George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. Ahmaud Arbery. We speak their names, honoring their humanity and mourning their untimely and unjust deaths.
To those who are hurting, who are raising your voices, and who are actively fighting back against oppression, we see and support you. Black Lives Matter. Today and every day. And Black people deserve more than what this country has historically given them.
Right now, I am feeling a multitude of emotions. Sadness. Anger. Frustration. Devastation. Exhaustion. These names - these people whose lives were stolen - are but the latest in a long list of Black lives taken unjustly. It is a list going back as long as this country’s history, when Black and Indigenous people were dehumanized, their bodies considered capital as their labor was extracted and their families separated, all to build the country we live in today.
It is a list lengthened by the insidious systems of oppression, injustice, and racism that manifest time and time again into illness, poverty, lack of opportunity, and violence. It is a list that has seen the country through slavery and segregation, forced migration and redlining, the Trail of Tears, the Tulsa Massacre, and the school-to-prison pipeline.
This is America.
And while nothing we do can erase a single name from that list, we can and must honor their lives by working to destroy systematized racism and injustice. Below there are some things that you as philanthropic professionals can do. If ever there has been a time for philanthropy to wake up, it is now.
To our Black readers, now may be an especially difficult time for you. Remember to sustain yourself for the long haul – take time where you need it for rest, recovery, and rejuvenation. The fight will continue, but it is lessened immeasurably if we lose you during the struggle. Find your breath. Be present with yourself and your emotions. Be in community, if and however you are able. Give yourself permission to check out and re-energize.
To allies in this struggle who see the injustice and racism and are looking for ways to act, we offer a few resources and actions below you can take personally and within philanthropy, but these are just the beginning.
Our work must go on, because as Fannie Lou Hamer once said, “No one is free until everyone is free.” And so we continue.
What You Can Do as a Person
- Educate yourself. If issues of racial justice are new to you, learn more about them without asking the people suffering most from their impact to do the emotional labor of explaining them to you. Where to start? Try reading The 1619 Project, How To Be An Antiracist, So You Want To Talk About Race, and other books on anti-racism, preferably purchased from a Black-owned bookseller.
- Take action. Action means many different things. Protest is one of them - and one that is vital to the movement - but it is not the only one. We are not all social justice warriors - some are artists, or healers, or strategists. Here are 26 other ways to be a part of the struggle and 11 things you can do to support Black Lives Matter. Use your resources, your skills, and your privilege where they count.
- Speak out in the places where your voice is heard. Do you have friends, relatives, or colleagues whose words or deeds advance racism? Speak up and challenge their language and their assumptions, whether it makes you uncomfortable or not. Even if you never change a single mind, you are putting your antiracism into practice for the next moment when it is needed.
- Keep going when this moment is over. The fight against police brutality and racism and for social justice and equity is one that stretches long past any of our lifetimes and is one that many of us cannot ignore or put away or move past when the current battle is over. Be an ally for the long-term.
What You Can Do as a Practitioner
- Fund Black- and brown-led organizations. Do it now. And don’t stop.
- Educate yourself on the role of philanthropy. Philanthropy is not blameless in this struggle. It is a sector made possible by the same systems of injustice and inequity that make extrajudicial murder possible. And too often, it seeks palatable change over revolutionary justice.
- Listen. Listen to communities about what they want and how they need to be served. Listen to staff from those communities, no matter where they fall in the institutional hierarchy.
- Fund Black- and brown-led organizations. It’s worth saying twice.