Published in Nonprofit Quarterly

By Nicolette Naylor and Nina Blackwell

The global uprisings for racial justice in 2020 forced many in our society to reckon with the role they play in perpetuating the violent, destructive forces of racism and anti-Blackness.

As a Black woman who grew up in South Africa under the ravages of apartheid and who now works as a senior leader within a large, US-based, global philanthropic organization, I—Nicolette—had a moment of reckoning where I had to ask whether and in what ways my institutional role perpetuates anti-Blackness and a colonial mindset in relation to Black and Brown communities in Africa.

As a white, female executive director of a grantmaking organization that has only ever funded community organizations in Southern and East Africa, I—Nina—wished that it hadn’t taken George Floyd’s murder to have my fellow funders and philanthropists wake up. I was also reminded again that the system of Global North philanthropy favors people who look like me. The very fact I was chosen for this role—having never lived on the African continent—was perpetuating neocolonialism, white supremacy and anti-Blackness.

Still, we were tentatively hopeful about philanthropy’s swift public response to calls for racial justice and the promises made by many organizations to do better through more funding, intentional reflection, and policy change.

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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