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Love and Fury

Friday, June 5, 2020

By Steve Barton and Phuong Quach, Acting Co-CEOs, Northern California Grantmakers

We no longer have to wonder what we would have done if we’d been around at the peak of the civil rights movement. Whatever it is, we will be doing it now. These words ring from our conference. 

This moment demands more from us.  

This moment demands we be explicitly clear: Black lives matter! 

This moment demands we say their names: Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and remember Oscar Grant.

Many voices in philanthropy are speaking up, some for the first time, about the protests, the killings, and the structural racism behind them. We welcome all-comers and stand in our belief in Black, Indigenous, and communities of color as defenders of democratic ideals.

We too are grieving and angry; structural and anti-Black racism are root causes of wealth, health, employment, and education disparities. The enforcement of racist policies is putting Black and Brown lives at the mercy of the pandemic and police brutality’s deadly toll.

This moment demands we stand in our values. 

At NCG, these values include courageousness: informed risk-taking, even in the face of uncertainty. We must have the courage to embrace our partners as they stand in their mission: treating the payout as a floor rather than a ceiling, funding organizations not projects, backing power-building groups who are changing systems, and throwing our wholehearted support and dollars toward Black-led organizations that are liberating our communities, amplifying  their voices, and lifting up Black trans and queer leaders.

Our values name integrity: we must keep the promises we make to ourselves and each other. Our NCG community urged us to embrace racial equity and social justice. We have taken this directive and we’re not heading back.

We call upon curiosity: we value every interaction as an opportunity to learn. People of color and white allies alike are steeped in our schooling, culture, laws, and privileges and differently experience the impact of white supremacy. Curiosity is a way to interrogate how racist, anti-Black ideas short-circuit our thinking. It allows us to reflect and imagine the future we want to create together.

This moment demands we call upon love.

Valarie Kaur instructs us on revolutionary love:

Each of us has a role in this labor because we can look to the stories of our ancestors in how they showed up. This moment calls for us to act in love and solidarity.   

  • Find and fund projects led by people of color who are reimagining what it means to live in our society. 
  • Find and fund work that brings people together to grieve in community. Grieving is frontline work. 
  • Find and fund projects that center the healing and resilience of frontline activists. We need time and space to breathe.

She asks, "Are we in the darkness of the tomb or darkness of the womb? Both. Something is dying in this nation so that something new can be born.”

This moment demands we take action.

Leaders on NCG’s mainstage this week urged us to meet the demands of this moment with dollars, flexibility, truth, and magic.

Dollars 

  • At the moment that folks laboring for democracy most need us, too many of us in philanthropy are fleeing. It's time for us to come back home.  
  • Tell nonprofits, at least minimally, they can count on today’s funding for the next three years. Let them do what we have invested in for the last years. Let them take us forward. 

Flexibility 

  • We need to follow the lead of forward-thinking funders across the country and make the move towards general support. If extra money is needed in this time and place, make the general support grant larger to compensate.  
  • We cannot rain bureaucracy down on program officers. Switch to general support and if you don't like it, switch back in three years. Stretch. We have built a covenant with folks on the ground who are catching hell. They need us right now. They need us to be part of the family we said we would be part of. Part of the generation we said we'd be part of. 
  • Have conversations with your board.  They should be hearing, wrestling, and struggling with this. But we can be testing while we're having that discussion. Don't wait. 

Truth 

  • Expand the aperture and say the whole truth. Say there are leaders who are making choices to kill Black and Latinx people. It would be helpful if philanthropy held the whole; if it wasn't just responding to the disproportionate negative impacts but holding accountable the people who are making choices every day. 

Magic 

  • Embrace, as Carmen Rojas says, our magic: “I am evidence of what it's like when a lot of people pour their love into you. I am the deepest, truest expression of that. Imagine asking me, the embodiment of magic, to be pragmatic instead of pushing to the edges of what is possible in service of liberation and freedom.” 

Changing structural racism happens at personal, interpersonal, institutional, and structural levels and many times simultaneously. We invite you to listen, reflect, and act on an individual and institutional level together with us.

In love and rage,

Steve and Phuong

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