A Reflection

We stand in support of the protestors advocating for Black lives and demanding an end to brutal policing and violence against Black people.
We mourn the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee, Jamel Floyd, and many others.
We are committed to being anti-racist in our funding, in our work, and within our organization.

June 4, 2020

Yesterday was our June Board Meeting.

Nothing went as planned.

The shift started as soon as the Chair opened the meeting by invoking the names of people who had been killed by police violence and asking for a moment of silence, an invitation to bring ourselves to the meeting differently. Shortly after, in response to a simple prompt, “what are you observing in this moment that has importance to you or our work or both?” people began to share their stories. One person after another. It was a litany of fear and grief and also hope and resolve. And it went on and on.

The timed agenda we had laid out in five-minute intervals was irrelevant as minutes and then hours went by. The meeting had become more like an awakening.

Over the 111 years the Foundation has held Board meetings, have the trustees ever had a conversation like this? New York City has certainly been through many crises since 1909 and we often take pride in how the Foundation has stepped up over time. But something different and new was happening. Many more of our Board members today are proximate to the health, economic, political, and racial crises we are facing, through their work and through their personal experiences—they feel it and live it in ways our Trustees in 1909 could not. They were issuing a call to action sparked by their lived experience.

The Foundation has strived to be an ally in the fight for racial equity since our inception, and today we accept the hard truth that we have not done nearly enough. Our history does not absolve us of the responsibility we hold for the pain and grief felt today by Black Americans. Our history, in fact, points to shortcomings in our work, because white supremacy and anti-blackness still fuel power in this city. The events of the past few weeks remind us that unless we name and address the deep-seated racism that pervades our country and our institutions, we will fail. The history of community organizing, said one Board member, is the history of people turning pain into power. It’s time to step into the space as boldly as possible.

The words spoken last night add to the chorus of people whose chants reverberate in neighborhoods across New York City, New York State, throughout the country and the world, echoing the call to all of us to stand up, to be bold, to risk more for racial justice.
We can’t let this be a movement “moment,” someone said. The momentum needs to be sustained and strengthened. Resources to fight structural racism and win for systems change are needed before, during and after.

We acknowledge our responsibility to not conduct business as usual. As one Board member said, we may be radical amongst our peers, but it is time to be radical, full stop. There’s so much work to be done and we are eager to get to it.

Guidance from our community

North Star’s Let Us Breathe Fund The only NYC-based fund led by and for Black communities organizing around police reform and building Black liberation. Started following the death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD, the Fund now supports the long-term leadership of Black New Yorkers fighting police violence and structural racism.

Communities United for Police Reform is leading New York’s advocacy and policy response to this moment, holding the NYPD accountable to the people of the city.

VOCAL-NY released a powerful statement written by their Director of Organizing Jawanza James Williams: “This is a critical moment where our society has the opportunity for a paradigm shift in the ways that we respond to racial terror and keep all communities safe.”

What Happens When Communities Organize Through A Crisis The list of organizations who contributed to this report are the groups stepping up in this pandemic and now in this fight—they are the source for well-being and power in their communities.

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