Black August: Healing, community, and connection -> Movement

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?

Cultural grantmaking changing to support Black artists and cultural communities comprises three elements: healing, community, and connection.

No matter where we sit in philanthropy, we are privileged. The funding organizations we represent have likely benefitted from the spoils of white supremacy and the oppression of Black people. What we grantmakers must do is respond with the most human of impulses. If you are like 90% of the humans I’ve deeply dialogued with, your scientific, spiritual, and religious beliefs easily link to a unifying concept: healing.

The rest flows from choosing the path of healing. Aspire to be transformational instead of transactional by focusing on the Black community. Instead of taking the deficit-focused approach so familiar to philanthropy, choose to build upon assets. Find the Black artists and organizations you don’t know already in the communities you serve. They aren’t always structured as 501(c)(3)s; they may organize collectively – a tradition with a longer history than corporate structures, and one that originates in Africa. Interrogate how philanthropy upholds white dominant cultural norms and practices with our dual worship of the written word and balance sheets that don’t reflect social capital and community capital. Apply the principles of the framework developed by the Equitable Evaluation Initiative. Center community.

To the foci of healing and community, now apply the value of connection. Ask Black cultural leaders what they need. Give those needs visibility. Help people connect. Support learning communities. Seek out power-sharing opportunities like participatory grantmaking. Most of all, listen. Read The Black Report by the International Association of Black in Dance. Read We See You, White American Theatre.

2020 is the moment to abolish institutional barriers, some of which we often may unwittingly support. Racial equity strategies are the means. Interrogate institutions’ definition of aesthetic excellence. Audit and adjust your messaging and policies. Repeat.

Heal with care. If racial disparities are the status quo, and we all hold unconscious biases, how do we achieve change without losing equilibrium? We maintain connection. Garner feedback from the community as we go. Trust. Healing and community, engaged with connection, create movement. It’s a Black thing. You understand.

Ted Russell is Grantmakers in the Arts board chair and the associate director of Arts Strategy and Ventures at the Kenneth Rainin Foundation.

Image: Markus Winkler / Pixabay