Making Black Lives Matter
Photo Credit: @ByFoul
What began as an initiative back in 2015, in response to the tragic killing of Mike Brown, is today a permanent core part of Hill-Snowdon's grantmaking. For the past five years, HSF and other funders have been explicitly funding and stressing the importance of strengthening the infrastructure for Black-led organizing and movement. On August 10th, 2020, the sixth anniversary of the Ferguson Uprising, the foundation announced its commitment of $5.5 million dollars over the next 5.5 years to support Black-led organizing and movement infrastructure under our Black Movement Infrastructure for Racial Justice strategy. These resources will come from HSF’s endowment and are in addition to HSF’s on-going commitment to Black-led organizing through its Making Black Lives Matter Initiative. Overall, HSF seeks to help build a more robust, powerful and lasting infrastructure for Black-led organizing and movement to ensure that all Black people are thriving.
BLACK MOVEMENT INFRASTRUCTURE
The United States of America is one of the most prosperous nations in world history. However, it is a prosperity borne of the conflict between the practice of our principles of liberty, justice and equality. The racialized/racist, hetero-patriarchal, classist, nativist underpinnings of our culture and society create an environment of perpetual struggle by those groups that are politically, socially and economically repressed in this country. Thus, social justice organizing is an essential, indelible and enduing aspect of American life. So too should social justice philanthropy be as enduring and important in support of social justice movements.
The slow and steady progress toward social change is helped by the continuity of sufficient and steady support from philanthropy, as evidenced by the work of the Hill-Snowdon Foundation over the past 20 years. However, there are moments of intense crisis or opportunity that require social justice movements to respond and ramp up their work, and necessarily require philanthropy to do the same. At these historical inflection points, we must meet the moment by continuing to support the work that it has been supporting AND to provide an additional level of support – immediately and over an extended period of time - to allow groups to respond strategically in an immediate and sustained fashion to best meet these moments.
This is the approach that HSF adopted when we developed the Meeting the Moment: COVID-19 plan in response to the intersecting economic, public health and governance crises at play in the coronavirus pandemic. Shortly thereafter, the country was shocked by the brutal murder of George Floyd, ushering in another historical inflection point, this time focused on racial justice/anti-Black racism. While this is a tumultuous situation, our Meeting the Moment framework provides a model for how we can again rise to the occasion of helping affected communities build power and organize for the changes they need to ensure their safety and well-being.
MAKING BLACK LIVES MATTER INITIATIVE
In 2017, the Hill-Snowdon Foundation Board decided to make the focus on Black-led Organizing a permanent priority for the Foundation and made the Making Black Lives Matter Initiative an on-going program area for HSF. Currently, more than 50% of HSF's overall grant portfolio are Black-led organizing groups. You can learn more about the initiative here, where we highlight the Black-Led Organizing Groups we have supported during the first three years of the Initiative, and where we have housed a living map of Black-led organizing groups in the United States.
Back in 2015 we developed a living map of Black-led organizing groups in the United States. While the number of groups has expanded and/or changed over the past five years, we hope that this provides a snapshot of the movement at the time, and we hope to update this map in the future.
The tragic killing Mike Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri sparked a Black racial justice movement the likes of which we have not seen since the Civil Rights era. Under the broad rallying cry of Black Lives Matter, this movement has reinvigorated public discourse and action around the impact of anti-Black structural racism in policing and a host of other issues that that constrict the ability for the Black community to thrive and matter in this country. Nevertheless, the prospects of achieving substantive institutional and policy change is limited by the relatively malnourished and under-resourced infrastructure for Black-led political and institutional power that currently exists. Black-led organizing and social change organizations have been under-resourced for decades, thereby reducing the capacity to secure substantive change in moments like this. As argued in The Case for Funding Black-Led Social Change, the philanthropic community needs to significantly increase its investment in Black-led community organizing and social change organizations. Philanthropy has an important role to play in helping to strengthen and build the power of the Black community to secure the institutional, political and social changes necessary to make Black lives matter and thrive in this country, and create a society where everyone can be free.
The Making Black Lives Matter Initiative seeks to offer an issue framework for philanthropy that we believe can most effectively increase the prospects of removing the systemic barriers that prevent Black communities from thriving. While there are certainly other important issues that will contribute to creating thriving Black communities, we believe that these issues are of central importance and allow for the dynamic inclusion and intersection of specific areas of work, campaigns and constituencies. The MBLM Initiative will focus its grantmaking on Black-led community organizing groups that seek concrete policy changes in the following five issues areas:
Criminalization – including police accountability, criminal justice reform, school to prison pipeline work, re-entry reform, etc.
Economic Justice/Employment – including living/minimum wage increases; barriers to employment; work supports and benefits; access to unions, etc.
Education – including organizing for quality public education in Black communities and against public school closures and conversion; reducing the racial achievement gap; etc.
Affordable Housing & Anti-Gentrification– including organizing to preserve, improve and increase access to affordable and public housing; fighting discriminatory lending policies; promote equitable development, inclusionary zoning and other practices to reduce residential dislocation of Black communities
Civic Engagement/Accountable governance – including organizing to protect and increase access to voting and civic engagement.
The MBLM Initiative is also particularly interested in supporting organizations that are led by Black women and youth because the leadership of Black women and youth has always been so important, but often marginalized in movements for Black social change. We are also interested in Black-led organizing groups that are located in the South, because the Black community in America is concentrated in the US South, suffer extreme inequities and Black-led organizing groups in the region are particularly under-resourced.
WHY BLACK-LED ORGANIZING?
The Black community needs to build the necessary institutional and political power in order to make Black lives matter and for the Black community to thrive in this country. This comes through strengthening and building a wide array of powerful Black-led social change organizations that are well resourced, connected and in partnership with allied organizations. In order to do this there needs to be an explicit focus on strengthening and cultivating Black-led power building organizations, leaders, campaigns, cultural production, strategic analysis and narrative framing. The infrastructure for Black social change has diminished over the last several decades, in part due to the under-resourcing of Black led social change organizations. This has helped create a capacity conundrum for Black led social change organizations and a practice of giving grants to more established, non-Black led groups to win policy campaigns in and for the Black community. Black-led community organizing organizations are uniquely suited to invigorate and expand the pipeline of Black social change leaders that will organize to secure the changes in policy and institutional practices to help Black communities to thrive and develop and advance a transformative vision and alternative narratives for social, racial, gender, economic justice and political accountability.
As the call for an explicit focus on Black led social change has been increasing, there have been questions about the strategic prudence of this approach, especially in relation to the desire to foster multi-racial power building. However, as the institutional and political power of the Black community increases, so too does the strength and effectiveness of multi-racial coalitions that Black organizations and leaders are a part of. The converse is also true - the strength and effectiveness of multi-racial coalitions is limited, in equal measure, by the relatively weak infrastructure for Black institutional and political power. Therefore, a focus on strengthening Black institutional and political power has the dual effect of addressing the specific issues impacting the Black community and expanding the capacity for multi-racial coalitions to address racial and social justice issues writ large. Moreover, a strong Black-led infrastructure for social change is essential for achieving the most ambitious goals of the progressive movement overall. In short, "when Black people get free, we all get free."
Frederick Douglas said that “Power concedes nothing without demand.” And we would add that a demand means nothing without power. Once the Black community develops the necessary power to hold institutions accountable for devaluing Black life across the broad spectrum of society, then the community can start to chart a sustainable path to dismantle the policies and practices of anti-Black structural racism and create life affirming alternatives that will allow Black communities to thrive, and for all people to thrive.
WHO WE FUNDED
Since 2015, we have funded over a dozen organizations through our Making Black Lives Matter Initiative. Many of these organizations are still current grassroots partners today. Please see below for the original group of grassroots partners funded.
BLACK-LED ORGANIZING MAP
In addition to some of the more recognizable groups, there is a larger ecosystem of dynamic Black-led community organizing groups that are doing important work. Many of these groups are under-resourced because they are not on the radar of many donors. A key feature of the MBLM Initiative was to develop an on-line searchable database of Black-led community organizing groups in the US, so that we could literally put these important groups on the map.
The Black-Led Organizing Map is a living map that will be released in phases and we hope will grow and evolve over time. The first phase of the map features organizations that completed a MBLM Initiative survey at the end of 2015. This survey yielded 264 completed surveys. Of these, 150+ groups met our specific criteria for being a Black-led community organizing group and those groups are included on the map.
Our criteria for Black-led Organizing can be defined as: Non-profit organizations, projects or intermediaries where 50 percent or more of the board, management, staff, AND members or constituents identify themselves as Black (e.g., African-American, Caribbean, African, Afro-Latino, etc.), and where primary focus of the organization or project is to secure or facilitate changes in legislative policy and/or institutional practices for the benefit of the Black community.
We view the other groups as parts of the broader eco-system for Black social change and have developed a separate Black Social Change Organization Spreadsheet which you can download here.
Tips for Using the Map
The Filter by Keyword search will yield the broadest search results because it searches the whole record.
The Filter by Key Issue search will yield a narrower search result based only on those issue fields.
You can combine search by Key Issue and Keyword to refine your search (e.g. LGBTQ and Youth).
We hope that the database and map will help promote the important work of Black-led organizing and Black social change groups within philanthropy and also allow the groups to learn about other organizations doing work towards social, racial and economic justice in the Black community.