This week we heard a verdict that delivered some justice to George Floyd’s family, to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities in the U.S., to Minnesotans of all races and creeds, and Black communities worldwide. Shortly thereafter, we were barely unable to exhale when we heard of the violent taking of the life of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, who called the police for support only to have her life taken at their hands. I know I speak for the AFF staff in sharing that we, like many of you, are holding complex emotions amidst overwhelming grief…for George, Ma’Khia, Daunte, Adam and for the countless others across generations who we’ve lost to police violence.
I want to lift up George Floyd’s family — nothing can ease your pain. Our deepest condolences and desire for healing and repair. I want to lift up Darnella Frazier, the 17-year-old Black girl who shot the videotape that documented Derek Chauvin’s brutal murder of George Floyd.
I want to lift up the Black Lives Matter movement, countless organizers and allies who took to the streets, and the folks in community who made it their business to demand justice — all with the purpose of honoring George’s memory, deepening their personal commitment to the fight for racial justice and bravely dismantling white supremacy one interaction at a time.
I want to lift up people-power and acknowledge those who saw injustice, and spoke out against it with their bodies, through their organizing, their art-making, their donations, their work at the polls, their prayers, their love and their truth-telling.
I want to lift up the jury — six white and six Black/People of Color — who together were able to ensure that accountability at the hands of our legal system could be realized. It was not that long ago that juries let off George Zimmerman, Daniel Pantaleo (who killed Eric Garner) and countless others (police and civilians) who haven’t been held accountable.
It was painful to explain to my children as we awaited the verdict that just a few short decades ago, unpunished deaths of Black people were social events called lynchings in our country. They were filled with joy and celebration for some white communities and terror and deep pain for Black and Indigenous and People of Color communities. At their young ages, my children were skeptical but more hopeful than I was for justice. To this day, the rage and sorrow I felt 30 years ago for Anthony Baez and Amadou Diallo as a young girl in the South Bronx — the lesson that I lived in a place that allowed unpunished police violence — was imprinted in my being forever. This week’s verdict is held amidst the memories of countless incidents of state-sanctioned violence against BIPOC communities. Grantee partners like Movement for Black Lives, Make the Road NY, Communities United for Police Reform, Live Free Campaign, Young Women’s Freedom Center, among so many others, have the track record to prove that this demand for justice continues to be a long road.
I wish I could feel a sense of gratification about this verdict, but all I feel is deep grief and loss. Our current justice system can’t undo the harm and loss of life. It can’t prevent future harm or police violence. It won’t bring back George, Daunte, Adam, Breonna, Ma’Khia, Anthony or Amadou. Only an altogether different system of community safety and care — the abolition of punitive systems like police and prisons — can deliver justice, safety and a guarantee for a deep regard for human life.
I send you all solace in the grief and strength for our collective fight. I send my deepest sympathy and bittersweet acknowledgement to our Black, Brown and Indigenous family. Our lives have intrinsic value. It is in moments like this when our connection, conviction and organizing — our songs, prayer and ancestral music — come to lift us out of the abyss.
Now is the time for philanthropy to deeply resource BIPOC-led frontline organizations that are advancing abolitionist strategies, healing justice and long term power building for BIPOC communities. It is time to open the floodgates of resources that have historically been locked away and fund well beyond the IRS-required 5 percent. People’s lives are literally on the lines — BIPOC-led organizations need robust resources to turn the tide and powerfully defend communities while building the community-based safety alternatives that render prisons and policing obsolete.
In closing, I want to direct you to a statement from the Movement for Black Lives, on what true justice for George Floyd looks like and how we can continue to push the movement forward. To support Black-led organizations in Minneapolis and across Minnesota during in this critical moment, consider giving to:
- The Daunte Wright Senior Memorial Fund
- 612 M*A*S*H
- Black Table Arts
- Documenting MN
- George Floyd Global Memorial
Be on the lookout for updates to this blog post about action steps philanthropy and communities can take as directed by our movement partners.
In hope and justice,
Manuela Arciniegas, Director
The National Center for Family Philanthropy has launched the Racial Justice Learning and Action Network to deepen engagement with issues of race in philanthropy. NCFP fellows conducted community interviews to explore the reasons why trustees wanted to engage in racial justice learning. Former AFF board member Lindsey Griffith contributed to the interviews, while AFF consultant/trainer Bari Katz and AFF Board member Edgar Villanueva have been chosen to guide the curriculum design with the trustees who will participate in the network.
Read more about their impactful work here.
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.
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:
- 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.
- Move more money to grassroots frontline movements.
- 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!
Our curriculum introduces social justice principles and themes, as well as explores the importance of having these values live deeply within philanthropy. However, the lessons in this curriculum are not limited to youth philanthropy programs. They have the opportunity to impact anyone who is committed to social justice and equity. We envision teachers, community-based organizations, philanthropic institutions and others taking this work and helping re-create the vision of what community and social justice philanthropy looks like. Access our Social Justice Philanthropy Toolkit.
See how the Andrus Family Fund and grantee partners advanced our mission in a time of radical change. Click here.
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.
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)
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
Defund the Police Toolkit
The M4BL Vision for Black Lives
The Breathe Act
The year 2020 holds challenges for us all — a triple-layered challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, the police killings and resulting uprisings calling out racial injustice and an economic recession. The upcoming shift in the political landscape provides hope, but the election also highlighted a known rift in a country that has not reckoned with its racist history. Arguably, the work and organizations funded by the Andrus Family Fund (AFF) are more critical than ever.
This year also marks AFF’s 20th anniversary, which provided an opportunity for reflection and radical visioning. Our grantee partners have shown incredible resilience and serve as a source of inspiration in building power among like-minded groups, with an urgency that philanthropy isn’t used to. We understand that philanthropy is steeped in dominant culture and centers itself over the needs of community. We can no longer operate at this slower pace; we must be responsive. It is essential that change at the board level follows the pace of movement building or we will lose this moment. The building of this moment has happened over time; now is the time to trust community, listen to community and lean in.
As we reflect on our role as a learning board and family fund, we commit to the hard work of organizing our peers — trustees. AFF board members, comprised of both family and community board members ages 25-45, have put together five recommendations to fellow trustees in family philanthropy to meet the current moment, all of which are rooted in action. These ideas are not new, but we want to lift them up resoundingly because we are on the journey to committing to bringing these recommendations to life.
We center two commitments above all else in our work as board members: (i) to create just and sustainable change rooted in a commitment to racial and social justice and (ii) to learn and commit to using our knowledge to bring about change — in ourselves, in our board rooms and in our communities. These values are reflected in the recommendations below:
1. Practice Trust-Based Philanthropy
- The brilliance lives in the field and with the practice of our partners, not within foundation walls. Directly impacted communities hold the ideas and need resources to carry them out.
- Trustees are to trust in staff, and in turn, staff are to trust in grantee partners. Forgo the need to understand all strategies before trusting partners on-the-ground to experiment, innovate and lead with action.
- Shift the focus from transactional grant-making to deep, authentic relationship-building. Ask yourselves: how are we in service to our partners? Re-assess both strategic and operational aspects of the grant-making process to make sure it leads with deep care for movement organizations and their staff.
- Be careful not to center board members in this process. Ask not what board members want or need and instead center community. An explicit focus on social and racial justice will continue to shift the focus back to community.
2. Commit Long Term to Becoming Anti-Racist and Eradicating Anti-Blackness in our Institutions
- AFF and Surdna recently made a commitment to become a fully inclusive, anti-racist organization. Our vision is an institution within a wider community that has overcome systemic racism and all other forms of oppression, with full participation and shared power from diverse racial, cultural and economic groups. We are humbly at the beginning of this journey.
- Require both institutional and personal commitments. Individual commitments are necessary to examine internal bias, as well as to sit in the discomfort and do the work.
- Work to build anti-racist cultures and processes across all levels of the institution. Learn about anti-racist practices and implement these practices throughout all corners of your foundation.
- Break up all-white spaces and ensure members across all identity groups are participants in decisions that shape an institution. Recognize where, why and how all-white spaces appear. In family philanthropy, this may be across all levels of an organization, or at the board and senior leadership level.
- Recognize that much of this work rests on the shoulders of white people. Without a commitment to anti-racism and fighting anti-blackness from white people, we become the barriers to progress.
3. Fight Complacency and Transcend Fatigue
- Silence is violence — speak up about racism and anti-blackness on every level to hold both people and systems accountable. As Ibram X. Kendi has taught us, one must be actively anti-racist and not complacent to counter the forces of racism. Center anti-racism and social justice in your personal life and family relationships. Lean into vulnerability; there will be discomfort in this process — find your support team, regroup and keep at it!
- Cultivate a learning culture. Learning has been central to AFF’s evolution — from topics such as power, privilege and white supremacy to abolitionist strategies. Education with historical context is key, and helps prevent claims of ignorance or unawareness.
- Do not rely on staff — particularly BIPOC professionals — to “teach” board members; there is a balance between leveraging resources and expertise versus consuming the time and energy of staff.
- Reframe the concept of risk to promote action. What does it mean for a young, Black person on the front lines to bear risk? What does it mean for a white person close to resources, power and privilege to bear risk?
4. Take Bold Action
- Ask questions and push for bold action as board members, including diversifying boards and exploring increased spending.
- Building on several of the themes listed above, family foundation boards should be encouraged to diversify boards by bringing on non-family and/or community board members. AFF embarked on this journey several years ago, recognizing the importance of living our values by extending the opportunity for board service to the broader community and bringing professionals with expertise and lived experience into decision-making roles. Today, AFF proudly has a community member serving as Chair of the board and a standing commitment to have three community board members.
- Institutions should also wrestle with the question of further supporting a well-funded endowment versus supporting communities in need. If not now, then when? Throughout 2020, AFF advocated for more dollars to flow to grantee partners. In the words of Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson of the Highlander Research and Education Center, “fund us like you want us to win.” Grantees are on the frontlines and we want more dollars to be directed more quickly to critical movements supporting Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. We want them to win!
5. Leverage Relationships and Power
- Educate and organize within your own communities. Have conversations with family members, friends and acquaintances. Make a personal commitment to do so long-term.
- Explore fundraising ideas and ask people you have relationships with for money. Look to partner organizations and directly impacted communities to inform how resources should be allocated, and follow their lead. Build on the themes around trust-based philanthropy, quickly removing barriers to access grants. Make it as easy and labor-free as possible to move resources.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather highlight areas where a family foundation board has uncovered small wins in responding to the current moment. Grounded in our commitment to learning, we welcome continued conversation around what other family foundation trustees are doing to advance social and racial justice. If you’d like to sign on to this pledge, or request support in holding conversations around these ideas to your board, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
The AFF Board
The Andrus Family Fund, a program and sub fund of the Surdna Foundation, is pleased to announce our new board chair: C’Ardiss “CC” Gardner Gleser. CC is the first community member to serve as Chair of the AFF Board, and continues to make visible the influential leadership of Black women in social justice philanthropy.
CC is currently the inaugural Director of Programs and Strategic Initiatives at the Satterberg Foundation, where she has resourced a number of BIPOC-led organizations advancing racial and environmental justice. She was a recipient of the YaleWomen Award for Excellence in 2019, the highest award bestowed to Yale alumni who are exceptional advocates for justice, equality and access for women. CC was also a Connecting Leaders Fellow at the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE). Her deep commitment to elevating and centering the voices of Black, Indigenous and People of Color led her to establish the first-of-its-kind Seattle Equity Summit, which is an annual cross-sector dialogue (bringing together community, non-profit, philanthropy, corporate, government and education) designed to solve some of the most pressing issues plaguing Seattle through a racial justice lens.
Under CC’s leadership as board chair, AFF family and community board members will continue to advance trust-based philanthropic practices, racial equity and social justice grantmaking led by youth impacted by the Child Welfare, Youth Justice and other systems. “The time is now. It’s more critical than ever for philanthropy to show up as a partner that trusts the communities it serves rather than continuing to apply traditional and outdated models of philanthropy,” said CC. “I commit to modeling what it looks like for philanthropy to listen and learn from young people and allied adults with direct lived experiences of racial discrimination, economic and social exclusion, and systemic barriers.”
As board chair, CC will partner closely with Kaitlin Miles, newly appointed Vice Chair, based in Austin, TX. Kaitlin is currently an Investment Manager at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, helping provide pension benefits to over 1.6 million public school teachers and public education employees and retirees. “My goal is to be a great support system for our staff and board chair. In this role I pledge to champion the impactful work of our grantee partner leaders. Together, we will continue to push AFF and philanthropy to give even more support to youth, invest in Black leadership, and make bolder moves to center the voices of community,” said Kaitlin. Both CC and Kaitlin, in partnership with the Surdna Foundation, look forward to creating more opportunities for building power in communities by following the leadership of directly impacted young people.
Joining CC and Kaitlin on the AFF Executive Board are Emily Klass as Secretary and Julia Voorhees as Treasurer.