August 14, 2017

Our Work Today: A Statement from FFJ Leadership

Just several days ago, the city council of Charlottesville, VA, voted to sell the Robert E. Lee statue and to create a reparations fund for Black residents, or an “equity package” which will invest $4 million in Black people of Charlottesville. Among those investments were funding for a heritage center, public housing, and GED programs. White nationalist leaders called for a national mobilization to protest the city’s historic move towards structural equity.

We all watched on Friday night as hundreds of white nationalists from around the country, marched on the University of Virginia, carrying torches, using anti-Black, anti-Semitic slurs as they violently attacked counter-protestors. It is clear this was a neo-Nazi-organized event that sought to push back progress. In the face of physical violence, the refusal of police to take action underscored the deep disparity of policing of non-violent Black protestors in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Baton Rouge, and Texas (and many other places), and this weekend’s largely white call to violence.

On Saturday, white nationalists marched through the city of Charlottesville. Physical assaults on community members escalated when one white supremacist intentionally plunged his car into a crowd of counter protestors. Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman, was killed, and at least 19 other people were injured. Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates, both Virginia State Officers, also died when their helicopter crashed while monitoring the violent events. In total, three people have now lost their lives as a result of this weekend’s events. As you view the links we’ve shared, we ask you to watch with care, as the images are overwhelming.

On Sunday night Governor McAuliffe declared a state of emergency in Charlottesville. Funders for Justice is watching this specific development carefully, as states of emergency are disproportionately used to target communities of color as well as progressive organizations and leaders. As an example, three years ago, the governor of Missouri instituted a state of emergency in Ferguson in order to quell largely non-violent protest of police abuse in Missouri, and the state of emergency provided cover for police to use militarized weapons as a form of crowd control. In particular, Black people were overwhelmingly targeted.

It is important for us to understand as funders, that this current backlash by white nationalist is a direct measure of our successes in local communities around the nation. Now more than ever, philanthropy must double down in its support to those explicitly addressing racism, white supremacy, and white nationalism. We should note that those participating in the violence were not just from Virginia; they traveled from cities and towns across our country. We are reminded that white supremacy is (and has always been) a fight at our front doors. Those committed to propagating white nationalism are anti-Black, anti-Semitic, Islamaphobic, misogynist, homophobic, and anti-immigrant. Effective responses to this will be grounded in broad coalition-building.

From the activists that risked their lives in counter-protest, to those working now through the nights to prepare for what’s ahead, we continue to be inspired by the movements fighting for all of us. Funders for Justice is committed to strengthening out network so that we are even more agile, responsive, and principled in our support to them.

We will work to continue to provide you with information, opportunities to support, and ways to coordinate our efforts together. Please know that we appreciate you during this tumultuous time. Below are some quick links to ways you can respond, and for more information.

We hope you take good care. Thank you for all that you do.

In Struggle,

Tynesha McHarris, NoVo Foundation, and FFJ Co-Chair
Molly Schultz Hafid, Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, and FFJ Co-Chair
Luna Yasui, Ford Foundation, and FFJ Co-Chair
Lorraine Ramirez, Funders for Justice at Neighborhood Funders Group

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September 3, 2019

Capitalism and Racism: Conjoined Twins

By Marjona Jones, Co-Chair of Funders for a Just Economy and Senior Program Officer at Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock

Marjona Jones speaking at a podium.

A few weeks ago, Democracy Now! aired a segment with Ibram X. Kendi, author and founding director of the Anti-Racist Research and Policy Center at American University, where he discussed white supremacy, anti-racism, and the increase in mass shootings. What struck me about the segment was his illuminating statement about the origins of capitalism. Kendi views capitalism and racism as "conjoined twins" and that “…the origins of racism cannot be separated from the origins of capitalism… the life of capitalism cannot be separated from the life of racism.”

Kendi continued by discussing how the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade allowed for the massive accumulation of wealth in Europe and the Americas. Centuries of wage theft, trading in human bondage, insurance claims on "lost" cargo, and reparations for slave owners after emancipation entrenched this capitalist system with inequities based on race built into it. Slave owners protected their concentrated wealth by shaping our socio-economic and legal systems to benefit themselves and the industry of slavery, as well as limit democracy.

As I celebrate the worker movement’s victories on Labor Day this year, this segment and past conversations with grantees has triggered an important question for me: What does the notion that capitalism and racism are inextricably linked mean for our work as funders of racial and economic justice? Our grantee partners tell us how workers are implicated in the entangled web of these “conjoined twins” of racism and capitalism. Many worker-based organizations state that the best vehicle this country has in pursuit of economic justice is through organizing workers, but traditional labor hasn’t always been the best vehicle for racial justice. As Bill Fletcher Jr. and Fernando Gapasin discuss in Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice, while many unions integrated in the 1920s, some unionists decided to resist integration to ensure wins and job quality for white workers. These traditionalists understood the idea of “conjoined twins.”

Racial and economic justice movements have exposed exploitative and extractive practices within capitalism, making it less secure to accumulate wealth through those means. However, as Michelle Alexander points out in her book, The New Jim Crow, exposing capitalism for what it is forces it to transform and evolve. For example, following the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, agriculture was still the main economic engine, and free exploited labor was needed for this industry to survive. Capitalism evolved while maintaining its racist and exploitative roots through policymakers passing the Black Codes of 1865 and 1866, making it easier to imprison recently freed slaves to continue that supply of free labor.

We are catching up to the fact that capitalism was never meant to work for everyone. What will the next evolution in capitalism bring as our movements fight even harder for racial and economic justice in the face of harm to workers and marginalized communities?

Funders for a Just Economy (FJE) has created an intentional space to begin discussing what these questions mean for our work and the grantees we support. Capitalism’s origin story is a critical part of analyzing how this system operates. By acknowledging the “conjoined twins,” we acknowledge the role of race and the legacy of slavery. FJE believes that there is a renewed opportunity to support a working-class movement that builds the power of all workers, especially Black, Trans and LGBQ workers, women, and immigrants—and lift their role as the main strategists to change the system. If we believe another world is possible, then so is another system that bakes in justice, equity, and respect.


  

Join FJE for these conversations and more at the upcoming Racial Capitalism, Power and Resistance event on October 17 & 18 in Brooklyn, NY. More information and registration link here.

Stay tuned for an upcoming Power Building Study Group for Neighborhood Funders Group members, and the Disrupt the System: How Labor and Philanthropy can Build Worker Power in a New Era event co-convened by the AFL-CIO, the LIFT Fund, and FJE on December 11 in Washington, DC. More information coming soon!

 
August 15, 2019

Beyond Outrage: A Clarity of Purpose

Dimple Abichandani, Executive Director of the General Service Foundation, urges grantmakers and the philanthropic sector to take concrete actions to defend democracy and speak out against racist attacks on people of color. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Dimple 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. General Service Foundation, which partners with grassroots organizations to bring about a more just and sustainable world, is a member of NFG.


  

Dimple AbichandaniWe live in dangerous times, and every passing news cycle contains another outrage, another violation of norms, another threat to our democracy, another threat to our planet.  

In the face of escalating racial attacks, (be it imprisonment of kids on the border or the racist rhetoric being tweeted from the white house) many have noted, rightly, that philanthropy as a sector has been too cautious and too quiet.  The Communications Network, in it’s recent piece, Silence Speaks Volumes, calls on foundations to use their voices in this moment.

Yes, it’s meaningful for people from all sectors of our society to condemn the Administration’s attacks on people of color.  And, for those of us working in the philanthropic sector, these times call on us to use all of our tools in defense of our inclusive, multi-racial democracy.  We are more than commentators or observers– as funders, our role is to resource a more just and equitable future. What we do in this moment will be far more important than what we say.  

As painful as this moment is, it is also a time in which the work to be done has become more clear. The vulnerability of our democracy has become more clear.  Racial anxiety and social divisions are being stoked in order to prop up a reckless system that benefits only the wealthiest. As we condemn the most recent of a long list of outrages, can we also use this moment to deepen our own clarity of purpose, and ensure that our funding will bring about a more just future? 

As funders, we can not only speak out but also take action to bolster our inclusive democracy.

  1. Support those most directly impacted by injustice. Instead of wielding of our own voice and power as a foundation, we can support those most directly impacted by injustice to build their voice, power, and leadership. They must lead the way to a more just world; it is our job to uplift and resource their visions and voices. National organizations such as Color of Change, New American Leaders, and National Domestic Workers Alliance, regional and state-based organizations such as Western States Center, Black Voters Matter and Workers Defense Project and so many others are seeding a future in which racial, gender and economic justice will be the norm.
  2. Invest in the creation and dissemination of narratives that reshape cultural attitudes around belonging in our country.  The recent escalation in the use of racist and sexist rhetoric is not happening in a vacuum– rather it builds on broader public narratives shaped by white supremacy and male dominance.  We need to normalize new narratives that humanize all of us, that value all of us. Organizations such as the Pop Culture CollaborativeReFrame, and the Culture Change Fund, for example, build capacity for narrative equity and culture shift.
  3. Question the default funding habits and practices that limit us from making a bigger impact in this moment. As funders, we sometimes have a blind spot for how our internal practices create unnecessary burdens and barriers for organizations that do the important work we support. This moment calls on us to question our practices, shift to ways of working that account for the gravity of the problems we face, and center the people who are leading the social change efforts we support. Could your foundation increase its payout, provide more general operating support, increase the length of grants, and minimize busywork for grantees? Could you shift your grant strategy to more boldly meet the moment or more directly address the imbalances of power in our society? The Trust Based Philanthropy Network has tools and stories of inspiration from foundations who have increased their impact by changing their practices.

So many of us in philanthropy are eager to do something meaningful in this tumultuous time.  Let’s challenge ourselves to use this moment to put our institutional values into practice. Let’s walk the walk as boldly as we talk the talk.