Who is the person we picture when we say the word “philanthropist”? Do we see ourselves? A parent? A teacher? A billionaire’s face plastered on TV?
A major goal in modern philanthropy is to help young people see themselves when asked that question, rather than a faceless monetary figure on a screen. The Ms. Foundation’s Pocket Change report tells us that less than 0.5% of annual philanthropic dollars go to women and girls of color, and this number shrinks even more when we identify communities of Black girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth. But what happens when we take decision-making power out of the hands of the affluent few, and let those communities–and the young people who know their needs best–decide for themselves where funding should go?
Black Girl Freedom Fund and Grantmakers for Girls of Color (G4GC) representatives Cidra Sebastien and Maheen Kaleem joined Season 2 (Power) of Philanthropy Together’s Equity and Justice in Collective Giving Webinar Series h for an in-depth conversation surrounding young people in philanthropy: specifically, the Black girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth G4GC has provided with true philanthropic, grantmaking experience. As this webinar shows, people within these communities know the needs of those communities best–and incredible things can happen when we cede decision-making power to the next generation.
- Historically, funding for Black girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth is an underserved, underrepresented area of philanthropy. The lack of funding opportunities and funding dollars too often forces these communities to go without.
- In the rare cases where funding HAS been directed to Black girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color, dollars are allocated to causes funders consider important. In reality, it is Black girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color who understand the needs of their communities, and whose voices need to be heard in philanthropic decision-making processes.
- When presented with grantmaking opportunities through Grantmakers for Girls of Color, such as the Black Girl Freedom Fund Youth Advisory Council, young people leapt at the opportunity to make critical funding decisions for their communities. Participants in G4GC programs became their own strongest ambassadors, sharing their experiences, impact, and goals for the future with other members of their communities.
- Some funders say on paper that they want to support certain communities, be they communities of color, indigenous communities, LGBTQ+ communities, or any mix of identities and backgrounds. However, it is not enough for funders to simply say they want to help–they need to listen to what these communities have to say, then actually put into action those communities’ recommendations and requests.
- Participatory, trust-based grantmaking will be key to the #1BillionForBlackGirls campaign, a ten-year initiative to generate and move $1 billion in funding for Black girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth. When we put young people in charge of their own futures, the results speak for themselves.
Maheen Kaleem [Starting at 04:30]: We are with Grantmakers for Girls of Color. Our mission is to mobilize and amplify transformative organizing work that is led by and centers girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color to dismantle systems of oppression in the US and beyond. That’s a very long way of saying, basically, that all of our work is centered on girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth.
And I will note actually that when G4GC started, we didn’t have femmes and gender-expansive youth in the actual mission statement. It’s young people and their expansive and more nuanced and sophisticated analyses of gender that have invited us to have more expansive language.
You’ll see that our work is long; it’s wordy and it’s important because, as our young people consistently name for us, they need to see themselves in the work in order to know that it is for them.
We do a number of things, including we are a funding intermediary. We raise money to re-grant it. We have four initiatives that I’ll share more about. We do a lot of what some folks call capacity building; other folks call it accompaniment; other folks call it technical assistance. But basically we try to show up for our grantees in a range of ways that are all about them and the young people that we’re supporting, seeing a philanthropic home for girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color and kind of undergirding, that the idea that each one of us can be a co-investor in this work.
We see young people as co-investors because they are giving their wisdom and their time and their labor and their organizing and communities. We see organizations that are creating villages and networks of support around them as co-investors, and we see folks who have financial and other resources: the people that volunteer for those organizations, the staff at those organizations, and the people funding them as co-investors. Because of that, we also do participatory learning and distribution of scholarships.
So the idea is that we’re building out a research arm that can basically do the philanthropic research, that flanks movements and organizations and gives them the information that they need in order to mobilize and organize resources. As part of that advocacy and organizing, we also do some advocacy in narrative and policy – obviously, we’re a grantmaking institution, but we don’t do direct lobbying. We do make sure that our grantee partners and young people are in community with cultural influencers and policymakers to make sure that, when they’re thinking about advancing social justice and civil rights efforts, that girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color are in the room.
A good example of that is at one point when this administration launched some initiatives around equity, the White House Gender and Policy Council reached out to us. We were able to organize some listening sessions amongst our grantee partners and [the Council] to make sure that as they were thinking about equity initiatives, we were able to make sure that young people, and particularly girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color, were influencing some of those strategies in very concrete and specific ways.
And then the last piece, which is why we’re here today, is the philanthropic education and organizing. This is building community with other people who are thinking about resourcing this work, are already resourcing this work, are excited to resource this work, and figuring out how we can all collaborate together.
Most of our staff are newer to philanthropy as an industry as it stands, but as we know that’s not new to philanthropy, because it’s actually in our bones and our ancestors and our communities. Part of that is because we wanted folks who come with a deep proximity to the communities that we’re resourcing, to girls of color in particular, and to understanding what it means to actually be an organizer and mobilize people towards change.
I don’t think in this group I have to name this, but it just helps you to understand how we came about.
So why girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color? And really why does G4GC exist?
The reason is because movements and organizations asked us to exist. Around 2014, 2015, there was a lot of activity in the field. There were a lot of really amazing participatory reports that were coming out. There was action at the federal, state, and local levels to invest broadly in young people of color, but it was very focused on men and boys of color in some of the more public-facing [programs], particularly those initiatives coming out of the federal, state, and local governments.
At the same time, there was a kind of burgeoning–really massive organizations that were led by Black and other women and girls of color were already mobilizing and organizing together.
And so G4GC came together as a funder learning community initially to respond to the call to action from those movements. We need to mobilize philanthropic investment, and we can’t, and we need to make sure that girls of color are not left out of conversations more broadly about investment and resources. And [that’s why] it was a funder learning community.
We then did research with young people, with executive leaders, with other folks in philanthropy, to figure out: why was there an underinvestment? And what was happening? And how could we make it more aligned with what movements were asking for?
So that report, which was led by Frontline Solutions, highlighted a couple of very specific things that are important in terms of understanding G4GC and why and how we do our work.
The first was that unsurprisingly, there is an underinvestment in women and girls of color. More broadly, the most recent research that many folks have probably seen is from the Ms. Foundation’s Pocket Change report, where they reported that less than 0.5% of philanthropic giving annually was going overall to women and girls of color–and that’s not separating it out by age. It’s not separating it out by community. And then when you break down, what that looks like for specific communities, obviously that’s less and less funding.
The second piece that came out of the research was that even when there was an investment, it wasn’t going to what young people were saying they wanted. So, there might have been some investments in education, for example, but they weren’t going towards the things that girls of color were saying they needed in schools to feel safe, to feel whole, to have educational opportunities.
And then the third finding, which I think was really the most exciting, was that girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color wanted to be funded at the intersections of their identities.
These are some of the things that they said they wanted to be funded at the intersections of: not just where they were from, but specifically what their neighborhood was. Obviously the intersections of race and ethnicity and gender identity, but also them saying, “I’m smart. I’m funny. I’m shy. I’m creative. I’m moody.” So our call to action was really, how do we resource them at the intersection of the fullness of who they are? And how can we create philanthropic strategies that see them for their whole beings, and encourage and inspire investment in that? As opposed to a specific issue area or a specific kind of deficit-based strategy, which is what we have often seen.
I will speak frankly, because you all are folks in philanthropy that are doing this work a lot of time. People want us to lead with the deficit of, “What are all the terrible things that are happening to them?” And of course we know that they’re battling many systems of oppression. But for us at G4GC, it’s really important that people are actually inspired by their leadership and their capacity to thrive, and inspired by all the things that they are able to do, and the things that they see in themselves, and not just coming from a place of deficit.
We have four funding initiatives at G4GC, and Cidra is going to talk about our largest one and most public facing one.
We have the Love is Healing Fund, which I will say a little bit more about, only because we did not initially intend to be an intermediary. As I shared, we were a donor learning community, but after that research came out, it prompted us to think about what our strategy needed to be. So, in 2019, we spun out. We were initially housed at the Novo Foundation and led by a number of other foundations. In 2019, we spun out to be a fiscally sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.
And so, as you can imagine, it’s April of 2020, and Dr. Monique Morris – now Dr. Monique Kubsen, she’s changed her name – came in in April of 2020, and was sitting on seed funding, and the question was, really, “Do we sit on this and build what we understand and intended, or do we look at the world around us?”
We knew that girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color would not receive the kind of COVID-19 response dollars that other larger institutions might be receiving. So, we launched a COVID-19 Response Fund, which was our first community of grantees. The grants initially ranged from around $1,000 to $25,000, and they were across a range of issues and communities. Since then, that’s become our general fund.
We also have three other specific initiatives. One is the New Songs Rising Initiative that was launched in partnership with Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples. It is a fund that specifically focuses on native and indigenous, like diasporic indigenous girls.
That third initiative is the Holding a Sister Initiative that we launched in partnership with the Black Trans Fund. I see some of our other funding intermediaries on the call today, like Third Wave, and the Women’s Foundation for the State of Arizona. We do a lot of partnering with our colleagues, particularly women and femmes of color-led intermediaries, because there is a lot of rich organizing that happens in those spaces.
New Songs Rising was launched with Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples. The Holding a Sister Initiative was launched in partnership with the Black Trans Fund, specifically to support trans girls and gender-expansive youth of color. And then the Black Girl Freedom Fund which Cidra will talk about in a second – there are obviously so many intersecting identities that live across all of these initiatives. The idea behind them is to really be a container for conversation.
So, for example, with New Songs Rising, we asked, how do we create a specific place where we can talk about resourcing indigenous girls? What does indigeneity mean? What are they asking for?
And so the strategies for that fund are actually quite different than the strategies for Love is Healing, or the strategies for Holding a Sister, and we’re doing those in partnership with intermediaries that are led by folks with those identities and in those communities. In addition, we staff up our institution in a way that reflects the communities that we are supporting.
The last thing I’ll say before I hand it over to Cidra to talk about the Black Girl Freedom Fund is that we, across all of these, are creating a youth engagement strategy that puts young people in decision-making across our policies, our grantmaking, our communication. So, for example, we are thinking about things like launching a Tiktok for G4GC because young people have told us that’s how they want to be reached.
Or in our participatory grantmaking, we have a child safeguarding policy that we’ve developed, that young people actually had a say in articulating and defining, not only for us, but again going back to how we think about our work being reciprocal, really as engaging in ways that ensure that we are collectively, sharing wisdoms not only with the young people that we engage with, all of whom are from our grantee community – that’s where we source the outreach to young people – but also that we’re sharing back that information and creating avenues for our grantees to share that information with us, and for us to share it back with them.
It is important to us that we ground every conversation in what we call “reciprocity as praxis.” So as we were thinking about, what is this institution that we could build that could be a home? It was really important to us that we actually led from this place. And so I’m actually going to invite you all to do some thinking, because the idea behind reciprocity as praxis is really the idea that all of us come from philanthropic traditions in our homes and in our communities, and that those philanthropic traditions can actually influence the way we do our work, and the way we show up for our grantees and for young people in our communities.
And the idea, then, is that the exchanges that we engage with are not all financial, and this allows for us to be in relationships that are less transactional, that are less rooted in the power that comes from an exchange of money, but [are] really about how we all come together again, to be co-investors, and what we call the just and liberated futures for girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color.
One thing that we do often, and we’d love to invite you to do this, is think of one person in your life that has influenced your own philanthropy. It could be a person. It could be a cultural tradition. It could be a story or an anecdote, but something that tracks from your own personal [life], whether it’s your family or cultural tradition, your neighborhood, something you saw growing up that has influenced your philanthropy.
The example that I’ll give is, you know, I was raised in a Muslim household, and we have the concept of zakat, which is the philanthropic giving that every Muslim is required to give every year. It’s rooted in an idea of being mutually accountable to yourselves and your communities, particularly if you have access to financial and other resources. And so for me, that comes up. Sometimes I answer with an aunt of mine who is very philanthropic.
But I’ll pause there, hand it over to Cidra, and ask you all to be thinking about that person or that entity, or that idea in your life that’s influenced your own philanthropy.
Cidra Sebastien: Thank you so much, Maheen, and thank you, Kelsey, for the invitation, and folks who are coming through. Again, my name is Cidra Sebastien, I use she/her pronouns, and I’m excited to be here in this conversation. My voice might feel very small, and it’s because I’ve been doing a lot of screaming over the weekend – Kelsey alluded to my running; I crossed a major finish line on Sunday. My first 60K Ultra Trail Run! And as you can imagine, there was a lot of screaming at the finish line, so my voice is small.
I also want to give a shoutout to folks who are here in this moment. Looking at the chat, literally from A to Z, it’s an international conversation – folks from Aguacaliente to Zimbabwe joining us today. And that is just thrilling me, that folks are making the time to be present for this important conversation that is centering equity and justice. Often that is not a conversation that happens in philanthropy. When it does, at least for me, it feels like it’s a little spark, and then people move on to something else. So it’s good to see we have folks from all over who are thinking about different ways that we are putting into practice the work of equity and justice.
When I think about a person who has influenced my philanthropy, lots of people come to mind, but somebody who’s sitting with me right now is my mom. My mom has been a social worker for a number of years, and is coming on nine years of retiring from that work. When we were growing up, before she was doing social work and case management work for the city, we moved to New York from Puerto Rico in the early eighties and didn’t have a whole lot. And somehow my mom always managed for us, like two or three times a year, to go through all of our things and to figure out what we were giving away.
I will admit that it was really hard when I was younger, because I didn’t want to give my stuff away, and the lesson that I learned as I got older is, even when we think we don’t have enough, we actually have enough for ourselves and for others. She is the person who put that seed in me at a very young age, of what thinking from a space of abundance can look like, and that there’s actually enough for me to sustain myself and share with others. Even when I’m looking at the little that I have, and it was little, that we can still make a way to support someone else who doesn’t have [enough] right now, or is in dire need. And so that first seed of what abundance can look like came from my mom. That is definitely one of the things that has grown in me as I’m now doing this work in philanthropy.
Now, I want to give you all some key notes around reciprocity as praxis, and how that connects to Black Girl Freedom Fund and the larger campaign that is connected to, which is #1BillionForBlackGirls.
The #1BillionForBlackGirls campaign was founded in the summer of 2020, at a time when there were lots of conversations happening in different spaces, including philanthropy, about what a more just US could look like, as it relates to racial reckoning that we were seeing. However, there were very few public conversations that were happening about the intersections of race and gender, and also what this means for young people. Maheen talked a little bit about that earlier.
A group of women who have been doing really amazing work in the areas of activism and academia and the arts had their amazing text thread. That was the space where they were unpacking all of the things that were happening, and decided, “We need to make a bold call to action to say that this is actually the moment to invest robustly in the present day experience and the futures of Black girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color.” The call was for a one billion dollar investment in Black girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color and their families. From 2020 to 2030, it would be this 10 year long campaign, where we would act and move and mobilize individuals, corporations, institutions, and philanthropy to robustly invest in Black girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color.
The women who co-founded that campaign, all of their names are listed there on the slide, and you might know some or all of them because of your connections to philanthropy, but also the justice work that you’ve been doing.
It was really important for us to do our work within the G4GC community to lift this campaign as well, and that’s where Black Girl Freedom Fund came into play.
Since the campaign kicked off in 2020, we’ve been able to do some really cool things. In addition to being a vehicle that has resourced nearly 80 organizations since our grantmaking process has kicked off, we’ve also been able to engage young people, Black girls, femmes and gender-expansive youth themselves in a participatory grantmaking process.
One of the things that Kelsey said earlier was, you know, a guiding principle for this session around listening deeply. I had to write it down because it just made me feel tender. Thinking about all the times when I’m with Black girls and gender-expansive youth, and they talk about how often they are not listened to, and the frustration that comes with that. And also recognizing that people are missing out, that people are missing out on brilliance, on creativity, on innovation, because they are not listening to them – because they’re not listening to Black girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color.
It also made me think of how this participatory process has been one of those ways where we’re not only deeply listening to them, but we’re also doing what they say. It’s one thing to deeply listen to someone, and then it’s another thing to take heed to what they say, and then shift your actions, shift your day to day, maybe cause some disruption in a process that you’re used to moving forward because you’ve listened so deeply.
You cannot let that new information go. You then have to move it and put it into practice.
And so working with the young people over these few cycles has definitely been an opportunity for me to do that, but also an opportunity for other folks who are part of our community to do that work alongside young people as well. They’re with us for about a two month period, where they are paid for their work to learn about philanthropy, learn about how Grantmakers for Girls of Color does philanthropy, and then to do the vetting work.
We have had two cycles of grantmaking that have come together so far. We’ll share an announcement toward the end of this, about other work that we have coming through.
But in that time young people are thinking for themselves, about what philanthropy means for them. They’re also asked a similar question to what Maheen asked us, and it’s interesting to hear the range of answers. Sometimes young people refer to a practice within their indigenous community and culture, sometimes folks talk about a susu, which is a way of sharing resources over a period of time in a closed community group.
Sometimes people talk about volunteering, about donating, about tithing if they go to a church. All of these are different examples of giving. One thing that does stand out to me is a young person talking about making a connection to philanthropy, thinking about how her community holds a family who has lost a loved one, and how then the community comes in to cook food, to make sure that the family is well, to run different errands from washing clothes to taking care of elders or younger people in the family. All so that the immediate family can mourn and feel supported as they’re going on to do that work, and how that is connected to philanthropy.
Showing love and kindness, compassion through resources, and those resources obviously can be dollars, but also can be time. And so in this grantmaking work with Black Girl Freedom Fund, we are talking about the giving of dollars, and that being the major philanthropic work, and it’s something that they get really excited about. We support them in thinking about what that work can look like, but also connecting them to a social worker, or a psychologist, who facilitates workshops around understanding their relationship to money. We know that that’s important, because even in our adulthood we might not have had those opportunities to talk about what our relationship with money is, what it has been, and how that informs the work that we do in our day to day.
It’s really a great opportunity for the young people to have that space to pause and think about what their relationship to money is, because they’re going to be in this very unique position of being able to resource an organization. It can be difficult to say yes or no; it can be difficult to ask the question that might eliminate someone from a process. But it’s one that they really dig into and do the hard work around together.
The young people are constantly asking questions. They are asking me questions all the time. When Maheen joins these sessions, they have tons of questions for her. They’re questioning each other, and they’re also coming together to co-create what the vetting process will be for a particular round.
So as an example, one of our rounds was focusing on organizations that were centering the wellness and safety and health of Black girls, femmes and gender-expansive youth. They took time to define what wellness means for them, what safety means for them, and as you would imagine it’s not what you would find in Merriam Webster. And so that was what led our criteria, right? Not so much what you could Google as a definition, but for them, what made them feel safe. What made their communities feel safe? What did they need to feel healthy and whole?
All of those things we put into our decision-making process. Then, for about 4 to 5 weeks, the young people had access to a docket that had all the organizations that submitted viable applications. We were very clear about what we meant by centering Black girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth, that it needed to be an organization that was a 501c3, or housed at a 501c3.
It couldn’t be for individual scholarships or granting, or for somebody’s individual business, and so off the top, any applications that came in that were outside of that initial criteria, we removed them, put them in the folder. So the young people could see the name still, but could understand why they were not going to be considered. Then we went about looking at the ones that met that top tier criteria.
The young people went through their decision-making process to determine which organizations will receive funding and which would not. For these grantmaking cycles, the grant amounts range from $5,000 to $100,000, and that depended on the scope and the work of the organization, their size and their budget and other factors.
I think if a young person was here they would talk about the experience being cool. I think they would also say it was a lot of hard work. I think all of them would say they would want to do it over and over again, and that they would tell their friends, and they have, which is how our pool of cohorts has grown. They are telling their friends from other after school programs that they’re part of or from their sports team the work that they’re doing. Telling their neighbors, “I’m a philanthropist,” and explaining to them what that work has been, and so the work that they have done has not only moved our work forward at G4GC but it’s definitely also inspired other people in their peer community.
So what we’re going to do now is create a way for young people to enter into this space. Oftentimes we talk about young people, but we don’t talk with them. We don’t necessarily do the deep listening. And so we’re going to be sharing a small clip from a video that was a part of our annual Black Girl Freedom Week. It is an annual celebration that’s an opportunity for us to celebrate Black girls, Black femmes, and Black gender-expansive youth. It’s also a call to action to let folks know about the #1BillionForBlackGirls campaign, and also to provide an opportunity for young people to showcase who they are, to talk about their communities, to talk about all the amazing things that they’re doing and all the things that they want adults to do on their behalf.
This is a conversation by two new philanthropists, Jameson Ford and Zoe Tripp, and we’ll queue it up next.
Jameson Ford, in video clip: Hi! My name is Jameson Ford, and I use any pronouns. I had the amazing opportunity to work on the Black Girl Freedom Fund Youth Advisory Board. The first thing I I did was learn about philanthropy, and actually get to put myself in a philanthropist’s shoes.
When I was growing up, I never imagined somebody like me working in philanthropy. I always imagined men in suits and ties, sitting at a big table, and my personal experience working with Black Girl Freedom Fund was so far from what I actually imagined. After learning about how decisions were made and how people allocated money and how to allocate the statistics of philanthropy, I actually got to work with people that looked like me and got to learn about organizations that served and were led by people that look like me.
Zoe Tripp, in video clip: Hello, everyone! My name is Zoe Tripp, she/her pronouns, and I’m super excited to join you all in conversation today. My work in philanthropy started with the G4GC [youth advisory board]. I worked with our girls, such as me, and we work on creating work based on what philanthropy looks like for us. What’s been so exciting and so rewarding in philanthropy, for me, is learning about philanthropy not just on the corporate level, but noticing a new [version of philanthropy] without having a huge lump sum of money. That means the ability to give back to others: by sharing food, sharing love, sharing affirmations. That’s been the most rewarding part of philanthropy, that I can share love without having to be some big corporation.
Kyndall Clark-Osibodu, in video clip: My name is Kyndall Clark-Osibodu, and I have the immense, immense privilege of working with our young people across G4GC, both in our grantmaking but also in our internal work, as well. So it’s been such a blessing and a privilege to be able to work with people through our social media, through our operations, through our communications. I’m just so excited to be having this conversation tonight!
Jamie, as a leader with the Black Girl Freedom Fund Youth Grantmaking Council, when it comes to investment and philanthropy, what is important for people to know about Black girls and gender-expansive youth?
Jamison Ford: Something that was said to me a long time ago was, “We keep us safe.” It’s always stuck with me, and it’s stuck with me through my philanthropy experience. When it comes to philanthropy, Black girls, femmes and gender-expansive youth, we come last when it comes to investment, whether that’s asking who needs investment, or the actual investments themselves. We’re not even asked what kind of investments that we actually need for our communities. So, who better to ask than us?
Cidra Sebastien, in video clip: Yeah, absolutely. Who better to ask than you all?
Zoe Tripp: I definitely agree, Jamie. Just to add on with what you are saying, I think the most important thing about Black girls and femmes and gender-expansive youth right now is that not only is that just asking what our needs are, but also taking a step further and pushing to know what true investment looks like. I believe that what that means right now is a loss of power or a shift of power distribution.
I think so often power is distributed to adults. We need to ensure our needs are fully met and help actualization to occur for Black girls, with leadership, with power. Beyond that, support is definitely what we need – now we take a leading role, and we know what we need, and we can make decisions. We do not want someone making decisions for us.
Kyndall Clark-Osibodu: Yeah, thank you both Zoe and Jamie. What’s sitting most and resonating most with me is about what both of y’all are saying around shifting power to younger people, about the fact that we keep each other safe. We know that traditionally, philanthropy as a sector is extractive, right? We think about it as a sector and as an industry. We know that it is often rooted in the land grabs and genocide of native indigenous peoples. We know that it is rooted in and fueled by, historically, by the enslavement of African descendant peoples, [and] of extractive industries all around the world. We also know that it is often rooted in the exploitation of women’s labor, and so it’s really exciting to think about and acknowledge that philanthropy is actually ancestral.
While we think of philanthropy, in the industry as top-down, philanthropy is actually core to who all of us are [and] to our communities. It’s interesting. In the last panel just a little while ago we learned and witnessed who is funding Black girls, and we know that historically Black women are the folks who are funding this work abundantly, and so it’s really exciting to think about the beautiful work that Black Girl Freedom Fund is able to do as part of building on that legacy of Black feminist leadership.
And it’s really beautiful to be able to witness the work of folks like Jamie and Zoe, who are able to both fund and invest in their peers, and also build community with each other.
After a five-minute break, the group discussed their reactions to this video clip, sharing the ways that the young people’s excitement made them connect with the #1BillionForBlackFolks campaign.
Maheen Kaleem: One thing that I will say before we jump in is that some of the things that we learned from young people about what they were looking for in organizations was really fun, and some of that actually came through the questions they had. I’ll tee it up for Cidra to talk about this next exercise.
Cidra Sebastien: Awesome. So what I end up doing for the young people is creating a practice docket that I call a “Mock Doc,” or mock docket, because I love words and playing around with words. We look at that mock, to think about questions that the young people will have about who the organizations are. Do they fit the criteria that they have laid out? [We also do this] to give me a sense of what other information they want about the organization, so that when I’m presenting to them the official docket of organizations for them to consider, they have what they need. We’ve already flushed out some of the things that need to be ironed out, because they’ve gotten a chance to practice based on this activity.
The activity, with attendees separated out into breakout groups, focused on one of Cidra’s “Mock Docks.” In the mock dockets, none of the three organizations existed, although the names of leaders and participants were designed to be humorous. The ultimate goal was to decide which, if any, organizations in this docket would be viable for funding from the Black Girl Freedom Fund.
Questions to consider included:
- What stands out to you about each of these organizations?
- What are some considerations you have that are not listed in the criteria?
- What does wellness and safety mean to you?
- What additional information do you need?
After their time in the breakout rooms, the attendees regrouped for a “debriefing” session. Debrief questions included:
- What was that like?
- Did any of you make decisions?
- What information did you not have that you needed? Where could you have gone to get it?
- What did you learn from your peers in terms of their approach?
- What does wellness and safety mean to you?
Cidra Sebastien: This is a great activity, and one that we do in lots of different ways, because it allows for [young people] to practice asking questions [of potential grantees], practice asking questions of each other, and then putting to use some of the research skills that they already have and learning what other research skills they might need to move forward with the real process when they get a full docket and applications in front of them. It also allows for me to be better prepared to give them what they need.
So if I’m getting a lot of questions from young people who want more information about the leadership of the organization, then I know that, before I finalize the docket that I sent to them, I need to be able to highlight across the board all the information that we have about who the leadership is, and make it obvious and apparent, so when they’re going through their packets, they’re like, okay, this is the leadership section – boom! Right?
If they’re questions that people are having around impact that they can’t find, I can say, “Here are the websites that didn’t get filled in, or you might want to check them out on Instagram, or they’re not on IG, but they’re on Facebook.
But it also helps me to get a sense of where they are at in their learning, and what other types of support might be helpful. For example, if we come back from a debrief, and it’s the same three people that are speaking up, that’s a cue for me to have separate one-on-one conversations with [for example] Kelsey and Maheen, because they didn’t say as much during the group report. I need to figure out if this is just a style, and how their shyness shows up, or if this actually wasn’t engaging for them, if something else was going on and was a distraction from them, being able to fully participate today.
That’s the other work that I’m charged with doing to make sure that every young person who is a part of the cohort can participate at what optimum participation looks like for them. Because for somebody who is shy or who learns differently, a zoom setup is not the way to go. But if I can create another way for them to connect with me and connect with the rest of the cohort, then they can participate at their optimum and feel really good about the process that they’re connected to.
Maheen Kaleem: The last thing that I’ll share, and I’ll drop a link in the chat, is that we are launching our next round of open applications for this next cycle for the Black Girl Freedom Fund, which will focus on supporting the artistic vision, innovation, and activism of Black girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color. So that is open to any organization that G4GC is not currently resourcing. And so, [let us know] if there are organizations in your community that you know of, that we’d be interested in. We aren’t the final decision-makers, the young people are, but we would love to get that out.
We are more than happy to continue this conversation, and so grateful for your time, your attention, and your energy. It was really affirming for us, because this is an ongoing learning process, and we’re really grateful to be in learning with you.
Cidra Sebastien: In closing, I’ll share two things. March 31st is the deadline for this round of applications, and we have a unique opportunity in this cycle to fund youth-led projects. So if they’re young people who identify as Black girls, Black feminist youth between the ages of 13 and 25, they are able to apply for a $10,000 grant for a project. We will be granting thirty $10,000 grants for youth projects in addition to our cycle for organizations that are centering the artistic vision, activism, and innovation of Black girls and gender-expansive youth.
One more call to action I’ll just quickly share is that we are building out the data collection infrastructure for the #1BillionForBlackGirls campaign right now. There’s no easy way to collect information on what money is going to Black girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth.
So in the coming year or so we’ll be launching some invitations for funders who are funding these communities to tell us so that we can start to track those resources, and I know many of you are, so just be on the lookout for that. And again, as always, if you have more questions or want more information about the campaign, we’re more than happy to share it with you.