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Finding MLK's Daybreak: Racial Healing for Philanthropy

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

By Chris Punongbayan, Director, Equity and Social Justice, Northern California Grantmakers

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

Martin Luther King, Jr. gave these remarks in 1964 when he accepted the Nobel Peace Award in Oslo. Even in the face of pure racism of his day, Dr. King believed unconditional love was a stronger force than hatred and violence. He went on in the speech to say, “We are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.”

Every time I read these words, I find much-needed solace and clarity.

54 years since Dr. King’s speech, our multiracial democracy remains quite imperfect. Our bedrock institutions - the judiciary, the press, the electoral process - are all under attack. Ideological extremism - including the resurgence of white supremacy - has become mainstream. I ask myself, how can we as a country traverse the distance from where we are now to a more perfect union.

Today, January 16, is National Racial Healing Day. It is the second annual effort by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and their partners across the country. The foundation is committed to ending structural racism and believes one of the key obstacles to their goal is the entrenched belief in American society that there is a hierarchy of human value. This hierarchy relies on the false notion of inherent superiority of one race over another. The adherence to a hierarchy of human value enables racial inequities to exist in systems, laws, and policies. Eradicating that belief system will bring about fundamental change.

NCG is participating in National Racial Healing Day along with Southern California Grantmakers, who is anchoring one of 14 collaborations around the country focused on racial healing and transformation. Below are three ways you can pick up the conversations for racial healing in your community. With some hope and determination, we can together move closer to realizing the shared humanity that Dr. King envisioned.

1. Do you understand the systemic and historical underpinnings of racial inequities in our society today? Join me to learn more at the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society conference at UC Berkeley on the 50th Anniversary of the Kerner Commission, which was established by President Johnson to investigate the 1967 racial uprisings and to provide solutions that address the persisting lack of housing and employment opportunities for people of color in America. You can also study how racial inequity is showing up in your county through the website,

2. Consider what you can do. Transform your mindset that racial inequities are someone else’s problem or that there’s nothing you as an individual can do about it. Read Dr. King’s Nobel Prize Acceptance speech for some inspiration and motivation. The hierarchy of human value continues to undermine true racial equity for each of us. We all have a role in undoing it. Also, read “How you can be an ally in the fight for racial justice” by DeRay McKesson.

3. Take action to promote racial healing and racial equity in your family, your job, your place of worship, or anywhere else. Volunteer with an organization uplifting communities of color. Have a courageous conversation with someone important to you about racism. Visit an elected official and ask them to use their power to address contemporary manifestations of racism.

To learn more about the Kellogg Foundation’s efforts or National Racial Healing Day, visit the site here >

To get involved with peers who share your interest in equity, connect with Chris Punongbayan NCG’s Director of Equity and Social Justice at

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