Photo Credit: Amir Aziz
Statements from Akonadi Foundation President, Lateefah Simon and Board Chair, Quinn Delaney
By: Lateefah Simon 6/4/2020
Here is what we have long known. Black people are being killed. Anti Blackness and white supremacy are the assailants.
This week, in Oakland, tens of thousands of people filled the streets with one call to action – defend Black lives. These organizers are courageous, inspiring, and have answers. When Black people win, we all win – Black people’s fight for liberation is directly tied to our collective freedom.
The global uprisings in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, of Tony McDade – and the millions of names that are not often spoken – are not symbolic. They mirror a 400-year tradition of Black people revolting against tyranny in the United States. The road to freedom is not easy–or swift.
As president of Akonadi, a family foundation founded two decades ago with the distinct goal of funding racial justice movements, I know that our dollars alone aren’t enough to fight the beast that is white supremacy. This is a time to call in philanthropy, and ourselves. As we join with organizers and protestors to call for the transformation of racist systems, policies and practices, our duty is to make sure that we examine and transform our own sector. As we add to the chorus of voices rising up in this moment to support justice and liberation, we must also confront the anti-Blackness within our own walls – and commit to doing better.
The decline of support for Black organizations and of the disrespect of Black leadership within our nation’s movement for justice can no longer be tolerated. It’s time for philanthropy to center and follow the lead of Black organizers, invest in Black-led solutions and brilliance, and deeply support Black-led movements. Black organizers and leaders must not be met with blatant racism within our sector. When Black people win, we all win – Black people’s fight for liberation is directly tied to our collective freedom.
Yes, we must call for systemic policy change to decarcerate our streets and our communities. But, as funders, we must also examine our own institutions, our grantmaking, and our collective will to move resources to groups who’ve been on the ground for years – working to hold leaders to task. We can emerge not just as allies, but as righteous accomplices.
By: Quinn Delaney, Founder & Board Chair 6/5/2020
All words are inadequate in this moment of grief, anger and despair. Yet it is important for all of us to raise our voice. To shout, to scream, for our words to reverberate, our voices to come together.
Our message must be to change the system. We can no longer, if we ever could, abide with the notion that this situation is the result of “a few bad apples”. That explanation does not account for the thousands of Black people killed at the hands of law enforcement. That explanation does not account for how an officer like Derek Chauvin can remain on the police force after 18 infractions of excessive use of force. That explanation does not account for how despite decades of protests, decades of lifting up this horrific experience, nothing changes.
Reforms have been instituted. We have tried training, civilian oversight, diversity inclusion, body cameras. These reforms have not worked. Black people are still dying at the hands of uniformed police officers.
The fear and debasement of Black people has a long history, of course. One which we all know well, based in slavery, based in Jim Crow. As white people, we like to believe that racism no longer exists, that we have moved closer to the ideals found in the Constitution. I desperately wish that were true. I have worked to make it true, but moments like this lay bare that lie.
We must rethink the role of police, rethink our investments in communities, and rethink what safety means, and for whom. We must work for real systemic change to disempower law enforcement, and create a system that supports accountability and safety and justice for everyone. This will be—and has been—long, hard work. We must commit to it today, and we must recommit each year until we reach our goal.
It is imperative that white people acknowledge how the status quo has worked for us. From the outpouring of so many white people on the streets and denouncing what is happening, maybe we can acknowledge that it no longer does. Maybe this moment will crystalize a solidarity among all of us that will be true and lasting. Maybe we have learned to listen and support Black people.
Akonadi Foundation was founded 20 years ago as a racial justice organization, a foundation that has supported systems change and community organizing for Black people and people of color power. We are grieving and angry. And we are looking for hope. The fervent outcry from (almost) all corners of the country could be a source of hope. But the outcry must be accompanied with the hard work of organizing and advocacy for systemic change. At Akonadi, we have always done that and we will continue to work toward a world of racial equity and justice.
Photo Credit, Davey D. Cook