given the opportunities to feel safe and comfortable enough to bring to light their traumas and seek justice — and the same can be said for farmworker and migrant women. Most people don't realize that migrant women suffer from sexual harassment in the workplace at the hands of supervisors, recruiters, co-workers, and others. They are more vulnerable, as they're employed in small workplaces like private homes and small farms, sometimes with fewer than fifteen workers. And as these women are not covered by existing federal anti-sexual harassment law, they're particularly vulnerable to harm without any recourse to seek justice. To make matters worse, many are afraid to speak out about any incidents of sexual harassment that take place due to fear of deportation, being fired, or having their hard-earned wages taken away....We understood what it meant to be silenced, afraid, and vulnerable....

Read the full Q&A with Mónica Ramírez.

5 Questions For…Linda Goler Blount, President and CEO, Black Women's Health Imperative

July 08, 2021

Linda Goler Blount joined the Black Women's Health Imperative, the first nonprofit organization created by Black women to help protect and advance the health and wellness of Black women and girls, as president and CEO in February 2014.

Since then, Goler Blount has overseen investments totaling more than $20 million in Black women's health and research. She is responsible for moving the organization forward in its mission to achieve health equity and reproductive justice for Black women. BWHI recently announced that it received a $400,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to improve vaccination rates among Black women and communities of color. The grant, part of the foundation's $20 million Equity-First Vaccination Initiative, supports hyper-local, community-led programs working to improve vaccine access and support educational outreach in five cities. BWHI will convene a Covid-19 Vaccine Awareness & Equity Task Force to provide high-impact advocacy recommendations to boost COVID-19 vaccine uptake. The task force will include the leaders of National Caucus & Center on Black Aging and National Coalition of 100 Black Women, policymakers, disparities experts, and community organizations.

Before joining the Black Women's Health Imperative, Goler Blount served as the vice president of programmatic impact for the United Way of Greater Atlanta, where she led the effort to eliminate inequalities in health, income, education, and housing through place- and population-based work. She was also the first national vice president of health disparities at the American Cancer Society, in which role she provided strategic vision and leadership for reducing cancer incidence and mortality among underserved populations and developed a nationwide health equity policy.

PND asked Goler Blount about the ways in which Black women have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, the Covid-19 Vaccine Awareness & Equity Task Force, and how to address the racial disparity in maternal mortality rates.

Headshot_Linda Goler Blount_Black Womens Health ImperativePhilanthropy News Digest: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Black Americans are 2.9 times as likely as white Americans to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and 1.9 times as likely to die. In what ways have Black women in particular been disproportionately impacted since the pandemic began and what needs to be done to address this disparity?

Linda Goler Blount: The heavy toll of COVID-19 on Black America is sharpened for Black women, who live at the intersection of gendered and racialized oppression and are experiencing disastrous impacts on their health, economic stability, and social well-being. Black women are impacted disproportionately by underlying health conditions linked to severe COVID-19 cases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, the high incidence of which serves as a consequence of America's long history of structural racism and gender oppression. The confluence of the gender pay gap and the racial wealth gap have made economic instability a harsh reality for Black women.

In addition, the physical health impacts of COVID-19 are clear, and the psychological stress of the pandemic is certain to have long-term effects on Black women's mental health as well. Perhaps most frustrating, though, is that the same structural racism that produces disease in Black communities is also creating barriers to treatment, care, and comfort — and worsening existing health crises. To address the physical health impacts on Black women, we need policy makers to ensure access to adequate and affordable health insurance, invest in initiatives that address systemic racism within health care; and expand Medicaid coverage in all states.

The economic fallout of COVID-19 extends beyond what many of us could have ever imagined, with 60 percent of Black households reporting severe financial problems and Black women maintaining the second-highest rate of unemployment during the pandemic. Policy makers should implement universal paid sick leave and expand eligibility for family and medical leave, raise the federal minimum wage, establish an independent equity committee to review and revise the eligibility criteria for economic relief programs, and develop a long-term funding strategy to support and increase businesses owned and operated by Black women. It is apparent that the social impacts of COVID-19 and racial injustice are wide-reaching and closely intertwined with the health and economic impacts of the pandemic and racial crisis — all of which affect Black women's quality of life. We believe lawmakers should address those impacts by extending the federal eviction moratorium and canceling debts, increasing the availability of affordable housing, and expanding quality broadband access across the country, with investments in low-income and rural communities to provide resources for quality distance learning and training.

PND: Black Americans report lower levels of trust in the healthcare system as a result of outright abuses like the Tuskegee study and day-to-day discrimination experienced when visiting healthcare facilities. What are some approaches you believe can work to restore trust in the healthcare system?

LGB: Vaccines save lives, but too many Black Americans have vaccine hesitancy. Vaccine hesitancy is well placed and often rooted in mistrust of the medical establishment and doubts about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. But I would tell those reluctant to be vaccinated that millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in history. COVID-19 vaccines have been proven safe and effective. If too many Black Americans put off vaccinations, achieving widespread immunity in this country will be increasingly challenging.

A reassuring aspect the public should be educated about is the vaccine was developed by a Black doctor, vetted by Black physicians, and clinically tested on Black trial participants during the research and development phase. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett stands at the heart of Moderna's vaccine development, and her research was applied to the development of a coronavirus vaccine now distributed around the world.

One thing needed to make this happen is trust — for predominantly white institutions to trust Black physicians and Black researchers to implement the cultural approaches they know will work with Black communities. That is going to mean giving time and resources to those Black institutions and doctors and healthcare providers, so they can go into Black communities and engage in strategies that are going to be really effective. There is also a need for strategic messaging tailored to Black Americans. Because Black communities must seek COVID-19 vaccinations, there is a need to double down on healthcare providers' critical role as trusted messengers in overcoming vaccine hesitancy.

PND: The goal of the Rockefeller Foundation's $20 million Equity-First Vaccination Initiative is to ensure that at least seventy million people of color are vaccinated by July. How will BWHI's Covid-19 Vaccine Awareness & Equity Task Force's work assist in reaching that goal?

LGB: Raising awareness about the COVID-19 vaccine in communities of color and advocating for its equitable distribution is a key 2021 priority for BWHI. Accurate, culturally sensitive information provides Black women with the background and knowledge to advocate for equitable and affordable access to this critical lifesaving vaccine during these uniquely challenging times. To that end, the BWHI Covid-19 Vaccine Awareness & Equity Task Force will provide high-impact advocacy recommendations for community-based tools, resources, and grassroots implementation activities for COVID-19 vaccine education and uptake. This will include CEO leadership of its strategic project partners, as well as a diverse group of leaders, policy makers, disparities experts, and community advocates who will coordinate and consult on COVID-19 community engagements, strategic initiatives, and resources. To close gaps, BWHI will form strategic partnerships with National Caucus & Center on Black Aging, Inc. (NCBA) and National Coalition of 100 Black Women (NCBW) to deploy COVID-19 vaccine and equity initiatives among Black women in five U.S. cities: Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Oakland, CA; and Newark, NJ.  BWHI will also collaborate with several community organizations to encourage vaccinations, including the Southern Christian Leadership Global Policy Initiative (SCL GPI), R.E.A.C.H. Beyond Solutions, New Jersey Department of Health, and the Women's National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA). Now more than ever, it is critical to arm Black women, who are the vital arbiters of healthcare decisions for their families and communities, with culturally relevant and accurate information that they can act upon to reduce the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color.

PND: BWHI is the first nonprofit organization created by Black women to help protect and advance the health and wellness of Black women and girls. After thirty-eight years, are the challenges today the same as when the organization began? What's changed?

LGB: Ironically, the biggest challenge today is the same as when the organization began thirty-eight years ago. Black women's most significant health issue is the system, as it was four decades ago. Deep-seated structural and systematic racism are not just obstacles to addressing Black women's health issues — they are the health issue. What underlies Black women's disproportionate myriad health issues and disparities is the country's long history of structural and systemic racism within social, commercial, and government systems that disadvantage Black Americans. They can be seen through inequities in socioeconomic status, segregated communities, and even how Black women's pain and conditions are disbelieved and dismissed by the medical community. Standard medical practice continues to fail to consider the unique challenges Black women face.

Today, however, there is greater recognition. The CDC declared racism a public health emergency by observing structural inequities that have resulted in stark racial and ethnic health disparities that are severe, far-reaching, and unacceptable. More than twenty cities and counties and at least three states — Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin — have also declared racism a public health crisis. There is a greater understanding among the medical establishment that Black women are made less healthy by medical racism and biases held by healthcare workers against people of color in their care. Even though the principal challenge remains the same, with the right tools, resilience is possible. BWHI will continue to advocate for advances in health equity and social justice for Black women, across their lifespan, through policy, advocacy, education, research, and leadership development. Since our founding, we have strived to identify the most pressing health issues that affect the nation's twenty-two million Black women and girls and invested in the best strategies and organizations that accomplish these goals and will continue to do so in the future.

PND: Since a maternal mortality checkbox was added to death certificates in all fifty states, the U.S. has better maternal mortality data and we now know that Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications and to suffer from severe disability resulting from childbirth than white women. What are some of the policies lawmakers should enact that would improve maternal health outcomes for Black women?

LGB: To address maternal health outcomes in Black women, BWHI calls for policy solutions to help us understand why this occurs, through the data and further conversation with Black women, and then fight for change. Our goal is to understand more clearly how racism, bias, and disrespectful care contribute to this tragedy and create a call to action to transform clinical practice and improve healthcare outcomes.

The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 is legislation pending in Congress designed to improve maternal health, especially for Black women most impacted by pregnancy complications. It comprises twelve individual bills that will address issues such as maternal mental health, social determinants of health, and COVID-19 risks for pregnant and postpartum women. It is an important first step toward addressing disparities in maternal mental health care and ensuring that all pregnant, birthing, and postpartum Black women have access to the health care they need. BWHI is also calling for policies that emphasize data collection, including a deeper analysis of data on the lived experiences of pregnant Black women. That data would inform a strategy to examine the underlying causes of poor maternal outcomes among Black women and to develop and implement strategies for policy, practice, and delivery systems to move the needle.

— Lauren Brathwaite

Unfinished business: Why the social justice movement needs nonprofits

June 18, 2021

BlackLivesMatter_protest_fist_minneapolis_foundationIn 2020, social justice issues moved front and center in ways most of us couldn't have predicted. As some of the largest and broadest demonstrations for racial justice in U.S. history erupted across the country, corporations came under greater pressure than ever before to take an active role in addressing social injustices.

At the same time, the events of 2020 highlighted how essential nonprofit organizations are to efforts to advance social justice.

Understanding equity vs. equality

The ongoing fight for equality in our country has traveled a long and storied road. The related but separate movement for social equity digs deeper into the ways in which opportunities are presented — or are closed — to different groups.

While equality means each individual or faction is given the same resources or opportunities, equity recognizes that each person or faction comes from different circumstances, which may require a restructured allocation of those resources and opportunities. Incorporating those factors into programs serving marginalized populations results in better outcomes; nonprofits make it their business to understand those complexities.

"Equity is a way, not a what," André Ledgister, communications catalyst at Partnership for Southern Equity, told me. "We make sure our efforts reflect equity in that we take into account what specific community organizations need in order to access resources. In that sense, the work of nonprofits is to empower the community to create their own change."

Nonprofit leaders know that fostering allies beyond donors, volunteers, and sponsors is critical to success. Similarly, for social justice activism to effect lasting change, education and advocacy efforts need to cross various divides to become truly multiethnic and multicultural.

"Nonprofit organizations teach, whether the work is relevant in science, in STEM fields, or in humanities and the arts," said Vicki Crawford, executive director of the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection. "The hope is that this type of education will open people up to exploring the ways in which we are inextricably linked; to open up the conversation around the commonality of all humans across the differences of race, class, gender, religious affiliation."

Taking that understanding one step further means recognizing the ways in which we fall on either side of the ally relationship.

"Everyone has multiple identities, some of which can be privileged and some of which can be marginalized," said Sharmila Fowler, founder, coach, and consultant for the Red Lion Institute. "Your particular situation really depends on which room you're in. I could be a woman in a room full of women with very few men, or I could be an Asian American in a room full of many other ethnic identities and few Asian Americans. It's important to recognize that your identity shifts around privilege and marginalization, and to allow for that fluidity of identification."

Connecting the dots

Driving fundamental social change requires multiple levels of expertise and influence. For nonprofits, making connections and appealing to specifically focused stakeholders is a way of life. Already primed to network toward a goal, these organizations know how to pull the right levers to move social justice causes forward in an impactful way.

"For us, relationship acceleration is connecting those philanthropists, policy makers, community organizers, grassroots groups — putting everyone into the same room and saying, 'Okay, this is the problem we need to address,'" Ledgister explained. "They're all coming together from different areas of life, different industries, working together to push for change."

Leadership development

Social justice can't happen in a vacuum, nor can real change be achieved when dictated from outside the communities where the greatest need exists. In addition to creating social equity by clearing access to resources, nonprofits are positioned to build sustainable social change by inspiring community-based leaders and, more importantly, potential leaders.

"Supporting leadership development is so important," said Ledgister. "Making sure community members have the opportunity to be trained on initiatives is essential to progress. They can bring that forward and continue to push for change in the way that best fits. Those in the community are closest to the issue; they are the ones closest to the solution."

Generational mindset

The hard, long-term work needed to move the social justice needle can be daunting. Organizations looking for quick solutions will likely be disappointed and unable to sustain the effort. But nonprofits are used to going for the long game. Change doesn't happen in a funding cycle; it requires unwavering focus on the horizon despite the inevitable setbacks.

"All this work we're doing, this is generational work," said Ledgister. "I may not see results in my lifetime, but my daughter will hopefully see the purpose of this labor — when she goes into the marketplace and she's not looked at as somebody that is 'less than,' when she is looked at in the fullness of her character and has everything she needs to thrive."

Crawford agreed, recognizing that by drawing from the past, nonprofits and allies can better inform the future for the next generation. "It's important to learn the history of a particular era, because that moment speaks to the present moment," she told me. "Because ultimately, it's unfinished business that we're dealing with."

If we are going to finish that business by learning from and improving upon the work of past social justice leaders, nonprofits will have to be at the forefront leading the way. With their boots on the ground and connections to local communities, nonprofits are the heartbeat of the development pipeline for future leaders, the ones who know how to listen as allies, lean on their constituencies, and push new paths forward. We need these leaders now more than ever, and it's more important than ever to support them in every way possible.

Sima Parekh_PhilanTopicSima Parekh is executive director of 48in48.

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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