Governor Signs Bill Advancing Insurance Diversity

SB 534 Requires California’s Largest Insurers to Report Their Supplier Diversity and Governing Board Diversity

Contact: Anthony Galace, Greenlining Institute Health Equity Director, 510-926-4009; 619-633-5185 (cell)

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – Governor Newsom signed SB 534, introduced by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) and supported by the California Department of Insurance, members of the department’s Insurance Diversity Task Force and The Greenlining Institute. This bill re-establishes a requirement for the largest insurers in California’s $310 billion insurance industry to report their level of contracting with businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans, and LGBT individuals. Insurance companies will also be required to survey their board members regarding demographic information and report the demographics of these most senior decision-makers to the Department of Insurance. 

“California insurers should be using their enormous buying power to invest in California’s minority, woman, LGBT, veteran, and disabled veteran owned businesses as well as work towards achieving a governing board that reflects the diverse population in California,” said Commissioner Lara. “Since its inception, the Department’s Diversity Initiative has helped empower diverse businesses to put resources back into their local communities. Thank you to Governor Newsom and Senator Bradford for reauthorizing and expanding this valuable program to help more people and communities throughout the state.”

“Studies have shown that a diverse population is more effective than even a uniform body of experts,” said Senator Bradford. “It is time for the insurance industry to reflect the great diversity of California and the United States. SB 534 makes that possible. Encouraging diverse spending and collecting governance data strengthens our insurance market and by extension its protection of Californians. I am proud to have worked on this measure with Insurance Commissioner Lara and happy to see Governor Newsom share our beliefs on the benefits diversity can bring our state.”

“SB 534 ensures that diversity will be at the forefront of California’s insurance industry,” said Anthony Galace, Health Equity Director at The Greenlining Institute. “We applaud the leadership of Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and Senator Bradford for pushing this important issue and making this bill a priority.” 

After California first passed supplier diversity reporting requirements for the insurance industry via AB 53 (Solorio, 2012), contracting with diverse businesses skyrocketed by 93 percent between 2012 and2017. SB 534 seeks to build on this trend and further strengthen diverse businesses across the state. Additionally, data collected by the Department of Insurance in 2017 showed that 80 percent of major insurers’ governing board seats were held by men while just 12 percent were held by people of color. Of nearly 2,400 total board seats, only 14 members self-identified as LGBT, while 13 percent of insurance companies reported zero women and 35 percent reported zero persons of color on their boards.


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

Debra Gore-Mann Named New Leader of The Greenlining Institute

Current CEO of San Francisco Conservation Corps Will Be 1st Woman of Color President in Organization’s 26 Year History

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022; 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA –The Greenlining Institute has chosen Debra Gore-Mann to be the racial equity organization’s new president – the third leader in Greenlining’s 26-year history and the first woman to lead the organization.

Gore-Mann has led the San Francisco Conservation Corps – America’s first urban municipal youth corps – for the past four years. Chosen from a large field of outstanding candidates considered over the course of the search, she brings a wealth of nonprofit and business experience to her new position at Greenlining, with a resume that includes experience in investment banking, an engineering degree and an M.B.A. from Stanford. She will assume the post Oct. 1.

Gore-Mann brings a multi-dimensional perspective to the role, having been raised in a low-income, biracial family (African American & Japanese), being the first generation in her family to go to college and part of the first generation to receive a basketball scholarship for women student athletes at Stanford University under Title IX, the federal law requiring gender equity in federally funded college sports. She studied engineering and then joined the Graduate School of Business at Stanford to earn her M.B.A., where she was the only African American woman in a class of 400 graduate students. Her experiences give her a depth of understanding of what it takes to serve historically underserved and underrepresented people.

“We were impressed by Debra’s vision and dynamism,” said Greenlining Board Co-Chair Ortensia Lopez. “She is intimately familiar with seeing change, being change and building community. Greenlining has grown remarkably over the last decade, and the challenges our nation faces are complex. With her wide variety of experience, we believe Debra is the right person to take us to the next level and to bring new energy and excitement to the fight for racial equity in these challenging times.”

“Debra is the right person with the right experience at an important time in the life of our organization,” said Tunua Thrash-Ntuk, Transition Committee Co-Chair. “She brings an important intersectional perspective and experience working with the very communities we serve.”

“I think I speak for everyone at The Greenlining Institute in thanking Orson Aguilar for his leadership and tireless dedication to the organization,” Gore-Mann said. “I am humbled to be able to follow such a legacy leader who worked for over 20 years to help build Greenlining into the strong and vibrant organization it is. I am incredibly excited to assume this role, and know that if we stand together, learn together, and educate each other, we will prosper together.”

Begun as an informal, multiethnic coalition of civil rights groups in the 1980s and formally incorporated as an organization in 1993, Greenlining has emerged as a leading advocate for racial equity in a variety of fields, from banking to tech and the fight against climate change. Its Leadership Academy has trained over 1,000 young leaders, and its graduates have taken on leadership positions as elected officials, heads of nonprofit organizations, a sitting California Supreme Court Justice and other influential roles. The Greenlining 360 Center in downtown Oakland has become a hub for grassroots community organizing, regularly hosting a variety of community meetings and events.


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute


New Research Finds Blind Spots in Assessing Climate Threats in California; Advocates Point to Solutions in Interactive Mapping Tool, Equity Guidebook

Jenny Park,, 415-867-1166
Marie Choi,, 530-505-1102
Bruce Mirken,, 415-846-7758

SACRAMENTO — Two new resources from California’s leading environmental justice and equity groups aim to fill critical information gaps for state and local policymakers tasked with making important decisions around building climate resilience. Research from the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) shows a path forward for identifying the people and regions most impacted by climate change, while a guidebook from The Greenlining Institute provides a practical guidebook for implementing an equitable approach to building climate resilience.

“Mapping Resilience: A Blueprint for Thriving in the Face of Climate Disasters,” presents findings and recommendations from APEN researchers, who conducted a careful review of dozens of existing climate threat assessment frameworks. The report finds that while some frameworks show promise in integrating the broad range of social, health, and environmental factors that contribute to climate vulnerability, they are limited by the data’s accessibility to be put to meaningful use by relevant agencies.

“Climate change impacts everyone, but the experience can feel dramatically different depending on who you are and where you live,” said Amee Raval, APEN’s Senior Policy Researcher and principal author of the study. “State and local leaders need an interactive mapping tool that layers all the disparate factors that contribute to climate impacts, so that they can see the full picture of the places and people that face the biggest threats and prioritize their decision-making accordingly.”

Complementing APEN’s research is The Greenlining Institute’s “Making Equity Real in Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience Policies and Programs: A Guidebook.” The guidebook serves as an instruction manual on how to make equity real in California’s climate policies, so that resources are directed to those who face the most serious impacts yet have the fewest resources to adapt.

“More people are recognizing that the climate crisis impacts some communities more severely than others, and low-income communities of color are at the top of the list,” said Sona Mohnot, Greenlining Institute Senior Policy Analyst. “But good intentions alone won’t address these injustices. Our guidebook gives policymakers concrete tools to make equity real as we work to cope with climate change.”

Greenlining’s guidebook makes practical recommendations on how to embed equity into climate adaptation policies from the start, from setting goals through implementation and evaluation. It also includes tangible examples from existing policies and grant programs that illustrate what the recommendations would look like in practice, providing an equity report card on recent California climate policy.

“Policymakers need to recognize that communities are the best experts on their own needs,” Mohnot said. “That means officials need to not just hear community voices; they need to give them real power at every stage, from planning to implementation.”

Recent events in California point to how climate change can act as a threat multiplier that magnifies the enormous differences in zip codes, income, race, immigration status, and other indicators that impact an individual’s ability to cope and recover from climate disasters. In the aftermath of the Thomas Fire, undocumented farmworkers in Oxnard didn’t have paid leave and continued to work in the fields amid dangerous air pollution levels without protective masks.

Despite the current shortcomings in building California’s climate resilience, researchers point to promising signs that the recommended climate threat assessment framework is well within reach. “We already have the building blocks we need to build a user-friendly, comprehensive mapping tool,” said Raval. “Many of the climate vulnerability indicators are already being used across several platforms that just need to be brought under one actionable format.”

“Community-led policy and planning is core to our vision for healthy, thriving, and resilient communities for all,” says Louise Bedsworth of the California Strategic Growth Council, who served on the Advisory Committee for the Making Equity Real guidebook. “Resources like these can help inform program development to achieve resilience outcomes.”

The full reports are accessible online:


Opinion: Donald Trump vs. the Statue of Liberty

By Anthony Galace

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

— Plaque inside the Statue of Liberty

“Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

— Update proposed by Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services


The Trump administration has literally declared war on the Statue of Liberty and everything it stands for. Its new “public charge” rule — which Cuccinelli announced during the same Aug. 13 radio appearance in which he offered his rewording of the Statue of Liberty poem — aims to make the idea of the United States as a “land of opportunity” a relic of the past.

Set to take effect Oct. 15, the rule would deny the issuance of green cards granting permission to live and work in the United States to legal immigrants deemed “more likely than not” to receive public benefits. Those benefits include things like food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers and Medicaid.

Implementing this rule will not just punish legal immigrants who use public benefits. It’s written so broadly that it can even bar green cards to those judged “likely” to use them for a total of 12 months or longer during a 36-month period. Essentially, it’s a “No Trespassing” sign aimed at anyone who isn’t wealthy and educated, particularly for those coming from what President Donald Trump has called “s — -hole countries.”

This is not the America I grew up believing in. I was raised by immigrants and am proud to work with immigrants every day. Throughout history, millions of people have immigrated to the United States with nothing, sometimes needing help with housing or medical care to get started before going on to build successful lives, careers and families.

Immigrants are often entrepreneurial, attracted to this country by the idea that you can succeed if you have a good idea and a strong work ethic. A few years ago, researchers calculated that more than half of all startup companies worth $1 billion or more were founded by immigrants. They also estimated that, as of 2015, the nation was home to 2.1 million immigrant entrepreneurs who had less than a bachelor’s degree.

How many of these budding job creators will we now turn away?

Sadly, even though it hasn’t officially taken effect, the updated public charge rule has already done damage. After the idea was first floated in 2017, public health leaders found it had a chilling effect, causing immigrants to avoid seeking services, including nutrition programs for children and pregnant women.

In one survey of California health care providers, more than two-thirds noted an increase in parental concerns about enrolling children in Medicaid or food stamps, and 42% saw an increase in patients missing scheduled health care appointments.

Administration officials deny that this policy change, which the Migration Policy Institute estimates could affect up to 27 million people, is fueled by racism or xenophobia, arguing it’s just about “self-sufficiency and personal responsibility.” But these are also the same people who take migrant children from their parents and lock them in cages.

It’s been said that when it comes to Trump’s immigration policy, “the cruelty is the point.” This new policy to punish legal immigrants drives that point home yet again.

Anthony Galace is health equity director of The Greenlining Institute, a nonprofit based in Oakland, California. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

Trump DOJ Denounced for Approving ‘Anti-Competitive, Anti-Consumer’ Merger of Sprint and T-Mobile

Common Dreams
By Jessica Corbett

As the Justice Department struck a deal with Sprint and T-Mobile on Friday, consumer advocates vowed, “we’ll continue to fight to stop this dangerous merger from going through.” (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Consumer advocates decried the Department of Justice’s decision Friday to sign off on T-Mobile and Sprint’s proposed merger, warning that allowing the nation’s third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers to join forces will drive up prices and negatively impact low-income and marginalized communities.

“The leadership at the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission have failed in their job at protecting America’s citizens from the concentration of power that would result from this deal.”
—Barry Lynn, Open Markets Institute

In a statement, the DOJ announced that it had reached an agreement with five state attorneys general and the companies that makes the merger contingent on the divestment of “Sprint’s prepaid business, including Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint prepaid, to Dish Network Corp., a Colorado-based satellite television provider.”

“The proposed settlement also provides for the divestiture of certain spectrum assets to Dish,” the statement explained. “Additionally, T-Mobile and Sprint must make available to Dish at least 20,000 cell sites and hundreds of retail locations. T-Mobile must also provide Dish with robust access to the T-Mobile network for a period of seven years while Dish builds out its own 5G network.”

DOJ Antitrust Division Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim claimed that the deal will enable Dish “to become a facilities-based mobile network operator that can provide a full range of mobile wireless services nationwide,” and T-Mobile chief executive John Legere welcomed the settlement as “a win-win for everyone involved.”

However, critics such as Common Cause special adviser Michael Copps cautioned that “despite the addition of Dish, this is still a four-to-three merger where Verizon, AT&T, and a post-transaction T-Mobile will call all of the shots.”

T-Mobile and Sprint have framed their proposed merger as a bid to compete with AT&T and Verizon, the nation’s largest two wireless carriers.

If the merger is allowed to move forward, “consumers can expect to see higher prices, fewer choices, and less innovative offerings across the board,” said Copps, who formerly served at the Federal Communications Commission. “Low-income and marginalized communities who rely on prepaid services from T-Mobile and Sprint will face significant consequences and potentially get priced out of wireless service.”

Greenlining Institute technology equity director Paul Goodman, in a statement, also denounced the “anti-competitive, anti-consumer merger.”


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“This deal does nothing to allay concerns that a larger T-Mobile will abandon low-income consumers and consumers of color,” said Goodman, whose group advocates for racial and economic justice. “We see no indication that Dish has the ability or incentive to become a meaningful competitor that will serve communities of color.”

Free Press research director S. Derek Turner, in a statement Friday, described Dish as “a satellite-TV company with no wireless customers, and a well-earned reputation for hoarding spectrum.”

“In truth, this arrangement does not offer cellphone users a viable fourth competitor in the wireless market,” Turner said. “Dish has a troubling history when it comes to delivering wireless services, and it continues to squat on valuable spectrum, a delay that’s earned Dish considerable criticism from both inside and outside the FCC, including from T-Mobile itself before this newly engineered marriage of convenience.”

Turner pointed out that “prior to this last-minute dealmaking, all of the reports were that the Justice Department’s antitrust experts had reached the correct conclusion against approving this deal before being overruled by the political appointee leading the antitrust division. The merger would harm all wireless users through higher prices and diminished competition between the remaining three national carriers.”

“But the department’s antitrust chief has succumbed to political pressure from a White House that favors the deal,” Turner said.

Despite the DOJ’s approval, the merger still faces other regulatory hurdles before it can be finalized, which The Washington Post outlined Friday:

A federal judge must still approve the merger as must the Federal Communications Commission, though that agency’s Republican leaders previously expressed public support for the two wireless giant’s plans. T-Mobile and Sprint also must contend with the attorneys general of New York, California, and other states, who sued in recent weeks to stop the deal, arguing it threatens competition and could result in consumers paying higher prices for their phone service.

If the deal goes through, Turner said, DOJ’s Delrahim “will have abandoned his long-held belief that antitrust is a matter of law enforcement, and that conditions don’t magically make illegal mergers legal.”

“The leadership at the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission have failed in their job at protecting America’s citizens from the concentration of power that would result from this deal,” Open Markets Institute executive director Barry Lynn declared Friday, while applauding the attorneys general who are challenging the merger.

Turner also expressed support for the lawsuit brought by the states, and vowed that “we’ll continue to fight to stop this dangerous merger from going through.”

T-Mobile wins federal approval for Sprint merger, seeks to allay concerns about pricing and job losses.

Seattle Times
Paul Roberts

After nearly a decade of foiled attempts to either buy or be bought by a rival wireless carrier, T-Mobile is one huge step closer to its goal.

On Friday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) gave its long-sought approval for an ambitious plan by Bellevue-based T-Mobile US to acquire rival carrier Sprint.

The $26 billion deal, which still faces fierce opposition from some state officials and consumer groups, would combine T-Mobile, the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier, with Sprint, the fourth-largest. The new company would be nearly as large as the sector’s two leaders, Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility.

“Today marks an incredibly important step forward for the New T-Mobile,” said T-Mobile U.S. CEO John Legere, who will lead the new company, in a joint news release Friday morning with Sprint Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure.

The two executives say the deal would allow the combined company to deliver a range of new services and technologies, not least a next-generation 5G wireless network, while achieving future cost savings of $43 billion.

News of the DOJ approval sent shares in both companies climbing. T-Mobile stock closed up 5.4%  at $84.25, while Sprint shares rose 6.6% to $7.93. shares in Sprint were up 7.5% to $8.01. It was also a relief for company officials, who appeared to have blind sided Thursday after the Justice Department delayed its approval because of a lawsuit by several states to block the deal.

But Friday’s approval also renewed questions about the merger’s impact on the wireless industry and on employees at the two soon-to-be merged companies.

Moments after Friday’s announcement, consumer advocates were already criticizing the Justice Department’s approval of the merger, which they fear could reduce industry competition and bring higher customer charges and even loss of service for low-income consumers.

“We’re profoundly disappointed at the decision to approve an anti-competitive, anti-consumer merger,” Paul Goodman, director of technology equity for the Oakland-based nonprofit Greenlining Institute, said in a statement Friday morning. “This deal does nothing to allay concerns that a larger T-Mobile will abandon low-income consumers and consumers of color.”

Employees at both T-Mobile and Sprint likely are also anxious to learn their fate under a deal that was sold to investors as way to generate $43 billion in projected “synergies,” or cost savings realized by eliminating redundant systems and operations, over the next five years.

Although some of those savings would likely come from cutting overlapping infrastructure, some is likely to come from job reductions, said Jon Magin, a merger and acquisition specialist with the Seattle office of technology consulting firm West Monroe Partners.

“That’s a lot of money,” said Magin of the projected savings. “So the people impact — I think everyone’s going to be worried about their jobs.“

T-Mobile US has some 51,000 employees, including 5,520 at its Bellevue headquarters and another 2,769 at other locations in Washington state.

According to a Thursday report by the Associated Press, Sprint and T-Mobile plan to keep the main headquarters for the combined company in Bellevue, while maintaining a “secondary headquarters” in what is now the Sprint headquarters in Overland Park near Kansas City, Kansas.

The AP also reported that Sprint had agreed to sell its headquarters campus in a deal that allows the company to lease back the space at a special bargain rate.

Officials with both T-Mobile and Sprint have said the merger would mean more jobs, not fewer. In an April statement, Legere said the merger would create “nearly 5,600 new American customer-care jobs by 2021,” and “7,500-plus more care professionals by 2024 than the standalone companies would have.”

During a question-and-answer period after T-Mobile’s discussion of the merger on a conference call, Legere again insisted that “jobs are going up every day in this new company.”

Legere and other company officials also rejected concerns that the new company would raise prices or abandon customers. As part of the DOJ agreement, T-Mobile gave assurances that it would not raise its prices for three years.

More broadly, to win Justice Department approval, T-Mobile and Sprint agreed to spin off billions of dollars in key assets — including at least 20,000 cell sites, a huge amount of spectrum capacity for wireless communications and some 9 million of Sprint’s Boost  and Virgin Mobile prepaid customers — to be used to create a new wireless carrier.

This fourth carrier, which will be operated by satellite-TV company Dish Network, is intended to ensure that the wireless industry would remain competitive and keep consumer prices from rising.

Justice Department antitrust chief Makan Delrahim, who led its investigation of the deal, said the government required this “historic structural settlement with T-Mobile and Sprint after concluding their merger, without this remedy, would substantially harm competition.” He added that the agreement will “set up Dish as a disruptive force in wireless.”

Even so, the merger still faces hurdles. It must still be approved by the Federal Communications Commission, though commission chairman Ajit Pai said last month he’d approve it, citing the two companies’ commitments to improve rural wireless access and build out 5G networks.

Also, an antitrust suit recently brought by the attorneys general of New York and California on behalf of more than a dozen states remains active. “We have serious concerns that cobbling together this new fourth mobile player, with the government picking winners and losers, will not address the merger’s harm to consumers, workers and innovation,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Friday.

Legere said during Friday’s question-and-answer session he was optimistic that the companies could address those concerns and persuade reluctant state officials to support the deal.

“I am very confident we will find what is necessary for [the objecting states] to join in,” he said.

One of critics’ big concerns is the viability of a Dish wireless operation.

Dish is largely a company with a declining satellite-TV business. It has no wireless business, but over the past decade it has spent more than $21 billion accumulating a large stock of spectrum for wireless service. The industry has long been skeptical of Dish’s ambitions to actually build a wireless service, instead speculating that the company wanted to make money by selling its holdings.

Under the terms of the DOJ agreement, Dish would get some assistance from Sprint, which is selling Dish its prepaid cellphone brands for $5 billion, and from T-Mobile, which would let Dish use its network for seven years while its own network is built out.

There are also incentives built into the agreement to keep Dish from sitting on spectrum assets rather than building them out into a network, DOJ’s Delrahim said. If the company doesn’t live up to its promises, it would face billions of dollars in penalties.

But some analysts remained skeptical. Dish on Friday promised the FCC that it would build a nationwide network using next-generation 5G technology by June 2023. But Dish is promising speeds that are only slightly higher than what’s typical today, even though 5G promises the potential for blazing speeds.

Recon Analytics founder Roger Entner, a longtime telecom analyst, said the settlement was good for T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon, as a weak competitor in Sprint is being replaced by an even weaker one in Dish.

George Slover, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports, said that the current industry structure of four competing providers works as it is. He said the existing level of competition won’t be maintained by simply requiring the creation of a competitor that doesn’t currently have the infrastructure.

“Dish might become a competing network at some point but it’s not there now,” he said.

David Tan, an associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, said the agreement “does not seem like the most expedient or efficient way to create a fourth competitor.”

“If the justification for the merger is that a company is going to spin off its resources to another fourth player and make that fourth player an equivalent competitor, then … that sort of defeats the purpose,” Tan said. “Why go through the trouble of creating a fourth player that is meant to be a replacement of what you used to be? Why not just operate as they were before?”

Information from the Associated Press is included in this report.

Approval of Sprint/T-Mobile Merger “Disappointing,” Greenlining Institute Says

Advocates Fear Larger T-Mobile Will Abandon Low-Income Consumers and Consumers of Color 

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022; 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The Greenlining Institute today expressed sharp disappointment at the Justice Department’s decision to okay T-Mobile’s $26.5 billion takeover of Sprint, but noted that the deal is not yet a sure thing. Attorneys general in 13 states and the District of Columbia filed an antitrust suit in June to stop the merger.

“We’re profoundly disappointed at the decision to approve an anti-competitive, anti-consumer merger,” said Greenlining Institute Technology Equity Director Paul Goodman. “This deal does nothing to allay concerns that a larger T-Mobile will abandon low-income consumers and consumers of color. We see no indication that DISH has the ability or incentive to become a meaningful competitor that will serve communities of color.

“Finally, the agreement between T-Mobile and DISH, which they claim solves the problem of removing a major competitor from the market, is incredibly complex, and far beyond the ability of the Department of Justice or the Federal Communications Commission to enforce. Greenlining hopes that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the attorneys general of other states will prevail in their lawsuit to block this harmful, anti-consumer merger and protect communities of color, along with all consumers who will be harmed by this deal.”

In order to alleviate anti-competitive aspects of the merger, the companies agreed to sell off some assets to DISH Network, including prepaid subsidiaries like Boost Mobile, spectrum licenses and retail stores. Consumer advocates widely consider these measures to be inadequate.


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A Long Way to Go: What Kind of Change is Needed Within Foundations to Advance Racial Equity?

Inside Philanthropy
By Michael Hamill Remaley


Many people who work in the philanthropic sector are beginning to grapple with embedded racism in ways that they haven’t before. Organizations and individuals are asking existential questions that relate to power, interpersonal relationships and processes—and more foundations than ever say they are centering race in their reconsiderations of what is fair and just. But is this trend more than rhetorical?

“There has been a noticeable shift in philanthropic sector conversations—more focus on racial equity at conferences, gatherings, meetings,” says Michele Kumi Baer, Philanthropy Project Director at Race Forward, which merged with the Center for Social Inclusion in 2017. “And there have been increases in diversity in programmatic roles, there have been some shifts in practice, some new funds being directed to people-of-color-led organizations, and racial equity statements from foundations. But it is hard to tell from this vantage point how deeply people of different positions of power within philanthropic organizations are really being introspective about race and power in their daily practice.”

Kumi Baer’s assessment is more positive than those of other, more critical observers of race and philanthropy. When it comes to applying a racial equity lens to philanthropic professionals’ work at a variety of levels, many say there is a lot of talk, but not much meaningful action.

Cardozie Jones, the founding principal of True North EDI, which facilitates racial equity workshops, coaches leadership teams, and supports foundations and nonprofit organizations in creating more lasting change, has observed that few foundations seeking out his services are at a place where everyone in the organization is thinking about what they can do in their daily work. “Most organizations are still at the Racial Equity 101 stage,” Jones says. “Maybe 30 percent of the organizations that reach out to me have already begun the process of learning about the history of racial inequality and concepts of power, and are ready to advance to deeper ways of grappling with organizational structure, mission realignment or personally applying a racial equity lens to individuals’ work.”

The author of Decolonizing Wealth, Edgar Villanueva, is even less impressed by the efforts of most foundations. “We indulge those who say that diversity is important by conducting several decades of analyses, hiring consulting groups with absurd price tags. We publish reports. We create a task force and debate mightily over what to call it. We do not actually change, not more than superficially,” Villanueva says.

But a starting point is just that, Jones says. “In racial equity work, I like to make a parallel to recycling: We don’t need a few people doing it perfectly to make progress, we need a ton of people doing it imperfectly.”

Philanthropy’s Long History of Talking About Race

The philanthropic sector has never lacked for discussions of race, and its history of trying to grapple with racial injustice is long. But in the years following the Ford Foundation’s bold 2015 announcement of its intention to center equity in its grantmaking and the 2016 election outcome that shook many in philanthropy, the sector’s newfound intensity of attention on race is reshaping more than just conversation.

The Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE) outlined more than two decades of significant race-focused efforts in its “Timeline of Race, Racism, Resistance and Philanthropy 1992-2014,” in which it details an astounding number of projects aimed at racial equity and “diversity” in the sector. It starts by acknowledging that “though this timeline starts in 1992, it is important to recognize that obviously, there was significant pioneering work for many decades around racial justice and philanthropy before this starting point.”

Many of the philanthropic affinity groups that have focused on diversity, equity and inclusion already existed before 1992, but the timeline highlights other major milestones like the 1993 founding of Joint Affinity Groups (now CHANGE Philanthropy); pioneering racial equity and diversity initiatives by funders such as W.K. Kellogg, C.S. Mott, Ford and Annie E. Casey; the founding of new organizations like the Network of Alliances Bridging Race and Ethnicity (NABRE), PRE and the Diversity in Philanthropy Project (which later became the D5 Coalition); and some of the most important sector-influencing reports from organizations like the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Public Interest Projects (now NEO Philanthropy), and the Greenlining Institute. The timeline’s authors say it is hardly exhaustive, but it makes abundantly clear that the philanthropic sector has been building up to its strengthened focus and evolved thinking on racial equity over many decades.

One aspect of the sector’s evolution on race becomes clear in this history, and that is its continuous recalibration of how much to focus on diversity within the sector’s ranks or forcing a broader discussion of power and justice that would necessitate a fundamental reorientation of both the sector and the operations of individual foundations. While experts seem to agree that the sector has a very long way to go on increasing diversity, it is the increasing number of foundations’ more holistic realignment of funding priorities and practices around racial equity that is capturing attention. Since Ford Foundation made its influential announcement, other prominent funders such as the Meyer Memorial Trust, Brooklyn Community Foundation, Weingart Foundation, Chicago Community Trust and San Francisco Foundation have declared that they, too, are pursuing equity frameworks across their grantmaking portfolios.

More recently, the conversation over racial equity in philanthropy has evolved further to examine the daily choices, practices and habits of individuals working in the sector through a racial equity lens. Many more people—whether CEOs, donors, directors of human resources, programs, communications, evaluation or administration—are facing the imperative to question their exercise of power and demonstrate a commitment to racial equity in their work. It is a trend that began to intensify in recent years, but there are questions about just how deeply it is taking root.

What Does It Mean to “Pass the Mic” in Philanthropy?

In order to make real progress on race—as well as on discrimination and power imbalances related to gender, LGBTQIA, immigration status, disability, rural isolation—racial equity experts say people at all levels in philanthropy must continually ask themselves deep and difficult questions about how they do their work.

For the vast majority of leaders in philanthropy who are white, does that mean passing the torch or expanding the circle? For leaders of color in the sector, does it mean being more than a face of diversity, an imperative to force change in an organization that still funds and operates in ways that exclude or perpetuate injustice?

In some philanthropic and nonprofit circles, the phrase “pass the mic” is gaining traction and moving past its original meaning—an exhortation to white people who insist on speaking on behalf of people of color to stop talking and give people who have experienced oppression the opportunity to speak for themselves—to a more general urging of people who hold power in philanthropy to actively help those who have experienced the greatest harms of societal injustice exercise their rightful power in decision-making over resources.

For philanthropists who are becoming more introspective about their own relationships to race and racism in philanthropy, there is a growing recognition that hiring more people of color to positions of power is just one part of the process. According to Villanueva, racism is often inextricably bound up in founders’ fortunes and their guiding beliefs about how to “fix” social challenges.

“Almost without exception, funders reinforce the colonial division of us vs. them,” Villanueva says. “Philanthropy is the savior mentality in institutional form, which instead of helping—its ostentatiously proclaimed intent—actually further divides and destabilizes society.”

But even as he presents this damning indictment of the philanthropic sector, Villanueva works for the Schott Foundation and sits on the board of the Andrus Family Fund, which is controlled by a majority of multi-generational, uber-wealthy white people. His continuing immersion in the sector demonstrates a faith that philanthropic professionals can create real change, not just reinforce power imbalances.

“Privilege is contextual,” says Ana Oliveira, president and CEO of the New York Women’s Foundation. “The question for people working in philanthropy is whether they are willing to move past the need for security and safeness and toward taking on racial equity more intentionally. Philanthropy’s history of exclusionism demands a constant examination of the boundaries, which are many. We need to shift dominance. The imperative that everyone in philanthropy has, no matter where they fit into the philanthropic sector, is to constantly ask themselves what impact they are having. What are the ripples out from your work?”

For those who hold power, especially white people, the question is how (or realistically, whether) to shift some of the power they possess. It is a challenge that is both practical and existential. If they are to “pass the mic,” what does that mean for white people who have made philanthropy their career, and who may believe that they, too, have valid acquired knowledge, life experiences, professional aspirations and a desire to work toward social change?

“Listen, we do need white women who are allies. We need to say to white women with privilege ‘You also have a job to do,’” Oliveira says. “It isn’t just ‘pass the mic,’ but what do we do when we come to the table? For white people to not be present is leaving behind potentially important knowledge and expertise. There is no absolute answer for the question of what white people should do.”

“Yes, ‘pass the mic’ is a useful metaphor, but limited,” Jones says. “Passing the mic doesn’t mean leaving the stage. We need one another to disrupt and rebuild. We don’t want to just replicate the same old traditional hierarchical, nondemocratic, top-down structure. Equity does include a redistribution of power, which inherently means a loss of institutional power for those who historically carry the most privilege, but there is nothing simple about what that looks or sounds like. I do know we need to reimagine and rebuild that world together.”

Not Enough Practical Tools for Specific Job Functions

For philanthropists who want to move beyond history and theory to ask deeper questions about applying a racial equity lens to daily practices, what are the resources available to get started? Even though there is an increasing number of consultants in this space, no one has created a comprehensive set of role-specific tools for CEOs, program directors, HR directors, evaluation staff, communications leaders, board members, major donors, etc.

Kumi Baer, whose Race Forward organization has deep knowledge of the sector and created the Philanthropy Project to advance just this kind of change, says she hasn’t seen role-specific tools. She says a valuable starting point is Deepa Iyer’s work on “solidarity practice” and allyship—how white people need to be an “accomplice” or co-conspirator, actually taking on risk. Iyer has received support from Open Society Foundations for her work on Solidarity Is This, a site containing a set of principles and practices that are helpful for anyone working in the sector. Kumi Baer also said that the Johnson Center for Philanthropy is doing some role-specific work on racial equity in philanthropy, but its tools are not widely available to the public.

In 2017, Jones’s True North EDI worked closely with the entire staff of Philanthropy New York, the regional association of grantmakers, to help each department integrate a racial equity lens and shape new annual goals in its operational plan. Each member of the staff was expected to think of new ways to increase racial equity. For example, the communications department sought to increase the number of POC bloggers and increase the number of POC-led media outlets it sourced in its work. That was in addition to its already established commitment to nurturing the voices of POCs in the department itself. But, says Jones, this type of process, in which individuals are engaged in rethinking their daily work to take on racial imbalances and broaden power sharing, is not happening in a lot of foundations.

“I was brought in by the DEI committee of a family foundation in a situation that was probably more typical,” said Jones. “It was really about convincing the president that racial equity work was worth doing at all. What she really wanted was ‘to align with current language,’ not change how the foundation operated. I ended up doing a three-hour session with the DEI committee that led to an internal statement of purpose to pursue staff education on racial equity issues. It was a useful start that led to an all-staff session, but there is a misalignment between leadership and staff that will make the road ahead challenging.”

But there are some wealthy white donors who are thinking more deeply about privilege and sharing power. Jeff Raikes, former Microsoft executive, former Gates Foundation CEO, and now leader of his own eponymous foundation, wrote a recent commentary in Forbes, reflecting on Anand Giridharadas’s book Winners Take All, professing his commitment to shifting power.

“I often say privilege is invisible to those who possess it. And power is wrapped up in privilege. When you have it—especially when you’ve had it for a long time—you don’t notice the myriad ways your ideas are the first to be heard; that your calls get returned before others; the benefit of the doubt you are given at every turn. You must pay attention to see it,” Raikes wrote. “The people you need to listen to—to both correctly identify the problem you are trying to solve, and to come up with ways to address it—are those with lived experience. In homelessness, that means talking to people who are homeless and who have been homeless. No one else knows the barriers to stability better than they do. It means working alongside the communities you seek to impact and letting them shape and guide the direction of your work.”

Listening to communities isn’t the same as giving up decision-making control, of course. But it does demonstrate a deeper recognition of power dynamics that some philanthropic experts say is a significant change taking place.

“When I think about power in philanthropy, I like to say that we don’t need to ‘cede’ power, but ‘seed’ power,” says Adam Liebowitz, Community Food Funders Director at North Star Fund, a social justice fund that supports grassroots organizing and communities building power in New York City and the Hudson Valley. North Star Fund has a 40-year history of centering discussions of power and racial equity in its work, and its president, Jennifer Ching, is a frequent critic of the philanthropic sector’s slow progress on racial equity.

“Racial equity work can feel like ‘just one big hug’ until the implications become apparent,” says Cecilia Clarke, president of the Brooklyn Community Foundation, which has been recognized as a leader in advancing racial equity. “Our board was uniformly supportive of racial equity work in theory, but as the exploration got deeper, and issues of power came into focus, tensions did arise. But for BCF, the mandate to listen to the community gave staff authority to pursue deeper racial equity work. For private foundations, it is a bit more of a challenge to get started because they are generally are rooted in white male individuals’ money and priorities. Community foundations have a bit more of a built-in imperative to be responsive to community.”

Begin Racial Equity Work, Even Without the Perfect Tools, Leaders Say

The experts and funders who are in the vanguard of racial equity work say that funders can’t wait for all the conditions to be right and all of the tools to be available for professionals to take responsibility for integrating a racial equity perspective into their daily work.

Jones says, “If you’re looking at a power structure that has a top (donor/board), middle (CEO, VPs, directors) and lower levels (managers, admin, etc.), ideally, you would be working at all levels simultaneously. But in reality, you have to work at whatever levels are available, and regardless of where you sit in the organization, consider the areas that are within your sphere of influence. Each of us is a gatekeeper in some way.”

“Beyond what we can do to improve the unequal systems around us, we must honestly grapple with the privileges our organizations enjoy as their beneficiaries,” Ford Foundation’s Darren Walker said in his annual message in January 2019. “This means interrogating our own unconscious biases, cultivating humility in ourselves and our organizations, and more clearly understanding how others experience the institutions of philanthropy—how remote we can be, how insular, how difficult to navigate.” For most people working in philanthropy, these are introspective processes that are not yet taking place.

This is the first in a planned series of articles examining how philanthropic professionals—especially white people—are pursuing racial equity in the sector. Future pieces in the series will examine specific job functions and how leaders in each area are adapting a racial equity lens to their work.

Amid wildfires and bankruptcy, PG&E retreats from its long philanthropic legacy

San Francisco Business Times
By Hannah Norman


In January, as Pacific Gas and Electric Co. grappled with its impending bankruptcy filing, the Oakland Museum of California received a notice that California’s largest utility would be dropping its corporate giving for the foreseeable future.

“PG&E has been a great supporter of the museum for many, many years, as far back as my database goes,” said Rehana Abbas, OMCA’s director of philanthropy. “Anytime you lose funding, it’s hard.

The $38,000 that the museum received from PG&E in 2018 – a little under 10 percent of OMCA’s corporate annual support – was part of almost $28 million in donations the utility contributed that year, much of which landed in its Bay Area backyard. Hundreds of organizations both big and small have reaped the benefit of the utility’s support and partnership over the years, including local food banks, advocacy groups, community centers, arts organizations and more. 

On the hook for billions of dollars in wildfire liabilities and facing hundreds of lawsuits following the Camp Fire, which barreled through Butte County last November, killing 86 people and destroying almost 19,000 structures, the company is now in the hands of the bankruptcy court. In June, PG&E reached a $1 billion settlement with the city of Paradise and over a dozen other local public agencies for losses due to the wildfires sparked by its equipment. The utility has also created a $105 million housing assistance fund to aid those displaced.

This year, PG&E said its charitable giving will focus solely on those organizations “helping our communities prepare for and respond to emergencies.” It declined to say how much it will donate.  

Meanwhile, PG&E’s philanthropic leadership is hollowing out, with top executives leaving for posts elsewhere. In May, Allen Fernandez Smith, who headed up PG&E’s low-income programs and strategies for five years, joined JPMorgan Chase’s global philanthropy team; a week later, Travis Kiyota, a 17-year PG&E veteran and most recently executive director of the PG&E Foundation, found a new role at East West Bank. Both declined to comment. 

The San Francisco-based company’s decades-long philanthropic legacy – and the hole it’s leaving – have not gone unnoticed by the community it has served for well over a century. 

“So many groups over the years have counted on PG&E as a key supporter of their nonprofit initiatives, us included,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Clearly, the bankruptcy and the public perceptions around PG&E are changing things. For a lot of different organizations, it’s an unfortunate thing.”  

For some nonprofits, PG&E’s focus on wildfire resilience and safety has simply meant a realignment of where funding is allocated. Charitable fundraiser United Way Bay Area was in the middle of a massive multiyear, philanthropic corporate gift of $1.5 million from the utility when news of the bankruptcy broke. Only $500,000 into the spending, the nonprofit had no idea whether they’d receive the rest, said Anne Wilson, CEO of United Way Bay Area.

Ultimately, PG&E confirmed the company would fulfill its commitment. “It was a relief,” Wilson said. The utility’s giving within United Way’s network, however, has shifted to focus on emergency services, such as 211, the three-digit number for a 24/7 phone line for community resources. 

Ellen LaPointe, CEO of Northern California Grantmakers, noted that dramatic dropoffs in corporate giving are not entirely uncommon. During the 2008 recession, for instance, as companies’ bottom lines took a hit, so too did their charitable contributions. Many corporate philanthropy departments also regularly undergo shifts in strategies or focus areas, she added.

“It underscores how important it is for funders to be thinking about the sustainability of the nonprofits they support,” LaPointe said. “And the importance of diversifying – not being overly dependent on one source.”

The Oakland Museum of California has found new pockets of funding to make budget, with its most recent new corporate partner being Google. Still, Abbas said they’re staying in touch with the utility so that if PG&E begins giving again, the museum can be top of mind.

Yet not all former beneficiaries are so steadfast on keeping up their relationship with the embattled utility, even if it means losing a major funder. The Greenlining Institute – a Berkeley-based research and advocacy group which said it received $195,000 last year from PG&E’s foundation – has taken a number of policy stances holding the state’s utilities to higher safety and accountability standards.  

The institute also chided PG&E for its new board of directors roster, saying it doesn’t “represent California’s best interests” when it comes to advancing the state’s climate and clean energy goals.

“The way we see it, nonprofit fundraising is always a challenge,” said Greenlining Institute spokesperson Bruce Mirken. “But more importantly, millions of people and nonprofits rely on PG&E to keep the lights on, and safely.”

All told, the utility’s bankruptcy reorganization is expected to last through 2021.   

Rejecting White House Claims as ‘Contrived,’ Supreme Court Blocks Census Citizenship Question… For Now

Common Dreams
By Jessica Corbett

Civil liberties and immigrant rights advocates celebrated Thursday as the U.S. Supreme Court blocked—at least temporarily—the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, an effort critics had decried as a blatant attempt by Republicans to “weaponize” the national survey for political advantage.

“This ruling is a victory for immigrants and communities of color across America. It is a victory for democracy itself.”

“The Trump administration’s attempt to politicize and manipulate this fundamental pillar of our democracy has failed. Our communities will be counted,” tweeted the ACLU. “This ruling is a victory for immigrants and communities of color across America. It is a victory for democracy itself.”

Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, argued the case before the high court. In a statement Thursday, Ho said that “this case has never been about a line on a form. It is about whether everyone in America counts. This ruling means they do.”

The Supreme Court heard arguments for the case in April, after federal courts in New York and California ruled that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s attempt to insert a citizenship question into the next census—which will be used to draw political voting maps—violated the Administrative Procedures Act. Critics charged that Ross’s effort was an illegal attempt to intimidate immigrant communities and undercount people of color to create an electoral advantage for the GOP.

Chief Justice John Roberts on Thursday joined with the court’s four liberal justices in the 5-4 decision, which denied a citizenship question for now while still granting the administration another opportunity to argue before a lower court its rationale for such an addition to the 2020 census.

“It’s unclear whether the administration would have time to provide a fuller account,” The Associated Press noted. “Census forms are supposed to be printed beginning next week.”

“The court should have ruled more forcefully against a citizenship question on the census, but a compromise to block it for now is a step in the right direction that protects our democracy,” Patriotic Millionaires chairperson Morris Pearl said in a statement. “While this comes on the same day on a disastrous and anti-democratic decision on political gerrymandering, the Supreme Court got at least one major decision right today.”

Roberts wrote in the majority opinion (pdf) that Ross’s move to add a citizenship question to the census “cannot be adequately explained” in terms of a request from the Department of Justice (DOJ) for data to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The chief justice explained:

Altogether, the evidence tells a story that does not match the explanation the secretary gave for his decision. In the secretary’s telling, Commerce was simply acting on a routine data request from another agency. Yet the materials before us indicate that Commerce went to great lengths to elicit the request from DOJ (or any other willing agency). And unlike a typical case in which an agency may have both stated and unstated reasons for a decision, here the VRA enforcement rationale—the sole stated reason—seems to have been contrived. We are presented, in other words, with an explanation for agency action that is incongruent with what the record reveals about the agency’s priorities and decision-making process.

The ruling comes just weeks after the Supreme Court and district courts in New York and Maryland were made aware of “explosive” evidence—left behind by Thomas Hofeller, a Republican redistricting strategist who died last year—which shows that the GOP fought for a citizenship question to create an electoral advantage for “Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”

In a statement from Common Cause that acknowledged Hofeller’s documents, redistricting and representation director Kathay Feng said, “The last-minute effort to add the question was clearly a cover-up to mask their true motives—to rig redistricting for partisan and racial gain.”

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, expressed gratitude that the court “has seen through the charade perpetrated by Secretary Ross, evaluated the record which was replete with examples of lies underlying the justification for adding the citizenship question, and has stopped this travesty from affecting the 2020 census.”

“The census is too important to become a toy for government officials to use to achieve political ends. This is particularly so when those ends are discriminatory and would depress participation rates among on communities of color,” Clarke said in a statement. “While the issue is remanded to the Commerce Department, time is of the essence, and our government should now turn to the important business of ensuring a fair count in 2020.”

Greenlining Institute interim president Preeti Vissa Kristipati, in a statement, welcomed the ruling but also highlighted that “today’s Supreme Court ruling doesn’t finally settle the issue.”

“And even if the citizenship question is kept off the 2020 census,” Kristipati said, “at best this is just one step in what will be a long battle—both to stop voter suppression and to end the Trump administration’s relentless war against science and accurate data.”