News and analysis
July 08, 2016

Black Nonprofit Leaders Share Grief in Wake of Police Shootings

Laura Buckman/AFP/Getty Images

Protestors in Dallas marched Thursday to protest the recent police shootings of two African-American men.

Just hours before five police officers were gunned down in the streets of Dallas, black foundation and nonprofit leaders from across the country picked up their phones Thursday and shared their grief with one another following the second killing of a black man by police this week.

So far, the reaction to the Dallas shootings, which occurred during a street protest to call attention to deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn., has been muted. Black Lives Matter tweeted that it "advocates dignity, justice, and freedom. Not murder."

The conference call Thursday afternoon, which was set up by the Association of Black Foundation Executives, attracted more than 70 participants, and was shared on social media under the hashtag #JustBe.

In the past two years, philanthropy responded to the deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., at the hands of the police. They created new programs and strategies designed to reduce racial inequality and ensure minorities, especially young black men, are not unfairly targeted by the police. The MacArthur Foundation, for example, supported a Police Accountability Task Force that in April offered recommendations for building trust between police and black residents of Chicago. The purpose of Thursday’s call was to focus on nonprofit employees' "healing and self-care," according to Susan Taylor Batten, the association’s president.

"We know that there is pain," she said. "There is rage. Its okay to acknowledge it and, more importantly, recognize that you’re not alone."

Immediate Interest

The association sent word about the call shortly before noon, and within hours more than 100 people had expressed interest, said Ms. Taylor Batten.

A number of prominent philanthropies are members or have employees who belong to the association, including the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Robert Wood Johnson and Skillman foundations. Ms. Taylor Batten declined to say who took part in the call because she did not want to identify nonprofit workers who may already feel alone in their organizations. Many black foundation leaders feel they are blocked from advancing to positions with greater authority in the nonprofit world, according to a report the group issued in 2014.

"A lot of people closed their doors or took a walk for those 30 minutes" during the call, she said. "This wasn’t just another workday. Issues of isolation are really large in our network."

One participant, Carly Hare, director of Change Philanthropy, said the call was an opportunity to strengthen bonds of shared experience among black nonprofit leaders.

"We are all experiencing waves of persistent trauma," she said. "The call was an opportunity for us to collectively reflect on this continuing violence against our community."

Although the purpose of the call was for people to express grief, Ms. Taylor Batten did mention several community-building and criminal-justice efforts including ColorOfChange, FundersForJustice, and Making Black Lives Matter. In the coming days, she said, those groups will begin to formulate a response to the shootings.

"People are feeling stuck, and this is a way of getting unstuck," she said.

Note: This article has been corrected to say that the hashtag used to set up the Association of Black Foundation Executives conference call was #JustBe, not #LetUsBeUs.

Send an email to Alex Daniels.