FFJ interviewed Zachary Norris, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Here he provides insight on the current political climate, Ella Baker Center's work and connection national movements, and ways funders can support social change and transformation.
In this moment, we need all of our leaders across so many movements that are building power for marginalized communities to be supported in ways that allow them to show up and be whole in their work. We can approach our grantmaking from a broader perspective of the values that guide us, to show up together and in solidarity.
No one is safe from the transition this country is undergoing. The period that we have entered is unlike anything that any of us has ever seen before. We will need to build a movement across divides of class, race, gender, age, documentation, religion and disability. Building a movement requires reaching out beyond the people who agree with you. Simply said, we need each other, and we need leadership and strategy.
Social movements are a hidden underpinning of the American story. This report seeks to provide a guidepost to both funders and the field by detailing what makes for a successful social movement, what capacities need to be developed, and what funding opportunities might exist.
Funding must fit the movement cycle and timing is critical. Healthy movements have cycles, and the needs of a thriving, expanding movement change dramatically and rapidly. However, these shifts are neither unpredictable nor random. Funders must be able to anticipate these shifts and be able to respond with agility in order to be most effective.
Today, I raise the question for philanthropy, particularly for white and non-black people of color donors and foundation staff: what more is required of us to advance racial justice? It is a question I have been grappling with as a biracial Sri Lankan/white American working in philanthropy.
The Movement for Black Lives and Black Lives Matter have afforded philanthropy an opportunity to rethink how to be more helpful to communities in peril. Over the past few years, we’ve seen notable shifts in how donors and institutional funders move money to crises and burgeoning movements.
Of course, changing police policies is not a panacea to police violence against Black girls, women and gender nonconforming people. In order to to strike at the root of the issue, we need to transform our responses to poverty, violence and mental health crises in ways that center the safety and humanity of Black women and our communities. Still, taking action in these seven areas would go a long way to reducing harm while we work toward deeper systemic change.
Transformative Campaigns are a means to create the operational alignment our progressive infrastructure needs to build a new, and specific, type of power: the power to govern based on our values. The capacities needed to govern are much different than the capacities we’ve needed to successfully elevate grievances and lead protests. In order to govern, we need political power. In order to govern with progressive and social justice values, that political power has to be independent from the two dominant political parties. That’s why a critical mass of progressive and social justice organizations is aligning around a strategic focus on building independent political power.