Resourcing Racial Justice was created in the UK as an emergency response to the pandemic. As a group of people of colour that were activists, innovators and artists we knew ahead of the figures that subsequently emerged how racialized the impacts of this pandemic would be. Through every crisis, people of colour are disproportionately affected because they are already at the sharp edge of structural and systemic inequality.
We also were aware of the deep flaws of the philanthropic sector when it came to funding racial justice work and where money would and would not flow. Some of the group had already initiated a coalition at the end of 2019 working on the intersections of climate justice and economic justice with a group of funders. What we’d already begun to discuss together was how structural and systemic inequality are still deeply embedded within our society and public infrastructure. Whether we are looking at where philanthropic wealth has come from or the sectors current investments today we can see that many philanthropic funds have drawn and benefited from exploitative structures at the expense and detriment of communities of colour.
In a five week period we received over 1,400 applications from unregistered groups, community based organisations, established charities, new projects, artists, ecosystem builders from around the UK many of which were applying for funding for the first time. We were able to secure £1 million in funding and made 51 investments ranging for £3,500 to £50,000. We wanted to get funding to unregistered groups and individuals, focus on the strength and potential of an idea rather than a polished application, provide funding for sustainability and not just for new projects. We wanted the process to be built from a place of trust and as light touch as possible. Whilst we couldn’t change the processes and laws we needed to operate in we worked closely with awardees to incrementally make change and build transparency around systems that appeared to be inevitable.
The last six months have been humbling and as we make our final grants we can see there is so much we have learnt along this journey and so much that has been affirmed. The scale of innovation and visionary resistance by people of colour across the UK was undeniable in the applications we received. While how deep seated structures of racism are from legal frameworks to how money moves was also held up. Racial justice is always seen as deeply political and risky. It is the notion of risk that is both used to maintain racism but also to exclude radical and progressive work. Our work increasingly became about not just redistributing resources towards racial justice but building transparency around the risks to our communities that becomes the barrier in accessing charitable funding. Rather than passing this on we are starting to understand how we can become responsible for holding this risk and undoing these structures. Many of the unregistered groups we have funded have already told us that our funding has helped them to secure mainstream funding for the first time as we have managed to reduce the risk connected to them.
As one of the first funds in the UK explicitly about race we are excited to see other philanthropic and funding initiatives around race emerging especially those led by people of colour. We are looking forward to sharing our learning and connecting with others as a part of a movement for greater financial equity and transparency towards futures that are racially just and thriving. Together we can build agency in communities on a structural and systemic level ensuring that changes around race are not tokenistic, performative and superficial. We will be working with the recipients of the fund to build learning and bring greater accountability. We hope together to challenge the structures, processes, languages and frameworks and that connect race and risk.
Nusrat Faizullah works with emerging and established organisations to support them to understand and tackle social issues and systemic injustice. To find out more about her work visit http://www.costrata.org
Farzana Khan is a writer, director, cultural producer and award-winning arts educator. She is the Executive Director and Co-founder of Healing Justice London (HJL). To find out more about her work please visit farzanakhan.net