Revealing truth through art

Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. They are civilization’s radical voice and moral compass.
– Paul Robeson


by Marcela Brane
President/CEO
The Herb Block Foundation

The Herb Block Foundation was asked by Tamara Lucas Copeland to comment on the Foundation’s annual Herblock Prize winner for Editorial Cartooning, specifically on the “Racist EZCash” cartoon shown here. The Herblock Prize is for distinguished examples of editorial cartooning that exemplify the courageous standard set by Herblock, reinforcing his lifelong fight against abuses by the powerful and the freedom to express it. The prize is awarded to the best portfolio of 10-15 cartoons, and this year’s winner, Mark Fiore, is the first animated cartoonist to win.

Fiore’s cartoons cover subjects like refugees, immigration, xenophobia, and gun violence, as well as politics and other subjects. Whether race, religion, government transparency, or environmental concerns, cartoons use both a sense of humor and a sense of outrage to inform. The cartoon “Racist EZCash” is about how our country profits from structural racism. It lists startling statistics about Ferguson, MO, and how it is representative of other police departments across the country.

One of the three Herblock Prize judges, Kevin Kallaugher, said:

Mark Fiore’s entry contained an engaging and powerful collection of visual commentaries. Fiore demonstrated a great use of parody, adept writing, great visualizations, and solid journalism, to deliver thought-provoking editorials. Like a good Herblock cartoon, Mark’s work displayed a consistent and determined passion to fight against society’s ills and absurdities. It is his skilled and masterful cartoon craftsmanship steeped with determined political convictions that make Fiore’s animations worthy of the Herblock Prize.

When we were asked to comment on why the Foundation and our committee chose a portfolio like Mark Fiore’s with a piece like “Racist EZCash” for recognition, the answer was easy – because for the political cartoonist, it is their role to speak for the other guy or to call out the injustices. As Mr. Block said, “There are no super men or women, there are only you and I and others who believe in democracy, think about the other guy, and do something about it.”

The Putting Racism on the Table series really broadened the scope of our discussions in the office. It connected me with others and presented me with greater awareness of structural racism and implicit bias, presenting the challenge to press this lens within myself, my family, and The Herb Block Foundation. For six months during the series, grantmakers and their trustees gathered to “think about the other guy.” I believe that was a great start. Now, let’s start doing.

Putting Racism on the Table: How I was affected

After each session in the Putting Racism on the Table series, I asked a participant (or sometimes two) to reflect on the session and its more personal meaning for them. This time, I wanted two folks – one white, one African American – to reflect on the overall series. While no one person can speak for the entire group, I thought it would be illustrative to know if both people felt like they benefited from attending. Did they both have “aha” moments, moments in which they had greater clarity, or did they gain a totally new perspective?  Will this have lasting benefit for the attendees? I appreciate Julie Wagner of CareFirst and Terri Copeland of PNC sharing their views below.

– Tamara Lucas Copeland


by Julie Wagner
Vice President, Community Affairs
CareFirst

Could there have been a better time for WRAG’s Putting Racism on the Table series? With tragic events across the country highlighting racial bias and injustice, and national political discourse rife with bigoted remarks – it’s clear that conversations about racism and how to address it must continue at every level.

I appreciate this opportunity to thank and congratulate Tamara Lucas Copeland and the dedicated foundation and corporate leaders who developed the series. As Tamara reminded the group at each session, “the first step of leadership is understanding.” The series ended this month with an inspiring presentation by Dr. Gail Christopher of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Dr. Christopher’s presentation on the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation work she leads was the perfect ending for the series, and a natural pivot to take attendees from learning to action.

On a personal level, I feel fortunate to have been able to attend all six sessions. I have always considered myself a progressive woman, but the series made me reconsider whether the glasses through which I view some important issues are, in fact, a little more rose-colored than I thought. Many issues were elevated, including the racial bias and devastating affects behind mass incarceration: one out of three black men will face incarceration in their lifetime. Wow. While I wasn’t naive to bias and injustice in the criminal justice system, James Bell’s presentation gave me a much clearer view. The importance of feeling a sense of belonging to achieve success was also brought up. What makes someone successful? I thought I understood. I believed that if a student went to a good school, they would thrive with the right supports. But as Professor john a. powell noted in a University of Texas at Austin example, graduation rates were low when students felt that they were the “other” and did not belong, and they dramatically increased when the school addressed these issues. While I had “aha” moments, I recognize that these were “of course” moments to many series participants. For example, I didn’t appreciate how rarely children of color have teachers that look like them. During our discussions, fellow attendees noted high school and college as the first time they had a teacher of their same race. I was also struck by the blatant media images that reinforce the “white as the ideal” narrative discussed by Dr. Robin DiAngelo. A poignant example included a print ad for a line of handbags that both literally and figuratively placed minority women in the background.

The gatherings spurred conversations at work, and with my family and friends. I find myself scrutinizing advertising, television, news, and my initial interpretation of events and the interactions of others more closely and with a more informed interpretation. So, I think the view through my rose-colored glasses is in a little better focus. I am still optimistic, but that optimism is informed by a clearer view of the systemic barriers which our grantees face in their work to eliminate health disparities.


by Terri Copeland
Senior Vice President and Territory Executive
Community Development Banking, East
PNC Bank

WRAG’s six-part series, Putting Racism on the Table, has sought to shine a light on the key elements of racism – including the unconscious biases and structural nature of racism that can often be found deeply embedded in individuals, companies, the justice system, and governments at every level. The series has  made me focus more intensely on both the far-reaching intended and unintended consequences of racism. Putting Racism on the Table has also made me think more deeply about the role that I play.

The series has not only given me a new lens with which to view the world as it pertains to my work, it has also impacted me personally. A few weeks ago, I had an unexpected overwhelming experience as I sat in the Pittsburgh airport waiting for my flight to depart. I’d purchased the book, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, figuring I’d use the time to catch up on some reading. I was not prepared for the emotional response it produced, as I read the author’s account of how he dealt with his son’s pain when the verdict came back not guilty in the Michael Brown case. I cried uncontrollably at that young boy’s pain and, more importantly, his sudden disillusionment.

I think I was just reacting to all of the pent up emotion that has come to the surface with the multiple police incidents that have occurred across America, and also due to the laser focus that the Putting Racism on the Table series presented on topics that have been hidden and unexplored for so long. A friend recently described her own anxiety as she watched her 7-year-old nephew running, as most children at this age are prone to do. She began raising her nephew a year or so ago, and she experienced firsthand what most African American mothers and fathers all over the country live with on a daily basis – the fear that his actions could someday be misinterpreted  by law enforcement – an instance of running- while-black, perhaps. She talked about the pain of knowing she will soon have to explain to him why he must stop immediately if ever confronted by the police. He’s seven. Is this the America we want to live in?

Still, I can’t let go of the notion of a world in which all men and women are created equal. My soul cries out for a different America. While I know this vision will take time, I know there is a role for me to take on in bringing it to life. As a crusader. As an advocate. As one who will talk about the racism that affects our region and country, and take part in addressing it. I’m glad that so many of my counterparts in the region have also taken on this role. Putting racism on the table is only the beginning.


Although the learning series has ended, let’s keep the conversation going. Please tweet me @WRAGPrez if you have thoughts on how to broaden the learning and build on the momentum. Stay tuned for the release of the remaining videos in the series.

How we’re Putting Racism on the Table: The Meyer Foundation

by Nicky Goren, President and CEO, and Josh Bernstein, Board Chair
The Eugene & Agnes E. Meyer Foundation

On January 22, WRAG launched its “Putting Racism on the Table” learning series with a presentation and discussion with Professor john a. powell, director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and professor of law and African American Studies & Ethnic Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. In his overview, Professor powell discussed structural racism, implicit bias, and how our brains are wired to react based on the overwhelming inputs we receive through media and popular culture. He also addressed the power of networks in perpetuating or altering the status quo. Perhaps most significantly, he raised an important threshold issue: the need to have open and honest conversations about racism.

The Meyer Foundation’s board and staff began our own conversation about racism as part of our strategic planning process last year. Two things quickly became clear as we took those important first steps: a variety of viewpoints were represented around our table, often deeply personal and strongly held, and we lacked a common vocabulary or framework for understanding and discussing inequity in our region. We are continuing this conversation by asking ourselves hard questions about our own implicit biases, and whether our institutional practices are set up to perpetuate exclusion. We are working to create a space for dialogue – both internally and externally – through which we can better understand the systems that perpetuate inequity and how we can dismantle them. For our regional philanthropic community, the WRAG learning series represents an opportunity to take those important first steps, too: to build our shared understanding of the impact of racism on our community, to develop a shared vocabulary that will allow us to have long overdue conversations, and to move toward solutions together.

Professor powell’s presentation re-affirmed our conviction that we need to continue this conversation with WRAG and its members, as well as with our workplaces, our networks, and our region as a whole. Many of the barriers and challenges facing low-income communities are the product of generations of systemic inequity  that we can no longer ignore, and we have to move from treating the symptoms to identifying and tackling the causes.

No single institution or sector can even begin to address these issues working in isolation. Our hope is that by tackling this work in a more intentional, vulnerable, and thoughtful way, the philanthropic community can influence leaders in  other sectors to do the same. We have all – perhaps unwittingly – contributed to maintaining the status quo, and we must collectively begin to peel away the layers of the onion and work together to make the kind of change we know is possible. We hope you’ll join us in this journey.

Leading a New Network for Philanthropy

by David Biemesderfer
President & CEO
Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers

Earlier this month, I moved from Florida to Washington, D.C. to take on a new role as president and CEO of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. A number of my friends and colleagues have teasingly questioned the wisdom of my decision to move north – particularly during the winter and particularly after the blizzard we just endured. But I am incredibly excited to be a new resident of our nation’s capital city, not just because it’s such a vibrant and growing metropolitan region, but because I have an opportunity to lead a vibrant and growing organization.

The Forum is the largest network serving philanthropy in America, consisting of 33 regional philanthropy associations – including the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG) – with more than 5,500 participating organizations. The Forum Network’s greatest strength is that we bring together the dual assets of deep regional roots and a broad nationwide reach. No other organization in philanthropy brings these assets to the table in the way that we do.

The Forum supports and advances the work of WRAG and its regional association colleagues in many ways. We offer staff professional development and peer-to-peer networking opportunities to help people be effective in their regional association work. We strengthen philanthropy’s voice in public policy by building regional associations’ capacity to engage in policy work. We provide an effective vehicle to allow regional associations to share data, information, and resources. And we help regional associations pool their resources and expertise to better serve their members.

The Forum operates as a true network that relies on the contributions of all of its regional association members, and WRAG is an active contributor to the network. Some of WRAG’s recent work – like its “Our Region, Your Investment” affordable housing initiative and its “Putting Racism on the Table” lecture series – are shining examples of how regional associations can play an impactful leadership role in their regions, and Forum members will continue to learn a great deal from WRAG’s leadership efforts.

Over the next two years, the Forum will begin implementing a new vision. We plan to broaden our network to bring together the assets of the Forum with the assets of national philanthropy-serving organizations – specifically national issue-based, identity-based, and practice-based affinity groups – to create a “one-stop shop” for philanthropies to find and engage others with similar interests, share knowledge, and advance policy. We will put our new vision into action through an inclusive, collaborative, iterative, and co-designed process with current and new partners, guided by a design team comprised equally of representatives of regional associations and national affinity groups.

I’m honored to be taking over the helm of the Forum at this pivotal moment for the organization and for the philanthropy field, and look forward to being an active member of the Washington, D.C. community (weather challenges aside). Working with wonderful members and partners like our neighbor, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, I am committed to making significant progress in how we support, connect and advance philanthropy in our country.


Note: WRAG president Tamara Lucas Copeland served on the Forum’s Board of Directors from 2009 to 2015.

 

Loudoun County:  Uncovering the Needs, Coordinating a Response

tadlock

by Lynn Tadlock
Deputy Executive Director of Giving, Claude Moore Charitable Foundation
Vice Chair, WRAG Board of Directors

I have worked in the Greater Washington region since college – mostly in public service – and have been amazed at the development, economic changes, and demographic shifts in our region. I’ve also seen the vast opportunities and difficult challenges that this growth and change have presented for many of our region’s jurisdictions and residents.

After a long career in Fairfax County government and now as the deputy director of one of the largest foundations in our region – the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation – I have come to understand that no one sector can fully address these challenges and opportunities alone, especially in this region where our issues are so connected and our populations are so transient. If we are to improve the quality of life in each of our jurisdictions and the region as a whole, we need a collaborative, multi-sector approach – what I call the “three-legged stool” – where government, business, and the social sector work in collaboration for the benefit of all.

We need that collaboration now more than ever. While some parts of our region are experiencing boom times, all jurisdictions are feeling the impact of federal budget cuts. Many nonprofits and faith-based organizations are experiencing increased demand for human services and burn-out of long-time leaders. While, at the same time, much of the business community is reducing or redefining its charitable giving.

This is all especially true in Loudoun County – our region’s fastest growing jurisdiction. And, the impact of these factors is amplified by the fact that their impact on residents often goes unnoticed in other parts of the region.

On May 14, cross-sector leaders from around the region will have the opportunity to learn about the unique needs and opportunities of Loudoun at the Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference. I invite you to join me and other philanthropic, nonprofit, government, and business leaders for this unique opportunity to learn about the needs in Loudoun, explore strategies for addressing those needs, and network with colleagues who are dedicated to improving quality of life in our region.

I am delighted that our region’s philanthropic sector is leading a conversation on how we can work together to ensure that the legs of Loudoun County’s three-legged stool are solid. Let’s make the Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference our starting point. I hope to see you there.

Business and Philanthropy: A partnership whose time has come

by Tamara Copeland
President
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Last week, Bob Buchanan, principal of Buchanan Partners, a real estate development company, and president of the 2030 Group, an association of business leaders focused on regional issues and solutions, came to speak to WRAG member CEOs as part of our CEO Coffee and Conversation series. He was invited after he and Dr. Stephen Fuller (of the Center for Regional Analysis, George Mason University) called for a regional economic summit.  They suggested that, because the backbone of our region’s economy has been the federal government and that given the changes in our region’s relationship to this hometown employer, we must create a new regional economic reality.  They also underscored the fact that this isn’t a situation to be addressed solely by the District of Columbia or Fairfax, VA, or any other jurisdiction in our region, but a regional problem that should be examined as a whole and addressed by regional leaders using a broad lens and a long-range view.

I invited Bob to speak because, surprisingly, they hadn’t viewed philanthropy as one of the sectors to call to the planning table until I reached out. When asked why philanthropy wasn’t included, Bob responded, “business leaders go to those who can move the needle.”

What a wake up call!  Clearly, philanthropy wasn’t viewed as a change agent.

For years, I have thought that philanthropy doesn’t do enough to highlight the role that it plays in social change. That’s why we produced Beyond Dollars in 2009, featured Philanthropy Factoids in the Daily WRAG throughout 2011, and updated Beyond Dollars with a progress report in 2013. We wanted to showcase all that philanthropy does to improve people’s lives.  Unfortunately, that message hasn’t reached the business community, and part of that responsibility lies with us.  When I look back over the speakers that WRAG has presented over the last decade, I can’t find one business leader who isn’t also a philanthropist.  Until the conversation with Bob Buchanan, WRAG had not invited a business leader to present his or her ideas to philanthropy. We had not explored with business shared views and values toward possible shared action. In retrospect, wow.

So, WRAG is working to change that.  Bob Buchanan underscored the altruistic role that funders can play. He noted that when he speaks up for a particular need, he is often lumped in the category of “greedy developer” just trying to make his project work. Often, yes, he is trying to make a project happen, but it is a project that can improve the lives of many who live in a specific community.  His business identity often obscures the fact that he wants to turn a profit and improve the community.  He challenged the funding community to:

  • Consider how they are perceived as only helping the “un-” and “under-” members of the community. He acknowledged that funders are trying to improve the lives of all who live in a community and that when the “un”served or “under”served are helped, all community members are helped. He feels that the business community doesn’t see the role of philanthropy as helping everybody;
  • Look at how they might support start-up businesses that can improve the viability of communities just as they support start up/innovative, new social profit organizations; and
  • Make financial investments with their assets, not just grants.

He believes that elected officials charged with serving their discrete constituencies and limited by a relatively brief time in office can’t be the sole partners of business, particularly in pursuit of a new regional economic dynamic. He wants philanthropy to play a role.  Now we must determine what that role should be.

Why we’re getting on the map: The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia

We’ve heard from several funders recently about why they are participating in WRAG’s Get on the Map campaign with the Foundation Center. These funders appreciate the value of both sharing their grants data with their colleagues in the local philanthropic community, and having access to their colleagues’ data in order to work more strategically and efficiently.

The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia is one of the latest funders to sign on to the campaign.

According to foundation president Eileen Ellsworth,

“The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia is thrilled to participate in the ‘Get on the Map’ initiative. As a funder, our role is to remain informed about the needs of the region, identify the organizations working to address those needs, and understand the funders interested in supporting their efforts. Our community is so rich with both nonprofits and funders. Not only will this powerful tool shine a light on philanthropy trends in the region and help us to guide our future work, but it will also help us more strategically target and coordinate grant dollars to support the greatest needs in the region.”

Says Jen McCollum, Vice President of Donor Relations,

“Armed with the data generated through this initiative, we will be better equipped to educate our donors about the needs of the region. We know there are great things being done by nonprofits in the area but we also know there is a tremendous amount of work to be done. This concrete data will help us better direct our efforts, inform our donors and generate increased partnerships with like-minded funders in the region.”


Get on the Map is an initiative to improve the quality, timeliness, and availability of grants data for and about funders. By e-reporting their grants data to the Foundation Center, WRAG members will help to build an interactive mapping platform that will allow members to see who is funding what and where in our region. To learn more about the platform and how to contribute your data, watch this recent webinar or sign up for the next webinar on April 9.