Action on Anti-Black Racism: Answering ABFE’s Call

As we continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic, a more pervasive pandemic continues to intensify – racial injustice. Recent civic demonstrations are shining a light on age-old racism, oppression and discrimination against the Black community that predate our country’s founding.

The moment we’re in as a country must become a movement to transform and dismantle the racist structures, systems and narratives that disadvantage Black communities. A future of promise in America, and in Colorado, depends on our ability to address and upend racist policies, practices and behaviors, so that all people – including our Black family, friends and neighbors – have access to the opportunities White folks have long enjoyed.

The Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) recently shared a powerful call to funders for action on anti-Black racism to – once and for all – free Black people from the disparate treatment and racial disparities we’re seeing unfold through the pandemics at play.

As a Black woman with southern roots, and the ABFE Board Chair, this work is deeply personal to me. It is work I’ve dedicated my whole self to. And it’s work that we, The Colorado Health Foundation, stand firmly committed to.

We know that the Black community has historically and continues to face greater institutional, structural and systemic injustices that result in worse health outcomes. And we know that we cannot advance health equity without first looking to address the racial injustices that plague us.

Such as racism exists at the very core of our nation, racial justice must exist at the very core of our work. Demolishing racial injustice is our greatest responsibility. That responsibility begins with putting our organizational tools to work – investing, policy advocacy, convening, capacity building, learning and more. However, when it comes to building our racial justice muscle, we have much to learn and even more to do.

Carving our path forward to address racial injustice begins with building agency in and with Black-led organizations and the Coloradans they serve. For decades, these organizations have focused squarely on racial justice, yet have been under-resourced and overlooked by mainstream funders and the philanthropic sector at large. These organizations are tight-knit with the communities they serve. They are supporting a range of needs and actions – big and small – amid intersecting crises. They have the skill, the will and the agency to make a meaningful impact, all the while having less access to resources and funding. Imagine what progress could look like with greater resources.

We must do more to elevate the power that already exists within Black communities and Black-led organizations – the power that will undoubtedly drive the long-term, sustainable and systemic change we need to see racial justice realized in our lifetimes.

While we have made some investments in Black-led organizations doing the hard and necessary work, we know we must do better. In recent years, we’ve been both identifying and building relationships with organizations working toward racial justice in all four corners of the state, and we know it’s not been enough.

We have an opportunity now, like never before, to build a movement that dismantles racist policies and advances health equity. Bringing racial justice into focus within our work requires that we:

  • Examine our use of power. We will share our power with groups that center their efforts on health equity and those that have historically had less power or privilege. We will engage with folks who look and think differently than we do.
  • Invest in organizations led by and/or centered on people of color. We will continue to identify partners, build relationships and provide organizations with general operating and capacity building support. We will invest in advocacy efforts that ensure the interests and priorities of people of color – Asian, Pacific Islander, Black, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American, and immigrants and refugees – are front and center in shaping policy decisions.
  • Fuel community-led solutions. We will listen more than we speak. We will continue to solicit input from communities to inform our investment strategies. We will seek out ideas from people with lived experience. We will empower solutions designed by and with communities of color and people living on low incomes. 

On behalf of our Board and staff, we applaud ABFE for their leadership in amplifying the need to address racial injustice and disparities for Black communities. It is a privilege to work alongside you, and fellow ABFE members, in this critically urgent work.

We are in this for the long haul.

Register for our July 23 “At the Heart of the Matter: Our Race Shapes Our Realities” event, where Karen McNeil-Miller, president and CEO of The Colorado Health Foundation, will kick off a series of monthly conversations with local and national leaders about the impacts of long-present, systemic racism on the health of Colorado’s communities of color and what we must do to spark change once and for all. While the coronavirus pandemic has pushed deeply entrenched health disparities into plain sight, many are simply calling for a “return to normal” – but “normal” wasn’t so great for everyone, and this hope misses the responsibility in front of us entirely. 

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