Late in the summer of 2013, I was approached to write a guest post for the blog of Alliance for Justice’s Bolder Advocacy Initiative about Black Philanthropy Month. The project is devoted to encouraging funders to support groups working for social change. My task was to identify some key advocacy and organizing issues of particular importance for Black Americans. What I ultimately wrote 7 years ago remains eerily relevant as if I wrote it today. Many of its links have long since expired, but its reposted here in its entirety as it was published on August 28, 2013.
Bolder Advocacy: Celebrating Black Philanthropy Month
This August 28th will mark the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where more than 200,000 Americans gathered in Washington, D.C. to bring attention to the social challenges facing African Americans nationwide. Organized by a host of advocacy, civil rights and religious groups, the march is best remembered in the annals of history for setting the stage for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
King’s passionate plea for racial justice and equality endures as one of his most famous with a message that still reverberates today as the focal concept of Black Philanthropy Month, 2013: “Of Dreams and Mountaintops”.
In celebration of Black Philanthropy Month, we can pay homage to our great civil rights architects by continuing their tradition of social justice philanthropy. Giving, to support the advocacy efforts of organizations and groups working to drive social change at the policy level can help achieve lasting impact on pressing issues affecting the Black community. These are 5 key issues:
· Voting Rights– Redistricting, felony disenfranchisement, eliminating same-day voter registration, reducing the number of early voting days and enacting government-issued ID requirements are all considered measures that disproportionately threaten to suppress African-American participation in the election process. Advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union address race discrimination in voting through the voting rights act, and promote electoral reforms to increase access to the ballot.
· Racial Profiling– Dramatic cases of Blacks becoming subject to excess exertion of police authority continue to rock the American consciousness. Young Black men in America get worse outcomes than their White peers from the criminal justice system for the same conduct and are overrepresented in the nation’s jails and prisons. Just as The Brotherhood Sister Sol played an important role in organizing its members to reform New York City’s “Stop and Frisk” policy, nonprofits across the nation, are mobilizing their constituents to force police accountability and change the practice of targeting individuals for criminal activity based on racial stereotypes.
· Living Wage and Equal Pay– Today in the United States, women earn 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. For African-American women (more than four million of whom are head of family households) this pay gap is even greater and a threat to economic security. Advocates for equal pay for women support federal paycheck fairness legislation, and low-wage workers, business owners, and other groups are organizing protests and labor strikes calling for increases in minimum wage.
· Access to Safe and Healthy Food– Millions of African Americans live in food deserts. Health disparities in the obesity epidemic, diabetes and heart disease are most severe for low-income people of color. These health disparities have been linked to disparities in access to clean healthy food. Community activists and residents in these areas are expanding the food justice movement by organizing their neighbors, and local funders to build community farms and fresh markets, examine African Americans relationship to soul food, and support healthy active lifestyles.
· LGBT Equality- Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face all of the aforementioned social issues in a nation that does not have clear federal laws barring discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Earlier this month Bayard Rustin was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, recognizing his role as chief architect of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Stigma may have delayed the widespread celebration of his contributions, but today’s civil rights groups like The National Black Justice Coalition are organizing to call attention to the struggles Blacks face at the intersection of racial justice and LGBT equality.
Akira J. Barclay is a community philanthropy specialist.