We Must Be in it For the Long Haul – Black Foundation CEOs Make Commitments to Fight Anti-Black Racism

Hello ABFE Members and Friends:

Last week was tough; losing Congressman John Lewis clearly signaled the passing of an era. I enjoyed reliving his life through televised tributes, listening to his speeches, and remembering our talks about our shared love of Fisk University, our Ala mater. Congressman Lewis dedicated his life to racial justice and his story reminds us that this work is a journey, not a sprint and that we must be in it for the long haul.

Seven weeks ago, over 60 Black Foundation CEOs released “We Must Be in it For the Long Haul”, a call to action to philanthropy to stem anti-Black racism. It contains 10 recommendations to the field one which is to increase investments in Black-led social change organizations that work to build power in Black communities. These organizations are woefully underfunded, and as a result, do their important work with minimal staff, budgets, and little to no operating reserves. Black foundation leaders, both CEOs and trustees, are moving quickly to reverse these trends. In the weeks since we distributed the document, several philanthropies of various sizes led by CEOs of African descent who signed the call to action have increased their giving to Black-led groups:

  • The California Endowment, under the leadership of Robert Ross, announced a ten-year, $225 million pledge of support for Black-led organizing, activism, and advocacy in California;
  • Open Society Foundations, led by Patrick Gaspard, announced investments totaling $220 million investment in emerging organizations and leaders building power in Black communities across the country. The largest share of this support—$150 million—will be through a set of five-year grants to Black-led justice organizations;
  • The Meyer Memorial Trust, led by Michelle J. DePass, announced Justice Oregon for Black Lives, a five-year, $25 million initiative to uplift Black Oregonians, leadership and organizations committed to justice by deepening investment in Black-led and Black-serving organizations;
  • The Deaconess Foundation, with Starsky Wilson at the helm, deepened their commitment to Black-led social change and existing investments in Black organizations by announcing a $25,000.00 commitment to the Movement for Black Lives; a $20,000.00 commitment to the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference in support of faith-based advocacy for Black lives and a four year-prepaid membership commitment to ABFE;
  • The Robin Hood Foundation, led by Wes Moore, announced the Power Fund, and pledged $10 million to support nonprofit organizations solely run by people of color in New York – many Black-led;
  • The Colorado Health Foundation; led by ABFE Board Chair Karen McNeil Miller, pledged $1 million to support Black-led organizations in Colorado through the Denver Foundation as well as support to ABFE to provide capacity building to these organizations in the state; and
  • The Libra Foundation, with Crystal Hayling at the helm, has doubled its grantmaking this year to $50 million; much of that is set-aside for racial justice work and that will support by Black-led groups.

This is not an exhaustive list and we will keep you abreast of upcoming progress in this area. We are also excited about recent announcements by The James Irvine Foundation (pledge of $20 million to support efforts that focus on anti-Black racism); The Denver Foundation (new Black Resilience Fund to distribute $1 million dollars to Black-led groups in its’ first year); and the Philanthropic Collective to Combat Anti-Blackness & Racial Justice (funder coalition in Minnesota to raise $25 million for a Black-led movement fund).

This country is in crisis; Black-led organizations have been at the forefront of every social movement in the U.S. and we need to invest in their capacity now. To quote Michelle J. DePass of Meyer Memorial Trust, “There is no pass for any of us. There is no pass for a Black leader of a foundation. There is no pass for a white leader of a foundation. There is no pass for a place-based funder or a national fund. This is the national issue of our time.”

Congressman John Lewis showed us the way – how to be in it for the long haul. I wish you peace.

Susan Taylor Batten
President and CEO, ABFE