Enough Is Still Enough.

I wrote this piece four years ago. It was a punch to the gut reading it today because nothing has changed, except for the names—1,000 names, in fact, of people who lost their lives simply for being Black.

To my staff, my colleagues, and my friends whose pain, grief and trauma is indescribable and unrelenting—I’m sorry. Your pain is not a pain inflicted solely by the events of last week. Your pain is compounded by centuries of oppression and injustice. Your pain is the fear that walking or jogging in your neighborhood, playing in a park, going to the grocery store, or even sleeping in your own bed will result in death solely because of the color of your skin.

As the staff of Washington Area Women’s Foundation individually struggle to process the events of this past week, we also collectively struggle with how we show up as a philanthropic organization at this moment. During a call today, a staff member shared that we all have a unique gift to offer and that we should use our gifts to make change.

So we asked ourselves, “What is the gift that Washington Area Women’s Foundation has to offer?”

Our gift is using our voice as a funder to push for change. To that end, we will stand in solidarity with women and girls of color in DC and across the Washington metro region. We will center women and girls of color and follow their lead in identifying community needs. We will invest in the power of women and girls of color. We will push philanthropy to use an intersectional lens. We will work to disrupt sexist and racist systems. And we will acknowledge our mistakes and commit to doing better.

As a white woman, mother, friend, and leader, my gift is also using my voice. Silence is not an option. But words alone are not enough. To my white colleagues and friends, I implore you to speak up and take action. Our discomfort with saying or doing the wrong thing is inflicting even greater pain. If you don’t know where to start, here are some excellent resources.

There is no gender justice without racial justice. We have to take a stand against racism today. 

As I said four years ago:

“At what point do we say enough is enough? At what point are we willing to look deep within ourselves and face our own prejudices and biases head on and call them out for what they are? At what point do we collectively decide that the racialized structures we inhabit have to go? If not now, when?”

In solidarity,


Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat
President & CEO

The COVID-19 Crisis is a Racial Justice Issue & our Response must Prioritize the Power of Black, Indigenous, Latinx & Other People of Color

The COVID-19 virus does not discriminate — it can infect anyone. However, when an indiscriminate virus is unleashed in a country where racially unjust systems have long decided who lives, who dies, who thrives and who just gets by, the impact is anything but equal. As data disaggregated by race trickles out from state and local health agencies, it has confirmed what many of us not only feared but also anticipated: Black, Latinx and other people of color, who are the people of the global majority, are disproportionately dying from COVID-19.

A racially disparate impact necessitates a racially equitable response — one that prioritizes the leadership of Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and other people of color to respond to the immediate needs in their own communities, bolsters resilience in the face of this crisis, and builds power to push for long-lasting systemic change. With this in mind, we, the undersigned funders who believe in reimagining philanthropy as a just, racially equitable transition of power and resources, have coordinated approximately $2 million in sustained funding and $500,000 in rapid response funding to date to organizations led by people of color in the Washington, DC region based on the following commitments:

1. Supporting underfunded organizations led by people of color
Organizations led by people of color are traditionally underfunded; therefore, they are less likely to have reserves and are more likely to be unsustainable after an economic crisis. We challenge the notion that the nonprofits that can weather an economic downturn are the “best.” Rather, they have not suffered from decades of systemic underinvestment from local and national funders. We commit to designating funds to organizations, projects, groups and collaboratives that are led by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color, who are using an intersectional lens, and have operating budgets of under $1,000,000.

2. Solidarity with organizers, base builders and advocates
The philanthropic sector and the individual donors who support nonprofits are less likely to support the work of community organizing, base and power building and advocacy. We believe that more investment in organizations and groups that do this important work is imperative to address the issues that precipitated this crisis and the fallout to come. We commit to supporting those who have been organizing, advocating, and building power with communities of color before, during and in the wake of this moment.

3. Focusing hyperlocally
In times of crisis, your neighbors — those living and working in proximity to you — are often your first responders. We believe community care and mutual aid are vital responses in this moment and their structures will have lasting benefit beyond this crisis. We commit to focusing this support toward groups working in hyperlocal ways, for example, the neighborhood, block or building level.

4. Prioritizing disproportionately impacted industries and workers
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the District of Columbia already reported the highest Black unemployment rate in the country, and Virginia had a wider gap between Latinx/Hispanic and white unemployment than any other state. In the month of March, unemployment in the Greater Washington region, like the rest of the country, skyrocketed. Restaurant workers, domestic/care workers, hospitality workers, sex workers, day laborers, and those dependent on the formal and informal gig economy lost their livelihoods in the wake of COVID-19 — sectors where people of color make up the majority of workers and frequently have few worker protections. We commit to supporting organizations and groups with sector-specific priorities to increase the resiliency of our region’s disproportionately impacted industries, many of whom employ large numbers of people of color.

5. Taking a multi-pronged approach
Philanthropic institutions’ support must be as nimble and diverse as the evolving challenges our partners and their constituents face. Organizations are in the midst of shifting strategies and they are experimenting with digital organizing, conceiving of new fundraising plans and devising new engagement methods in a year with big priorities, including civic engagement and the Census. Our support is crucial. At the same time, we ask funders of social service and large-scale advocacy organizations to realign their resources in support of grassroots groups. We commit to a multi-pronged, innovative approach to address the needs of organizations led by people of color to develop new capacities and shift their strategies.

6. Operating with trust
Philanthropy is a sector created and maintained by inequity and an imbalance of power, and we recognize our role in maintaining inherited practices that hinder our ability to be at the forefront in achieving racial justice. We commit to reimagining the relationship between funder and grantee partner, operating through a trust-based approach that is transparent, streamlined, flexible and removes unnecessary barriers that disproportionately impact grassroots groups and organizations led by people of color.

As funders coordinating this effort, we pledge to act as advocates for these groups and invite our philanthropic peers, both locally and nationally, to part ways with business-as-usual philanthropy to meet this moment, which is anything but usual. Here are steps you can take right now:

1. Get the support you need from funding peers with experience in racial justice grantmaking. Organizations like Neighborhood Funders Group and Association for Black Foundation Executives can help. For local support, reach out to any of the signatories on this letter for opportunities to plug in.
2. If you do not have the relationships or capacity to deploy funding quickly to grassroots groups, rely on trusted intermediaries such as Diverse City Fund and Emergent Fund, who have a history of funding systems-change work driven by people of color-led grassroots organizations.
3. Extend your influence beyond grantmaking by contributing your time, expertise, and voice. We have formed sub-committees focused on civic engagement, healing justice and capacity building. We are especially inviting national foundations with regional offices in the Washington, DC region to join us.
4. Finally, attend the trust-based philanthropy webinar hosted by the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers on Monday, April 20th at 11 a.m. to learn how to reimagine your philanthropy. Information can be found here: trust-based-philanthropy-during-times-crisis-and-beyond

In solidarity,

Yanique Redwood, PhD, MPH
President and CEO
Consumer Health Foundation

Board of Instigators
Diverse City Fund

alicia sanchez gill
Director
Emergent Fund

Julia Baer-Cooper
Philanthropic Advisor
England Family Foundation

Tonia Wellons
President and CEO
Greater Washington Community Foundation

Daniel Solomon
Donor Adviser to Greater Washington Community Foundation

Nat Chioke Williams
Executive Director
Hill-Snowdon Foundation

Dara Johnson
Executive Director
Horning Family Fund

Nicola Goren
President and CEO
Meyer Foundation

Tom Perriello
Executive Director Open Society-US
Open Society Foundations

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat
President and CEO
Washington Area Women’s Foundation

Hanh Le
Executive Director
Weissberg Foundation

Think Local. Invest Local.

We’re Rising. We’re Mobilizing. We’re Making History – That’s the tagline of the 2020 Women’s March taking place this Saturday in Washington, DC and in cities across the country, but the tagline could also be viewed as a rallying call for 2020 and beyond.

We’ve entered a new decade and with that an opportunity to re-imagine what the next 10 years could and should look like. I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions per se. Despite the best of intentions, they always seem to result in broken promises to yourself, and I’d rather not kick off the new year disappointing myself!—but rather I like to reflect on the previous year in order to inform where I want to go in the coming year.

This year, I’ve been particularly reflective, in part because I’m a stone’s throw away from being an empty nester, and I know that the next 18 months will fly by. I’m watching my daughters grow into young women, beginning to feel their way through the world, asserting their independence and making their own decisions about the kind of world they want to live in. My oldest will cast her first presidential vote this year, while my youngest is arguing fiercely that the voting age should be lowered to 16. I work hard to suspend what some may call my “jaded and outdated” opinions in order to truly listen to, and receive, their ideas and opinions with an open mind and an open heart. It turns out that practice has taught me much lately and has actually fortified me for the coming year. And let’s be honest—it’s going to be a year.

It’s no coincidence that within days of the Women’s March we will commemorate the birthday of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and mark the National Day of Racial Healing. The story of gender and racial equity are intertwined, and in 2020, the fight continues.

That is why The Women’s Foundation remains steadfast in our commitment to equity. It is our duty as a women’s organization to acknowledge and embrace the fact that the strength of our community lies in the diversity and identities of its members, and in order for us to effectively address the economic realities of women and girls, we must create space for the voices and experiences of women and girls who experience inequities to be seen and heard.

And that’s what The Women’s Foundation does best.

We amplify community needs and voices by convening unlikely allies to work together to center the voices of women, girls and gender non-conforming individuals in our region.

Young women like Kiran Waqar, one of our Young Women’s Advisory Council Fellows, who has made it a priority to amplify the voices of fellow youth, lifts others up by taking center stage and speaking up herself.

Or organizations like the DC Rape Crisis Center, our Grantee Partner, which provides survivor-centered advocacy with an equity frame as the only rape crisis center in DC.

Or partnerships like those between Prince George’s Child Resource Center and Maryland Family Network, who are organizing Prince George’s County early childhood educators to advocate for themselves in Annapolis.

And leaders like Samantha Davis, Founder and Executive Director, of the Black Swan Academy, who is fiercely committed to creating a pipeline of Black youth leaders through civic leadership and engagement.

Those are just a few examples of local women and organizations rising, mobilizing, and ultimately making history in their own way to better their communities. As we embark on this new year, we’re investing in our local leaders to ensure that women and their families thrive now and into the next decade.

Specifically, in 2020, we will draw attention to issues embedded in economic security that don’t necessarily garner the local spotlight that they deserve. Issues like the role that gender-based violence plays in creating barriers to women achieving financial stability, the need for high quality and affordable early education programs so that moms can work, and racial disparities in women’s reproductive health care that prevent women and girls from  physical and emotional well-being. We will invest in and work across these primary areas, and others, because we recognize that in order for a woman to successfully complete a job training program or thrive in the workforce, she and her family members must be healthy, secure, and free of violence.

That is what we will do.

Now I have two asks of you in 2020: Think local. Invest local.

Take a moment to learn something about your community, a local nonprofit, or a local leader. Shop at a local women-owned business. Eat out at a woman-owned restaurant. Remind yourself that Washington, DC and the metropolitan region is more than the national political headlines. It is a vibrant and beautiful community that we all call home, and it is filled with boundless opportunities and potential.

So, when you’re marching this week, remember – you don’t have to look too far for the effective change you seek because it is already happening right here in the Washington region.

We’re rising. We’re mobilizing. We’re making history. Join us.

Sincerely,


Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat

October 11th Is Not Just a Day, It’s A Movement…

Seven years ago, the United Nations deemed October 11 International Day of the Girl with the goal to “galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, promoting opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.” Around the world, this day is recognized by a focus on advocacy related to issues that impact young women and girls and celebrations of the strength and enduring spirits of young women.

As a foundation focused on supporting the economic stability of women and girls in our region, The Women’s Foundation carries the intent of the Day of the Girl with us every day. It is the impetus behind all of our work, but our project that speaks most directly to the intent of October 11 is our Young Women’s Initiative (YWI), which is a District-wide effort to improve life outcomes and increase opportunities for cis and transgender young women of color and gender expansive youth of color between the ages of 12-24.

There are multiple facets to this exciting work that we have phased in systematically; First starting with listening sessions to hear directly from young women of color in DC about what they need and want in order to realize their life goals. Second, we launched a Young Women’s Advisory Council to formalize the feedback we received from young women of color and to serve as the guiding voice of the project. We, in partnership with the Young Women’s Advisory Council, hosted the GirlsLEAD Summit in March, which provided leadership and life skills workshops to 300 local young women.  And most recently, we released a Blueprint for Action, which takes the collective voice of several hundred young women and girls of color with whom we have engaged through YWI and puts forth their recommendations for an improved Washington, DC, that better supports their needs and ability to thrive.

Today, on this Day of the Girl 2018, we are excited to announce the launch of YWI’s Rock Star Fund. The Rock Star Fund will provide micro-grants to individual young women and girls to support their own leadership development and help them advance advocacy or community development projects in their neighborhoods and schools. We are piloting the Rock Star Fund this year by inviting attendees of the GirlsLEAD Summit to apply for up to $2,000 each to support their projects. The goal of the Rock Star Fund is exactly the goal of the Day of the Girl – to promote opportunities for young women and girls to show leadership.  Applicants will tell us what their leadership development needs are, and members of the Young Women’s Advisory Council well help select the Awardees. This is participatory grantmaking at it’s best – developed by young women of color, for young women of color, and led by young women of color.

While this year’s pilot will be by invitation only, we look forward to opening up applications more broadly in subsequent years. If you have questions about your eligibility for the Rock Star Fund this year, please contact Claudia Williams at cwilliams@wawf.org or call us at 202-347-7737. Applications are due on November 8, 2018.

 

 

#our100days Day 1 Action

Strength in Numbers

The Women’s March on Washington is just the first step. It’s essential that we keep moving forward. Our plan is to focus the energy of thousands of women and men into action. By coming together each day to do a single task, we can create lasting change in #our100days.

Here’s what we’re doing today:

We need women across the Washington area to come together. Share our site with your friends and recruit 10 women and men to join our movement: http://our100days.thewomensfoundation.org/

 

Let’s Keep Marching Forward

Announcing the #our100days campaign

I am incredibly inspired to see women from all over the country prepare to gather in our city tomorrow. We will raise our voices as one to tell the nation that we are here, we are strong, and we are powerful. The Women’s March on Washington is just the first step. I believe it’s essential that we keep moving forward.

Over the next 100 days, the new administration’s priorities will become more clear, and there is much at stake — health care, education, jobs, and our most basic rights. In his inaugural address, President Trump said, “This moment is your moment, it belongs to you,” and he is right. This is our moment. We cannot be silent when we see injustices happening around us.

That’s why I’m proud to announce #our100days campaign — because these 100 days will be our 100 days too. Our goals are to raise $100,000 over 100 days and to focus the energy of thousands of women and men into action. Each day, we’ll give you a single task. As more join our movement, our message will be amplified across social media and throughout our communities.

Get our updates by following us on Twitter and Facebook and signing up on our site our100days.thewomensfoundation.org to join me and thousands of other women and men to create lasting change in #our100days.

Thank you,

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat
President and CEO

 

The Time is Always Right To Do What’s Right…

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Next week, we will not only celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but we will recognize the inaugural National Day of Racial Healing, and bear witness to both a peaceful transition of power with the inauguration of our 45th President and the mobilization of several hundred thousand women and girls for the Women’s March on Washington. And all within the third week of 2017. As I reflect on the historic significance of it all, a quote by Dr. King comes to mind:

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

Well, that time is now.

Over the last two months, I have been a part of many private and public conversations with friends, family, and colleagues, and I’ve closely watched the public discourse around how we move forward as a country. The divisiveness we see and feel, the name calling and complete disregard for civilized debate, and the general sense that we are being pitted against one another has left many at a loss for how to move forward. As a leader, I’ve been forced to confront my own uncertainties, fears, and discomfort around the task before me as I continue to fight for women and girls, but it was a simple conversation with my 17 year-old daughter that moved me to action. Last week, she said to me, “Mommy,” (yes, at 17 she will still on occasion call me mommy), “I don’t feel like I have a voice, and I don’t know what to do.” My own daughter, the girl I’ve very consciously raised to be a strong, independent feminist, was at a loss, and her words were a wake-up call for me.

“The time is always right to do what is right.” And so I’m pushing my fears and uncertainties to the side, and I’m diving in with everything I’ve got because I never want to hear those words from any woman or girl ever again.

We have a voice, and we are powerful. It’s how we choose to harness our voice and power in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead that matters. We cannot be overwhelmed by the tasks at hand. There are actions each of us can take in our daily lives to make a difference.

  • Make an effort to understand opinions and beliefs that are different from yours. Read books and articles that explore different opinions and perspectives. Seek out media outlets and journalists that you may not necessarily follow. Have meaningful conversations with the friend, neighbor, or colleague with whom you may disagree.
  • Get involved locally. Feel passionate about an issue in your community? Get involved and learn more. Find the organization leading the charge on the issue and get connected. Attend local government meetings or hearings on the issue you care about. Connect with your local women’s commission. Volunteer.
  • Become politically active at the local level. Regardless of your political affiliation, become informed about races happening in your own backyard. Learn more about the candidates and their positions. Attend events and voice your opinion and concerns. Support the development of the next generation of political leadership. Consider running for office.
  • Use your voice. Speak up when you see a wrong that needs to be righted, whether it’s in your neighborhood, your school or your workplace. Write your local political leaders. Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed.

The New Year brings with it a sense of optimism and the idea that one can wipe the slate clean and start anew, whether that means you resolve to eat better, spend more time taking care of yourself, learn something new, etc. This year, I did not make a New Year’s resolution. Why? Because I am resolved that my resolution is not simply year-long but lifelong. At no time in my short 44 years have I been more resolved and committed to fighting for a fairer and more just and equitable community for women and girls than I am today, and I urge you to do the same. Our women and girls deserve nothing less.

Yes, the time is always right to do what is right.

Washington Region Early Care and Education Workforce Network Implementation Plan For Competency-Based Career Pathways

ABOUT THIS IMPLEMENTATION PLAN

This plan was prepared by FSG through the generous support of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation and its Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative.

FSG

FSG is a mission-driven consulting firm supporting leaders in creating large-scale, lasting social change. Through strategy, evaluation, and research we help many types of actors — individually and collectively — make progress against the world’s toughest problems. Our teams work across all sectors by partnering with leading foundations, businesses, nonprofits, and governments in every region of the globe.

We seek to reimagine social change by identifying ways to maximize the impact of existing resources, amplifying the work of others to help advance knowledge and practice, and inspiring change agents around the world to achieve greater impact.

Washington Area Women’s Foundation

Washington Area Women’s Foundation is the only public foundation dedicated to increasing resources and opportunities for women and girls in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. We mobilize our community to ensure that economically vulnerable women and girls in the Washington region have the resources they need to thrive.

Washington Area Women’s Foundation established the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative in 2008, as a multi-year, multi-million dollar collective funding effort. The Collaborative is supported and directed by corporate funders and local and national foundations.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In April of 2015, the National Academy of Medicine and the National Research Council released a report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation, that is both ambitious and visionary in its recommendations for how to transform the workforce and systems that serve children from birth through age 8, or third grade.

To catalyze implementation of the report’s recommendations, the National Academy led a national “Implementation Network” of states across the country working to implement recommendations from the report. Our Washington Region Early Care & Education Workforce Network formed as one of the initial state networks, representing different sectors in early care and education (“ECE”) as well as the geographies of Maryland (Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties), Virginia (Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax Counties), and Washington, D.C. Our region decided to form a team based on the unique needs in our region, including better serving our multi-cultural immigrant population with high numbers of dual language learners; embracing that the ECE workforce in our region is highly transient across state lines and thus could benefit from transferable credentials and compensation levels; and counteracting the lack of connectedness to a valued profession and to peers in ECE.

Our project purpose: “Mapping competency-based career pathways that are linked to quality and compensation and can be used across the region” will result in two concrete, connected deliverables:

Deliverable 1: 

Career pathways document

·   Document based on existing ECE professional credential/knowledge/competency frameworks in our region that establishes a practical and common set of quality standards for competencies at different levels, including suggested compensation levels, that are linked to identified competencies.

Deliverable 2:

Blueprint for an implementation mechanism

·   Certification/credential process that assesses and verifies competencies among the region’s ECE professionals according to the competency levels defined in the career pathways document and that establishes suggested compensation levels that correspond to the certification/credential.
Initial feedback on this project has been gathered from dozens of ECE stakeholders in the region and overall this idea has been met with a positive response. Developing the final deliverables, ideally over the course of 12 months, will require a highly collaborative process of further engaging stakeholders in the region. Moreover, research will be conducted to better understand how to create a career pathways document that is clear and user-friendly; what the competencies should be at each level of the pathway; how the competencies can be assessed and verified by a third party; and what the cost and benefit will be of achieving compensation commensurate with demonstrated competencies.In order for these deliverables to be used in practice, the region will need to create supporting infrastructure, for example shared services and practices related to substitutes, mentors, and/or benefits administration. This project will explore the feasibility of this kind of supporting infrastructure.

For the thousands of dedicated ECE professionals in our region, we hope this project will result in greater awareness of where they are on the career pathway; greater ability to engage in continuous improvement of their competencies; increased compensation and compensation alignment among early education and learning settings; and greater connectedness to a valued profession and to peers. This is in service of the ultimate outcome of this work: children in the region benefit from high quality early childhood experiences that foster positive learning and development.

 

DOWNLOAD AND READ THE FULL IMPLEMENTATION PLAN HERE.

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat 2016 Leadership Luncheon Speech

Good afternoon everyone! Thank you all for being here. I’m always blown away whenever I walk into the luncheon—the energy, excitement and enthusiasm are truly contagious, and I always leave this room feeling inspired.

And really how could you not be inspired by Karen and Juanita? Wow. Thank you both for the courage it took to share your stories with us today.

You know something that Karen said earlier really resonated with me: She said that you can’t find balance after pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, without a community of support.

At the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, this is what we’re all about, building and mobilizing community. And it’s the power of community that unites us of us here today.

It is absolutely no mistake that the theme of our luncheon this year is Together, We Thrive, because we know that when we bring community together, we can achieve better outcomes. And in the 18 years since The Women’s Foundation was created, we’ve certainly made incredible strides. Last year alone, our grant investments reached more than 3,600 women, and we helped them increase their incomes and assets by $3.6 million.

But we all know that the reality of today is that not everyone in our community is thriving, and in particular, women and girls of color face systemic challenges that stand in their way. And rather than lifting up the strength, resilience, and hope that is resident in communities across the country, some of the current public discourse is dragging us down.

And so, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that and trying to figure out what I wanted to say to you today. As a white woman leading this organization in this moment, I’ve thought deeply about my role as a community leader in advancing racial equity. I acknowledge my privilege as a white woman, and I acknowledge the privilege and power that inherently comes with philanthropy. Frankly, on some level, it’s easy to hide behind that and go about my day. It’s hard to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations. It’s hard to confront and challenge the unconscious biases that we all have, but at the end of the day, I can’t honestly look into my daughters’ eyes and say that I did all that I could to create a better community for women and girls if I remain silent when deep injustices are happening around me.

Last year, I stood on this stage, and talked about the need for bold action. I’m a firm believer in – “don’t talk, act. Don’t say, show. And don’t promise, prove.”

And that is why today, The Women’s Foundation is publicly committing to advancing equity for women and girls of color and tackling racism head on so that we can truly advance our mission and ensure that all women and girls in our community have the opportunity to thrive.

We must use our voice, our resources and the community we have created to remove the barriers women and girls of color face.

As you know, the mission of The Women’s Foundation is to mobilize our community to ensure that economically vulnerable women and girls have the resources they need to thrive. Economic security has been central to our mission since our founding, but it’s not enough to simply say that we are working with low-income or economically vulnerable women and girls. We have to be intentional and explicit in our language and our actions. We can no longer leave unsaid the realities facing women and girls of color, and I would argue, it’s time to write a new narrative, one where we celebrate and embrace the contributions of women and girls of color.

While it’s always been implicit in our work, now we are committing to also explicitly applying a racial equity lens to our convening, our research and advocacy agendas, and our grant investments.

But most importantly, we are committed to ensuring that women and girls of color not only have a seat at the table, but are driving the solutions. And we’ll start that by launching a Young Women’s Initiative, which will be co-designed with young women and girls of color and other leaders in our community (many of whom are here with us today), all with the goal of crafting policy recommendations that address racial, gender, and other disparities. I’m pleased to say that we are doing this in collaboration with seven other women’s foundations from across the country as part of a broader effort called Prosperity Together, as well as the White House Council on Women and Girls.

As a first step in this Initiative, we are listening—really, truly listening—to the concerns and challenges facing women and girls of color in our community: Issues that limit their ability to achieve higher paying jobs; issues that threaten their own safety; and issues that jeopardize the health and well-being of their children.

And to be clear, when I say issues, what I am referring to are the policies and practices that disadvantage and disempower women and people of color on a routine basis—in other words systemic and institutional racism.

And so today, every member of my board, and my staff, is taking a public stand and professing their commitment to racial equity.  We are all in—today, tomorrow, and for the years ahead because this is hard work, and this hard work that must continue long after the national conversations have faded.

As we move forward in advancing equity for women and girls of color, I ask you to join us.   Stand with us.

Stand with us as we work together to understand the root causes of inequality and inequity in our city, and develop plans, together, to create change.

Stand with us if you believe that having a bright future means that you can’t predict how well women and girls are doing based on their race and ethnicity.

Stand with us if you believe that, Together, We Thrive.

 

When Is Enough, Enough?

We had our July enewsletter planned. In fact, yesterday, I sat with a copy of it for my review. I read it three times, and while I very much wanted to share the good work that Washington Area Women’s Foundation has been engaged in—and there is so much good work happening—I was struggling to sign-off on the beautifully prepared and celebratory newsletter that sat before me. And then I woke to more violence and bad news this morning.

My heart is heavy. I feel immobilized. Tears flowed on several occasions yesterday. I wanted to turn away from the screen and social media, but I couldn’t. Another video, another senseless murder, another life lost, another family destroyed. Have you heard the heart wrenching, bring-you-to-your-knees sobs of Alton Sterling’s 15-year-old son during a news conference, as he cried, “I want my daddy…”? Did you watch Diamond Reynolds as she stood in front of the Minnesota Governor’s mansion demanding justice, not only for her boyfriend Philando Castile, but also for every family that has sadly come before her? “This is much bigger than me,” she said. I challenge anyone to watch either of those videos and not be rocked to your core.

Think racism is a thing of the past? Think again. As a white woman, I will never know what it feels like to live in constant fear that my actions or my words or my simply being could end my life. I’m the mother of two teenage girls. I’ve never had to sit them down and explain to them how they are supposed to “be” in this world. When my 16-year-old started driving, I feared for her safety as a new driver, but I never feared for her life in the event of a traffic stop. Privilege. I am privileged. My girls are privileged. We live a privileged life.

All day, my Facebook feed was filled with friends and colleagues who are grieving. They are tired. They are angry. They’re feeling hopeless. They are in pain. I want to wrap my arms around all of them and offer words of comfort, but what would those words be? Everything will be ok? Justice will be served? We’re going to make this right? Ha – those aren’t words. Those are lies, and I won’t lie to my friends and colleagues. Instead, I promised to find my words at a time when I was at a loss for words.

And so here’s my start. At what point do we say enough is enough? At what point are we willing to look deep within ourselves and face our own prejudices and biases head on and call them out for what they are? At what point do we collectively decide that the racialized structures we inhabit have to go? If not now, when? In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Here we are, 52 years later, a long way from racial justice.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Instead, listen to the stories of six beautiful women in DC who bravely shared their experiences. “Too few hold the power. Too many are powerless… There’s a different standard for everything… You think we don’t see it?”

I see it. My eyes are wide open. The question is: What do we do now?