Fund Black-led Social Change, NOW!

Janis Rosheuvel
Jun 4, 2018 · 7 min read

by Janis Rosheuvel and Sophie Robinson

This post is part of “Liberate Philanthropy,” a new blog series curated by Justice Funders to re-imagine and practice philanthropy free of its current constraints — the accumulation and privatization of wealth, and the centralization of power and control — to one that redistributes wealth, democratizes power and shifts economic control to communities. Throughout the series, we will be sharing stories from some of our most forward thinking, transformational leaders in philanthropy about how they are facilitating a Just Transition for philanthropy.

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There is an urgent need to fund Black-led social change. Several years ago the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) made a call to philanthropy to fund Black organizing like never before. The fact that less than 2 percent of funding by the nation’s largest foundations is specifically targeted to the Black community only increases the need for urgent redress. Solidaire, a membership community of people with wealth, is following the lead of M4BL leaders who stand in a long tradition of Black folks whose work has challenged injustice and propelled change.

Why support black-led social change?

At Solidaire, we believe that supporting Black-led social change is key to transforming systemic oppression. We see that a historic movement like the M4BL requires historic philanthropic creativity. In ongoing collaboration with movement leaders, Solidaire created the Aligned Giving Strategy for the Movement for Black Lives that is funding organizations with long term, general operating support and building alliances between donors and movement leaders for even deeper impact. The Aligned Giving Strategy focuses on supporting four key areas: (1) organizations anchoring the national work of the M4BL (2) organizations whose work supports shared movement needs (3) projects that build economic independence from philanthropy and (4) building Black political power.

Movement leaders expressed that long-term support for Black-led organizations could send a clear message that Solidaire is working to repair society’s and philanthropy’s disinvestment from Black communities.

Supporting the M4BL through an Aligned Giving Strategy also means we understand that social change led by Black people advances justice for all people.

The struggle for civil rights resulted in advancements for women, queer folks, people with disabilities, immigrants and workers of all colors.

Why now?

The time is now to support Black-led social change because white supermacist, hetrosexist, capitalist, patriachy is on the march. To be sure, the realities of disaster capitalism, systemic gender based violence, shocking racial health disparities and more have been real and relentless for Black communities for centuries.

As white people have had economic opportunities to profit and prosper for centuries, Black communities have been systematically denied such opportunities.

This inherent inequality in economic opportunities over time, means white families now are, on average, 10 times wealthier than Black families.

There is a clear moral case that rich white families should be willing to give at least some of their wealth back to the Black communities that were abused for the enrichment of white folks.

“My family’s wealth dates back to the turn of the 20th century, when my great-grandfather co-founded Wrigley’s Gum,” says Sophie Robinson, Solidaire member. “Because he came from a well respected white family, he was able to set up a company that would benefit himself and his descendants for generations. I was born with 13 trust funds and wouldn’t have to work a day in my life if I didn’t want to. My wealth is entirely unearned and was only able to occur because my family was white. While my family was able to make it big and stay big, Black families have had to make sacrifices at every turn and have largely been unable to build up wealth in the same capacity. I consider this to be my moral debt. It is only through giving my wealth directly to Black-led organizing efforts that any sort of reparations can be made.”

We know that the Aligned Giving Strategy is in some ways an effort to mitigate these historic harms. We also know that through it we are aiming to shore up Black organizations that must keep their lights on, pay their staffs and do the messy and mundane work of building the power of Black communities through grassroots organizing.

We are answering the call of the Movement for Black Lives that demands we all take risks and make sacrifices to ensure that all Black Lives Matter.

Members of Solidaire are building a community where we are clear that the most serious risks are being taken by people on the front lines. Our work is to organize others with wealth to be able to move more money to those people. As donors, our work is to take risks where we have power: in our families, family foundations, boardrooms and beyond. We must take risks to put ourselves, our relationships and our power on the line.

Why Solidaire?

Solidaire is a community of people with wealth, over 90% of whom are white, committed to supporting progressive social movements which address crucial needs. We aim to respond to urgent needs, while also making long-term sustained commitments to build movement infrastructure.

Solidaire began with the desire to answer a single question: What is the role of financial resources in supporting social movements that are fighting for deep systemic change?

The Aligned Giving Strategy for the Movement for Black Lives is one way we are answering that question. As a network of people with wealth, Solidaire comes to this work with an analysis about how systemic racism and white supremacy have not only resulted in racialized wealth and income inequality, but how these systems disproportionately benefit wealthy white people. This Aligned Giving Strategy is a step toward repairing these harms by moving long-term money to groups fighting to transform systems so they equitably serve Black people and all people pushed to the margins. Solidaire also has a responsibility to model how the wider philanthropic community can resource Black communities in a fight for their very lives.

“Before joining Solidaire, I didn’t give directly to any Black-led groups and felt really alone,” says Robinson. “Being part of this community that prioritizes giving to the most badass groups around the country has been downright life changing. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to give in community which stretches my money further than I could on my own. The Aligned Giving Strategy is a brilliant model to put our money where our mouths are and to support Black-led work for the long run.”

Support Black-led Social Change, NOW!

Move More Money, More Justly

Since the M4BL called on philanthropy to dramatically expand its support of Black resistance, some have responded to the call powerfully, particularly; Borealis Philanthropy’s Black-Led Movement Fund, North Star Fund’s Let Us Breathe Fund, East Bay Community Foundation’s effort to support Black-led organizations, Women Donors Network Hardisty Fund, Solidaire and others. But there is still a need for more urgent, consistent and creative action.

In addition to moving money, funders can create more just processes to engage and build trust with Black organizers. Following the recommendation of M4BL leaders, the Aligned Giving Strategy requires donors to make a commitment of five years to the organizations they support. We also spend time building relationships between donors and organizations. We do not require applications, reporting or site visits but rely on ongoing trust and relationship building to create a shared sense of commitment to Black liberation. These efforts, among others, seek to liberate philanthropy by shifting the power disparities that exist between philanthropy and movements, to build trust with movements and to enable us to move more money, more justly.

Fight Anti-Black Racism in Your Institutions

To be truly effective at supporting Black organizing, it is imperative that philanthropy do our own work to combat the systemic anti-Black racism that exists in our institutions. Some of what Solidaire is doing includes, developing an evaluation of our programs that will allow movement leaders to assess how effective we have been in our work to fund Black-led and Black-serving institutions. We are also establishing internal anti-oppression practices that will buttress our policies and grant-making. We understand that this work must be resourced with our time, budgets and energy.

In addition, Solidaire members do the emotional labor on themselves to dive deeper into their own biases. Robinson co-led a 6-month prototype of a Freedom Beyond circle, which included eight white funders and was a foray into emotional labor and grounding. “There are a lot of difficult feelings that come up when you’re white and rich and very aware of how problematic your circumstances are,” Robinson says. “This group work is an attempt to work on ourselves in community so we can better show up to movement spaces that need us to give more.”

Black organizers must have our trust and our money. It is not sufficient merely to say that we must “trust Black people,” we must also practice that trust in large and small ways that have individual, but more importantly, institutional and systemic impacts.

Part of building that trust requires white folks of wealth and philanthropic executives to take greater risks. Push your boards. Get in the streets. Call out oppressive practices. Commit to ongoing anti-oppression training. Solidarity with Black communities means knowing that we all have skin in the game and knowing what is at stake if we lose. We have only our collective liberation to gain.

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Janis Rosheuvel serves as the program director at Solidaire. She helps move money to resistance movements around the country. She also organizes around immigrant rights, housing and food justice and anti-racism.

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Sophie Robinson is on the steering committee at Solidaire. She uses her inherited wealth to further social change by prioritizing giving to racial justice and climate justice organizations. She also organizes other white wealthy people to give more and to work on their own prejudices (including her own!).

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