Transforming Resist: An Introduction to a Series on Radical Philanthropy

By Kendra Hicks

“ In order to change/transform the world, [we] must change/transform [our]selves.” — Grace Lee Boggs

If we are to win, if we are to transform and bring forth the world we deserve, it’s going to take all of us. We are in a historical moment that requires us to connect with each other, expand our capacity to love and, find the direct points of intervention within the system — points where public pressure can disrupt the status quo and push for change.

As people who care about change, we have a responsibility to find points of intervention in our everyday lives. How do you confront systemic oppression at home, in your organization, in your community? What small, mighty actions can you take daily to move us closer to each other and the new world? Every small interaction holds the possibility of transformation.

For Resist, transforming ourselves is our point of intervention.

This multipart radical philanthropy series is a practice in taking radical responsibility for how we, Resist, have and continue to reinforce systemic oppression, as well as stepping more publicly into our capacity to change that. Our work is fueled by the reverence we have for the thousands of frontline communities who put their bodies on the line to make the impossible possible. We have a duty to these communities to be more value aligned, more accountable, more responsive, more emergent.

Our hope is to serve as an example of the magic that happens when we open ourselves up to radical and principled change. This is the first in a series of pieces highlighting our journey.

The Role of Foundations

The United States is a country rife with injustice. In the current pre-fascist climate, white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, capitalism, and Christian hegemony continue to harm and divide our communities and our movements. These compounding systems of control are extractive to people, destroying the planet, and weighing on the spiritual fabric of all communities.

While marginalized communities always resist oppressive systems, reimagine new paths to liberation, and create resilient and vibrant communities, they are systematically undermined by a culture and systems that make trust and interdependence near impossible. Central among these is the non-profit industrial complex.

Foundations, as part of the non-profit industrial complex, enact organizational and funding strategies that replicate the logic of the systems causing harm. By reinforcing dependency on outside funding rather than investing in strategies that lead to self-sufficiency — often a byproduct of not taking leadership from frontline communities — foundations end up supporting work that lacks a holistic and experimental approach to social change. This, in turn, weakens social movements and creates an environment that is:

  • competitive, not collaborative,
  • fragmented not whole,
  • professionalized not grassroots,
  • scarce, not abundant
  • extractive not generative
  • rigid not adaptive
  • dogmatic not emergent

On rare occasion, when foundations are in deep relationship with communities, the relationships are rarely rooted in an understanding of the historical exploitation necessary to amass the financial resources they’re redistributing. The challenges listed here are not without solutions. For the past few years, Resist has been on a transformative journey to become a foundation that’s led by, responsive and accountable to the frontline communities leading movements for justice and liberation.

What is Radical Philanthropy?

radical just means grasping things at the root” -Angela Davis

Radical philanthropy is the practice of emergence for the purpose of moving foundations and donors towards supporting transformative, frontline led work that moves us towards more self-sustained, interconnected communities. Defining radical philanthropy for Resist began with a set of questions: how, as a foundation, can we exist in direct opposition to systemic oppression? What are the small steps we can take to shift power? When we deeply examine our roots it becomes obvious that we first need to change ourselves. In order to be a radical foundation, we need to go beyond just supporting grassroots organizations led by frontline communities. We need to become one.

Radical philanthropy calls for a constant exploration of how our organizational structures recreate systemic oppression internally and externally through our programming. In our case, grant-making. It requires us to use what we’ve learned to transform into the next best version of ourselves. As we explore radical philanthropy as a practice and an idea, we are changing the way we operate internally, the way we are accountable to the movement, who we fund, how we fund, how quickly we respond to requests, and how we engage with other foundations. During the upcoming months, we will be highlighting our lessons and the new models that emerged from them.

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Kendra is a first generation Afro-Latina and is committed to building resilience in communities and capacity in organizations to better center the leadership of those most impacted by structural inequities. A deep spiritual practice, Capoeira Angola, and snarky humor keep her grounded in the work. She’s your local radical negra.

Resist is a foundation that supports people’s movements for justice and liberation. We redistribute resources back to frontline communities. www.resist.org