Observation #5: Optimism rules

One of my favorite presenters was DéLana R.A. Dameron, founder of the fledgling Black Art Futures Fund. Here she was, speaking on a panel in front of people who represent philanthropic and government funding agencies that give out hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars a year, talking about her tiny organization as if it was just as important as all the rest. And she quickly cleared any doubt about that from the room.

Black Art Futures, she explained, has only been giving away cash for about two years, and last year it gave away just $21,000 to six grantees across the country, in places like Iowa, California and Massachusetts.

But it’s a different kind of giving and a model for the future. It gives to black-led arts organizations, and its decisions are guided by black decision-makers. The power may be limited in terms of dollars, but it’s named and it is exercised — and it is growing.

Her openly stated goal: creating “the blackest artistic future possible." And the effect of that: driving home an oft-repeated goal at this conference, money for all, controlled by all.