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Let Black women-led funds and Black girls lead the way: Centering Black women-led funds to lead social justice efforts

Oct 19, 2022

By Monique Couvson and Tynesha McHarris

Black women and girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color deserve abundant investments in supporting our liberated futures. Tragically, philanthropy has always underfunded us.

In 2018, just $15 million out of almost $428 billion in philanthropic giving in the United States reached Black women and girls. That means less than 1 percent goes toward supporting the voices, visions, and experiences necessary for the liberation of Black girls and all people. The lack of funding in the Global South is even more dire: Funding for Black women, girls, and trans people constitutes roughly 5 percent of funding designated for human rights efforts—both in dollars and number of grants.

In the past two years, a growing movement of Black women leaders have been working to transform this inequality. In September 2020, we partnered with a collective of other outstanding Black women leaders to launch the #1Billion4BlackGirls campaign. Our goal was to mobilize robust investment in Black girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth’s leadership, genius, wellness, power, and capacity to thrive. The campaign was launched on the anniversary of the racist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four Black girls—Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley–and wounded another, Sarah Collins.

Black girls and young women must play a central role in discussions about discrimination in education, health care, sexual assault, and policing. Yet, our stories are notably absent from public narratives, policies, and justice movements most crucial to addressing inequality and racial trauma. A bold call for investing $1 billion over 10 years in organizations and movements focused on supporting the liberated futures of Black girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth shows us the way forward.

The $1 billion goal is not only achievable; it is also an intelligent and essential investment. We established two signature funds—the Black Girl Freedom Fund and the Black Feminist Fund—that have demonstrated how investments in Black girls and gender-expansive people not only remains an urgent need, but produce direct and residual outcomes for others in their homes and neighborhoods. This return on investment makes these funds essential agents for community economic development, and we know that Black women and girls are worthy of investment even without such evidence.

In the two years since we launched those funds, other essential initiatives centering Black women and girls have emerged and/or expanded, including the Southern Black Girls and Women’s Consortium’s Black Girl Dream Fund, the Children’s Rights Innovation Fund, and the Black Women and Girls Fund at the Baltimore Community Foundation. Together, we have invested millions more into the brain trust, innovation, health, safety, education, artistic visions, research, and joy of Black women, girls, and their families.

While we celebrate this milestone and the necessary gains, we must keep this momentum going.

The same energy that led organizations in the philanthropic, public, and private sectors to pledge significant investments—more than $4 billion—toward racial justice efforts in recent years should also drive decisions to invest in Black women, girls, and femmes in this moment. Now is the time to fulfill those unmet commitments. Philanthropic efforts that lack an intersectional analysis, and those that deprioritize funding racial justice efforts at the intersections of our communities’ identities, contribute to the harmful narrative that Black girls and femmes do not require investment. This lack of intersectional analysis will only undermine efforts to grow funds that resource young people whose experiences are often the result of compounded traumas associated with race, gender, sexuality, and age.

Philanthropists who care about racial justice must realize that people who are closest to the problem must be part of the solution. Black women are political, social, and cultural leaders. We are power players shaping our country today despite being grossly underfunded, under-resourced and underestimated. We must keep giving abundantly to this community because we know that all social justice efforts benefit when we place value in Black girls’ and women’s lives and leadership. And we must center Black women-led funds.

Imagine what 2030 will look like if there is a significant investment in the lives and livelihood of Black girls and women’s leadership, innovation, wellness, and advocacy. We will be closer to our vision of collective freedom and liberation.

This commentary was originally published in Philanthropy News Digest.