SCG is honored to serve as the Black Equity Collective’s fiscal sponsor. The Black Equity Collective is a community-public-private partnership with Black equity as its central, unifying force. The Collective wrapped its planning phase supported by various SCG members, including WHH Foundation, Liberty Hill Foundation, California Community Foundation, The California Endowment, Snap Foundation, California Wellness Foundation, and Weingart Foundation.
As the Collective prepares to launch in January 2021, we sat down with its Chief Architect Kaci Patterson to discuss its history, the vision for Black liberation, and how philanthropy can get involved.
What prompted the Black Equity Initiative’s creation, and how has it grown into the Black Equity Collective?
The Black Equity Initiative (BEI) is an excellent example of how an issue can inspire funders, but that inspiration doesn't automatically turn into control. The JIB Fund created the BEI because it was concerned about the regularity with which black men were being killed and the lack of justice. They felt compelled to act but weren’t sure exactly which actions to take.
The JIB Fund hired me to do a landscape analysis to get a sense of where they could have the most significant impact and where their philanthropic dollars would be most meaningful. During my research, my team and I engaged in deep listening and thoughtful community engagement. We interviewed 17 philanthropic, academic, and community thought leaders. Their feedback became the Black Equity Initiative, which supports 15 grantees in Los Angeles in San Bernardino.
The Initiative began to transform into the Collective when it became clear that a vision of Black equity doesn’t stop at funding fifteen organizations and one funder. We believe that progress on Black equity and racial justice must be part of any forward movement in the United States and that philanthropic investments, public policies, and institutional practices need to confront racial injustice boldly.
Tell us more about the Black Equity Collective’s vision of racial justice and liberation.
The BEC emphasizes the need to invest in Black-led organizations, which can no longer afford to get project funding at the expense of building a sustainable infrastructure. This reality is true of all nonprofits but is especially acute in Black-led organizations, which have been deprived of resources for years. There is an urgent need to invest in Black leadership because Black liberation will not happen without Black people in positions of power. With the BEI grants, the 15 community-based organizations were able to build relationships, cultivate trust, try innovative solutions to old problems, then fund their discovery of those solutions. This kind of investment — in talent, future-focused thinking, as well as research and development capital — is vital. And so, the BEC’s vision of liberation is to strengthen the long-term sustainability of Black-led social justice institutions, which are the engines of social change.
How can philanthropy be part of this liberatory vision?
Philanthropy is a sector that has the privilege of taking time to think and consider. Nonprofits do not have that luxury. During this deliberation, we — funders — often stall progress and innovations so that we can get everything right and perfect. Meanwhile, we’re starving nonprofit organizations of the resources they need to do the work.
The conversations — about mass incarceration, climate justice, income inequality, and other issues — are often the same around both funders’ tables and in communities. However, there are rarely deliberate, intentional efforts to be in strategic relationships and alignment. The BEC seeks to be a bridge so that philanthropy can work more effectively with Black communities.
Without having invested in Black-led-and-serving organizations before, a funder needs to cultivate its capacity to trust Black communities, disarm the power derived from wealth, and be in strategic relationships around issues of justice. We can be part of a liberatory vision together if we can challenge and inspire funders to reimagine their practices.
How has it been to work on launching the BEC in 2020 — amid a global pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests?
A seventeen-member steering committee of Los Angeles-based Black philanthropic leaders, community leaders, and public sector representatives currently governs The Collective. This group of people has been my teacher in so many ways. When I had the incredible privilege and honor of shepherding the BEC into its launch, I set out to build a committee of folks ready to tackle strategic questions and de-silo philanthropy and community from one another. The planning process kicked off in April and just wrapped a few weeks ago.
Now that we are preparing to launch the BEC in 2021, I can be honest that, in January 2020, I didn’t know if this was going to work. I knew that the need and grassroots impetus were present, but I wasn’t confident that the will was there in the philanthropic sector. When COVID-19 hit, and we started to see the disproportionate impact on Black communities and people of color, it still wasn’t evident whether philanthropy would see Black people’s humanity.
It wasn’t until the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer that the world of opportunity broke open. I find this timing extremely difficult to reconcile.
We’re repeating the same narratives and painful please that we recounted after Rodney King’s beating in 1992 today in June 2020. However, perhaps because the pandemic made it hard to escape the truth, the public decided to listen. And we have seen white people come out of slumber around racial justice in a quite profound way.
People often refer to this mass activation as a moment and ask how to turn this moment into a movement. Instead, I call this moment a window of opportunity— a window that can stay open, close slowly, or even slam shut. Will we love Black people enough to keep this window open?
How can folks get involved with the BEC and help keep this window of justice open?
The BEC is intentional about building philanthropy’s capacity to work more effectively with Black communities while simultaneously sustaining ourselves for the long haul. Having a home with SCG has been extremely important and helped us achieve the effectiveness necessary to plan our operations and build confidence with funders. Our goal is to raise $6 million a year for ten years. We are a little more than halfway toward our first-year target. By supporting the BEC financially, funders agree to acknowledge systemic racism as a critical issue and build their internal muscle to create solutions. You might not know where to start, but as long as you’re willing and able to leap, we would love to work with you.
I also encourage funders to build relationships with and directly fund community-based organizations, such as those who received BEC’s micro-grants. There are also opportunities to sit on organizations’ boards or serve in an advisory role.
What is giving you hope at the moment?
I appreciate the 2020 election cycle for the clarity that it brought. Is it clear that 71 million people saw the blatant voter suppression, the blatant misinformation, the blatant racism, the blatant misogyny, and the blatant anti-immigrant sentiments and still voted for more of that oppression.
I am hopeful because, more than ever before, the problem statement is clear: the disease of white supremacy is killing this country. It’s killing our democracy; it’s killing our norms; it’s killing our climate; it’s killing justice. So we have to be honest about whether we are confronting this disease of white supremacy.
At the same time, the solutions could not be more transparent. Nonprofit organizations, organizers, movement leaders — those who engage community members, build trust, establish relationships, and are unapologetic about dismantling systemic racism and injustice — are the changemakers. I’m hopeful because we have a critical mass of people who are no longer shying away from the tough conversations and are ready to take bold actions.
Kaci Patterson is the Owner and Principal of Social Good Solutions. She has led the Black Equity Initiative since its inception.