September 4, 2018

Are funders ready to fight for our freedom?

By Manisha Vaze, Senior Program Manager of NFG's Funders for a Just Economy

This Labor Day weekend, as we celebrate the last days of summer with barbeques and back-to-school preparation, I am thinking about how the labor movement is facing some of the most serious threats to its future. Well-funded efforts are shutting down public sector unions and workers’ ability to collectively bargain, while corporations are using their lobbying power to lock contingent and informal workers out of basic labor protections.  Companies are worming out of providing basic benefits such as health care, sick days, family leave, and fair work schedules, while also receiving significant tax breaks. These corporations are being propped up as saviors of the American workforce because of their ability to create jobs, or because of the beloved nature of their products, services, and shipping times that come at the literal expense of the workers who make, provide, and deliver these goods.

To me, it’s no accident that while the American economy is purportedly at its height, wages have continued to stagnate and workers have seen little to no benefits. The shifts in the economy have largely come from a culture of extraction of resources from companies on to shareholders and CEOs. It is part of not decades, but centuries of poor labor conditions, racist economic policies, and use of slave labor.

Moreover, we are getting distracted by the short-sighted antics of politics and politicos who are campaigning in two- and four-year cycles instead of working to build long term democratic values in our public policies and budgets. And culturally, many are more interested in maintaining their partisan identities and white supremacy than their own ability to make ends meet.

Despite this doom and gloom, what’s clear is that there is energy and motivation to bring back a culture of interdependence, collectivism, and a demand for basic rights. The current prison strike is emblematic of this energy – incarcerated people are standing up to slavery and exploitation as they are stripped of their constitutional rights. In Los Angeles, United Teachers LA just voted to authorize a strike for better pay and smaller class sizes, following many teacher strikes this year including one in Southwest Washington last week. These efforts are proof that workers will organize against the bosses and resist the authoritarian conditions that lead to their mistreatment, regardless of the cuts to legal protections and structures in place to defend workers’ rights.

These efforts also occurred without any philanthropic funding. Recent data shows that funding towards economic and labor rights are a paltry 6% of the total funding that goes towards human rights, with grassroots organizing efforts being one of the least funded. But, shifting power to create the conditions for real change requires larger investments and larger resources, and more risk taking. When workers are willing to lose wages, face extreme retaliation, and risk their livelihoods, how can we as funders stand by, citing the barriers of our program strategies and five-year plans? Now, more than ever, we need to be fighting for the future of labor and employment – one that is about the value of work and improving the quality of life for everyday people. 

Assata Shakur wrote that “It is our duty to fight for our freedom / It is our duty to win.” Funders, are we ready to do everything in our power to make sure we win?

June 2, 2020

Black Lives Matter: We Say Their Names

We at NFG say their names. George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY. Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, GA. Tony McDade in Tallahassee, FL. Dion Johnson in Phoenix, AZ.

Black Lives Matter, today and every day. NFG stands in solidarity with Black communities as we again find ourselves anguished, angered, and compelled to action in response to the murders of George Floyd and Black people across the U.S. by police.

We urge our network to continue challenging white supremacy. We call on philanthropy to divest from criminalization and invest in communities. We encourage you to fund communities directly, support protestors and essential workers — like Breonna Taylor — who continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, and donate to bail funds around the country. Read more about how grantmakers can take action to fund transformative justice in this blog post from NFG’s Funders for Justice.
 


 

NFG cares about you, and your communities. We are here to work beside you and support each other as we share, inspire, grieve, and act together. And we are committed to organizing philanthropy to support grassroots power building so that Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities thrive.
 

RESOURCES & CALLS TO ACTION

OPPORTUNITIES TO CONNECT

  • We will be holding Member Connection Calls on June 9 and June 11. These calls are open spaces for you to drop in and be in community with new or familiar NFG friends and colleagues. We invite you to join us at any point throughout the hour to say hi, share anything that’s on your mind, take a breath, and strategize with the NFG community.
  • Drop us a line! NFG staff are ready to help connect you with others in our network, or provide some 1:1 listening and strategizing with you about whom to connect with or specific ways you can take action in your institution. We invite you to get in touch with anyone on our staff.
  • Join the NFG network for our 40 Years Strong virtual convening series, starting later this month with discussions with philanthropic and movement leaders on what is needed in this political moment and beyond, as well as how philanthropy must be accountable to communities of color and low-income communities. Registration is now open.
May 29, 2020

Say Their Names: Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Dion Johnson

This piece was written by NFG's Funders for Justice program leadership.

We say their names: Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY, George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, GA, Tony McDade in Tallahassee, FL, Dion Johnso in Phoenix, AZ.

Black Lives Matter, today and every day.

Fund Black lives, Black futures, Black organizing. 

We Stand in Solidarity: Funders for Justice stands in solidarity with protestors in Minneapolis, Louisville, Phoenix, New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities across the country, fighting for the lives and freedom for all Black people. We know that communities are powerful, and will dream and fight for the transformative justice in which together we create the new world we all need. As funders, our mandate is to fund communities rising up against state violence, and to continue to fund as communities build the power and momentum for long-term change.

We Must Continue to Challenge White Supremacy: While police killed unarmed Black people over and over again, we witnessed no police response to armed white nationalist posted in front of state capital buildings and yelling in the faces of security guards, demanding an end to shelter in place because they wanted to get a haircut and go out in public without a mask.

Stand with Black Women Essential Workers: Breonna Taylor was a young Black woman who was an EMT — an essential worker already risking her life during a pandemic. Yet we repeatedly witness evidence that the state does not protect or respect the people, especially Black women, risking their lives to save others. Essential workers are already facing dangerous conditions, with extremely limited protection equipment, low pay, often dangerous commutes to work, and then in turn endangering their families. That Breonna was one of the latest casualties of state violence is profoundly painful.

How to Support Protestors: We encourage you to fund communities directly, including at times when groups are not able to fill out even a short proposal or form because they are leading protests in the streets. We encourage you to give now however your foundation is able — including getting creative in mobilizing resources — perhaps to use your foundation’s expense account to send money for needed supplies like water and food. And, we encourage everyone reading this blog to make a personal donation, because we all come to the work we do as the full people that we are: part of communities fighting in resistance, part of communities fighting for survival, part of communities taking action in solidarity. You can donate now to bail funds in many cities. 

Invest/Divest Now: While millions of local dollars are cut from city budgets — in youth programs, health services, and education, among others — due to shortfalls, the police unions/associations continue to push for more money and more police. Yet police are not saving people in this pandemic — they are policing, fining, and sending people to jail - mostly Black people. The federal administration has refused to send more supplies and funding to medical workers and other frontline workers, while increasing funding to police-related spending and private security guards.

We All Have A Mandate: Philanthropy’s mandate to support communities in living healthy and free lives means funding both the public infrastructure that keeps communities safe — like health care, housing, and education — and funding the people, organizations, and the movements rising up against police violence and building power to defund the police, prisons, ICE, and detention centers. Philanthropy must support divest/invest campaigns and other abolitionist strategies, because nothing the police do is meant to ever keep communities of color safe. Now is the time to divest from the police, when cities are cutting budgets and need the funding for community wellness more than any other time. (Check out FFJ’s divest/invest resource for funders and consider how you want to support community safety and justice.) 

Bail funds and legal support in cities around the country are linked in this google doc hosted by the Movement 4 Black Lives

Where to donate to support protestors and Black folks organizing for Black Lives in Minneapolis: