Taking action on anti-Black racism: A call for philanthropy


Alice Y. Hom


These days it’s rare to leave a zoom webinar with wanting more but that’s the feeling I had with the 2o2o Forum Virtual Conference session, Taking Action on Anti-Black Racism: A Call for Philanthropy. The conversation facilitated by Susan Taylor Batten (ABFE CEO) with panelists, Pat Eng (AAPIP CEO), Kathleen Enright COF CEO) and Marcus Walton (GEO CEO) provided the space to name anti-Black racism and discuss what a few philanthropy-serving organizations are doing around the specific call for philanthropy to step in, step up, and stay in for the long haul.

What struck me the most about this plenary and the other Forum conference sessions on racial equity was the specific naming of anti-Black racism, the reference to the multiple crises of the coronavirus pandemic and the killings of Black people by the police, the on-going systemic disparities on Black and Brown communities, and the historical roots of structural racism based on enslaved Africans and Indigenous peoples. Susan Taylor Batten opened with definitions to ground everyone on what is ‘anti-Blackness’ and the screenshot I saved is instructive.

These definitions and the inclusion of ABFE’s action statement by 60 Black philanthropic CEOs that list 10 imperatives gave the audience context and recommendations for what we could act upon and for others, continue to do and deepen.

I felt energized by the conversation between Kathleen, Marcus, Pat, and Susan because they were sharing concrete actions that their organizations were taking and it was critical to hear how these philanthropy-serving organizations, COF, GEO, and AAPIP with different histories of racial equity work were specifically addressing anti-Black racism. Marcus called their conversation as a ‘brave space’ to be in community with each other where they as leaders could share the vulnerability of having questions, not knowing the answers, and not being afraid to make mistakes when engaging in anti-Black racism work. I also heard loud and clear that we all need each to do the work because anti-Black racism is not going to be abolished by one sector or one institution alone.

Each person had nuggets of wisdom and experience to share such as:

  • Heed the advice of letting Black-led organizations lead the way and trust and invest in them with multi-year, general operating grants
  • Be in solidarity with BIPOC organizations and move up or move back depending on what’s needed
  • Our destinies and liberation are intertwined
  • Follow the lead of peers who are closer to the issues and amplify their voices and leadership
  • Take time to reflect on white supremacy and how you and your organization may be enacting white supremacist practices

These are just a few of the learnings and right when the conversation was getting to juicy parts, there wasn’t enough time to address the questions that came from the audience. Which was a shame because some of the comments and questions in the chat box were pointed about why it took philanthropy so long to pay attention to what ABFE and AAPIP and I would add, others like Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE), Hispanics in Philanthropy, Native Americans in Philanthropy, Funders for LGBTQ Issues, and Change Philanthropy have been advocating for so long now.

While there isn’t ever enough time to devote to anti-Black racism and what has and can be done about it, this plenary session definitely opened up the space to inspire and encourage the audience to act. Susan left us with 3 ideas to consider:

  • Build on your understanding of anti-Blackness and anti-Black racism and encourage others to talk about it organization and your network
  • Host a briefing on the call to action from ABFE’s statement and invite a signatory from the letter to participate in a briefing with your membership
  • Invest in mapping and amplifying the Black-led organizations in your region and share the information with your membership

I’m committed to bringing these ideas and creating programs for Northern California Grantmakers. What will you do?

Alice Y. Hom is Director of Equity and Social Justice, Northern California Grantmakers

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