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.

January 23, 2023 by Jaime Sharp

From Democracy and Belonging Forum: "Four days away from the Christmas of 1848, in the dark and occult hours before morning wakes, Ellen and William Craft beheld each other through tearful eyes for the last time. Minutes later, they collapsed to the floor, both falling into a writhing heap of limbs and agony, convulsing, trembling, and flailing until the strong brew they had ingested hours earlier passed through them. When the sun yawned awake to the sounds of the cock crow, his surveillant gaze travelled across the undulating fields of Georgia, across the cottonfields of one plantation in Macon, and fell through the cracks of the cabin where two lovers had spent their last human moments, and where a few obsidian-black feathers belonging to two fugitive crows now littered the log floor – tell-tale signs of a daring escape, a transformation too offensive for history to embrace."

January 17, 2023 by Jaime Sharp

From Berkley Othering & Belonging Institute: "The 'Structural Racism Explained' video (above) draws upon many varied sources in formulating specific definitions for different types of racism. The video and prompts provided in this video and teaching guide (download using form on right side of page) are designed primarily for teachers to help students clarify and sharpen their understanding of the material, spur and support classroom discussion of the video and ideas, and provide ideas and leads for further research.

January 9, 2023 by Jaime Sharp

"For over 15 years, Sahar and I worked in proximity to one another as impact producers; strategists who lead campaigns to maximize the reach and impact of social issue documentary films...As impact producers, our role was to connect documentary films with people and organizations that could leverage the films to shift perceptions, behaviors, resources, legislation, narratives and power," said Sonya Childress for Medium. "Both Sahar and I shared a belief in the transformative power of film, and a deep respect for the artistry of filmmakers. We also felt deep accountability to the communities who would be most affected — positively or negatively — by nonfiction work."

January 5, 2023 by Jaime Sharp

From Forward Promise: "The grind of movement work takes an extra toll on leaders of color. Through their lived experiences, they are well-acquainted with the same dehumanization and racial trauma that they are committed to eradicating from society. Oftentimes, leaders of color are bearing this emotional, physical, and mental cost—the tax that they pay for their social consciousness—alone. They should not have to drive themselves to sickness or death in the war on racism. Right now, funders can do more than merely applaud their martyrdom by investing in the well-being of leaders of color in seven key ways."

January 5, 2023 by Jaime Sharp

"Invisibility is deadly. When they don’t see us, we don’t exist," said Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee) for Medium. "One of the biggest perpetrators of our erasure has been the multi-trillion dollar entertainment industry. Native American characters only make up between 0-.04% of primetime TV and films. What’s more, the 2021 Hollywood Diversity Report found Native representation in film has remained stagnant at 0.6%. Quite a stark difference from the 66.9% for white men. While these numbers are staggering, they are not surprising. They are part of the fuel that ignites our work to build pathways for Native creatives in the film industry."

December 15, 2022 by Jaime Sharp

"At the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, we know that strong leadership is necessary to create a more equitable and vibrant New York City."

"We also know that many of the practices, systems, and structures, which sustain inequality in our communities, also show up in our organizations and our sector, limiting our view of who a leader is and what impactful leadership looks like. As such, while many organizations are eager to transition from white leaders to leaders of color, they often do not have the experience, expertise, commitment, or supports in place to fully embrace new leadership and make these transitions successful or joyful. Too often, it is the new leaders of color who pay the price for under-prepared organizations."

"As we continue to understand and move resources to directly support leaders of color during these transitions, we wanted to take a closer look at ourselves and our grantee community. Making (or Taking) Space seeks to inform our question: What, specifically, is the responsibility of organizations with white leaders transitioning out of these roles to support incoming leaders of color?"

December 13, 2022 by Jaime Sharp

From the Toronto Arts Council: "As the newest wave of protests by Black bodies sets the world ablaze in 2020 once again, loudly demanding the right to live, work, play and in the case of this report, make art, organizations both public and private seem to be taking yet another step towards equity for Black bodies. Toronto Arts Council (TAC) is no exception and is showing leadership as it steps up to acknowledge its own shortcomings in support of Black Artists by designing a new grant program stream specifically for Black artists/arts organizations, which according to 90% of participants in the consultations that inform this report, is very much needed."

December 8, 2022 by Jaime Sharp

Art in This Present Moment is an initiative of the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation that provides support to artists who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who are changing and challenging dominant narratives through their craft.

November 28, 2022 by Jaime Sharp

"Who will tell the stories that shape our future? These days, in the United States, this is a matter of fierce disagreement. On one side, a multiracial majority of people believe the US is destined to become a flourishing democracy. On the other, a white nationalist movement steadily advances its vision for a white Christian ethno-state," said Bridgit Antoinette Evans and Tracy Van Slyke for Nonprofit Quarterly. "To say that the project of US democracy is at risk is far from hyperbole. White nationalists have amassed a political and narrative infrastructure that churns out a toxic pool of ideas and stories, spreading disinformation ever more widely."

November 24, 2022 by Jaime Sharp

From Mellon Foundation: "Master carvers are working with the Sealaska Heritage Institute to create the Totem Pole Trail—ten sculptures celebrating Indigenous tribes who had been historically excluded from Juneau's monuments. In a sense, it was a controversial statue of William Seward that kickstarted Kootéeya Deiyí, the Totem Pole Trail in Juneau, Alaska."

"Seward was the United States Secretary of State who brokered the purchase of the Alaska territory in 1867, nearly a century before it became a state. His bronze likeness in the capital city gave Rosita Worl, a member of the Tlingit tribe, a big idea."