June 1 2020

The past 100 days or so have been emotionally and spiritually challenging for us as a community, and for me personally.  On top of the very difficult times we are enduring with the savage health and economic impacts of Covid 19, I have weathered the loss of a key activist-strategist in Regional Director Beatriz Solis to cancer after 14 years of service here at TCE; cared for my wife in her final days on earth battling cancer before losing her on April 30; and now, the searing pain of witnessing the live execution of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

The fuse of national outrage has (once again) been lit, and I’m not entirely certain where and how this chapter of indignation fueled by blatant racism goes.

But we have seen enough of these infuriating incidents over the years and across our nation to recognize a pattern.  In the streets, full-throated outrage and protest, with some devolving into violence in the community; elected officials, civic leaders, and activists going into overdrive on social media and mainstream media with their anger; local news and cable news network’s frothily filming tense standoffs between protesters and helmeted, protectively-clad police – with smoke and fire as the entertaining backdrop; talking head experts on the news and editorial pages saying, “well this time we must see real change.”

And then nothing changes.

In our world of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, we demonstrate our outrage by releasing or signing on to public statements about how outraged we are. We need a national partnership strategy among social justice leaders, advocacy organizations, and progressive philanthropy that centers on organizing, mobilizing, and leadership for a more inclusive and racially equitable America. Cobbling together statements of outrage has value, but the best use of our time is investing in a winning, people power-centered strategy.  I’ve given up on the miraculous moment where America rises to have the Great Awakening on Race.” This is now about People Power, and we need the discipline of developing and executing a plan.  Organizations now in the fight for social justice and racial equity not only need resources to carry on their work but need us in progressive philanthropy in lock-step support of their strategies in civic engagement, power building and systems change.

In my recent years of writing into this blog space, I have quoted activist leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, and Gandhi.  I never thought I’d be quoting a rapper-activist named “Killer Mike”.  Killer Mike, in an emotional plea from Atlanta this weekend about the outbreak of violent protests, suggested that it is rather “A time to plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize….it is time to beat up Prosecutors you don’t like at the voting booth…”

Mark me down as being in the Killer Mike camp.  Here at TCE, our Board of Directors has recently approved a 10-year strategic framework – built from our decade-long Building Healthy Communities experience with grantee-partners – that is centered upon “people power:” investing in the ability and capacity of grassroots- and advocacy organizations to strategize-organize-mobilize for a healthier, more equitable California, and through a racial justice lens.

The passion and energy of outrage in social justice is critical.  But we must invest to plan, strategize, organize, mobilize – and vote.  @KillerMike call me.  Let’s talk about the Plan.

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