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Reflection on Black Futures, Black Freedom, and Democracy

Last week we celebrated Black futures and explored how we achieve a multiracial democracy that centers Black people. Northern California Grantmakers (NCG) and California Black Freedom Fund (CBFF) have been scheming to bring something to philanthropy for a while. More than 200 folks joined us to have some challenging conversations about the legacy of systemic racism, how it impacts today, and how we turn the corner and build a democracy that serves us all.

We got to hear from Steve PhillipsAimee AllisonAngela Glover BlackwellLateefah Simon, and from the next generation of leaders like Kavon WardTamisha Torres-WalkerJames WoodsonJames Herard who are doing work with communities. We heard how these conversations energized the community of foundation staff, CEOs, donors, and neighborhood leaders who were present. Shout out to the attendee who remarked that their brain was exploding with the power of the conversation. It was inspirational, aspirational, sobering discussion we all needed to hear.

Thinking about where we’ve been and the immediate work that's needed was grounding. These leaders are often using their own resources to do the work woefully under supported by philanthropy, if at all. A rousing closing call to action by Reverend Ben McBride, one of the principal actors in establishing the Fund, hopefully, have changed that a bit. 

More than anything, this event was also an opportunity to be in community. Many were seeing colleagues outside a Zoom square for the first time or in a long time. But the collective power is what truly energized the room. We heard more than once that it felt like a homecoming week. That was probably elevated by its happening at the close of Black History Month and on the eve of Women’s History Month. In his comments, President and CEO Dwayne S. Marsh referred to the night as reunion and noted that we should be having this conversation every month of the year.

The evening deeply represents two bodies of work NCG is building on. One is advancing democracy – we need a vibrant and flourishing democracy that works on behalf of all communities particularly Black people and communities of color. Philanthropy has an incredibly important role to play. The second is philanthropic practice that centers racial equity – the 5 Shifts initiative is engaging donors and decision-makers in foundations to embody practices to transform philanthropy and address systemic racism.

It also celebrated and reengaged the support still needed to make racial justice real in California and there is a direct role philanthropy can play. Learn more about contributing to the CBFF here.

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