After a year of meeting virtually, Funders Together’s second Foundations for Racial Equity (FRE) cohort met in person for the first time in August 2022. We so grateful to have the privilege of facilitating this amazing group of people working toward housing and racial justice. We know that FOMO is real, and we hope this recap will help share with the broader Funders Together network a snapshot of what we’re learning and doing.
While we know that many of our members are eager to see each other in person, the COVID-19 pandemic has also made Funders Together staff reflect:
If we are going to have people spend time and money to travel in ways that either have or run the risk of having negative environmental and health impacts (carbon emissions and the risk of contracting COVID-19), how do we ensure that the there is intention behind where and how we choose to convene members?
Housing Justice Work in Colorado
Tracey Stewart, Senior Program Officer, and Sean Dollard, Program Officer at The Colorado Health Foundation have been sharing updates the Foundation’s incredible racial and housing justice work in Colorado with FRE participants over the past year. As a result, FRE participants expressed a great interest in traveling to Denver to hear more about their housing justice work.
On Day 1 of our convening, Steward and Dollard brought in three grantees, the GES Coalition / Tierra Colectiva Community Land Trust, the Native American Housing Circle, and The Reciprocity Collective, to share about their housing justice work. In addition to helping to arrange for speaker honorariums, The Colorado Health Foundation also modeled what it looks like to create an intentional and inclusive space by bringing in the Community Language Cooperative, which offered a language justice statement and provided live translation so that monolingual Spanish speakers could fully participate in the conversation.
What We Learned
- The GES Coalition / Tierra Colectiva Community Land Trust, the Native American Housing Circle, and The Reciprocity Collective are doing incredible organizing work that centers love and accountability to those most impacted in everything that they do.
- Language justice is an important part of our racial and housing justice work. Groups like the Community Language Cooperative exist, and we must be intentional about creating inclusive spaces that allow those most impacted to be fully engaged.
- Good intentions scarcely mean anything without systems change, and if the current system does not work and will not change, sometimes the best solution is to create a new system.
- Allowing all three groups to be present for the whole day and to hear from one another meant that they were also able to listen and learn from one another, and it was really special to see them want to find ways to collaborate with each other.
- GES Coalition / Tierra Colectiva Community Land Trust
- Native American Housing Circle
- The Reciprocity Collective
- Community Language Cooperative
- Colorado Health Foundation’s new initiative to address the underinvestment in Native communities by providing a $1.5 million grant to the First Nations Development Institute to support the creation of a Native American Fund for Health Equity
White Dominant Culture and Pivoting to Something Different
On our 2nd day we dug into white dominant culture norms and how to pivot to something different. The amazing and talented Jonathan Lykes and Tashira Halyard of Liberation House led us grounding, chanting, and an examination of ourselves and our institutions to help us understand that change is possible. One FRE participant reflected that this training was as much about being as it was about learning. We think that’s a real testament to the liberatory space that Lykes and Halyard intentionally work to create in all that they do.
Funders Together has three goals for a community of practice: 1) individual practice change, 2) relationship building and peer learning, and 3) field building. After learning about white dominant culture together, we split up into small groups to provide peer coaching to one another on our individual goals. FRE participants practiced using the Emergent Learning framework to get concrete about what we’re trying to accomplish and what progress we’re seeing.
- The most common white dominant culture characteristics that show up in our institutions include: fear of open conflict; superiority of the written word; comfort with predominantly white leadership; priorities and timelines that perpetuate white dominant culture; transactional goals; and progress meaning bigger/more (rather than deeper/stronger). Though some of these seem obvious, they’re also rarely challenged directly. What excuses might we be making to absolve ourselves from that responsibility?
- As funders, we take pride in the number of housing units we’ve funded, even though they are not accessible to everyone, and this reflects “success is bigger/more” thinking.
- While it is helpful to focus on what we need to improve upon, many of us have made progress, and that progress is worth celebrating as we continue to strive for a more liberated world.
- The Emergent Learning framework is a useful and practical framework for getting concrete and making the learning process inclusive and iterative.
- The Fight to Redefine Racism, by Kelefa Sanneh. The New Yorker, August 2019.
- The Antiracist Deck: 100 Meaningful Conversations on Power, Equity, and Justice, by Ibram X. Kendi.
- White Dominant Culture and Something Different, adapted for ACCE from adaption by Partners for Collaborative Change, based on “White Supremacy Culture” by Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones.
- Darling, M., Guber, H., Smith, J., & Stiles, J. (2016). Emergent Learning: A Framework for Whole-System Strategy, Learning, and Adaptation. The Foundation Review, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.9707/1944-5660.1284
"Justice is Love in Action"
Over the three-day convening, FRE reflected on love being central to all the work these organizers are doing. Love and disruption are also central to Funders Together’s work, as seen in our new strategic framework and mission. We read this tweet from Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, together and reflected on it:
Would you help me tweet this around the world?— Be A King (@BerniceKing) January 17, 2022
But kindness does not = justice
But civility is not the humane response to injustice
Love is essential
But love is not a passive, weeping bystander
Love puts in work. #MLKDay
Another theme throughout the convening was collective care. Because not everyone could attend in person, FRE we spent time thinking through the question, "What will it take to ensure that FRE remains a cohesive cohort and that those who weren't here in person don't feel left behind?"
As a group we talked about not just the takeaways we wanted to share, but also how we wanted to share that knowledge and this experience. FRE participants stepped up to do 1-1 outreach to the people who couldn't attend in person and to provide peer coaching. What felt important to those who were in Denver was that the community of practice remain one cohesive group, regardless of whether folks were able to attend this convening.
We are incredibly grateful to the Colorado Health Foundation for graciously hosting us in their beautiful LEED Gold and WELL Certified offices in Denver, and especially to FRE participants Tracey Stewart, Senior Program Officer, and Sean Dollard, Program Officer, at the Colorado Health Foundation for coordinating many of the logistics for our community of practice.