As a philanthropic organization, the Memorial Fund’s most appropriate role is driven first by the dual charges in our mission to achieve equity in education by working with those affected and by inspiring all to end racism and poverty. Secondarily, we sharpen our analysis through the lens of the three grantmaking program focus areas under our mission - Building Community Power, Disrupting Institutional Inequity and Transforming Key Systems. Together, they represent the distinct yet related strategic considerations that support and sustain an equity ecosystem. Throughout 2020, we will continue to seek answers to the fundamental question that has provoked us for the last few years:
What actions will be disruptive to deeply entrenched systems of racism and poverty so that true transformation toward antiracism and full inclusion will occur in our schools, communities and society to allow equity in education to become a reality?
Our journey as an equity focused family foundation has pointed our compass in many directions as we learn, build relationships, and create a way of grantmaking and partnering that grows out of the lessons and exigencies of responding to the ways that racism and poverty have deformed our society and our state. Our initial lesson has been how few organizations are able to sustain an equity agenda as a result of limited resources and opportunities to pursue equity programs. Although the yearning for equity has been around for as long as Connecticut has, our ecosystem saw fit to starve any initiatives which threaten the status quo of white supremacy and inequality. As a result, Black and Latinx Connecticut have few resources which can effectively counter the oppressive weight of racism and poverty.
Ten years after the fiscal collapse of America’s economy, the social and civic infrastructures in Black and Latinx Connecticut are still reeling financially and politically. Non-profit and civic organizations focusing on the needs of Latinx and Black communities within our state are financially struggling and increasingly on the verge of collapsing. Latinx and Black people are particularly underrepresented in discussions of every topic of policy and cultural decision making in Connecticut. Policy discussions affecting the social aspects of Latinx and Black life in CT are still dominated by white policy makers, professionals and voters (as is so in most of the United States). As a result, discussions center around the majority community’s desire to adapt to “limited resources” and less on the needs of underserved communities.
As we talk specifically about the impacts on the Black and Latinx communities in our state, we do so with a recognition that Asian and Native/Indigenous Connecticut are often erased or overlooked in the struggle for equity.
Our hope is to be a source of encouragement for those who are beginning their equity journeys and to be a continuing support for those who are deeper into the work. We are cognizant of the numerous reasons why some organizations and groups are better positioned than others to pursue an equity agenda. Nonprofits are forced to program and seek funding focused on the symptoms instead of the root causes of problems in communities which they serve.
The Memorial Fund’s explicit decision to offer funding for equity focused programs in this environment gave many of our partner organizations and community groups an opportunity to propose equity related programs and inspired some innovation as well as some stretching. Too often, we have to turn away groups whose leadership has yet to embrace an equity agenda beyond a superficial recitation of equity buzzwords. Yet, we remain open to providing funding for groups who are willing to engage equity issues at the deeper structural level and align leadership, agenda, and resources.
In isolation, there is little progress which these efforts can make toward building an equitable and just society. Our aspiration as a funder dedicated to supporting a thriving equity ecosystem requires a continued commitment to growing and evolving in our understanding and strategic approaches as we learn from our grantees’ evolution and development. We look forward to a year of deepening existing relationships while building new ones, as we cross paths and join forces on our equity journeys. And, as always, we wish you every success in 2020 and beyond.