While philanthropy’s renewed commitment to fighting racial injustice and learning from Black leaders on the ground was encouraging, the dollars have not yet been commensurate. According to estimates in the seminal report Mismatched: Philanthropy's Response to the Call for Racial Justice by the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity, as of summer 2021, the sector had pledged more than $8.8 billion for racial equity work in 2020, but only about $3.4 billion in grants had actually been awarded by foundations and corporations—3.3 percent of the total foundation and corporate giving in 2020. In addition, the report notes that “more than a third of the top 20 racial equity recipients were founded by white billionaires or large corporations advancing their own theories of change in mostly Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities, often independent of or in direct opposition to calls from racial justice movement leaders.” Moreover, when investments are made to support Black-led change, these organizations often receive less money and are held to a higher accountability standard than white-led organizations. This paradox is crushing and counterproductive to progress.

When Black-led change is not valued and sustained, it often results in the delay or loss of transformational gains, and we all suffer. For instance, Minneapolis continues to grapple with the much-needed courageous charge to improve safety of all residents by reevaluating the police department’s relationship with its school system and other public entities. Last November, the City of Minneapolis did not pass a proposal to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety that would have partnered police with qualified social and mental health workers to increase community safety through “a comprehensive public health approach.” More recently, the Park Board reinstated its relationship with the department to police public parksThe back and forth and tensions of change that exist in the root city of the 2020 uprising demonstrate the nuances of movements to shift power. Black-led change understands nuance and even harnesses it to center the lived experience and vision of people most impacted by the issues at hand to imagine and bring to life a new world.

We see exactly how Black-led change in Minneapolis and across Minnesota continues to inspire the nation as the fight continues against the racism and white supremacy deeply rooted in our institutions and culture. For example, while the proposal to establish a Department of Public Safety did not pass, because of Black-led organizing, 44 percent of voters supported it and leaders across the city are working to bring it to life in creative ways, which signals a growing appetite for meaningful change. In addition, while working to change existing systems, Black people are creating new models of safety. Relationships Evolving Possibilities (REP), a Black-led initiative formed in 2020 in Minnesota, is an inspiring example of dedicated networks of changemakers supporting the community in times of crises rooted in love and dignity of people in need of help. In the most difficult days of the pandemic, Black-led change increased the use of mutual aid to support communities—which continues today.

Read the full article about racial justice philanthropy by Chera Reid and Lulete Mola at PhilanTopic.