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I’ve been studying Black philanthropy and fundraising since roughly the start of the pandemic and my research has led me to trailblazing Black innovators like the educator and civil rights activist Jean E. Fairfax and the entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker. Their work serves as blueprints for marginalized people seeking to invest in marginalized communities.
If you’re interested, I highly recommend Tyrone Freeman’s biography of Walker and her “Gospel of Giving,” subtitled “Black Women’s Philanthropy During Jim Crow.”
I also came to learn about biases in American philanthropy and the ways it disadvantages Black people, in particular. For example, a study published by the Ms. Foundation for Women last year found that donations to women and girls of color accounted for only 0.5 percent of the $66.9 billion given out by foundations in 2017. That meager amount speaks volumes: The overwhelming majority of organizations with investing power indefensibly don’t see Black women and girls in their future plans.
We need to ponder what a post-pandemic future could look like. Today, there’s potential for us to dispose of inequitable systems — like the racist and sexist world of fundraising — and build anew. With that in mind, I wanted to hear from Black female innovators about the pitfalls Black women face while seeking funding for projects. Read their thoughts below. We’ll return to this very soon.
On what it means to truly invest in Black women:
“Co-powering with Black women and girls. This looks like giving them capital to pilot new ideas and scale what works. This looks like centering them in the design and implementation of solutions. This looks like not being satisfied when we have one or two Black women in senior roles — but having a pipeline of Black women leaders and strategies for sustaining their leadership.”
The bottom line:
“Despite decades of under-investment and under-consideration of Black women and girls, our ancestors and modern day leaders have integrated schools, saved democracy, developed the life saving COVID-19 vaccine, piloted guaranteed income to compassionately lift moms out of poverty and more. Imagine the even greater advancements that could have happened if our brilliance was invested in generation after generation after generation.”
Community organizer; founder, Black Voters Matter
On the double-standard corporate donors use for Black and white organizations:
“There’s a different standard for Black organizations than for young white folks. You see white people who have no track record getting millions of grant dollars while Black folk have to basically give the DNA of their firstborn for less. I want to expand the way we think about investment in Black women and girls — it has to be substantial. It can’t just be a couple of crumbs here and there. We’re fundamental in the structural future of this country.”
On what investing in Black women looks like in social and political activism:
“We’re not just workers. Everybody’s OK with Black women working–we can be the workhorse, right? But we’re not just workhorses. We’re innovators, we’re leaders, we’re solution-drivers. So truly supporting them means supporting them being creators and innovators.
Media and public relations expert; founder, Unapologetic Communications
On corporate hypocrisy and making true investments in Black women:
“People love to pay lip service to Black women when it’s convenient or when we save democracy, or when our talents are being used for someone else’s gain — but no one in America will truly show up for us. I think more people should step aside and let us lead and make room for our visions — not just our voices. It shouldn’t be a radical idea.”
“bell hooks said, ‘Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power — not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.’ That is what it is like for us as Black women and girls in America.’”
Founder and CEO, Advancing Health Equity
On what investing in Black women and girls means in medicine:
“We need more Black girls in the medicine pipeline starting from nursery school and we need more Black women in leadership within academia, research and entrepreneurship.”
On what American gains by investing in Black women in medicine:
“We exist at the intersection of racism and sexism, and we have greater clarity than most about how systemic inequities impact our communities. We even know how to fix them, but we’ve not been given the opportunity to lead. Our presence would change how medicine is practiced, how patients are cared for, and how services are accessed, because we would be the ones to determine which communities are centered, along with which medical/health care problems are researched and addressed.”
This content was originally published here.