An Opportunity for Will: Announcing PNY’s Racial Equity Working Group

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

An Opportunity for Will: Announcing PNY’s Racial Equity Working Group
By: Ariane Cruz, Philanthropy Fellow, Philanthropy New York. 

The last 20 months have unearthed deeply rooted racial inequities in unprecedented ways. We are surviving two crises: a COVID-19 pandemic that disproportionately impacts communities of color; and racism, which is endemic in itself, embedded in every system and at every intersection, and persistently hindering Black liberation—required for collective liberation. But we can do more than survive. As Arundhati Roy writes in The Pandemic is a Portal, “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks, and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”  

I believe change is constant. As a woman of color, a Filipina American, millennial, and newly employed Fellow with Philanthropy New York, my personal journey and vision and practice of love necessitate the will to be with and for change. And, as someone inheriting this world and who is determined to do better for future generations, it is exhausting to witness people with decision-making power as well as decision-making structures “dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice…behind us.” We are continuously seeing decision-making power being held in ways that are clearly not moving us forward: how some employers are “returning to normal” despite lessons learned about remote work and the pandemic being far from over; and how a jury found a white 18-year-old, who brought an AR-15 to Kenosha, Wisconsin and killed two protesters while injuring another, not guilty on all counts, finding him to have acted in self-defense.  

We, the collective, need to be intentional about the luggage we are leaving behind and the luggage we are bringing with us. Every moment is an opportunity to leave dominant culture behind: ready to (re)imagine another world, another sector—one that is not born out of white supremacy, but one that is born out of the will to be racially equitable, that belongs to all of us, and is for the collective. We have the tools; we have the skills; and we, especially in the philanthropic sector, have the power, privilege, and responsibility to catalyze change. The question is: do we have the will?  

Over the past year, the Committee on Equitable and Inclusive Philanthropy (CEIP) grappled with what Philanthropy New York would need in order to not only embody an organizational value of equity internally but build out the continuum of support members needed to undertake and sustain equity journeys. As conversations began to shift, this group of PNY members remained agile and open, absorbing and applying new learnings to create a path forward. Soon enough, this group realized that living into the fullest extent of racial equity required them to go further. And, so the Committee evolved.  

Launching in March 2022, Philanthropy New York is proud to announce the formation of our first-ever Racial Equity Working Group. This group will be a partnership among philanthropic professionals who seek to build practice, shift power, and change systems to advance racial equity within their organizations and the philanthropic sector, more broadly. This working group aims to:  

  • Build members’ capacity to identify, name, negotiate and affect changes in professional practice in service to more equitable outcomes;
  • Share tools, case studies, and other materials that support members who are advancing equity within their organizations;
  • Cultivate a supportive community that creates space for engagement and reflection that centers equity practice and its implementation; and 
  • Co-create original programming for the funding community that centers equity and inclusion practices.

The group is for Philanthropy New York members who are skilled practitioners in racial equity work at their respective organizations; it is for members who have committed to and are enacting equity practice, including actions and policies, within their organizations. Together, we will cultivate an interdependent community, where peers can source wisdom from one another, support one another, and generate new ideas to tackle old challenges.

I hope this working group will allow us to “walk through lightly” with will—leaving behind the carcasses of white supremacy that persistently (re)create inequities—and ready to create a counterculture and praxis that is rooted in racial equity, thrives on accountability and integrity, and is for Black liberation as our collective liberation is inextricably linked.  

Apply to Philanthropy New York’s Racial Equity Working Group.  (Applications are due Friday, January 28th.)  

This piece of writing would not be possible without the thought leadership of BIPOC community members. I thank you for your time and partnership. I write this for us.

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