I am a long time resident of the “DMV” (e.g., the D.C.; Maryland and Virginia region); I lived in the District in the “hey day” of it being “Chocolate City” and currently enjoy living in Maryland. Yes, I love the region but the “V”? Virginia was always the state in the region that seemed a little unwelcoming; Northern Virginia was cool but my “antennas” would go up whenever I travelled to the southern and western parts of the state. It was always a matter of being a bit uncomfortable. You know that feeling! For these reasons, it is why the BIG news for me last week was that Virginia became the 15th state to “ban the box” and remove questions about criminal history from job applications. Governor McAuliffe made the move through executive order and this comes one year after he expanded voting rights for convicted felons in his state. Due to these policies, thousands of people in the state who have paid their dues for past acts and behavior can work and vote…two small acts that provide us all with a sense of dignity and humanity.
Philanthropy can play a huge role in building political power. Policy “wins” like those in Virginia that disproportionately affect Black communities can take a long time and require serious investments in Black-led organizing and building the infrastructure of Black movements. But it is money well spent! The good news – we have so many leaders and networks in the business of building political power that just need to be connected and supported in strategic ways. Check out the recent paper written by our colleague Nat Chioke Williams from the Hill-Snowdon Foundation on Making Black Lives Matter. And clearly join us for The Urgency of Now: Constituency Engagement and Organizing in Black Communities; our luncheon plenary on April 24th in Napa Valley, CA during our annual conference. Whether its political organizing to gain more voting and employment rights for our community, or to more urgently address the continued spate of police shootings of unarmed Black people (Walter Scott did not deserve to die), solutions abound. We just need to make it happen.
Hope to see you in Napa in a few weeks – until then, take care of yourself and each other.
Susan Taylor Batten, President & CEO