As a collective (not a monolith), Black women have been the strength and backbone of social progress in America, especially in the nonprofit sector. Unfortunately, this includes having been the perpetual canaries in the coal mine,12 pushing us to uphold America’s unrealized ideals. Black women deeply and often personally understand both the challenges and the solutions to some of our most pressing problems across a variety of issue areas in the sector, including: health; economic, climate, and criminal justice; democracy; and others. Many of us have direct lived experience—our families have been impacted over generations, and we are rooted in broader communities facing the intersection of challenges in these areas. Given Black women’s proximity to the issues, we can also articulate the gifts of our communities and provide deep insight about the possibilities.

Many of us have chosen to work in the nonprofit sector to innovate and offer our solutions under the infrastructure purporting to advance mission-driven work. We also strive to build inclusive spaces, given our firsthand experience of being treated as both hypervisible targets and invisible outsiders. But as with our broader society, the nonprofit sector has perpetuated racism, sexism, and other isms that Black women face, even when Black women are leading. Our leadership alone is not a panacea—Black women continue to face the challenges outlined above. However, while this experience is not happenstance, neither is it inevitable—and the following actions can help to unlock and support Black women’s leadership in ways that are sustainable and that help us all realize the fuller systems change our society needs.

  1. Resources and safe spaces
  2. Trust in Black women’s decision-making
  3. Comfort with Black women holding power

Read the full article about Black women leaders by Jennifer Njuguna at Nonprofit Quarterly .