Black women are powerful leaders. It’s time to make them known and elevate their work.
In the earlier months of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was on a call with a business leader talking about how small businesses could survive the economic consequences of the pandemic. I learned about the ways in which small, women, and minority-owned organizations were shortchanged and overlooked in the Payroll Protection Program, while larger companies were prioritized, even though their need was not as great. I was enraged, but as the owner of a business that serves the nonprofit sector, I was not surprised. Nonprofits, predominantly run by women, are often neglected by those in power, routinely compelled to do more with less, and used to seeing their accomplishments trivialized.
I was angry and knew I had to do something. But rather than once again articulate what’s wrong — systemic racism and its impact in light of COVID-19 and regarding violence against Black people — I wanted Spark Point Fundraising to be part of amplifying what’s good. If ever there was a time to recognize the incredible work of the nonprofit sector, it was now. After all, nonprofit organizations were moving mountains to make sure that the most vulnerable people in our communities are protected and cared for. And they were (and are) doing it largely without the support of those who created the mess in the first place.
I decided I would use the Spark Point platform to showcase women leading the nonprofits that are spearheading the recovery — physical, emotional, economic, and social — that this country needs in the wake of the disastrous response from leaders at all levels of government.
And then George Floyd was murdered by the police in an all-too-familiar act of brutality, just like Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, and so many others. It was as chilling as it was unexceptional in America. But in combination with the global pandemic and its disproportionate impact on communities of color in the United States, it threw systematic racial injustice into stark relief. Now, as it always should have been, the story that needed telling was not just the way that women were leading the pandemic recovery, but specifically the drive of Black women leading nonprofit organizations to address a multitude of intersecting injustices.
In just minutes I was able to list three DC-based organizations led by Black women who are pivoting to address the needs of the majority Black communities who are experiencing disproportionately negative effects from COVID-19 AND who are part of the powerful movement to put an end to systemic racism.
Whereas normally, Life Pieces to Masterpieces provides out-of-school time arts programming, they are now also helping families pay for funeral costs and other needs in communities devastated by the virus because of racial inequities in health care.
Fair Budget Coalition is leading a campaign for a #JustRecovery in DC to ensure that “the District’s wealthiest residents and most successful businesses pay their fair share—on the table, we can ensure that those who are already suffering due to the pandemic, and those who were suffering even before, are not further hurt by cuts to critical programs.” This is part of a larger call to ensure that DC has an equitable budget, which both prioritizes low-income communities that have been adversely impacted by public policy, as well as demanding that wealthy residents contribute their fair share.
Black Swan Academy is organizing young people around their safety and liberation. BSA has led DC in the Police Free School movement, as well as demanded mental health resources for students, and have made major strides in combating the school to prison pipeline in DC.
Along with many white allies, I listened to the Black community for guidance on how I could best support the cause. The answer I heard was to first and foremost do the work of becoming anti racist. At Spark Point we are committed to this work, which we know takes time and is ongoing.
The second — and inherently related — was to follow and support Black leaders, to make space for Black voices, and to help amplify often-marginalized Black voices. This we could do immediately.
In the coming weeks, we will be sharing the stories of Black women nonprofit leaders engaged in transformative work. Their stories so often don’t get the attention they deserve, and we hope you’ll help us change that. In sharing their stories, we will also detail the challenges inherent in being a Black, female leader in the nonprofit sector. Look for another blog post from us soon on this topic.
All of the women whose stories we will share are doing the real, yet underappreciated work of guiding us through these challenging times and leading us to a brighter future as we slowly emerge from the multiple crises that have enveloped us. They are on the front lines of these fights. We want you to know about them, to appreciate them and to support them and their organizations.
Keep an eye out here for our #BlackWomenSparkChange campaign, read the stories, and share them widely. Let’s come together to elevate the real heroes of our recovery.
*We use the term woman broadly to include anyone who identifies as a woman.