Racial Equity

Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) is committed to addressing structural inequities and increasing philanthropic and government support for BIPOC artists and arts organizations. Racial equity is a lens through which GIA aims to conduct all of its work, as well as a specific area of its programming.

Since 2008, GIA has been elevating racial equity as a critical issue affecting the field. To actualize this work within the sector, GIA published its Racial Equity in Arts Funding Statement of Purpose in 2015. Through webinars, articles, convenings, and conference sessions, GIA provides training and information to support arts funders in addressing historic and structural inequity through their grantmaking practices as part of an effort for racial justice as a means toward justice for all.

GIA believes that all oppressed groups should benefit from funding. We give primacy to race because racism is the means by which oppressed groups are manipulated into opposing programs that assist them. Therefore, Grantmakers in the Arts’ equity work – including our discussions of support for trans artists, artists with disabilities and for disability arts – is NOT race-exclusive but IS race-explicit. GIA’s vision for the future of our work is to increasingly reveal how the liberation of all oppressed people is interdependent.

GIA has made a strategic decision to foreground racial equity in our work for several reasons:

  • Within other oppressed peoples’ communities (including women, members of the lgbtqi community, people with disabilities, and others), it has been well-documented that people of color still face the worst social outcomes.
  • GIA feels that others’ strategies of combining considerations of race with other considerations too often result in racialized people being pushed into the background or ignored.
  • The U.S.’ creation of race was established to keep oppressed peoples separate.

Unless we articulate our support for racialized peoples, while calling out this separation strategy, we inadvertently reinforce this separation strategy.

Specific themes of our racial equity programming include:

  • The analysis of how funding practices create structural challenges for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color)/ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native-American) organizations (Eurocentric quality standards, matching requirements, among others).
  • The impact of these practices, as manifest in racialized disparities in levels of funding.
  • An exploration of the use of coded language to justify racial inequity (i.e. referring to white audiences as “general” or “mainstream,” while organizations of color are “culturally-specific.”

When it comes to self-identifying language, GIA seeks to use terms that communicate our respect. We do not seek to impose language on members of any group. We respect the manner in which anyone prefers to self-identify. When referring to issues of racial equity, “we use the term BIPOC to highlight the unique relationship to whiteness that Indigenous and Black people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context.” We take this explanation and practice from the BIPOC Project.

GIA has also used the racial and ethnic identifiers African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, and Native American. We have used African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native American – represented using the acronym ALAANA – because we know that many believe the term, “people of color,” conflates together entire groups of people and as a contrast to white. This results in a continued centering of whiteness as the norm and the standard from which other identities deviate.

GIA does not refer to organizations that are founded by, led by, and feature the work of ALAANA/BIPOC communities as “culturally-specific,” as we believe this term centers whiteness as the norm from which other organizations deviate.

GIA is committed to communicating respectfully. GIA does not ask that anyone self-identify with or use any term other than ones they prefer.

October 2, 2023 by Jaime Sharp

From Cora Daniels for Chronicle of Philanthropy: For me, it was a mic-drop moment. Morgan Dawson, co-CEO of Threshold Philanthropy, was speaking on a panel about Black women in philanthropy during this year’s Essence Fest, commonly touted as the largest annual gathering of Black women in the nation.

“In philanthropy,” she said, “we often talk about community, but in the way of being better philanthropists, and I wish it was in the context of being better neighbors.”

What would a world look like in which philanthropy considered Black women, girls, and gender-expansive people true neighbors?

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September 5, 2023 by Jaime Sharp

A majority of Black-led and Black-benefiting nonprofits operate on less than $500,000 a year, a report released by the Young, Black & Giving Back Institute finds, said Candid.

Supported by the Nielsen Foundation through its Data for Good grant program, the report, Grassroots, Black & Giving: How Philanthropy Can Better Support Black-led and Black-Benefiting Nonprofits (25 pages, PDF), found that Black-led and -benefiting nonprofits are often grassroots, hyper-local, and founder-led, with deep connections to the communities they serve.

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August 14, 2023 by Jaime Sharp

"Friends, family members and activists are mourning the death of O'Shae Sibley, a Black gay man who was stabbed late last month while dancing with friends at a New York City gas station," said Rachel Treisman for NPR. "The 28-year-old professional dancer and choreographer was killed while voguing to Beyoncé's music as his friends filled up their car on the way home from the Jersey Shore on July 29."

The voguing tributes to Sibley are especially fitting, Williams says, as they "personify the LGBTQ community's historic resilience amid highly discouraging societal treatment."

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July 12, 2023 by Jaime Sharp

From Council on Foundations: Do you have questions about what the Supreme Court's decision in Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina means for philanthropic organizations? Join this conversation [Thursday, July 13 at 1pm EST] with legal experts to find out what comes next.

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July 10, 2023 by Jaime Sharp

"Across the United States, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives, programs, and offices are under attack, primarily by Republican state lawmakers and Republican governors," said Isaiah Thompson for Nonprofit Quarterly. "Measures targeting DEI have been passed and signed in Florida and North Dakota and have advanced in state legislatures across the country. A report by the Associated Press found that Republican lawmakers in a dozen states have advanced at least 30 bills similarly targeting DEI measures at colleges and universities."

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July 5, 2023 by Jaime Sharp

"The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) effectively struck down affirmative action last Thursday, June 29, therefore barring universities from considering an applicant’s racial background during college admissions," said Rhea Nayyar for Hyperallergic. "The decision didn’t come as a surprise to many across the nation, which had long foreseen the conservative-skewed court’s bias against policies meant to afford those of underrepresented and marginalized racial backgrounds equal opportunities and education."

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June 27, 2023 by Jaime Sharp

From Candid.: The marginalization of African Americans has cost the U.S. economy an estimated $16 trillion in gross domestic product (GDP) between 2000 and 2020, a report from The Investment Integration Project (TIIP) finds.

Funded by the Surdna Foundation and developed in partnership with TIIP’s Racial Equity Working Group, the report, Introduction to Racial Inequity as a Systemic Risk: Why Investors Should Care and How They Can Take Action (52 pages, PDF), highlights the need for the financial industry to address the long-term systemic risk of racial inequity and promote the equitable distribution of resources, power, and economic opportunity in the United States.

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June 20, 2023 by Jaime Sharp

"The campaign to win reparations for Black Americans plans to bring broader support for smaller nonprofits advancing the cause, with a new philanthropic funding initiative announced Friday at the 'Alight Align Arise' national conference in Atlanta," said Thalia Beaty for The Chronicle of Philanthropy. "The Decolonizing Wealth Project, an organization dedicated to creating racial equity through education and 'radical reparative giving,' is committing $20 million over five years to boost campaigns for reparations across the country, along with a research collaboration with Boston University to map reparation projects."

"The project’s founder and CEO Edgar Villanueva announced the plans at the Atlanta gathering of advocates, including the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, the Democratic congressman whose district represent parts of the Bronx and Westchester County in New York."

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June 7, 2023 by Jaime Sharp

From the Field Foundation: In partnership with the MacArthur Foundation, the Field Foundation has launched a new grantmaking program. This program—which we’re calling A Road Together (ART)—is designed specifically for small and mid-sized arts and culture organizations with annual operating budgets up to $1 million and with a strong commitment to equity that are reflective and inclusive of Chicago’s diverse and historically underserved communities.

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June 7, 2023 by Jaime Sharp

From Seattle Opera: Inspired by a true story, eleventh grade honor roll student Diane Tran is the child of two Vietnamese immigrants who are now divorced. With her father rarely around and her mother gone, Diane feels bound to help provide financially for her family, be both sister and parent to her siblings, and also keep up her honor roll studies. Despite her heroic efforts, a judge sends her to jail for truancy.

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