“Step Up and Step Black”

Posted on June 10, 2020 | Hanh Le, Weissberg Foundation

Though it might seem obvious given our vision, mission, and values, it is important to explicitly state that the Weissberg Foundation condemns the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd and the injustices that continue to be inflicted upon their loved ones and communities. And we grieve the many, many other lives that have been lost and continue to be traumatized by the anti-Black racism that has been so insidious in this country for over 400 years.

Last week, Nat Williams, executive director of the Hill-Snowdon Foundation, shared with me this call to action: “Step up and step Black.” What does it mean? For one thing, it means that those of us in white-dominant foundations need to de-center whiteness, and, according to Nat, “commit to being led by Black interests, solutions, and plans as defined by Black movement and leaders.” This means moving well beyond allyship and actively working to amplify, conspire with, and hold ourselves accountable to Black justice leaders to root out structural anti-Black racism in our country, in our sector, in our institutions, and in each of us.

We do not need a newly commissioned report to tell us that too many Black people continue to be senselessly killed and terrorized by state-sanctioned violence, that Black communities are experiencing disparate and deadly impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, that there is a dearth of Black representation on boards and in senior leadership positions of nonprofits, or that Black-led organizations do not receive even remotely as much philanthropic support as white-led organizations.

Black justice leaders know this. They live this. And they have been saying this. Are we ready to really listen and to act to ensure that Black lives matter?

The Weissberg Foundation works to “advance through funding, amplification, capacity building, and collaboration organizations and efforts building power of those most negatively impacted by racism.” We have been able to articulate and pursue this work because of the action, wisdom, guidance, and partnership of so many powerful Black leaders in our community of grantee partners, philanthropic peers, and consultants (contact me for referrals). We have deep gratitude for their clarity, boldness, generosity, and critique.

As foundations like ours continue to grapple with why to fund, how to fund, and who to fund to advance racial justice, the case has already been made, the learning resources have already been developed, and the calls to action have already been issued by Black justice leaders in our communities and in the sector. We just need to follow that lead, do our work, and push for the transformative change needed…and that is seemingly now more possible than ever.

In solidarity,

Hanh Le
Executive Director