by Tashi Copeland
As I click “join” for the CICF all-staff meeting via Zoom, I’m happily greeted with an array of different faces on my screen, including ones that look like me. For many others in my line of work, this not a common experience.
The lack of opportunity, equity and inclusion in corporate America has been a hot topic this year. However, not-for-profit entities cannot be excluded from this conversation. Multiple studies show that this industry still is predominantly White, especially in terms of leadership roles and boards. Not-for-profit leaders need to raise their awareness of the barriers facing aspiring leaders of color, build their capacity to address these barriers—and ultimately dismantle these barriers.
So this is my ode, my appeal, my request to the leaders in power of the not-for-profit sector.
Because we, too, are philanthropy.
Philanthropy. A collective of people, powering on to create profound change.
Creating causes to uplift the collective,
whether that be the collection of time, talent, or treasure.
But there’s something missing.
You see from its erection, this section, of our society was sectioned off for wealthy, White men.
And while the decades created innovations in advocacy and giving campaigns,
the people in power, the faces of these foundations’ teams and boardrooms,
they didn’t change.
So now we find ourselves in a predicament.
The predicament of 2021 is a plague of pandemic, both in our bodies and our boardrooms.
When funding decisions lack insight because there is not a member of our communities insight,
we are overlooked.
When the grant application lends no option other than the founding fathers’ tongue,
(Estados Unidos tiene no idoma oficial…by the way)
we are silenced.
When false barriers like the foundation is short-changed to give grassroots organizations funding,
we fall short of change.
When members of leadership will only lend their ears to their network with the same club memberships,
we cannot be heard.
When the narrative of communities lacks asset-based language and only pens the deficit,
we struggle to demonstrate our worth.
What we need is true opportunity, equity and inclusion—not the tokenism delusion we often find ourselves in today.
But someone has to be the spark to fire up these conversations, for further iterations, of true change.
For me, CICF has been that spark.
It’s an organization that allows me to bring my whole self to work.
From my faux locs to my bold questions.
And does not question my silence when the media constantly re-triggers my past trauma.
It’s a foundation that gives me the foundation to be okay with making mistakes
without losing my stake in this critical work.
Working with a leadership team that I see my own reflection,
mirrors the change that needs to be made in this philanthropic sector.
But I am just one face in a sea of Black and Brown people, knocking on the doors of philanthropy.
We are ready to tear down the curtains and shine a light on the disparities in the sector that is linguistically rooted in the love of humanity.
We are ready to open doors to organizations’ missions our founding fathers would have deemed insanity.
We are ready to build a neighborhood of Brown and Black leaders who are given more than crumbs.
We are ready to live out Langston’s legacy of being at the table when company comes.