Racial Justice is Everybody’s Issue


Philanthropy411, in partnership with the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team. This is a guest post by Rosetta Thurman, President of Thurman Consulting.

By: Rosetta Thurman

With a group of 100 young grantmakers concerned about social justice, it’s no surprise that the word “love” would come up more than once. Daniel Lee from the Levi Strauss Foundation opens his remarks at the lunch plenary at the EPIP National Conference with a compelling quote:

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” – Martin Luther King

Melissa Johnson, the new Executive Director at the Neighborhood Funders Group moderates the social justice philanthropy lunch plenary with the heady subtitle, Racial Justice and Philanthropy: Experiences from the Field.

Here’s what the panelists had to say:

Ron Rowell, Common Counsel Foundation

Social justice is not a new concept. This is about people working with people. It’s about the golden rule – treat people how you want to be treated. There needs to be a call for a culture of true generosity – too often foundations look for a way to say ‘no’ when we need to be trying to figure out how to say ‘yes.’ There’s this strange psychological game we play with grantees. There has to be more transparency.

Cynthia Renfro, Marguerite Casey Foundation

Philanthropy is pretty conservative. You have to spend the time and understand the polical culture. Just because they know who you are doesn’t mean they embrace your values. Don’t go anywhere alone – find your allies. Get advice for how to smooth out an idea or find a new way to approach it.

Lori Villarosa, Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity

While diversity is critical and essential, it is not sufficient. We’re talking about racial justice. Often see a disconnect between communities organizations are serving and the strategies they’re using. We need to have more space in grantmaking to have these conversations. A working definition of racial justice: recognizing that you’re talking about equity in outcomes, not just intent. Racial justice talks more about power and who’s got a voice.

Victor De Luca, Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation

Foundation change is incremental. Change comes over time, through being persistent, strategic, and working it through. There are ways to move your institutions to get more money to organizations that are making structural change. We need to be thinking about our values in philanthropy. We have to be funder activists.

I loved the conversation about “finding our allies” in this conversation about racial justice. It is, indeed, everybody’s issue, not just one that concerns philanthropy leaders of color. We have a grand opportunity through social justice philanthropy to move this work forward – together. So, white allies have a place at this table, too. I just wish there were more of them.

Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

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