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Meeting the Moment, Now and Moving Forward

Update from Compton Foundation

LaTosha Brown, shown here in Memphis, Tenn., co-founded the Black Voters Matter organization in 2016. Photo credit: Dean Anthony II/Black Voters Matter

June 22, 2020

“It is not a risk to invest in black and brown people fighting for liberation. It’s the surest bet. When we have the resources to lead our own struggles, the world is transformed.”
—Charlene Carruthers

It is clear that we are living in a historic and transformative era. To paraphrase Arundhati Roy, the devastating inequity of COVID-19 and the massive global uprisings to protest racist state violence have opened a “portal” to a radically different future. At the same time, our colleagues in the peace and democracy fields remind us that social and political transformation are not guaranteed to be positive. Black Lives Matter protests are being used as an excuse to suspend due process, attack the Constitutional freedoms of speech and assembly, justify further militarization of our streets, and exacerbate voter suppression. Racism has been used as a wedge to consolidate political and economic power in this country for centuries, and we have an urgent responsibility to support advocates working for liberation and abolition and to call out those who are fomenting white nationalist backlash and pushing us toward authoritarianism. This moment holds the possibility of building a more inclusive and equitable democracy than the US has ever had. We must invest fully in racial justice to make that a reality.

For the Compton Foundation, the past weeks have caused us to look deeply at the way in which we have and have not challenged white supremacy in our own work toward peace, democracy, reproductive justice, and a sustainable future. In truth, although the majority of our grantee partners are led by and build power for people of color, the Foundation has never expressly funded Black-led organizing in our fields of work. In response to the call from Black movement leaders, we feel it is imperative to expand our funding and move money specifically to those groups organizing for racial justice. In mid-June, our board approved a docket of grants designed to move unrestricted money to the grassroots quickly via existing funding channels governed by Black activists (see grant awards below). We were able to make these grants because the Board of the Foundation recently increased our 2020 payout to 15% to support critical needs in this moment of economic hardship and political possibility.

While this was a small slate of rapid-response grants, we recognize that this moment calls for long-term investments in the BIPOC-led movement infrastructure that will carry on the work long after this particular flashpoint fades. The seemingly spontaneous protests of the last month are actually built on years of effort by Black organizers who have been dreaming of and working toward a world in which people and the planet are not sacrificed to corporate capitalism and liberation becomes a reality everywhere, from our homes to our legal system. For this reason, we will continue to assess and adapt our spend-out plan in light of the evolving realities in our country and around the world, with a particular focus on investing in racial justice. We do not see this as a departure from our purpose and values: on the contrary, anti-racist work is a necessary part of achieving transformative steps toward a stable climate, reproductive freedom, peace, and a multiracial democracy.

Last fall, reflecting on the Compton Foundation Board’s recent decision to spend out its assets, Board President Vanessa Compton wrote: “Actions that further familial white privilege and diminish others’ voices betray future generations.… It is my goal that we turn this legacy of privilege toward the benefit of all.” Throughout the Foundation’s remaining years, the Board and staff will continue to humbly work toward that goal.

Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute | Unrestricted | $50,000

The Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute (BVM) exists to build political power in Black communities. The Institute seeks to achieve its goals with the following 5 core beliefs in mind: that the key to effective civic engagement and community power is understanding, respecting and supporting local infrastructure; that Black voters matter year-round, not just on Election Day; that Black voters matter everywhere, including rural counties and smaller cities/towns that are often ignored by candidates, elected officials, and the media; and that the leadership, talent, and commitment demonstrated by Black women in particular must receive recognition and investment. BVM’s staff and state coordinators provide logistical support, expertise, and pass-through funding to grassroots community organizations to build and strengthen year-round civic engagement infrastructure, especially in rural counties and smaller cities across the South that have been consistently ignored by national groups.

Borealis Philanthropy | Black-Led Movement Fund | $75,000

Borealis Philanthropy’s Black-Led Movement Fund (BLMF) exists to move funds to national and local groups working for racial justice, funding for the long-term and taking advantage of “movement moments” to advance the work. Borealis staff coordinates directly with the national Movement for Black Lives infrastructure to ensure that the pooled fund is in service to its organizing and policy goals. BLMF re-grants funds through a mixture of unrestricted, rapid response, and capacity-building grants.

Common Future | Unrestricted | $50,000

Common Future is a network of leaders transitioning to an economy that includes everyone and building community wealth. Common Future works with philanthropy, impact investors, and local business leaders to move capital into local communities, with initiatives ranging from making capital more accessible for Black entrepreneurs to developing new models of shared governance over community development. In response to the pandemic and anti-police uprisings, Common Future has begun to make re-grants to support Black-led organizations working to build wealth and economic equity in Black communities and has already moved more than $750,000.

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