We put forward a vision of a loving world in which each of us and our families could be safe and could live with hope, dignity, and prosperity. And the Philanthropic Collective to Combat Anti-Blackness and Realize Racial Justice—now, the Black Collective Foundation MN—was born.

The work began immediately. As Black people rooted in community and working in philanthropy, we knew that philanthropy is meant to contribute to the greater good but that it has historically perpetuated anti-Blackness and racism. We were also intimately familiar with philanthropy’s proximity to power and to billions of dollars in resources. We wanted to harness that power and capital for our communities.

First, we made a call to philanthropy to step up and commit to taking meaningful action to change systems, practices, and policies within organizations, the field, and society. This included a call to make unprecedented investments in the short- and long-term to support Black movement, infrastructure, leadership, and responsive efforts, along with substantive and ongoing investment in our emerging vision.

This involved asking philanthropic institutions to sign on to a bold and courageous joint statement that amounted to a public declaration of their commitment to racial justice—in order to demonstrate solidarity with the movement and to inspire public accountability of institutional philanthropy, past, present, and future. This statement was shaped by a group of Black leaders and additional leaders of various cultures in the field of philanthropy. It was drafted with deep thought, and the intention was for it to act as a living agreement that will continue to inspire and invoke action long after its having been signed. It would be the first time a philanthropic coalition had specifically condemned anti-Blackness, anti-Black police violence, and racism. We dedicated many hours to talking with philanthropic institutional leaders and board members—listening and educating on the importance of the language, context, and vision being set forth.

Reception to this invitation varied. A significant number of partners moved swiftly to sign the statement with the full support of their organizations. A few institutions wound up having to have hard internal conversations, and came to the conclusion that they needed more time but offered to support the cause through funding the work and continuing their education and relationship with us. And some met the moment—and continue to meet the many moments that have followed—with inaction.

The spectrum of responses gave us important information regarding the opportunities for and barriers to change. With this knowledge and clarity, we forged forward. We established grounding values for our emerging work, including the following:

  • Belief in the abundance of resources and possibilities
  • Commitment to combating anti-Blackness—the distinct and violent targeting of Black people and Black power—through centering Black dignity, power, and culture
  • Recognition of the critical role of principled struggle—Black people hold varied beliefs and approaches to how change happens, and this must be taken into account when working toward change

Read the full article about advancing Black-led change by Lulete Mola, Repa Mekhaand, and Chanda Smith Baker at Nonprofit Quarterly.