Driven by the values of our new strategic framework, the Funders Together team reflects upon 2022 and looks forward to building a more liberated world in 2023.
2022 was the most difficult year of my life. And it was also the most joyful. I was living out what I always say: joy and pain can live in the same place. I lost my mom on January 9th, 2022, after she suffered a major stroke during the height of the pandemic. Anything and everything good about me comes from what she taught me about radical love.
Grief - like racism, oppression, trauma, and marginalization - is something we shy away from talking about and making public. I made a choice that while I knew I would experience pain alone; I would heal in community. And that meant putting into practice the vulnerability it takes to be a liberated organization grounded in justice.
At Funders Together, we started to have conversations about what it meant to be Pro-Black, Pro-Indigenous, and Pro-LGBTQ. What we kept coming back to as a first step was to co-create an environment where we could all show up as our authentic selves, lean on each other, and practice community care.
As I person of faith, I knew God was not going to magically make that happen but would give me opportunities to put into practice what we have been preaching out in the world. So, I spent most of 2022 in a fog, leaning on my team, board, and people in the movement in ways I never had before.
I miss my mom every day. The pain feels unbearable at times. But I am so grateful for the care, love, and healing I have received from this movement as we are co-creating space to practice love and disruption in the name of housing justice. “Thank you” will not adequately express the deep appreciation I have for those who allowed me to heal out loud. As we pour energy into creating a new liberated world, I hope we can model and practice that for all who experience the trauma and grief of everyday life, but especially for those who continued to be oppressed by a system that was designed for harm.
As I think about our role as leaders, and as philanthropy, in the work of housing justice I keep coming back to a few quotes from leaders committed to liberation. This one in particular:
“What happens when you fund the fight, but not the recovery?” – Erika Totten
Without rest and space to just be, the people who have been on the frontlines, those who we look to as thought-leaders, and activists and organizers don’t have the environment and energy to reimagine what could be possible. Rather they are forced to navigate a new normal that looks almost identical to our old normal. Being able to imagine how to bend the arc towards racial justice is not just about ending oppression and houselessness. It’s also about the ability to heal through the process of envisioning a system co-created by people with lived experience that centers joy and justice.
I think we are closer to the promise land, but as we say in my faith tradition, I have some joys and concerns. The joy has been the response to our new strategic framework. The eagerness from philanthropy and our partners to understand that equity is only a stop on the journey to justice has been impactful. To see so many of our members already starting to live out the values of justice gives me hope.
There is great joy in how we are centering the voices of lived experience on our board, staff, programs, and in our coalition work. I am ready to cede and seed power to where it rightfully belongs. There is great joy in the National Coalition for Housing Justice, which is forcing an industry of organizations to work more like a movement as we continue to meet every Friday like we have for the last 3 years, to wrestle with our vision of housing justice as racial justice and align our current policy and narrative work.
We are all concerned about the great resignation and recession. I have been additionally concerned about what I am calling the great regression where folks are not progressing in meaningful and measurable ways after the overdue awakening and rightful uprising in 2020 to actually demonstrate that Black Lives Matter.
I am particularly concerned that we are watering down the work of equity and justice by not knowing the difference between the two and instead defaulting to safe places of Diversity and Inclusion.
But what gives me hope is the “why” of housing justice. It is not just the guarantee of agency and power of where and how folks live, it is the hope that housing offers to fully participate in this experiment to see if the idea of a liberated America is possible.
Funders Together Staff Reflection from 2022:
This year has been one of Funders Together staff learning, growing, and challenging themselves around housing and racial justice. We asked staff: What has resonated the most with you from this past year? What have you learned? What are you the most excited for in 2023?
Lauren Bennett | she/her | Director of Communications and Policy
This year I’ve reflected often on the concept of collective care and how that is actualized within the context of justice and liberation – both personally and professionally. In 2023, I look forward to exercising collective care with intention and an understanding of how we can use it as a tool to dismantle white supremacy, and instead build community that resembles a liberated world we want to see.
Stephanie Chan | she/her | Chief Strategy Officer
In our revised mission statement, there is a phrase that has shaped my way of being: driven by love and disruption. As we transition to a new year in the Gregorian calendar, I am excited to find new ways of showing my love for our collective humanity through the disruption of white supremacy culture and what we currently define as success.
Michael Durham | he/him | Director of Networks and Programs
This year leaves me embracing contradictions, particularly the competing philosophies of collective liberation versus defeating destructive forces. Hatred toward people without homes, disenfranchisement of Black and brown people, and outright celebrating white supremacy is intensifying in many communities. Our task is to stand against these ideologies and people who espouse them. On the other hand, the notion of mutual self-interest suggests that those who we do not agree with are damaged by systemic racism and stand to benefit from a liberated future. I enter the New Year pondering: how can we co-create a world where we are all free?
Isaac Manchego | he/his | Knowledge and Membership Coordinator
This year, the importance of finding joy in coalition and community building has resonated with me. It reaffirmed my sense of allyship in the struggle for racial justice. I’ve learned that while there is important narrative change work to be done and opportunities to hold folks accountable, it is an important time to add my voice to the call for liberation. For 2023, I’m excited to join the fight for justice and push against white supremacy in a wide range of legal efforts.
Tia Smith | they/them | Director of Networks and Programs
This year I learned that liberation must be exercised as a discipline today if I hope to make it commonplace for myself and others in the future. It requires me to resist the hurried pace of white supremacy and embrace care and compassion for myself today. When I make space to embrace my own dignity, power, joy, and imagination; I invite others into liberation as well.
Holly Sullivan | she/her | Finance Manager
In our strategic framework, we outline the north star coordinates to our Commitment to Racial Equity – Housing Justice resonates with me. It must be front and center to make long lasting impact in our country. I look forward to 2023 being the year that philanthropy steps up and centers those with lived expertise to help our country become liberated.
Jack Zhang | he/him | Manager of Programs and Communications
I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of an organization that takes bold positions and delivers meaningful learning opportunities on the pathway towards housing justice. Yet at the same time, it is disheartening that even today there are those that pursue certain narratives and policies that do not recognize shared humanity. Looking into next year, I hope to challenge myself by continuing to learn and grow, while re-imagining a world that prioritizes collective care and community.
Funders Together Board of Directors: Thank You and Welcome!
Funders Together would like to thank Katie Hong and Debbie Reznick for their dedicated service on our Board of Directors. During their tenures, each provided the organization with integral support as we developed our new strategic framework and oversaw the incredible growth of Funders Together as we learned what it means to lean into our values and principles in the work for justice and liberation. They are true co-conspirators, and we are so grateful for their guidance, leadership, and partnership in our collective work to achieve housing and racial justice.
Thank You for Being Part of Funders Together
We send you our very best and wish you a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season.
The Funders Together to End Homelessness Staff