A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

What We're Reading on Racial Equity, Justice, and Liberation

When we named racial equity as a priority in our strategic plan, we also named it a value to start our own internal learning journey as an organization and as individuals. Starting in 2019, each month, we feature a "What We're Reading" section in our Member News that highlights what people in the Funders Together network are reading to expand their understanding of racial equity. This page is an archive of past articles, blog posts, and books that were featured in past editions of the FTEH Member News. We hope this will spur inspiration for your personal or organizational racial equity work and that you'll learn alongside us.

What We're Reading in: 202220212020 | 2019


What We're Reading: The California Reparations Report

Who's Reading It: Funders Together to End Homelessness Staff

Earlier this month, Funders Together staff attended the 2023 Unity Summit in Los Angeles, California. During one of the plenary sessions titled "Reparations Rising: Pathways to Just Healing and Equitable Transformation," speakers called attention to The California Reparations Report. This report features recommendations issued by the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans to the California Legislature.

This report underscored the immense failures of California, and the United States more broadly, which include slavery, segregation, structural racism, and an unjust legal system, the effects of which still permeate to this day. In order to remedy this, reparations are necessary to remedy the wrongdoing, and restitution is crucial to restore the liberty and dignity of those harmed.

In closing, the report recognizes that the "harms inflicted on African Americans have not been incidental or accidental—they have been by design." Thus, we must be even more intentional about rectifying past wrongs. It highlights a multitude of policy recommendations to address these wrongdoings, examples of reparations in the past and present, and how to engage directly with the communities impacted.

What We're Reading: Poverty, by America by Matthew Desmond

Who's Reading It: Laura Hamburg, Program Officer, Arlene and Michael Rosen Foundation (AMRF)

Matthew Desmond, the Pulitzer-Prize winner author of “Evicted,” got the idea to write Poverty, By America after witnessing stunning abject poverty in the wealthiest country on earth. In the book, we are reminded that American poverty is about American racism. “They are just connected in such an intimate way,” Desmond writes. The book reiterates that for Black families who are living in poverty, children often attend much less-resourced schools, homes can be degraded, and the neighborhood is economically disadvantaged and at risk of gentrification – pushing people out of their homes and away from community relationships. “That really matters for understanding the different relationships and experiences of poverty and how race shapes and bends those different experiences,” he notes.

The book provides important data and is laced with compelling human stories of what’s it like to be in poverty in America. It’s an urgent wake-up call that the war on poverty launched by President Lyndon Johnson nearly 60 years ago is over, and the rich have won at the detriment of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. Desmond articulates it’s the numerous ways the rest of us knowingly and unknowingly benefit from keeping exploiting people who are low-income. We allow for predatory lending, favor cheap goods while unions decline, and we benefit from tax policies that favor the wealthy. Desmond says that affluent Americans, including many of us with progressive political views, benefit from corporate and government policies that keep people in poverty. Therefore, it "is not simply the result of actions taken by Congress and corporate boards," Desmond says, "but the millions of decisions we make each day."

What We're Reading: The Work of a Lifetime: Reparative Philanthropy, Relationships, Healing, and Joy by Miki Akimoto 

Who's Reading It: Jack Zhang, Programs and Communications Manager, Funders Together to End Homelessness

As Miki Akimoto reminds us in her opening statement, “Money saves lives. This is the stark reality that underpins the inequities of our society and history.” This is especially true when it comes to homelessness, where the choices we make about how we spend our resources have significant ramifications, and where the inequities in our society have never been more apparent. As Miki highlights in her piece, “Wealth is multi-generational, and so is poverty. This means that history matters." 

What does it mean then, for philanthropy to take responsibility for its role those inequities, and instead work become more reparative? Instead of asking “How much is enough to give?” the author suggests we instead ask ourselves: “How much is too much to keep?” If we reframe philanthropy’s role in healing and repair with this mindset, it changes it from one that is purely transactional, but one that acknowledges our interconnectedness and shared humanity. In short, it’s one that seeks to forge a path towards justice and being accountable for our roles in making that a reality.

What We're Reading: We See Each Other: A Black, Trans Journey through TV and Film by Tre’vell Anderson

Who's Reading It: Bianca Carter, Funders Together to End Homelessness Board Member

In We See Each Other, award winning journalist and cultural commentator Tre’vell Anderson (they/them) takes readers on a journey of self discovery while applying a critical lens to the ways trans folks have been portrayed on television and in film. Their perspective is notably singular given their contributions to this with their beat on diversity in Hollywood with a focus on Black and queer film while at the Los Angeles Times. From reality television and documentaries to Orange is the New Black and P-ValleyWe See Each Other is a time capsule - that walks us through pivotal moments of trans visibility in media since the beginning of moving images. The book is accompanied with a podcast of the same name and includes reading lists, images and an index for reference. Through these works, Tre’vell makes one thing abundantly clear - trans folks have always existed and while they are more visible than they’ve ever been, this has not and will not keep them safe.

What We're Reading: Defining Pro Black by Cyndi Suarez

Who's Reading It: Funders Together to End Homelessness Staff

What does it mean to be part of a Pro-Black organization, sector, and world? That is the question that author Cyndi Suarez asks in her piece "Defining Pro-Black." It means building power for Black people, advancing policies that support agency and self-governance, and creating an environment where all people are able to be their authentic selves. 

Suarez highlights that by taking care of the needs of the historically most marginalized people, you take care of everyone, writing, "If you take care of Black people, specifically Black women, everyone in the organization will be taken care of—because the needs of Black women in particular are often so overlooked." Philanthropy must intentionally co-create structures that put these values at the center by resourcing Black programmatic work, exploring alternatives to centralized power, and supporting Black leadership. By creating a space where we're able to hold all our identities in our work, it fosters a sense of trust, the freedom to experience authentic joy, and true liberation.

What We're Reading: A Dream In Our Name by Aria Florant, Liberation Ventures

Who's Reading It: Michael Durham, Director of Networks, Funders Together to End Homelessness

In A Dream In Our Name, Aria Florant makes the case for reparations, but is careful to distinguish reparations from "racial repair." While reparations specifically refers to what the federal government owes as restitution for chattel slavery, funders and others can adopt principles of repair for the harms of slavery and white supremacy. This framework comprises four components of a continuous cycle, each drawing from the wisdom of transformative justice activists: Reckoning, Acknowledgement, Accountability, and Redress.

Accountability is a major theme of our upcoming Funders Institute, where we'll discuss what philanthropy is responsible for in repairing the wounds of slavery in the context of housing justice. Moreover, Foundations for Racial Equity just met in Tulsa, exploring the connection of housing to the work to repair the harms of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. As our definition of housing justice names reparations as central to corrective action, this writing offers us an entry point for learning and action. Black people are owed reparations - and philanthropy surely should own a role in racial repair.

What We're Reading: Philanthropy’s equivalent of “All Lives Matter" by Vu Le

Who's Reading It: Funders Together to End Homelessness Staff

In this response piece to a problematic joint statement supporting pluralism in philanthropy, Vu Le outlines how the viewpoint of “all philanthropy is equally good and valid” carries the same tenor as “All Lives Matter.” As he points out, “To insist that all philanthropic values, missions, and activities are equally valid is at best naïve and at worst harmful to people and communities.”

Philanthropic leaders in the Chronicle of Philanthropy piece pose the idea that “philanthropy makes it greatest contribution to democracy when all foundations and donors engage in the unfettered pursuit of their own mission, interests, and prerogatives.” This gives credence to those who endanger lives by funding efforts that put more guns on the streets, restrict access to safe reproductive and gender-affirming health care, and support the carceral system as a solution for neighbors who do not have a home. 

The idea of pluralism in the context of philanthropy lacks a racial justice analysis and protects the comfort of white donors instead of prioritizing the lives of people who are continually disenfranchised. This neutrality means that Black, Indigenous, other people of color, and marginalized groups must prove their humanity over and over.

We must understand how the best of intentions are not enough to address decades of racist policies that have resulted in disproportionate housing instability and homelessness for people of color. We must lean into our values of justice and liberation to focus on creating a world where everyone thrives, and specifically for those who are discriminated against because of their skin color, gender identity, sexuality, or immigration status.

What We're Reading: Pipe Dreams and Picket Fences by Housekeys Action Network Denver

Who's Reading It: Funders Together to End Homelessness Staff

To truly advance housing justice, it is necessary to authentically engage and listen to those with lived experience. With their new report, "Pipe Dreams and Picket Fences," the Housekeys Action Network Denver shares their findings from listening to nearly 1,000 houseless people in Denver about needs for secure housing. This report comes at a crucial time as public funding for housing continues to be cut and the number of people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity rises across the country.

Housing justice means that everyone should have the autonomy and the agency to live in a home that best suits their needs. By recognizing the insights and lessons from people with lived experience, like in this report, it ensures that we are confronting the real shortcomings of our current system through the lens of those who are most impacted and provides us with the knowledge needed to push for more liberative housing solutions.

What We're Reading: The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

Who's Reading It: Jack Zhang, Programs and Communications Manager, Funders Together to End Homelessness

It is no secret that the lasting impacts of race-based discrimination and decades of segregation linger to this day. It is this intentionality in the ways that it has been integrated into our society, laws, and customs that Richard Rothstein explores in his book, The Color of Law.

The book begins with the chapter “If in San Francisco, then everywhere?” to explore how in seemingly progressive cities, government institutions and laws were systematically weaponized to implement segregation. Moreover, the book details how, even when segregation was “formally” outlawed, the impacts of racism continued through the use of single-family zoning, racially restrictive covenants, FHA discrimination towards Black neighborhoods, and more. It is these policies that resulted in concentrations of disparities, marginalization, and racially divided neighborhoods that persist to this day. 

Coming off of the Funders Forum in Oakland and Black History Month, I am reminded of the importance of understanding the past, especially the parts many in our country prefer not to talk about, for us to move forward with our mission of achieving housing and racial justice. In order to truly live into our values, we must prioritize racial justice to rectify our past and envision a more liberated society and a more just future.

What We're Reading: Defund the Police for Funders by Solidaire Network

Who's Reading It: Molly Schultz Hafid, Executive Director, Butler Family Fund

The Butler Family Fund funds the intersection of housing justice and criminal legal system reform by supporting our partners who are reducing public funding for our broken criminal legal system and reallocate resources towards safe affordable housing and other community-identified needs. We are always looking for community-centered resources to inspire thoughtful conversations between our staff and Board about “Defund the Police” and the ongoing Divest/Invest campaigns.

A recent publication we have found to be tremendously helpful and informative is the Defund the Police for Funders guide produced by the Solidaire Network. The guide was created to help their members learn more about divesting from over-policing and supporting community-identified alternatives. We decided to use it as a board education tool and included excerpts in our most recent Board packet.

“Defund the Police” is used by many of our grantees. Unfortunately, opponents of criminal legal reform have used the slogan to scare the public to resist changes to the current ineffective, racist, and bloated criminal legal system. The guide explains why this call to action emerged, what it means, examples of how communities have been successful, inspiration for alternatives to policing, and suggestions for how to have these conversations with our colleagues, peers, and families. It also concludes with an incredible collection of resources and organizations for continued learning and/or grantmaking.


Showing 1 reaction

  • Lauren Samblanet
    published this page in Funder Resources 2022-01-31 10:30:08 -0500

We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation

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