Freedom Side Open Letter

To Whom It May Concern;

This is an open letter from frontline leaders engaged in the struggle for justice in Ferguson and the larger fight against police brutality and Black dehumanization, to request real solidarity. This is a moment recorded for the future and we are writing this letter to open up ways for people to stand in solidarity.

This is a historical moment that young people are leading, but that should come as no surprise because young people have always been the fuel of social movements. Youth leaders recruiting, planning, living and creating the change we want to see and the world we want to live in–and we are doing that now in Ferguson and New York and Los Angeles and Cleveland and beyond.

For all of our lives, people of color have been fighting to breathe. Our country has the world record of incarcerations and deportations. Black women, girls, men, boys and LGBTQ folks have had their lives taken by the hands of law enforcement. We are part of communities directly impacted by this violence, family separation, degradation, and pain. We stand strongly against the institutional systems and policies put in place that excuses murder by law enforcement, including within the institutions who would seek to be our partners in this work.

We know that our leaders are listening. President Obama has met with some of us, and the Department of Justice has announced its investigations in respective cities. There is no doubt Congress and the Supreme Court will have a side to choose in this discussion in the near future, but the work that we are doing is focused on building local strength. We are educating our communities, recruiting spokespeople, and building up our organizations. And whether or not our elected officials do their part, we will continue this work. We are not waiting for institutions to determine our path forward. Our solutions and demands are tailored to the unique needs of our communities and the people in them. There is no one prescription for change, and we believe the people in those communities are the ones who can best create that change.

We want you–yes, you–to join us in this struggle. To create big change, everyone needs to fight together. Here is what you can do right now to build a strategic vision with us that prevents the next murder by the rule of the law:

Endorse our demands. These demands are born of our lived experiences in our communities, and born of our desperate need to dismantle the status quo. There is no one demand, because there is no one-way to fix this problem. Respect our work and our expertise and embrace our demands. Push for them with our elected officials and make them part of your demands.

Donating to our work. This is a labor of necessary work for us, and it costs money. We are scrappy, entrepreneurial, and efficient with our resources, but we don’t have very much. Your money or other in-kind contributions are urgently needed and greatly appreciated. To donate please click here

Uplifting our leaders. Our movement is full of leaders, both new and experienced organizers, artists, business leaders, policy wonks, and frontline community members. We do not need the leaders of the past telling us what to do, we need the leaders of the past to be a resource to help support us. Media outlets can amplify our leaders, friendly organizations can consult our leaders, funders can sponsor our leaders. We are eager for partners and friends to stand with us and behind us in this struggle.

We are marching for the lives of the fallen and the lives of the future. Join the Freedom Side.

In unity,

Freedom Side

October 24, 2019

Reflections from Philanthropy Forward's First Cohort

Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change is a CEO fellowship program created by Neighborhood Funders Group and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The program's first cohort started in October 2018 in furtherance of building and advancing a shared vision for the future of philanthropy.

Hear perspectives from members of the first cohort as they reflect in this video on their work together as strategic thought partners, addressing philanthropy's most challenging issues and aligning to build a financial engine for social change.

2018 - 2019 Philanthropy Forward Cohort

A grid with individual photos of each of the 20 members of Philanthropy Forward's 2018-2918 cohort..

Click here for participant bios

  • Dimple Abichandani, General Service Foundation
  • Sharon Alpert, Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Elizabeth Barajas-Roman, Solidago Foundation
  • Ned Calonge, The Colorado Trust
  • Irene Cooper-Basch, Victoria Foundation
  • Farhad A. Ebrahimi, The Chorus Foundation
  • Nicky Goren, Meyer Foundation
  • Justin Maxson, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
  • Joan Minieri, Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock
  • Maria Mottola, New York Foundation
  • Mike Pratt, Scherman Foundation
  • Jocelyn Sargent, Hyams Foundation
  • Pamela Shifman, NoVo Foundation
  • Starsky D. Wilson, Deaconess Foundation
  • Steve Patrick, Aspen Institute Forum for Community solutions
  • Dennis Quirin, Raikes Foundation
September 10, 2019

For Love of Humankind: A Call to Action for Southern Philanthropy

Justin Maxson, Executive Director of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, calls on fellow funding organizations based in the South to respond to the federal government's anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies with three concrete actions. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Justin was part of the first Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, which strives to help people and places move out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice, is a member of NFG.


Justin MaxsonWe are issuing a clarion call to Southern philanthropic organizations to respond to the manic drumbeat of anti-immigrant rhetoric and cruelty coming from the White House. This month began with a mass shooting targeting the Latinx community. Days later, massive raids tore apart hundreds of families and destabilized Mississippi communities but levied no consequences for the corporate leadership that lures vulnerable people to work in grueling, dangerous conditions. It is astounding that since those events, with the resulting fear and trauma still reverberating through immigrant communities across America, the administration has: 

  • repeated its intention to end birthright citizenship, a 14th Amendment guarantee that babies born on American soil are citizens. 
  • attempted to terminate the Flores Agreement, which sets standards for the care of children in custody. This would allow the administration to detain migrant families indefinitely in facilities where children are dying of influenza, yet flu shots are not administrated, where children are sexually assaulted, where soap, toothbrushes, human contact and play are not standard, and where breastfeeding babies are taken from their mothers. Child separation is known to cause permanent psychological trauma and brain damage.
  • announced changes to the so-called “public charge rule” to make it harder for legal immigrants to secure citizenship if they use public assistance. As our partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argue, this change would cause many to “forgo assistance altogether, resulting in more economic insecurity and hardship, with long-term negative consequences, particularly for children.” Further, the decision “rests on the erroneous assumption that immigrants currently of modest means are harmful to our nation and our economy, devaluing their work and contributions and discounting the upward mobility immigrant families demonstrate.”

There was also a recent effort to effectively end asylum altogether at the southern border. And despite the Supreme Court ruling blocking the citizenship question from the 2020 census, advocates believe the debate will depress response rates. As we wrote earlier this month, this administration’s animus against immigrants and increasingly aggressive ICE actions are compounding the devastating effects on communities across the country. 

Why Southern philanthropy? 

An analysis of recent grantmaking by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found our region has deportation rates five times higher than the rest of the country, yet Southern pro-immigrant organizations receive paltry philanthropic funding. Barely one percent of all money granted by the 1,000 largest foundations benefits immigrants and refugees, and even that money doesn’t go to state and local groups that are accountable to grassroots and immigrant communities. Organizations in Southern states receive less than half of the state and local funding of California, New York and Illinois. 

Where to begin? 

Speak up. As Desmund Tutu taught us, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Use your institutional voice to influence decisionmakers.

Examine your foundation’s policies. Find out if your endowment is invested in private detention centers. Consider how supporting organizing, power building and policy advocacy could advance your mission. NCRP has more recommendations in its report.

Give generously. Our partners at Hispanics in Philanthropy have curated a list of organizations helping the families affected by the raids across Mississippi. Our partners at Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees have compiled a list of ways to help, from rapid response grants to long-term strategies. 

Many of the Babcock Foundation’s grantee partners are doing more and more immediate protection work, stretching themselves thin and often putting themselves at risk. They are keeping families intact in the short term while building power for the long term, so history will stop repeating: 

If you know of more resources, please share them. If you’d like to learn more about the organizations on the ground across the South – or think about ways we can do more together – contact us. We are always looking to learn and act in alignment with our fellow funders toward a shared vision of a strong, safe, welcoming and equitable region. 

Activist Jane Addams said, “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us.” Regardless of a foundation’s mission, abject cruelty surely undermines it. It also undermines the most basic tenet of philanthropy, which literally means “love for humankind.” We see no love in this administration. It’s up to all of us to spread it.