Fund Black Organizing. Defund The Police.
Our hearts are with the family and loved ones of George Floyd. One verdict doesn’t bring back a precious life. But this one signals the power of the people to move us toward a society where life is not stolen in the first place.
For those who question the efficacy of grassroots organizing, who decry the use of direct action, or deride the use of bold slogans like “Defund the Police”, take note: there is no gentler or softer way. The raging infection of white supremacy can only be healed with strong medicine.
Thirty million people took to the streets across the globe in response to the murder of George Floyd. This included millions here in the U.S., in what was the largest protest movement in the history of this country, and millions more around the world who marched in solidarity with Black people in the U.S.
The uprisings of 2020 were a wake-up call for many in philanthropy, and there has been a rush of funding for racial justice work. But philanthropy should take note as well: unless this funding is moving primarily to sustained, Black-led organizing and the ancillary work that Black organizers name as critical to buttress that work, it will be money wasted on weak medicine.
As the Chauvin trial began earlier this month, a viral Twitter post was a blip of lucidity in the madness of it all: “How do you know the U.S. is a failed state?…We’re holding a four-week trial for a murder everybody saw.” The relentless brutality that the U.S. government enacts upon its own people — particularly Black people — is on a scale that rivals or exceeds the most inhumane regimes on the planet. Countries across the globe have been sanctioned, boycotted, and expelled from respected international bodies for less. The notion that we can shift this level of institutionalized depravity without the power of mass-based grassroots movements is naïve.
“Anyone who is truly about freedom must do more than make statements in support of Black liberation. We must center it, prioritize it, and recognize at every level, its tremendous significance, not just to Black people and Black communities, but to all people and all communities.”
Equally naïve is the idea that what is at stake is limited to the life and liberty of Black people. The oppression of Black people is at the center of every injustice in this country. It is the poisonous source of the state and vigilante violence that recently claimed the lives of Ma’Khia Bryant, Adam Toledo, and the Asian American people murdered in Atlanta, and that is terrorizing so many people of color. But it is much broader than that. There is no liberation for the poor, for women, workers, immigrants, LGBTQ people, the planet, or anyone else, without Black liberation. Any institution or individual that is truly about freedom must do more than make statements in support of Black liberation. We must center it, prioritize it, study it, understand it, and recognize at every level, its tremendous significance, not just to Black people and Black communities but to all people and all communities.
Philanthropy ‘getting this’ looks like putting a significant scale of resources for redistribution under the decision-making power of Black people who have a track record of accountability to Black communities. It looks like moving massive amounts of money to Black-led organizing that is rooted in and trusted by community, and doing so without applying disproportionate levels of scrutiny, pressure, and red tape to these organizations. The time philanthropy demands of Black-led organizations, which are already clearly trusted by their communities, to prove their credibility is a theft. As the late, great Toni Morrison told us, “The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”
Finally, and critically, the current push for funding for racial justice cannot be temporary or a peak — it must be increased exponentially and sustained and for the long term.
Groundswell reaffirms our longstanding commitment to ensure that Black organizing, especially efforts led by Black women and Black transgender people receive 40–45% of the resources we award every year — more than any other demographic group. We urge every donor and foundation to join us in making a bold and transparent commitment to funding Black-led organizing.
Onwards to Freedom,
Executive Director, Groundswell Fund and Groundswell Action Fund