The money for and against Black Feminist movements: Insights from the Black Feminist Fund


Kit Muirhead


On the 14th of March, Tynesha McHarris, co-founder of the Black Feminist Fund engaged in an online conversation with Cynthia Eyakuze and Yannia Sofia Garzon Valencia – both authors of the recently released research report, titled “Where is the money for Black Feminist Movements?”.

The comprehensive research report sheds light on the chronic underfunding of Black Feminist movements, specifically within the philanthropy sector, and outlines the implications this has had for driving sustainable, intersectional, and feminist change.

Throughout the webinar, Tynesha McHarris asked both authors to discuss their experiences as researchers and writers working on the report. Through this reflection, Cynthia Eyakuze and Yannia Sofia Garzon Valencia raised concerns of whitewashing in research, highlighted instances of backlash and resistance, and posed questions of how Black Feminists can create dignified spaces to feel nourished and supported. Emerging from these discussions came the “indisputable verdict that the global funding system has a deeply rooted racialized and gendered trust gap”.

Historical legacies in under-funding for Black Feminist movements

To address this funding gap, donors must understand the historical legacy of exclusion and devaluation imposed upon Black Feminist activists. Black Feminists are consistently eliminated from mainstream (aka white) feminist movements and are rarely credited for leading some of the largest and most impactful social movements throughout history.

In 1929 the Aba Women’s Riots condemned the imposition of the British-imposed tax system and inspired an anti-colonial movement that eventually led to Nigeria’s independence. In 1969, Martha P Johnson, a Black trans-woman threw the first Brick (or shot glass), sparking the Stonewall riots for LGBTQIA+ rights. In 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement was founded by three women of colour; Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi and in 2017, #MeToo was initiated by Black Feminist, Tarana J. Burke. These are just a handful of numerous social justice movements led by women of colour throughout history.

And yet, Black feminist resistance and revolution continue to be erased from our historical narratives on feminism. Instead, white history books spotlight the suffragette movement, the fight for birth control, and anti-prostitution movements, all of which either wholly excluded women of colour, or explicitly relied on racist rhetoric to further their political and social agendas. Indeed, it was the systematic exploitation of women of colour’s domestic and caring labour that allowed white feminists the freedom to first enter the streets, holding placards and calling for change.

Why is Black Feminism important?

With this historical legacy in mind, the Black Feminist Fund urges donors to prioritise the expertise of people who have lived experience of various forms of marginalisation. Such individuals and communities can be said to have ‘privileged’ access to certain forms of knowledge that are crucial for tackling the root causes of systemic oppression and injustice.

Having experienced and resisted intersecting forms of oppression, Black feminists are leaders in prioritising community-based and intersectional solutions, all of which challenge dominant narratives and stereotypes and amplify the voices of the most marginalised.

Chronic underfunding

Despite their critical importance, Black Feminist movements continue to be chronically underfunded. Some findings from the report demonstrate that:

  • A mere 0.1% – 0.35% of foundation giving globally went to Black women, girls, and trans people.
  • Nearly 60% of Black feminist organizations have never received core funding.
  • More than 60% of Black feminist organizations have annual budgets of less than 50,000 USD
  • 75% of Black feminist groups receive the majority of their funding through project-specific grants.
  • 53% of Black feminist groups do not have funds available for the next fiscal year.
  • 81% of Black feminist organizations do not have enough money to meet their goals.

The money against Black Feminist Movements

Throughout the webinar, the three speakers also discussed how philanthropic funding continues to support sectors that sit directly at odds with the goals of Black Feminism, including projects that promote exractivist economies, militarism, and prison systems.

In addition, some philanthropy actively funds the agendas of ‘anti-rights’ groups. Many of these groups drive moral panics, framing intersectional feminism and ‘gender ideology’ as the enemy of the nuclear family, the nation-state, and ‘traditional’ ways of life. These discussions reminded me of recent protests in Australia, where white supremacists gathered outside of Parliament, displaying the Nazi salute in support of anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minsull.

Black Feminist movements are critical for combatting such regimes, many of which combine various anti-rights agendas to incite hate against racial, gender and sexual minorities.

Next steps for funders

Drawing attention to the money for and against Black Feminist movements is a critical first step toward ensuring these movements are adequately resourced and supported. However, much work remains, and the philanthropy sector must take action to recognise and challenge deeply rooted gendered and racialized patterns in funding practices.

The important work of the Black Feminist Fund offers insight into how these processes can begin to take place within philanthropy. The report is crucial reading for all donors and activists interested in driving long-term, intersectional, and transformative change.

You can find the full report, entitled “Where is the Money for Black Feminist Movements” here.

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