In July, Funders Together CEO, Amanda Andere, gave remarks during the close plenary of the 2022 National Conference on Ending Homelessness. You can read her full remarks below or watch the recording here.
I want to acknowledge that we are on the stolen ancestral land of the Anacostans and we thank the original caretakers. May we honor the Indigenous people by returning to them what is theirs and what was taken from them.
We acknowledge the legacy of slavery in our country and the enslaved African people whose labor was exploited for generations to help establish the economy of the United States. May we honor them by challenging our ideas of racialized capitalism and returning what was taken from them.
In that spirit, at Funders Together we want to go beyond recognizing and so our action this week is that we will be donating a portion of what we spent to hold our Funders Institute to a local indigenous organization. And encourage all of you to think about how you can go beyond land recognition at your own convenings.
Like all of us, I want to thank Nan [Roman] for her leadership and friendship. Especially for seeing the work of racial equity as critical to ending homelessness and engaging in principled struggle over many dinners on the path to get to more a just and equitable system. Nan, you have always been so kind to me and have seen me as my authentic self and also have a wicked sense of humor that brings some joy to this tough work. Thank you for being you.
I know many of us can say so much about Ann professionally. But I just want to share that Ann is of course a partner, an ally, a co-conspirator for justice. But she is also a friend. She is such a giving soul who has shown me the light when I was in some pretty dark places. And it is her love for people, her desire to be constantly transformed, that makes her the exact right leader to get us to the promise land of housing justice.
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, overdue awakening to structural racism, and rightful continued uprising in our country, I think we’ve all wrestled with the tension between wanting the world to go back to normal and knowing we can’t. I often think about this quote from Sonya Renee Taylor, an author and visionary, who has shared her own lived experience with homelessness:
“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”
I have especially thought about the idea of stitching a new garment or planting new seeds and toiling new soil as Aisha Alexandra-Young from the Giving Gap reminds us that the tree of racism is over 400 years old, the roots are deep, and the fruit they bear is rotten. So, we must uproot the whole thing and start anew.
As we embarked on a new strategic framework for Funders Together over the last two years, we pushed ourselves to ask tough questions about what we believe and how those beliefs are reflected in our values and actions. Our learning, unlearning, and commitment to liberation has led us to affirm while racial equity is an important step in addressing disparities, we will not transform, upend, or rebuild without leading with racial and housing justice at our core and knowing the difference between equity and justice is essential as we stitch a new garment rooted in liberation.
As our partners at the Philanthropic Institute for Racial Equity remind us, a racial equity lens separates symptoms from causes, but a racial justice lens brings into view the confrontation of power, the redistribution of resources, and the systemic transformation necessary for real change. Justice requires urgent fundamental changes that reposition communities of color in relation to power and resources, which includes being able to challenge and shape the many institutions that determine a community’s conditions.
Our new strategic framework codifies the ways in which we have been acting and truth-telling for the last couple of years. It is a roadmap for how we want our collective work to be different so we can move beyond systems change and equity to be led by people with lived expertise towards transformation, justice, and liberation.
We are excited to put forth our vision for how philanthropy and the movement to end homelessness can advance housing justice grounded in racial justice and how our organization’s North Star is rooted in radical love and collective care, where people can show up as their true authentic selves in radical opposition to the dominant culture.
We want to be bold. We want to model and incubate all the ways we tell funders how to act more justly in community. We want to use joy as a resistance to the oppression we face.
We will still be a place where all are welcome on their learning journey towards equity and justice. Our goal is always to meet folks where they are, but not leave them there.
We know housing justice is racial justice. And so, we have co-created our vision for housing justice and hope to be stretched further in our thinking in partnership with community and the network of funders we seek to mobilize towards more just action.
Housing is a fundamental human right. Housing justice is a building block for racial justice and liberation. A just housing society offers the assurance of safe, secure, affordable, and dignified living conditions where people have power and agency over how and where they live.
Housing justice recognizes that for generations equitable access to housing has been denied to Black and Indigenous people and other communities of color, which has fueled the disproportionate numbers of Black and other people of color experiencing homelessness.
By pursuing housing justice, Funders Together is unapologetically stating that homelessness is a racialized experience created and exacerbated by the forces of structural racism. Funders Together will advocate with all of you for corrective action, such as reparations, to address the cumulative disparities and transform systems of accountability to ensure housing for all.
True justice and liberation cannot be achieved until we confront and hold accountable the reality that the way we operate - philanthropy and all of us as gatekeepers to power and resources - needs to be dismantled, then reoriented and reimagined towards a more liberated way of resourcing communities.
We want to imagine with you a world beyond incremental change in housing policy and resources and begin to uproot the commodification of housing. We will get there together. We wrestle with hard truths. We will not always agree on the path, but hopefully when we get to the place of a more liberated community where housing for all is a reality, we will look back and thank ourselves for not sitting in the comfort of small change but rejoice with joy in the ability to reimagine community rooted in housing and racial justice.
Transformation is not just a transformed or different outcome; it means transforming the process in the way we make decisions and prioritize resources. It’s the literal transformation of power. It forces you to ask: "How are you giving up power to Black and Brown folks, especially people with lived expertise?"
One of the ways I have seen us transform as a sector - as an industry - to more of a movement is the formation of the National Coalition for Housing Justice, the brainchild of Ann Oliva when she was trying to find a new home to do policy work differently.
As homelessness was being attacked by the previous administration and USICH went through a leadership change at the end of 2019, Ann brought us all together, not knowing we would also be facing a global pandemic that exasperated the already devastating housing crisis. And almost three years later we have formed a coalition that meets every Friday morning to strategize and realize a more just way of doing housing advocacy because we have more power and impact when we work together rooted in housing and racial justice.
I know it is hard to find hope as the world seems to be crumbling around us, I wake up every day knowing joy, pain, and hope can live in the same place.
The boldness and conviction from the housing justice movement to not tinker around the edges, or accept incremental change, but fundamentally uproot the oppression in our systems gives me hope.
I have hope because we’ve finally moved from talking about racial equity to pushing for racial and housing justice and knowing the difference. I have hope because the energy on the streets is finally speaking louder than the people who are gatekeepers to resources and power. I have hope because we are finally listening to what communities are saying will make them feel safe and know we can’t end housing insecurity and homelessness until we defund and dismantle the systems designed for our oppression. I have hope because power in our work is finally shifting to where it rightfully belongs, to the people closest to the problem.
Will you join us on the journey of hope? Will you shift from learning about racial equity to action that leads to justice? Are you ready to decolonize our systems of oppression and gatekeeping? Will you give up power to Black, Indigenous people, and people of color? Are you ready for a radical reimagining of our community that will push us towards racial and housing justice? Will you not sit on the sidelines as ally, but be a co-conspirator, a comrade in our shared liberation?
I have hope because I know the answer is yes, we might disagree on how to get there, but we will get to the promise land together and we are reminded by Assata Shakur:
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
(Photos in this blog post courtesy of Caitlin Mello)