On March 6-8, twenty-five funders from across the United States and Canada gathered in Portland, OR to kick off Foundations for Racial Equity (FRE), our two-year community of practice for funders who want to undo structural racism to end homelessness. We came together to learn and share resources on racial equity work in our organizations and communities, identify collective action steps, and build relationships and trust with each other.
To bring our members along with us on this journey, here some of the key takeaways and conversations we had in March.
“Deep learning is a process, not a destination.”
If we want to end homelessness, we need to ground ourselves in understanding the past and present structures that lead to racial disparities in housing and homelessness. But, as one participant reflected during the convening, this learning is a process, not a destination. It’s not sufficient to read a couple articles about redlining, sit through a racial equity training, and declare that it’s time to move from learning to action. Racial equity work is not a linear process.
As Amanda Andere said recently, “We need to work backwards and forwards at the same time. We need to acknowledge and unlearn our culture of white dominance before we rush to "fix" things.”
Here are some of the materials participants engaged with to deepen their knowledge:
- How white people can show up better in racial equity work.
- Key terms and definitions, such as white privilege, white fragility, and targeted universalism
Case studies and research:
- Case Study No. 16: The Equity Journey: NewSchools Venture Fund and Lumina Foundation Pursue Diversity on the Road to Equity
- Demos' Racial Equity Transformation: Key Component, Process, & Lessons
- Promise54 - Unrealized Impact: The Case for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Coalition of Communities of Color: Leading with Race Report
“There is no easy way to dismantle historically structural racism.”
This was echoed by many throughout the convening. While we were together, participants shared their challenges and successes about race equity work at the individual, organizational, and community levels.
We had conversation and peer coaching around several key challenges, such as:
- How to bring board members along who might not yet understand the difference between equity or equality, or who don’t understand why homelessness and poverty are not outcomes of personal choice.
- What to do when a grantee, who has made strides toward understanding racial equity, has discriminatory policies toward other groups (like LGBTQ folx) and is also the key provider in an area.
- How white people can be allies and co-conspirators in pushing for racial justice. In fact, this is one of the topics that made many participants realize that there is so much more they need to learn about how to show up in racial justice work.
“We are all in this together.”
The most amazing thing about the Foundations for Racial Equity convening was seeing people build and deepen relationships. I was blown away at how participants came ready to dive right in and trust our process, which had participants looking at visual images, connecting using the power of touch, and reflecting through poetry.
Though the thirty FRE participants are at different stages of centering racial equity in their work to end homelessness, everyone has something to learn and offer. This was clear when we did intimate case consultations, where four participants brought thorny challenges to their peers for input and advice.
As one participant noted, “a community is necessary to advance racial justice.” I cannot agree more. Together, we can end homelessness by dismantling structural racism. Join us.