April 27, 2018

FFJ Advisor Discussion Series: Zachary Norris

In the spring of 2017, Funders for Justice (FFJ) launched its inaugural cohort of Advisors – nine field leaders recognized for their leadership in community power-building, racial and gender justice, police accountability campaigns, and anti-criminalization movements. We asked them to share their insights on the current political climate, how we can build a vision for the world we want, and what funders can do in this moment. This month, FFJ staff interviewed Zachary Norris, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. (The Ella Baker Center is a leader in the Freedom Cities Movement. In case you missed last month’s funder briefing and webinar, then you can read our recap.)  

Zachary Norris, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and FFJ Advisor. Photo courtesy of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

How do you understand the political moment that we’re in? What do you think we need to do differently right now? 

I think we need to shot for the moon. There is this game called hearts I think where you are losing so bad that you can invert things and shoot for the moon to win big. It is not that I think that we are losing that bad but clearly things are difficult and our communities are under attack.  What’s clear to me is that this is an unstable political moment and one that is ripe for change. It gives us an opportunity and also shows the necessity of pushing for transformation not just reform.

That level of change requires a deep re-examination of the country’s past and a fundamental reorientation in shaping the future.

Truth and Reinvestment is our vision to achieve this change—it is both a conversation, and a call to action. “Truth” means reckoning with the reality of racial injustice in our country. It means talking about how our country has continuously prioritized and profited from shackles, walls, and jails in communities of color – from slavery to Jim Crow to our current criminal justice system. “Reinvestment” means rejecting these priorities and advancing solutions that create opportunity for our families and neighborhoods, particularly those who have been harmed by lack of investment and prejudicial policies.

It’s a time of immense challenge, but also of rapid politicization of people and institutions, creating tremendous new opportunities and wins. Have you seen any unexpected wins recently? 

Despite Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ rhetoric and his attempts to ramp up the so-called war on drugs, in CA Governor Brown just signed a bill that eliminates unfair and unnecessary mandatory drug sentence enhancements. The RISE Act’s passage is one of the most significant rollbacks of the so-called war on drugs in decades. It demonstrates what can happen when powerful grassroots organizations, allies, and progressive lawmakers work together.

In fact, the Governor signed a slate of positive reforms to the youth and adult justice systems. This is a local silver lining to a gloomy federal cloud because I am not sure the Governor would have wanted to stand out so much without the desire to be seen as being in opposition to Trump.

What are some of ways that EBC connects its local work with national movements? 

Recognizing the need for a visionary approach to the challenges facing all communities under attack by the new political regime, Enlace, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and Black Alliance for Just Immigration, organizations with decades of experience organizing and advocating for women, Black and immigrant families, and poor and low-wage workers, have united to initiate Freedom Cities.

Freedom Cities is an emerging movement that seeks to make cities, towns, and communities safe for all oppressed people in the U.S. Freedom Cities was conceived by those directly affected by policies that incarcerate, displace, and marginalize communities of color.  We believe that communities will only be safe when everyone lives with dignity and has the opportunity to thrive without fear of physical violence, racial injustice, and economic oppression at the hands of greedy corporations, white supremacists,  or the government.

What is EBC building that is about a vision for the communities that you want to have? 

I’d like to lift up two examples: Night Out for Safety and Liberation and Restore Oakland.

Too often, conversations about public safety revolve around punishment and fear. Safety is about more than that—it’s about having a living wage job, healthy food, and being able to afford childcare, healthcare, and housing. That’s why we partner with allies across the country to host Night Out for Safety and Liberation, when people come together to redefine what #SafetyIs: dignity, opportunity, and power in our communities.

Restore Oakland is a joint initiative between the Ella Baker Center and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. It will be a community advocacy and training center that will empower Bay Area community members to transform our economic and justice systems and make a safe and secure future possible for themselves and for their families.

What should funders be doing in this moment to support social change and transformation work over the immediate moment and sustain it over the longer term? 

Don’t give up if you don’t see change right away. Good organizing takes time. The Ella Baker Center helped lead a campaign to close 5 of 8 CA youth prisons, without diminishing public safety. In fact, I think young people are better off as a result. The campaign took nearly a decade. Yet the investment was worth it. Longterm victories like these tend to have outsized impact because they shift the boundaries of the possible.

About the author
Zachary Norris is the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and a former director of the Books Not Bars campaign.
Find More By:

News type: 
November 23, 2021

Looking back & what's ahead: NFG's November 2021 Newsletter

As we're approaching the end of the year, our team at Neighborhood Funders Group has begun reflecting on the many ways we've been organizing with funders to move more money to racial, gender, economic, and climate justice. In this month's newsletter, you'll find our highlights from 2021 and a glimpse of what to expect from each of our programs in 2022 to get you excited about continuing to co-conspire with the NFG community.


  

AMPLIFY FUND

  • In 2021, Amplify Fund distributed $3.6m in general operating grants to our 56 grantees in 8 places, including $700k in capacity building grants and collaboration grants; we hope you consider co-funding these amazing organizations with us!
  • We also worked on a more public presence this year by creating and distributing videos about our grantees and our grantmaking model, and by publishing in a major magazine.
  • Next year will be a big transition: our grantees are leading our theory of change refresh, our Steering Committee is doubling down on efforts to shift our field towards racial justice and power building, and we are fundraising (i.e., encouraging you all to join our Steering Committee) to ensure the Amplify Fund continues for years to come.

 

DEMOCRATIZING DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

  • This year, the Democratizing Development Program (DDP) brought community and philanthropic leaders together to advance BIPOC organizing and policy solutions for land, housing, community ownership, and power.

  • ICYMI: check out our sessions on Addressing the Housing Crisis in New York and Beyond, which featured tenant leaders and advocates in New York State who are building power to address the housing crisis, and Philanthropy and the Case for Reparations in collaboration with the Decolonizing Wealth Project, featuring organizations that are advancing reparations as a strategy to heal, restore, repair, and rebuild communities.
  • In 2022, DDP will be engaging local and national-level funders interested in learning how to be more aligned with movement priorities, with a focus on power building strategies for housing justice. Our sessions will share experiences of how funders have approached partnership and power-sharing with community organizations, and outcomes that are possible through this approach.

 

FUNDERS FOR A JUST ECONOMY

  • Funders for a Just Economy (FJE) focused our efforts this year on learning from movement partners who are building a powerful movement for inclusive worker power, considering both rising fascism and the new federal administration, and sharing how funders can support multiracial, multi-gender movements toward policy wins that build community and worker power, combat austerity policies, and support transformational and longer-term strategies toward racial, gender, climate, and economic justice.
  • We did this through many programs and reports this year. Don’t forget to rewatch and re-read some highlights, including the March Policy Briefing and learning about the amazing local organizing in Nashville, Houston, Washington DC, and Southern California’s Inland Region.
  • Next year, FJE aspires to double down our efforts to organize funders to resource grassroots power building, address racial capitalism, and commit more money to movement organizations that are boldly organizing to improve the quality of life, health, and working conditions of Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities, low-income communities, and queer, trans and gender non-binary people. Stay tuned for more information about upcoming meetings with the US Department of Labor (every few months) and FJE’s annual Policy Briefing in March 2022.

 

INTEGRATED RURAL STRATEGIES GROUP

  • Integrated Rural Strategies Group (IRSG) deepened its roots in rural community-led work with the launch of our Movement Advisors Committee; launched the Resourcing Rural Organizing Infrastructure: A New York Case Study report containing analysis and funder recommendations for supporting rural communities; and continues to support funders in actualizing these recommendations and the guidance of our Movement Advisors by developing a Rural Equity Funding Toolkit that includes a funder self-assessment and set of resources.
  • IRSG will be hosting its flagship annual event — the Multiracial Rural Equity Summit — on December 9. We invite any funder interested in learning the critical role rural communities play in advancing justice and equity to join us. For a taste of what we’ll dig into at the Summit, check out this 10-minute video on how funders can support place-based rural community power.
  • In 2022, IRSG will live into its charge to mobilize philanthropy by launching a New York Rural Organizing Funding Portfolio, offering funders of all types the opportunity to resource rural community organizing across New York State in a strategic, coordinated portfolio. We will also be hosting workshops and learning communities to mobilize philanthropic resources to build rural power with our Rural Equity Funding Toolkit.

 

MIDWEST ORGANIZING INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDERS

  • In 2021, the Midwest Organizing Infrastructure Funders hosted our first events, which have already moved resources to organizing and power building work in the Midwest. We also launched our first campaign and worked to deepen our relationships with funders to better understand Midwest-specific needs around moving resources to movements for racial, gender, economic, and climate justice.
  • To connect with us, please read our November newsletter and email Amanda Hwu to learn more about opportunities for engagement.
  • In 2022, we will be launching our inaugural Coordinating Committee to guide the vision and priorities of this new program, continuing our racial justice campaign for Black farmers, and designing and hosting interactive spaces for funders to deepen their engagement with grassroots organizing infrastructure in the Midwest.

 

PHILANTHROPY FORWARD

  • In 2021, Philanthropy Forward hosted virtual sessions and peer coaching spaces for the 16 CEO Fellows in Cohort 3. We hosted Network Gatherings for 50 current and past Fellows to deepen their work and analyses on racial & gender justice and community power building to disrupt and transform the future of philanthropy.
  • To learn more about Philanthropy Forward, please see here; and get more info about Cohort 3 here. Please contact Adriana Rocha for any additional questions.
  • In 2022, we look forward to launching Cohort 4 and continuing to provide programming for Cohort 3 and the Philanthropy Forward network.

 

NFG is offering a few more opportunities this year to co-conspire with us! Keep reading to find out more about IRSG's Multiracial Rural Equity Summit, and funders — don't miss our final Member Connection Call of the year on December 1.

At this Member Connection Call, we'll ask you to share how you've centered care in your grantmaking and/or what you've shifted at your foundation to fund BIPOC communities to build power. Share what support you may need as a grantmaker to fund racial, gender, economic, and climate justice with even more resources so that BIPOC communities, low-income communities, workers, migrants, rural communities, people with disabilities, queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people, women, and all of our communities thrive in a liberated world where we are all well, where we are all cared for, and where there is abundance for all.

In solidarity,

— the NFG team

read the newsletter

Find More By:

News type: 
October 28, 2021

Philanthropy’s horoscope for care + liberation: NFG's October 2021 Newsletter

I’ve been on NFG’s staff team since July 2019 — popping into your inbox (whether you knew it was me or not) as one of the behind-the-scenes creators/writers/editors of our monthly newsletters and other communications pieces.

In addition to being NFG’s Director of Membership and Communications, I’m a puppy parent, an avid car camper, a chaser of sunrises & sunsets, and one of many queer folx who leans on astrologer Chani Nicholas to help me ‘discover and live out my life’s purpose.’

For those of you who are not astrology aficionados, we’re now in Scorpio season (I’m an Aquarius sun, Gemini rising, and Cancer moon). And Chani’s horoscope for me this season really struck a chord; here’s a snippet:

“In astrology, the house we associate with physical ailments is also the place where we toil. This Scorpio season, you’re called to investigate how the two interweave. How do your work habits and expectations impact you physically? Where does stress live in your body? How does it let you know?

By gathering the morse code of your heart beats, your nerves as they rustle, or the needling heat of a back ache, you transfigure these inconveniences into valuable data: into information you can pivot from. By heeding the complaints of your body, you leave an offering at the steps of your most precious temple — you.”

This invitation to collect the data from my body, locate where I feel stress, and explore the interconnectedness between my work habits & expectations and my body’s aches, pains, fatigue, satisfaction, etc. is a welcome and timely one.


Over the past year + some change, the NFG team has begun to explore what it means to create & steward our culture of care. We are still in the nascent stage of defining NFG’s culture of care and how it will & can evolve. So far, this has looked like the following:

  • Annual self-care stipends for staff
  • Flexibility with annual professional development funds and the ability to repurpose some of those funds for our individual wellness
  • More administrative closures at the end of the year and at other times of the year (NFG closed for 3 weeks at the end of 2020 and will be closed from December 15, 2021 - January 4, 2022)

We’re continuing to imagine what kind of world is possible — and what role philanthropy plays in moving all of us toward liberation — when we honor the data from our bodies, dismantle the oppressive structures that aren’t serving us at work or in any parts of our lives, and truly center care for ourselves as individuals, in our teams, with our movement leaders & grantees, and in our communities.

I’m ruminating on questions like:

  • How do we center care in our work as we all grapple with white supremacy culture characteristics of urgency, quantity vs. quality, and perfectionism?
  • How and where do we incorporate care into schedules that have many folx in 4, 5, or 6+ zoom meetings a day? What is the toll of the way we work on our bodies, minds, and spirit?
  • How is care reflected in our organizational policies, in our theory of change, and in our values and work culture? Where can care be more deeply rooted in these aspects of our organizations?
  • How do we fully resource our team as humans to show up as their full selves and feel fully supported to do their best work (which also means taking breaks and pausing and resting and honoring whatever data our bodies tell us)?
  • How does care, wellness, and the ability to be well show up in philanthropy (or not)? And what does that mean for NFG as we strive to fulfill our mission to organize philanthropy to support grassroots power building so that Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities and low-income communities thrive?
  • How can our practices of care at NFG and across the philanthropic sector ripple out so that Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities, low-income communities, workers, migrants, rural communities, queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people, women, and all of our communities thrive in a liberated world where we are all well, where we are all cared for, and where there is abundance for all?

Last week, NFG’s President, Adriana Rocha, and I hosted our October Member Connection Call, where we asked grantmakers who joined us from Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, and New York: how you are caring for yourself, your team, and the movement leaders & grantees that you're supporting as we move through Scorpio season to the end of the year? Members shared ideas and practices including: creating care packages for team members; organization-wide pauses & sabbaticals as a call to rest (see this article from Headwaters Foundation on sabbatical, shifting culture, and systems change); starting the day with a walk outside instead of emails; centering healing justice in our work; and extending care into grantmaking by providing wellness grants (shoutout to NFG’s Amplify Fund!).

I pose this same set of questions to you: 

  • How are you caring for yourself?
  • How are you caring for your team?
  • How are you caring for movement leaders and grantees as a grantmaker?

Send me a note to let me know; we’ll keep sharing these strategies for care in NFG’s communications.

And funders: please join us on December 1 for NFG’s final Member Connection Call of the year, where we’ll continue this conversation on care + liberation, as well as reflect on what you’ve done/learned in 2021 to shift your grantmaking to move more money to racial, gender, economic, and climate justice.

Sending all the good & nourishing vibes your way,

Courtney Banayad
she/her
Director of Membership and Communications
 

read the newsletter

 

Find More By:

News type: