I suspect like you, I sat in horror this weekend hearing about 2 mass shootings occurring just hours apart, with at least one of them steeped in the stench of ethnic and racial bias, bigotry and intolerance. And I suspect like you, I am heartbroken.
If ever there was a time for leadership from the organizations focused on the public good – it is clearly now.
Just a little over 3 weeks ago, the CNJG staff and I attended the United Philanthropy Forum conference, which took place in Cleveland Ohio in mid-July. Throughout the event we heard how bias is weaved into the fabric of our country, how we must stand up and call out bigotry when we see it, and how we must guard against our institutions – including philanthropy – in being complacent to the very real results of intolerance. The conference agenda afforded me the opportunity to network with my professional colleagues from across the country, meet and hear from a variety of thought leaders, and learn about groundbreaking initiatives taking place in philanthropic communities around advocacy and service. We heard from author and MacArthur genius Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt, challenging us to reflect on bias and how it shapes what we see, think and do. Edgar Villanueva, author of Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balancepushed us to rethink how philanthropy works and how it can better serve communities of color. A number of sessions focused on equity frameworks to help advance our understanding of equity-based approaches and practices. The closing session featured LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Votes Matter Fund, and Vanita Gupta, CEO, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, (and speaker at the 2019 CNJG Census 2020 conference), who urged philanthropy and philanthropy-serving organizations to use our platforms to strengthen civil society.
I left the conference feeling connected to a community that is mission driven, and committed to using our collective talents and resources to improve the lives of people locally and nationally. In fact, my time at the conference was absolutely exhilarating – personally, professionally, and intellectually!
I reflected on all of this as I watched the news two weekends ago and this past weekend. Such sadness that simple everyday joys like attending a summer festival, shopping for back-to-school supplies, or enjoying a late Saturday evening with friends would be tainted by such visceral hate. I take some measure of solitude that the social sector, including philanthropy, recognizes that we are in difficult times, and clearly has a role to play in confronting hatred. The Forum network is critical to the success of our work, and I became even more keenly aware of that after attending the conference.
Maria Vizcarrondo, President and CEO
Council of New Jersey Grantmakers