June gathering provides powerful experience at Equal Justice Initiative Museum and Memorial
The third convening of the Presidents’ Forum on Racial Equity in Philanthropy was held June 3-4, 2019, in Montgomery, Alabama, and included visiting the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
Eleven foundation presidents and CEOs participated, representing organizations ranging from a family foundation to a progressive state-level foundation to a national foundation. The majority of the group identified as non-Hispanic white males; two non-Hispanic white females participated.
The presidents spent much of their time engaging in a peer consultancy model by forming pairs and small groups for focused conversations. One small-group session discussed the difficulty of leading with a racial equity lens from the personal, interpersonal, systemic, and cultural levels.
In the report-out of the conversation, one member said, “…it weighs heavily – the responsibility of leading – having clarity on DEI for where the organization is going…. There is no craft that we are exposed to showing us how to do so, without causing damage.” One president offered, “Having equity goals without an equity culture at the organization doesn’t work.” Another stated, “Sometimes we backpedal to find common ground; going fast and going slow is needed. Or sometimes you have to ask ‘or do we need to do different kinds of work altogether?’”
One comment summed up the challenge of the racial equity leadership imperative: “What does leading the right-sized racial equity process look like? Staging matters – the pace and the depth. We need to define depth of work and results.”
Attendees spent time talking to each other about their own racial histories, discovering similarities and differences. From one paired conversation, one president said, “We both had a sense of being outsiders, and that made it seem obvious to us that we both needed to pay special attention to difference. And that blinded me to the idea that I wasn’t seeing all kinds of differences and that I was swimming in that water of privilege, too.”
You can read more about the convening and how it built on learnings from previous gatherings in the June Meeting Report.
Attendee Dan Cardinali, president of Independent Sector, also published a blog post with his reflections on the event.