How AFF’s Inaugural Movement Partner Advisory Council Will Help Build A More Aligned, Liberated Philanthropic Practice

Recently, movement leaders, board members and AFF staff gathered (virtually) for our annual board meeting. This meeting was a historic occasion for our fund because we welcomed our first cohort of Movement Partner Advisory Council members — a group of AFF grantee partners focused on youth justice child welfare policy that will collectively craft AFF’s strategic plan for the next 5 years.

MPAC & AFF Board

That day, we took another step toward making good on the lofty goals we identified last year during our board retreat at the Highlander Center with Reverend Allyn-Steele and Ash-Lee Woodard-Henderson. The three goals:

  1. Support the field’s demand to close youth prisons in 10 years and assist movement partners in ending the over-criminalization of BIPOC youth nationwide.
  2. Move more money to grassroots frontline movements.
  3. Help organize philanthropy to follow the lead of movement communities.

On that day, I asked the group to hold up four words: Community, Alignment, Power and Strategy.

Community in this context means that movement leaders and board members sit together (virtually) to explore how real change happens and how we can do our best work together. Through the expert facilitation of Rusia Mohiuddin, we are creating a culture of collaboration and connection that builds the power of movement organizations. Community also means grappling with the inherently flawed and unjust system of philanthropy and the toxic power dynamic it creates between movement partners and funders. In community, we discuss the places where we’re politically aligned and where we are misaligned in our vision of how change happens. In other words, in community, we learn what transformative change actually looks like.

Why do these encounters of board and movement leaders rarely happen? One major reason is because funders have never been held accountable to communities as stakeholders. It is standard practice for boards to approve strategies that are designed by program officers and directors who often do not collaborate with the communities they intend to serve. The other reason for the rare encounters is because movement partners are incredibly busy! Their time and brilliance are spent on the frontlines pushing for racial justice and building power for young people, and we take that commitment very seriously. But one thing we’ve all come to agree upon is that more authentic proximity — not less — will help us do our most aligned and impactful work. If we are to practice being in a more equitable, transformative relationship with one another — one rooted in interdependence, transformation, learning and grounded in the courage to change — then we have to foster a rigorous, long-term practice that is truly beneficial for communities, not just beneficial to funders who prioritize “learning” above action.

Alignment with today’s work is to follow the leadership of those directly impacted at the center. Not because funders and movements aren’t already aligned in racial justice values — although sometimes there’s a difference between espoused and practiced values — but because we are continuously refining our understanding and practice — PRAXIS — of who should lead and how to support them. The deployment and reclaiming of much-needed resources to support movements to actualize their visions is a necessary part of transformative change work. Bringing together those with the resources and those who need them, and building a practice rooted in anti-racism, healing, and transformation is a rigorous yet necessary endeavor. I believe this proximity between funders and movements will produce political clarity, sharpened focus and, dare I say, impact. Not just impact in communities, families and organizations, but also our own impact as philanthropic allies.

The heart of this work is not an intellectual exercise, but a personal commitment to examine how each one of us is personally implicated in the exploitation of another. Many of us — it is inevitable — are both the oppressed and oppressor in a society whose foundations were built on stolen land, slavery and extractive capitalism. We are here to do the hard work together, as Darnell Moore said in the “Black Freedom Dream” episode of the “Lady Don’t Take No” podcast hosted by Alicia Garza, of getting the “boot off the neck” of the person we are in an oppressive relationship with. Our collective liberation lies in the courageous work of seeing both the privilege and oppression and taking accountability for harm prevention. I invite you to step into self-care, compassion and courage as we witness the dimensions of ourselves (as funders or movement leaders) that we are often afraid to acknowledge — to own and transform our behaviors, and ultimately, our impact.

Finally, our time together is intended to build Power for directly-impacted youth and their communities. Despite the power dynamics between us–funders and movement leaders-–our collaboration is meant to interrogate and transfer power to where it is needed. Who has power in the legislative halls? Who is holding narrative and moral power? How does power show up on the blocks and streets where youth and communities are surviving and seeking to thrive? Who has the power to change the rules and relieve the material and social conditions of marginalized youth? To truly make good on our vision of liberation? Who has the power of resources and capital to ensure these visions come to life and how will they deploy it?

We have the opportunity to build a Strategy that is a model for the broader philanthropic community. A model that firmly believes community must be at the table to inform, lead and design the strategies meant to build long-term community power. Although we proudly see staff as advocates and champions who are often also directly impacted, we are well aware that staff should not be a proxy for directly-impacted communities and leaders. We affirm that it is sophisticated, intelligent and darn right strategic to build philanthropic structures meant to support and strengthen communities’ expertise and position them at the helm.

We are excited for our time together this coming year and hope that the rich conversations and thought partnership between staff, board members and movement partners will transform us all. Our ultimate hope is that the change we create together will live on in our philanthropic structures, policies and culture.

Let’s stay in deep awareness and enjoy building the spaceship for liberated futures we needed yesterday. It all starts with one step, one conversation, one Zoom icebreaker at a time.

Welcome in accountable love, community!

Road to Abolition

The Communities for Just Schools Fund (CJSF) and the Andrus Family Fund (AFF) hosted a virtual plenary session on December 2, 2020 as part of their Education Anew: Shifting Justice (EASJ) convening. “The Road to Abolition” featured movement organizers and leaders who shared strategies and victories that are leading us toward abolition.

Speakers:
Monifa Bandele, Movement for Black Lives, Policy Table
Erin Cloud, Movement for Family Power
Zachary Norris, Ella Baker Center
Ashley Sawyer, Girls for Gender Equity
Nyoka Acevedo, Andrus Family Fund (Moderator)

Resources:
Movement for Family Power on child welfare system abolition
Movement for Family Power
Slideshow on anti-carceral feminism and education justice
GGE Assault At Map
Critical Resistance
Defund the Police Toolkit
The M4BL Vision for Black Lives
The Breathe Act

We say her name: BREONNA TAYLOR

The following is a statement co-signed by our Director, Manuela Arciniegas, who serves as the co-chair of Funders for Justice.

There is no accountability in the same system that murdered Breonna. It will not give her justice, and it will not get us free.

We are enraged at the verdict that has been issued in Louisville, KY in the aftermath of 120 days of protest following the murder of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman (and nurse) who was killed by 3 police officers while she lay in her bed, in her apartment, asleep.

The fact that only one officer was charged, and that the charge was endangerment to property and neighbors, but not to Breonna Taylor, is not accountability. It does nothing to build the public trust in elected officials or public servants, in the justice system, in the law. The announcement is yet another reminder that the justice system was never meant to protect us or to give us justice. The people of Louisville are rising up against well-funded systems of state violence, risking their lives in the streets. We must fund local organizers like we want them to win. Fund them like you believe their safety is dependent on abolishing the police. Because it is. #DefundThePolice

As philanthropy, we must support the community power-building and transformative work to abolish the systems that killed Breonna Taylor. That is where justice will be found. We urge all funders to mobilize resources to support on the ground efforts and uplift the demands of BLM Louisville / Invest/Divest Louisville. These demands are critical policy changes that would immediately hold police and elected officials accountable to the public — especially to Black people rising up in protest; these are real policy demands that are designed in an abolitionist vision.

Support the on-the-ground organizers building power and demanding accountability.

And support your grantee partners and communities with advancing the healing justice approaches needed to weather the grief and sorrow at the fact that Black women’s lives are taken with impunity. Countless mothers have never received justice, but the organizers won’t stop until the community does. Not one more Black Life.

We’re gathering information from local movement folks and will follow up soon with recommendations on where to donate.

In Struggle,
Funders for Justice

AFF Statement on Racial Justice

The Andrus Family Fund (AFF) stands in solidarity with our grantee partners and the movement for Black lives—a movement recently pushed forward by the gruesome murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police. We recognize the countless other Black and Brown lives taken by systemic racism and discrimination leading up to—and since—this current moment. We also work to shine a spotlight on the especially targeted members of the Black, Brown, Native, Women/Girls and Trans communities who experience extreme violence and erasure—people like Breonna Taylor, whose experiences are readily forgotten, not centered, and to whom justice is not delivered.  We are committed to dismantling white supremacy in order to promote and uphold racial equity. We will not forget. 

As a social justice philanthropy, with a focus on racial justice and the liberation of youth, we recognize elements of power and privilege at play, notably in relationships with trusted grantee partners. It is these partners who have been leading on-the-ground organizing, advocacy and service work. Partners such as Youth First, aiming to close youth prisons which disproportionately impact Black youth, The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), mobilizing individuals and Black organizations to create a shared vision and agenda that defends Black lives, and Dream Defenders, an organization founded after the killing of Trayvon Martin to promote the organizing of Black and Brown youth and restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people. We support you and stand in solidarity with our resources and connections to help you continue to build power for directly impacted youth in this current moment and for the long haul.  

Now is the time to collectively re-imagine a just society—a society where the work of AFF and its partners would not be necessary. Our mere existence as a foundation is evidence enough that justice is not a lived experience for many of the communities we aim to support. In order for this vision of justice—a vision that so many of our movement partners hold—to become reality, this moment is requiring more from all of us.  

Given the need for immediate action and response, AFF has shifted various grantmaking practices toward trust-based philanthropy models in order to move increased dollars more quickly to the field. We are also organizing with other funders and internally to educate family members about the systems, policies and biases upholding racial injustice that are pervasive in today’s society.  

In this critical moment, we invite other foundation boards to respond to the moral imperative presented by this moment. This is not a time to center white fragility and turn away from the sorrow, maintain status quo practices and funding levels, or ignore the urgent demands and needs of grantee partners. Instead, this is a time to commit to funding Black-led organizations, engage in deep education to undo racism at the levels of boards and senior leadership across foundations, diversify foundation boards, lean into trust-based philanthropic practices by removing barriers to funding, and organize other foundations to robustly fund groups at a level and scale “like we want them to win” (in the words of Ash-lee Henderson, Co-Executive Director of the Highlander Center). This is a time to explore what accountability to social justice movements can look like. Foundation boards unilaterally have the power to vote and implement these powerful changes immediately. Bold, courageous action, like the actions being taken by frontline Black and Brown communities. 

We recognize the need to do more—that this moment requires more from us—and ask ourselves “if not now, then when?” This is our moment. We must act now. 

The AFF board resoundingly supports following the lead of our grantee partners and our nation’s young people committed to racial and social justice, and urges us all to stand behind them.  

In Solidarity,

The AFF Board & Staff

Black Lives Matter, today and every day

The following is a statement co-signed by our Director, Manuela Arciniegas, who serves as the co-chair of Funders for Justice.

We say their names: Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY, George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, GA, Tony McDade in Tallahassee, FL.

We Stand in Solidarity: Funders for Justice stands in solidarity with protestors in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and in cities across the country, fighting for the lives and freedom for all Black people. We know that communities are powerful, and will dream and fight for the transformative justice in which together we create the new world we all need. As funders, our mandate is to fund communities rising up against state violence, and to continue to fund as communities build the power and momentum for long-term change.  

We Must Continue to Challenge White Supremacy: While police killed unarmed Black people over and over again, we witnessed no police response to armed white nationalists posted in front of state capital buildings and yelling in the faces of security guards, demanding an end to shelter in place because they wanted to get a haircut and go out in public without a mask.   

Stand with Black Women Essential Workers: Breonna Taylor was a young Black woman who was an EMT – an essential worker already risking her life during a pandemic. Yet we repeatedly witness evidence that the state does not protect or respect the people, especially Black women, risking their lives to save others. Essential workers are already facing dangerous conditions, with extremely limited protection equipment, low pay, often dangerous commutes to work, and then in turn endangering their families. That Breonna was one of the latest casualties of state violence is profoundly painful.   

How to Support Protestors: We encourage you to fund communities directly, including at times when groups are not able to fill out even a short proposal or form because they are leading protests in the streets. We encourage you to give now however your foundation is able – including getting creative in mobilizing resources – perhaps to use your foundation’s expense account to send money for needed supplies like water and food. And, we encourage everyone reading this to make a personal donation, because as FFJ members we all come to the work we do as the full people that we are: part of communities fighting in resistance, part of communities fighting for survival, part of communities taking action in solidarity.

Invest/ Divest Now: While millions of local dollars are cut from city budgets – in youth programs, health services, and education, among others – due to shortfalls, the police unions/associations continue to push for more money and more police. Yet police are not saving people in this pandemic – they are policing, fining, and sending people to jail – mostly Black people. The federal administration has refused to send more supplies and funding to medical workers and other frontline workers, while increasing funding to police-related spending and private security guards.  

We All Have A Mandate: Philanthropy’s mandate to support communities in living healthy and free lives means funding both the public infrastructure that keeps communities safe – like health care, housing, and education –  and funding the people, organizations, and the movements rising up against police violence and building power to defund the police, prisons, ICE, and detention centers. Philanthropy must support divest/invest campaigns and other abolitionist strategies, because nothing the police do is meant to ever keep communities of color safe. Now is the time to divest from the police, when cities are cutting budgets and need the funding for community wellness more than any other time. (Check out FFJ’s divest/invest resource for funders and consider how you want to support community safety and justice.) 

Where to donate to support protestors and Black folks organizing for Black Lives in Minneapolis:

This post originally appeared on the Neighborhood Funders Group site here. Funders For Justice is a program of NFG.

Grantee Spotlight: Ruby Ruiz of Communities United/VOYCE

A space to build youth power and ignite movements

*This was recorded/written prior to the passage of the HB 2084 bill in the Illinois State Senate, which will increase mental health resources in schools.

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I am Ruby Ruiz, an organizer with Communities United and VOYCE.

I am my cousin…who is on his third strike and is locked in a cage, but is waiting on me to send him a dictionary so he can expand his knowledge.  

I am my mother who is a sexual violence survivor. 

I am my brother who lost his life to a fight with depression.

I am one of the many faces behind a movement to change the notion that in order to be safe, we need to have metal detectors and more police officers in our schools and communities.

Today our communities are fighting back against that notion. We know first-hand the repercussions of combating poverty with a baton instead of job, to address trauma and drug addiction with handcuffs and overcrowded jails rather than therapy and rehab. 

What safety means to our communities is that our brothers and sisters have someone to talk to if they are experiencing trauma or abuse.  Safety means that we can walk the hallways knowing that people do not see us as criminals, but as people with value.

This issue is very personal to me, just as it is to the students and survivors that stood in front of a room full of cameras in February as we launched the Rethinking Safety Campaign. Our goal is to create safer and healthier schools and communities through investments in mental health, and shifting resources from the criminalization of poverty to jobs and mental health. Most importantly, our goal is to challenge traditional thinking on what it means to be safe. 

I am proud to say that in the coming week, over 300 young people will fill the halls of the Illinois State Capitol calling on policymakers to take action on our vision for change. We hope you will join our movement.