SCG is excited to announce that Joanna Jackson, Vice President of Programs at the Weingart Foundation, and Alex Johnson, Program Director at The California Wellness Foundation, joined SCG's Board of Directors in June 2020. We spoke to our new Board members about their journeys, the role of equity and trust in their grantmaking, and what's giving them hope for the future.
Joanna is no stranger to the fight for equity and justice. These values are in her blood. The descendant of civil rights advocates, movement leaders, and labor organizers, Joanna adopted activism at a young age. "My grandfather charged genocide against African-Americans with Paul Robeson at the United Nations, and my father was a conscientious objector that went to jail. These were the things we talked about at the dinner table." She spent her childhood on the picket lines, interning at union offices, and accompanying her parents to political meetings. In these spaces, she developed the drive to help people of color achieve full rights in the country they built.
Joanna began her professional career working for a nonprofit arts organization in Oakland before joining the Cultural Facilities Fund (now known as the Nonprofit Finance Fund). She supported arts organizations with their financial responsibilities. "There's healing in artistic expression. It is powerful for people of color to tell their own stories, to share their common humanity, and to influence our public consciousness." Joanna followed her work’s funding thread and joined SCG's sister organization, Northern California Grantmakers, where she oversaw the revolving loan funds for nonprofit organizations. Soon after, Joanna received her MPA through the National Urban Fellows Program, which brought her to work for the City of San Jose. Eventually, Joanna relocated to Los Angeles and accepted roles at the California Endowment and the US Fund for UNICEF before, ultimately, joining the Weingart Foundation, where she will soon be celebrating her twelfth work anniversary.
At Weingart, Joanna oversees the foundation's programming arm, which she grounds in humility, equity, and constant evolution. Her values are reinforced by Weingart's long-standing commitment to racial justice, especially now as the foundation responds to the COVID-19 pandemic. Joanna appreciates how quickly the foundation leaned into its responsive grantmaking values to give its grantees the time and space to focus on their organization's work. "Trusting your partners means being humble enough to learn alongside them." Joanna credits the foundation's focus on trust and collaboration to helping her grow as a leader. "By acknowledging that we don't always have all the answers, we push ourselves to take risks and be uncomfortable. This discomfort forces us to evolve and to find our authentic leadership voice."
More than ever, Joanna is hopeful for the future. She is encouraged by the movement leaders and young people demanding structural change and holding public leaders accountable and the ways funders are stepping up in response. Having been a part of Los Angeles' philanthropy sector for over a decade, Joanna has tracked how the field has grown in its equity work and presence in the public sector. In particular, she is proud of how SCG has evolved to advance philanthropic practice and spur these cross-sector collaborations. "There is tremendous promise in the role SCG can have, especially at this moment, as philanthropists evaluate how they can take their recent commitments to racial justice to the next level.” For Joanna, this momentum is fueling her desire to continue to "push and fight for the equity and justice that every young person—every person—deserves."