A Decade After Katrina, Can Philanthropy Make Black Lives Matter?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy
By Nat Chioke Williams

On Saturday, people from around the world will commemorate the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Although many people will tout the city’s recovery, few people in black working-class neighborhoods will be celebrating. After all, they have been mostly left behind.

But that is hardly the only poignant and painful reminder of the inequities facing blacks in America and how far the nation still must go to end them.

On August 4, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the crowning achievement of the civil-rights movement, which was recently gutted by the Supreme Court.

Five days later, we recognized the one-year anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., an attack that launched what is commonly known as the Black Lives Matter movement — a movement to assert the sanctity of black life, even as it is fueled by a wave of black deaths at the hands of police.

But the question for the country — and especially for all of us in philanthropy — is not, Do black lives matter?, but rather, How can we make black lives matter and provide the best opportunities for the black community to thrive? And can philanthropy help ensure we don’t squander the advances that the broader movement has made in the past year?

The answer to this question is complex, but it ultimately boils down to power.

To make black lives matter more, philanthropy needs to do all it can to ensure that the black community builds the social, institutional, and political power it needs to directly challenge and dismantle the policies and systems that enable structural racism.

The success to date of the Black Lives Matter movement is most visible in the ways it has changed how the public thinks about race, racism, and policing.

It has used social media, traditional media, strategic communications, street protests, and other activities to become part of the public conversation — and it has become a strong counter to those who deny that racism is embedded in the policies and structures of our society. There now exists a unique opportunity to win policy changes to help ensure greater police accountability and to examine and address racial discrimination across many aspects of black life.

But this movement is at risk if it doesn’t get the money it needs to build institutions that can capitalize on this social power. For far too many decades, black-led social-change organizations have received too little in donations to grow into the strong influencers on the American way life that they must be.

Research from the Greenlining Institute has found that minority-led organizations get less money from foundations than white-led organizations. And anecdotal evidence suggests that this pattern is as bad, if not worse, for social-change organizations led by blacks.

Much of the work being done to propel Black Lives Matter forward has been carried out by newly created groups with limited funds and borrowed or volunteer staff, as well as older black-led social-justice groups that are already strapped for money. Philanthropy can help make the most of this moment by ensuring that black-led social-change groups are well supported.

Some grant makers, like the North Star Fund, the Liberty Hill Fund, Resource Generation, and others, have explicitly dedicated resources to support black-led grass-roots groups organizing to push for greater police accountability and other changes that will reduce violence and improve safety. Similarly, the Hill-Snowdon Foundation recently launched the Making Black Lives Matter Initiative, a three-year project that seeks to build the kind of long-term institutional and political power that the black community needs to achieve real racial justice.
Our focus on black-led organizing groups is an essential piece of building the organizations, leaders, and activists who will not just do the work today, but will lead future efforts to push for changes that will allow all black Americans to thrive.

We are dedicating $900,000 in new funds over the next three years for grants to support black-led organizing, as well as leadership development for black organizers and in-person meetings at which black social-change leaders can strategize on next steps.

This investment is significant for our foundation and represents almost a one-percent increase in our payout for 2015 and a 20-percent increase in our grants budget over the next three years. Hill-Snowdon’s trustees believe this opportunity demonstrates exactly why foundations have endowments: so they can seize on historic moments like this.

But it’s not enough for each foundation to demonstrate the courage to spend more. We must also join forces with other philanthropies to better coordinate and align our grant making for racial justice for the black community

That’s why we are working with the Association of Black Foundation Executives to create a network of grant makers to coordinate our grant-making efforts and maximize our impact on a range of racial justice issues affecting blacks. We invite our colleagues to join us.

Philanthropy needs to do more to make black lives matter in this historic moment. This includes:

Understanding and acknowledging how structural racism limits the possibilities of those in the black community and defines many of the social, institutional, political, economic, and cultural norms of American society. This understanding will make it clear why it’s imperative to focus on changing structures — and especially to focus on ways of ensuring that blacks gain the power they need to push for substantive and lasting change.
Making a commitment to make black lives matter by adopting a racial-equity lens for grant making in black communities. Grant makers should pay attention to race while analyzing programs, seeking solutions, and defining success.
Ending the funding inequities for black-led groups, especially black-led social-change and racial-justice organizations. Some of the imbalance in grant making may stem from unconscious bias. Imbalance also may result from a Catch-22 situation: Foundations want to support high-performing organizations, but that is a tough standard to meet when black-led nonprofits have received just crumbs from the grant-making table.
The nation is at a pivotal crossroads in its centuries-long struggle to confront and eradicate structural racism. The shocking events and subsequent organizing in the past year have helped lift up the veil to expose the pernicious and persistent impact of structural racism. Philanthropy’s challenge is to not look away, but to look deeper, and to act with courage and conviction. We must cultivate a commitment to making black lives matter, so that the black community and, indeed, the entire nation can thrive.

A Foreclosure Moratorium Should Be Just the Start

huffingtonpost.com
By Preeti Vissa

The good news is that recent revelations about foreclosures being finalized based on improper documentation — legal filings often not even read by the bank officials who signed hundreds or thousands of them at a time — have spurred outrage nationwide that could lead to action. The bad news is that it’s unclear whether that action will be enough.

Continue reading “A Foreclosure Moratorium Should Be Just the Start”

A Government Agency that Actually Listens

The San Diego Voice and Viewpoint
by Sasha Werblin and Jane Duong

It’s an old joke, made famous by President Ronald Reagan: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” But today one federal agency  proves Reagan wrong every day, one that not only really does help people but actually listens to them – and it’s under attack for that very reason.

The agency we are talking about is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created five years ago by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law to be a “cop on the beat” to protect consumers in their dealings with banks, credit card companies and other financial firms. In late May, we were part of a group of community advocates who met with CFPB Director Richard Cordray and top members of his staff to outline our continuing priorities and hear how CFPB is addressing the concerns of communities of color. To put it simply, we were impressed.

Understanding that the impact on consumers is felt most strongly outside of the beltway, Cordray and his colleagues came to California to meet with us, at the office of the Mission Economic Development Agency in San Francisco – a location fraught with symbolism. MEDA’s office is in the heart of what has long been a low-income neighborhood (92 percent of MEDA’s clients are low- or moderate-income) that’s now in the throes of heated battles over gentrification. In a city fast losing its black and Latino population, this is a neighborhood where you can see check cashing stores and payday lenders almost literally within shouting distance of high-end restaurants.

As a coalition of advocates for African American, Latino and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, we laid out a series of concerns. Diversity – in both the financial industry and in the government agencies that regulate it – stood near the top of our agenda. Dodd-Frank created a mechanism to address diversity, the Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWIs), but the OMWIs’ proposed diversity standards arrived very weak and very late.  We think federal regulators can do much more to promote diversity in the banking world and to encourage financial businesses to increase their contracting with businesses owned by people of color.

We also talked a great deal about small businesses. According to the Small Business Administration, people of color own 4.1 million firms that generate $694 billion in revenues each year, employing 4.8 million people. These businesses are a major source of employment in communities of color across America. We want the federal government to adopt a model similar to California, where the Public Utilities Commission’s supplier diversity program has generated billions of dollars in business each year for minority business enterprises simply through public reporting and transparency.

Sometimes ethnic small businesses have had trouble accessing the capital they need to grow their operations. Unfortunately, no one has ever collected the data we need to know what stands in between these businesses and the loans they need. Another section in Dodd-Frank is designed to help address that, and we urged the CFPB to work with the Small Business Administration on guidelines that will give community advocates and ordinary citizens a clear picture of small business lending, with information on race/ethnicity, gender and many other factors.

Language access also topped the agenda for many of us. Given that nearly one in five residents of California identifies as being limited English proficient, we must protect consumers for whom English is not a first language. We discussed with CFPB several strategies for encouraging financial institutions to better serve the needs of these diverse communities.

Under the ground rules, I’m not able to write about everything that CFPB officials said in response to our concerns. What I can say is that they clearly listened and have considered our recommendations. They were active, engaged, and asked lots of questions. The mood was light-hearted but serious, cordial and energetic. This was not the behavior of bureaucrats just going through the motions or checking off a box on a form.

No government agency is perfect, but the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau clearly takes its job seriously. Some members of Congress who take their marching orders from Wall Street have been trying to weaken CFPB ever since it was created, but happily they haven’t succeeded. To learn more about the bureau, visit http://www.consumerfinance.gov/.

Sasha Werblin is Economic Equity director at The Greenlining Institute, greenlining.org, Jane Duong is director of programs and advocacy for the National Coalition For Asian Pacific American Community Development,www.nationalcapacd.org.

A Greener Wilmington… Coming Soon!

The Wilmington Wire
by Lauren Valdez

Another refinery explosion. Another flaring incident. Another industrial project polluting our air. We are used to hearing the bad news, but things are starting to look up for Wilmington.

California took the lead in combating global warming with landmark legislation called AB 32, passed in 2006. AB 32 requires a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to move towards a sustainable, low-carbon future. In 2010, Wilmington oil refinersValero and Tesoro spent millions of dollars to place an initiative, Proposition 23, on the statewide ballot that would have suspended AB 32, not just for the oil industry but for all industries. They wanted to kill AB 32 rather than spend their profits on upgrading their facilities to pollute less. We were at the forefront of this battle, with a statewide coalition of organizations including Communities for a Better Environment and the Greenlining Institute, leading multiple demonstrations at the refineries.

Big Oil’s Prop. 23 got clobbered that year, but the oil lobby hasn’t given up. Happily, neither have those working to clean our air.

To reach AB 32’s goal of cutting carbon pollution, the state implemented a cap-and-trade program, which limits the toxic emissions a company can put into the air and charges polluters for the damage they cause. The cap on emissions will decline each year, causing the cost of pollution to go up. The money raised from those polluter fees goes into a fund that helps pay for clean energy, energy saving and other programs that help clean our air. It’s critical that this money – and the projects it funds –go to places like Wilmington that need it urgently.

And it will, thanks to  a new piece of legislation called SB 535. SB 535 requires that at least 25% of all cap-and-trade revenues be invested in the state’s most polluted and environmentally burdened communities. This year alone nearly $270 million in funding is available, the largest pot of money ever given for environmental justice, and that amount will grow over the coming years

That $270 million is going to support renewable energy, affordable housing near public transit, low-carbon transportation, and urban greening. For the first time in history, our communities will get real help to counter the history of low income communities being used as toxic dumping grounds. Not only do the refineries finally have to pay for the damage they have done to our community, the money will go into programs that are already creating good jobs and changing lives for the better.

The bad news is that the polluters haven’t gone away. They’re still trying to weaken and even kill AB 32, and take away the best hope that’s come along in years for communities like Wilmington.

To make sure they don’t succeed, The Greenlining Institute created a new website, UpLiftCA.org, to tell the story of how California’s smart climate policies are helping real people in real neighborhoods around the state. Please check it out, sign up to receive updates, and tell your friends.

You might also want to contact the legislators who represent Wilmington in Sacramento and let them know you support AB 32 and California’s effort to fight climate change:

Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson, district 64: (916)223-1201 or use https://lcmspubcontact.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.php?district=AD64

Senator Isadore Hall, III, district 35: (916) 651-4035 or use http://sd35.senate.ca.gov/contact

 

A Just Food System for All Californians

Al Jazeera America
by Justin Rausa

I live in Oakland, California, around the corner from a trendy bar that touts more than a dozen local beers on tap and even more craft brews by the bottle. Down the street from me is a homeless encampment under a freeway overpass, where people look for empathy, money and food. These contradictions — options galore juxtaposed with blatant, unmet need — follow me from my bike ride to my office, where I work on California food policy and daily encounter a harsh truth: In the country’s most productive agricultural state, food equity for its citizens has a long way to go. And unless the state does a better job enacting food and farming policies that benefit all Californians, especially low-income people, its ranking as the state with the highest poverty rate could become its dominant tag line.

On Nov. 4, Californians will have an opportunity at the ballot box to help rectify that imbalance. Voters in San Francisco and Berkeley will decide on soda tax proposals designed to decrease the consumption of sugary beverages. Big Soda has poured more than $10 million to label the propositions as job killers and attacks on personal choice, especially for the poor, but advocacy groups are putting up a strong fight. Statewide, there is Proposition 2, a seemingly bland policy that would require the state to prioritize debt reduction over the next 15 years and save more money each year for the next time its economy swings toward crisis. Prop 2 could improve food security — in which all people have access at all times to nutritious food — by forcing the state to maintain public program funding that supports lower-income people when the economy tanks. For example, during the Great Recession, funding for public schools fell by more than $7 billion over two years. In response, some school districts lowballed (and still do) the number of enrolled low-income students, an accounting technique that trims free and reduced-price school lunch offerings. It’s a self-defeating move for a state that should prioritize the health of its future workforce.

Prop 2 and the soda tax proposals, should they pass, are both smart moves for a state whose less-than-holistic food system policy decisions are too often removed from low-income communities.

A food policy for all

California is an alarming example of how agriculturally productive states can still have a long way to go on worker rights, food access, sustainable agricultural practices and a more diverse, less industrial food economy. In short, we need more food equity. According to the Census Bureau (PDF), from 2011 to 2013, nearly a quarter of Californians lived in poverty, struggling to feed themselves and their families. That’s almost 9 million people. My work has taken me multiple times to California’s Central Valley, where farm workers have told me that they can’t afford the fresh fruits and vegetables they pick or that they are out of range from a store where such fresh produce is sold. One woman told me that on a good day, she serves her family rice, beans and soda. Fresh fruits and vegetables are not within reach for this worker and many others like her who, just hours before, spent a long day in a lettuce field, picking produce while battling searing heat and dust.

What these workers need is increased food equity. That means affordable food that is also fresh and healthy, farming and ranching practices that protect the land and the people who work on it and a living wage for food-chain workers.

Why, in such an enlightened food age, are low-income people’s voices so chronically underrepresented? The numbers are revealing: Only 25.2 percent of registered voters voted in California’s June primary this year, an all-time low, even for a midterm election year. Meanwhile, entrenched food and farming interests in California are too often trumping the common sense and evidence-based arguments for more equity in the food system. Earlier this year, for instance, the beverage industry and the California Chamber of Commerce pulled out all the stops to kill legislation that would have added health warning labels on most sugary drinks.

Research from PolicyLink and the Greenlining Institute confirm that equity is a necessary criterion for allocating resources in the 21st century. October poll results (PDF) from the Public Policy Institute of California, unfortunately, show that only 49 percent of likely voters support Proposition 2. But the local soda tax ballot measures in San Francisco and Berkeley offer some voters an opportunity to acknowledge the health cost of artificially cheap drinks — a significant driver for disproportionately higher rates of obesity and diabetes among the poor. It’s one of many steps that must take place to help ensure food equity for California’s working poor, but it could have an outsize impact in the message it sends to Big Soda.

What California gets right

That doesn’t mean that California hasn’t recently made some good decisions that have improved food access for low-income communities. Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 2413 two months ago, establishing the Office of Farm to Fork within the California Department of Food and Agriculture to improve communities’ access to healthy food. Moves such as this will help increase food security.

The Office of Farm to Fork will focus on securing funding and streamlining the state government’s ability to make healthier food more accessible to low-income communities in urban and rural areas, and it is a good first step. It is an encouraging sign that the state’s agriculture regulator understands that the success of small and midsize farms depends on meeting the needs of low-income workers. A financially secure and well-fed workforce is more productive, will generate more economic activity for the state and will save the state significant money as fewer people are forced to rely on its tattered social safety net.

But Assembly Bill 2413 was signed into law without designated funding, so the success of the office depends on Brown’s state budget proposal in January. To bring this election season argument full circle, the passage of Prop 2 on Nov. 4 would give the Office of Farm to Fork and its food security programs some economic stability during future recessions. The downside of Prop 2 is that less money would be available each year to expand or create public programs, making state budget negotiations — such as those that will take place in January — ever more important, especially for low-income people whose voices are least represented in Sacramento.

It’s time for California, where craft beer and homeless encampments stand side by side, to put politics to bed and take action to lift a quarter of its people out of poverty. Voters can help amplify the voices of low-income Californians by showing up at the polls in support of policies — even boring-seeming ones — that help bring healthy food to every table.

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.

A Look at Inequalities in Health

Source: LA Watts Times | Written by: KELLIE MIDDLETON, M.P.H. and LEN CHANTY
Slow and steady wins the race… If Aesop’s moral holds true, then the race for black equality and social justice, which started nearly 40 years ago, should be nearing its end by now. But it’s not. In the 1960s, a great leader, whose birthday we celebrate today, started a successful movement to mobilize those treated unjustly on the basis of skin color. If Dr. King were alive today, he would realize that the civil rights race is far from being complete. The race for civil rights has shifted from the traditional and obvious discrimination against blacks to something more institutional but just as detrimental and unjust. Continue reading “A Look at Inequalities in Health”

A Look at the Green New Deal’s Clean Transportation Goals and How to Achieve Them

Greentech Media
By Emma Foerhinger Merchant

Though scant on details of what a transportation overhaul might look like, the Green New Deal — really a framework designed to generate more specific policy proposals — has already caused a partisan stir around what a remade and more just transit system might look like.

The resolution released last week from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey is, at its core, an outline to transition toward an environmentally friendly and equitable economy. Transportation makes up just one part. Politics are stacked against the deal, and it’s unlikely to pass the Republican-led Senate. But experts in the clean transportation space say it could serve as a roadmap to spur conversation and help crystallize ideas for the future transportation system.

The resolution doesn’t explicitly include transportation goals in its call for a “10-year mobilization,” but it does call for an overhaul of the transportation system and the elimination of all its pollution and greenhouse gas emissions “as much as is technologically feasible.” According to the resolution, that should happen in part through investments in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing, public transportation and high-speed rail.

Like the other sectors the resolution addresses, transportation policies must also work to right systemic injustices. A FAQ distributed at the same time as the resolution — which is not a part of the official document — also named a goal to replace every internal combustion vehicle, put charging infrastructure “everywhere,” and create alternatives to air travel (a point that’s caused alarm among the GOP and shrugs from others).

The document, while broad, is also very ambitious. Deployment of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, plus the decarbonization of transportation sectors like aviation and shipping, are far from reaching the levels set forth in the Green New Deal’s goals.

But experts say there are policies that can get us closer to the goals through a combination of community input, technological innovation, aggressive targets, and transparency. How quickly that can happen, however, remains unclear.

“We’re in a space right now where we’re seeing political headwinds from many different directions. But one thing that will be necessary and critical throughout is to make sure we have the foundation that can allow us to achieve these goals,” said Natasha Vidangos, vice president of research and analysis at the Alliance to Save Energy. “There are many, many ways that we could get to the level of ambition articulated in the Green New Deal document.”

A policy wish list

As Vidangos noted, there is a vast array of available options. But Hana Creger, environmental equity program manager at the Greenlining Institute, says the broad scope of the resolution is a boon rather than a burden.

“While to some folks the Green New Deal’s transportation vision seems too vague, I believe that’s really the intent,” said Creger. “There’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all solution across the board. […] The ultimate decision on how to get there should be informed by the needs of individual communities.”

In outlining the priorities that would help the country achieve the Green New Deal’s goals, experts did note a number of common policies and regulations. The top-level goals: reducing emissions, opening more transit options and electrifying as many vehicles as possible as quickly as possible, in ways that benefit all, rather than prioritizing a few.

The electrification goal applies to passenger vehicles but also heavy-duty freight, buses and off-road vehicles. Getting there requires massive rollout of charging infrastructure that can support more EVs, part of what Vidangos calls a “clean chicken-and-egg arrangement,” because it’s difficult to encourage consumers to buy more EVs if they don’t have a way to charge them.

Creger highlights the need to divert significant funds to communities that lack transportation access. Even if mandates come from the federal level, Creger said laws should prioritize local involvement to choose between clean transportation options such as biking, efficient transit, walking and electric vehicles that are most suited to the community.

Experts also say that rather than rolling back corporate average fuel economy standards, which the Trump administration moved to do last year, federal policymakers should strengthen them. The same goes for federal tax credits for electric vehicles, which now sit at $7,500 for the first 200,000 cars a manufacturer sells. Tesla and General Motors have already hit that 200,000 cap, triggering a stepdown in the incentives attached to a purchase of their vehicles.

“We’re not at a point where, from a public policy perspective, we can move away from consumer incentives to support the purchase of electric vehicles,” said Drew Kodjak, executive director at the International Council on Clean Transportation.

Kodjak said the situation also requires mass education of consumers.

Right now, electric vehicles represent between 1 and 2 percent of U.S. auto sales. And even as their market share has taken off, consumers have evinced an appetite to drive more miles and purchase less-efficient SUVs. Shifting that behavior will require not only more efficient single-passenger vehicles, but also a wider array of options.

“The iron law of transportation infrastructure is: If you build it, they will come,” said Hal Harvey, CEO at Energy Innovation. “So, if you build more freeway miles, you get more cars. If you build more bike paths, you get more bikes.”

Prioritizing transportation equity

Prioritizing equitable mobility options, Greenlining’s Creger explains, is essential for any Green New Deal transportation policy. Historically, road construction and pollution have impacted marginalized communities more than wealthier and whiter ones, cutting them off from economic opportunities while harming health.

A 2006 report from the Brookings Institution showed that metropolitan planning organizations, the decision-making bodies for large sums of transportation funds, have also had a disproportionate number of white members compared to the metropolitan areas they represent.

Even now, as detailed by a March 2018 Greenlining report, “low-income communities and communities of color suffer the most from transportation-related pollution, high transportation costs, and a lack of access to safe, reliable transportation options.” Newer technologies like electric vehicles and ridesharing systems are also more accessible to affluent people, while autonomous vehicles may cause job losses that impact some communities more than others. And research has shown that access to cars is associated with low-income people finding jobs and moving into neighborhoods where they have more access to resources like better schools.

“There’s a lot of inequity in the current system and lots of situations where as we transition and transform transportation, we need to ensure that we don’t make the system even more inequitable,” said Michelle Robinson, director of the clean vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s a critical issue that should be on par with the top priorities of reducing emissions and reducing oil consumption in transportation.”

The Greenlining report, of which Creger is the lead author, cautions that without community consultation, planners could embed similar issues into future policies.

Greenlining lays out a three-step mobility equity framework that identifies a community’s needs, weighs the pros and cons of certain transportation decisions and ultimately leaves decision-making with the community. It aims to foreground community engagement to avoid the pitfalls of transit planning that leaves out the voices of what the Green New Deal calls “frontline and vulnerable communities,” such as indigenous communities and rural areas.

“We want to make sure that in creating these new transportation options under the Green New Deal, that we’re prioritizing those mobility options that are most equitable and accessible,” said Creger.

Public and private

In unveiling the resolution, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said the Green New Deal would assist in “building solutions in places where the private sector will not.”

And though the document focuses on public policy, advocates say it will require a great deal of cooperation from corporations and likely significant investment from the private sector.

“You can’t do this with the public sector alone,” said Energy Innovation’s Harvey. “Ninety-plus percent of all energy decisions are made privately.”

The clean transportation industry would have to grow significantly to help meet the goals. In 2030, energy research and consulting group Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables forecasts that 16 percent of vehicles will be electric, including plug-in hybrids, in its base case. Producing all those batteries would require more than three Tesla Gigafactories. To get to 100 percent EV sales would require more than 20 Tesla Gigafactories, according to Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage at WoodMac.

“Neither of those numbers are insurmountable, but clearly will require massive amounts of investments from the industry,” said Manghani, who added that state policy struggles — like California’s issues with high-speed rail — expose the difficulties in transitioning the transportation sector.

“I’m not necessarily presenting a pessimistic view, but rather pitching for a massive overhaul in the current state of infrastructure investments,” he said.

So far, utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric, along with startups like ChargePoint and Greenlots, have led initiatives to deploy more charging infrastructure. Companies such as electric bus maker Proterra have pushed electric vehicles into more segments, helped along by commitments like California’s to purchase only carbon-free bus buses by 2029. And corporations with big fleets, such as Walmart and UPS, are working to electrify, but cite issues like charging infrastructure as big barriers.

“If you think we’re going to substitute or replace the private sector’s control of the economy, we’re deluding ourselves,” said Harvey. “It’s a matter of setting public standards that are requirements.”

Kodjak at the International Council on Clean Transportation says the scope of the deal necessitates a “big, broad, bold partnership” that includes government agencies, environmental and labor groups, as well as corporate interests. That type of coalition has the best chance of crafting policies that align with the resolution’s call for just and environmentally-friendly jobs while transforming transportation.

Vidangos at the Alliance to Save Energy pointed to the collaboration between California, the auto industry, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration on auto-emissions standards as an example of how parties can work to find solutions amenable to all. “We need to see more of that kind of dialogue,” she said.

In September, the Alliance to Save Energy helped launch a group aiming to cut energy use in transportation by 50 percent by 2050. Leaders of the group include the mayor of Fort Worth, Texas and representatives from Audi and National Grid. But even achieving the 50 percent reduction goal set out by that group “requires us to basically fire on every cylinder,” said Vidangos. And, she added, “the ambition in [the Green New Deal] takes it a step further.”

Seizing the momentum

While the document continues to face serious political challenges — Sen. Mitch McConnell this week said he would put forth a vote in the Senate, where the resolution is expected to fail — experts say that doesn’t mean its proposals shouldn’t be seriously considered.

“There’s no question this is the most ambitious [climate] policy that has been advanced in the United States both in terms of the timeline and in terms of its scope,” said Dan Lashof, U.S. director at the World Resources Institute. “I’m not ready to say it’s feasible or to dismiss it as impossible at this point.”

What’s more important, experts said, is seizing the momentum the document has created to start a conversation and craft serious legislation.

“We’re not out of the starting gate yet, much less thinking about the finish line,” said Harvey at Energy Innovation. “We cannot do this by saying, ‘Let’s cross our fingers and hope by then we get it all done.’ Start now — and start with serious projects.”

A More Perfect Union Serves the Unbanked and Underbanked

Our Weekly
by: Merdies Hayes

Union Bank of California has a successful history of fostering economic sustainability in the regions its serves, particularly providing financial services to so-called “underbanked” and even “unbanked” communities, including portions of south and east Los Angeles. The firm was recognized recently by the Greenlining Institute for implementing a new Access Account designed specifically for its low- and moderate-income customers.

The new banking program, or “checkless account,” is designed for low- and moderate-income residents and other consumers who may not qualify for a traditional bank account. Often, these persons must resort to costly check-cashing outlets—which can charge up to 20 percent at face value—or receive their wages in cash. The Access Account is said to minimize the likelihood of fees such as overdraft and nonsufficient funds, along with providing easier access to money via branch offices or through ATMs.

“We’re receiving positive responses to the new Access Account because it provides an opportunity for regular banking for low-income persons without the common high fees,” said Rogger Lacruz, retail product manager with Union Bank.

“The program is designed to meet the needs of persons who often have to resort to check-cashing centers which deduct needed money from persons already struggling to make ends meet. Every Union Bank branch in greater Los Angeles offers this new account and we encourage underbanked communities to take advantage of this opportunity to open an account and thereby help establish a good credit rating for the future.”

The program has caught the eye of advocacy groups who have surveyed banking practices in the inner city and have found various communities lacking in financial services. “We and other community groups have been urging banks to address the needs of these households, who have often found conventional bank accounts to be too expensive or too confusing,” said Sasha Werblin, economic equity director with Greenlining Institute, a policy-research organization based in Washington, D.C. “We’re glad Union Bank has moved closer toward meeting the needs of these families and expect other banks to do the same.”

With the innovative account, Union Bank customers can opt to use an ATM card to do point-of-sale transactions at participating merchants. “We’ve long been concerned about the 34 million U.S. households—disproportionately people of color—who are unbanked or underbanked, and who often end up paying much higher fees at check-cashing stores or other alternative services,” Werblin added.

Customers can open the account with minimum deposit of $25, and must maintain a minimum balance of at least $1. It offers basic banking services such as in-bank deposits/withdrawals, ATM access, online and mobile banking, discount money orders, no overdraft fees and, reportedly, all done at lower fees than a traditional checking account.

“This new account won’t work for everyone,” Werblin explained, “ but we think it will be useful for a meaningful number, including customers who have trouble maintaining a high minimum balance. There is a large market out there of customers who aren’t being served by the options now available, and we urge all banks to develop new and responsible ways to meet their needs.”

Union Bank provides a number of community outreach services. Among them are free financial education programs to diverse communities of need; connecting bank employees with community-based organizations to maximize volunteer opportunities, and coordination of senior-level officer board services with nonprofit organizations. Its “Bank On” initiative provides low-cost products, financial education and financial coaching to unbanked and underbanked communities. Also, the VolunteerMatch program helps Union Bank employees identify opportunities to volunteer in low-income communities.

In 2005, Union Bank increased its commitment from 4.5 percent to 6.5 percent of annual assets to return to the communities it serves, the allotment being in the form of loans to nonprofit organizations and businesses owned by women, minorities and disabled veterans. The bank also offers affordable housing loans and tax credits for community development organizations. Union Bank is in the midst of a 10-year community commitment initiative in which it has pledged 2 percent of its annual after-tax net profit to charitable organizations. It has raised $96 million during the first eight years of the plan and, in 2012, invested $12.6 million in grants, charitable contributions and scholarships to assist nonprofit organizations.

For more information about the new Access Account, call (800) 796-5656, or contact Union Bank via email at www.unionbank.com.

A Morning Cup of Crazy

Huffington Post
By Preeti Vissa

My head is spinning from the news in recent days. We’ve had glowing reports that “it’s a new day in California” because new foreclosures are declining, even as Reuters reports that “robo-signing” — firms cranking out thousands of foreclosure documents signed by people who never read them, certifying “facts” that may well be untrue — is back.

Continue reading “A Morning Cup of Crazy”