By: Dion Cartwright, Director of Equitable Initiatives and Leadership Development 

This message originally appeared in the PLACES Connection Newsletter, which goes to the Alumni of the PLACES program.

As we all live, and for some fight, through the Covid-19 pandemic, we continue to see the impact that decades of systemic and structural racism is having on low-income communities and communities of colors. The inequities that long existed before this pandemic are continuing to be on display as we see higher death rates among African Americans, Hispanic and Native communities.

On a daily basis we are witnessing the disproportionately negative effects of existing racial gaps and the constant increase of white privilege and power. We are seeing African Americans die at an astounding rate. We’re seeing limited access to testing in communities with higher rates of underlying health conditions. We are seeing undocumented immigrant families suffering from the effects of the coronavirus, but unable to access relief services or quality healthcare. We are seeing a massive number of jobs lost and further reduced access to basic human needs including access to healthy food and technology.

During a time when traditional philanthropy wants to retreat from their giving because of impacted investment portfolios, we must recognize the need for philanthropy to step up. This is the time when we should invest more in those we often overlook. Investing in youth who don’t all have access to quality education, reducing the digital divide and addressing technology needs in underserved communities. Investing in the infrastructure of local farmers who are working hard to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to hungry families. Investing in minority-owned and small businesses who work hard to boost our local economies. Investing in local nonprofits who constantly work to address community needs.

We are living in a critical moment in time where we have an opportunity to step into our leadership. We have an opportunity for a paradigm shift. Imagine leaving our usual thinking behind and replacing it with a more equitable and just way. The PLACES Fellowship was created ten years ago as a way to help practitioners in philanthropy better understand issues of race, equity, and inclusiveness, and translate into their grantmaking practices. During and beyond this pandemic, we need to remember our purpose. We need to remember that we were created to improve the lives of all people and serve communities for such a time as this. We need to remember that we are in a unique position to be flexible in our grantmaking approach and can be innovative in how we work with communities to develop community-driven solutions to problems.

My call to action for each of you is to think outside the imaginary box. To look beyond the self-imposed restrictions that we’ve put on ourselves as funders. My call to each of you and the organizations you represent is to remove all barriers, erase all inequitable practices that we’ve upheld for so long and step up or step in during a time when we can be that one ounce of hope that few have and many have lost.

Our time is now to bridge the divide.

In Service and Solidarity,

Dion Cartwright
Director of Equitable Initiatives and Leadership Development