One of the great highlights of last month at CNJG was our conversation and educational program on structural racism with facilitator Inca Mohamed. Many of those in attendance have commented on how it provided them with a whole new way of looking at past laws and policies, and how these continue to impact society and culture today. Quoting Larry Adelman’s Race – The Power of an Illusion, Inca offered this example:
The Society Security Act of 1935, which provided a safety net for millions of workers, guaranteeing them an income after retirement, except that it specifically excluded agricultural workers and domestic servants – predominately African American, Mexican and Asian people. As low income workers, they also had the least opportunity to save for their retirement. They couldn’t pass wealth onto their children, in fact their children had to support them.
Inca then asked us to share our family’s story about employment and economic security. It was a powerful and personal experience, as so much of our Race, Racism and the Ramifications for Philanthropy learning journey has been.
We began this work just over a year ago. In the course of it we have delved into how to navigate racial dynamics in the communities where funders work; learned about the insidious and very human dynamic of implicit bias; shown the facts and science on health disparities and their impact; experienced heart wrenching theatre in the play American Son; traveled the Great Migration through Jacob Lawrence’s paintings; confronted the hard data on race and poverty here in New Jersey; and heard Rutgers' Chancellor Nancy Cantor outline the value and importance of our state and country’s great diversity.
With time comes the gift of reflection. Our hope is that you will share with us what this series has helped you question or think about in your work. Are there things you are no longer doing? Are there new things you are pursuing? Are there things you are now seeing through a new lens? I ask that you please share whatever insights you can by sending me an email.
We know there are a number of members for whom equity is becoming a major focus. They are crafting new guidelines, considering new grantees, altering application requirements…all to more deliberately address racial justice and equity. We ask those grantmakers who are rolling up your sleeves and moving into an action agenda to let us know. The Council plans to help convene a learning cohort for those getting deep or deeper into this work. Please let me know if you and/or your organization should be at the table. This is clearly a critical time to be working in this area.
In the meantime, we will have a field trip to see a new play “Back to the Real” at Crossroads Theatre in New Brunswick on Thursday evening, May 17th. Stay tuned for more details and how to register.
Nina Stack, President
Council of New Jersey Grantmakers