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.

September 14, 2020 by Carmen Graciela Díaz

A memo by ABFE and The Bridgespan Group offers funders "potential paths to invest in organizations and movements within the Black-led racial justice ecosystem. It provides principles for giving and highlights priority investment areas and example organizations within those areas."

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September 3, 2020 by Carmen Graciela Díaz

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) has been analyzing grantmaking by community foundations across the country to find out "how much they are – or are not – investing in Black communities."

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August 21, 2020 by Carmen Graciela Díaz

"It’s time to have a real discussion about board and staff engagement when it comes to equity change so that the whole organization can collaborate to seed and root transformative change," Kelly Bates wrote recently in Interaction Institute of Social Change.

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August 21, 2020 by Tracey Knuckles

Responding to: How can cultural grantmaking interrupt institutional and structural racism while building a more just funding ecosystem that prioritizes Black communities, organizations, and artists?

To better support Black artists and cultural communities, arts philanthropy should increase its focus on stability and resilience in creative practice. COVID has fully revealed its long-standing fragility, leaving 63% of all artists unemployed and 66% unable to access the infrastructure necessary for their work. 1

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August 21, 2020 by Shaunda McDill

Responding to: How can cultural grantmaking interrupt institutional and structural racism while building a more just funding ecosystem that prioritizes Black communities, organizations, and artists?
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In William Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying, a young character by the name of Vardaman is allowed to believe that his “mother is a fish,” because no one takes the time to tell him that his mother is dead. Instead he associates what he witnesses with the reality he understands within a highly dysfunctional family. In the novel, he repeats, “fish. fish. fish.” Similarly, I would offer that we are currently operating in a highly dysfunctional philanthropic family. I believe in the potential of our work. I am invigorated working with my colleagues at The Heinz Endowments, and I cherish the etymology of the term “philanthropy.” So, it is only with love I offer that equity is dead.

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August 20, 2020 by Ted Russell

Responding to: How can cultural grantmaking interrupt institutional and structural racism while building a more just funding ecosystem that prioritizes Black communities, organizations, and artists?
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Cultural grantmaking changing to support Black artists and cultural communities comprises three elements: healing, community, and connection.

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August 17, 2020 by Nikki Kirk

Responding to: How can cultural grantmaking interrupt institutional and structural racism while building a more just funding ecosystem that prioritizes Black communities, organizations, and artists?
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The change I would like to see in cultural grantmaking is a values shift. As we seek to support Black artists and communities in the future, we must recognize the system operating today which heavily invests in large, white institutions, and centers around and funds organizations and programs rather than people.

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August 5, 2020 by Carmen Graciela Díaz

Black August, born out of Black liberation, resistance, and justice movements, is a month dedicated to critical learning and analysis, reflection and study of our roles in oppressive or liberatory systems, and an opportunity to grow, connect, and prepare for the challenging work ahead.

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August 3, 2020 by Carmen Graciela Díaz

In a blog entry from Bhumi B. Patel, a member of the Dancing Around Race cohort in the San Francisco Bay Area, she makes the case for intentional rest to refocus the work that needs to be done in this moment in which there's an "opportunity to change the trajectory of a system built and fostered by structures of white supremacy."

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July 30, 2020 by Carmen Graciela Díaz

A new Race to Lead report, Race to Lead Revisited: Obstacles and Opportunities in Addressing the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap, takes a look at the racial gap in nonprofit leadership.

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