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Feb 16th, 2023

Celebrating Black Leaders in Philanthropy

Black history is being made every day.

Gohar Chichian
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Every February, we celebrate Black History Month in the United States. It’s a time to recognize and reflect on the history, contributions, achievements, and culture of the Black community from notable individuals and trailblazers like Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., and Harriet Tubman. While the annual celebration has its roots in the 1920's, it was officially recognized by the United States federal government in 1976. It has since been observed and become an important part of our nation’s culture and identity.

Most importantly, what we must recognize is that Black history is being made every day. The civil rights movement is not a topic that remains in the past. Issues that impacted Black communities in the past - issues like access to civil rights, voting rights, employment, high-quality education, healthcare, and housing - continue to be barriers to equity today. Black communities continue to advocate and fight for resource equity due to a historic, chronic underinvestment in their communities.

Black history is being made today – in the work Black, Indigenous, and People of color (BIPOC) nonprofit leaders are doing in communities, in the achievements of foundation leaders who are challenging traditional grantmaking structures, and in the contributions of volunteers who contribute impactful work to support nonprofits. We’re highlighting 5 people in our philanthropic community who are paving the way with their achievements and making history today with their contributions.

We not only celebrate these leaders in philanthropy for Black History Month, but year-round. We thank these everyday heroes for their daily work to create a more just and equitable world for their communities.

Black Leaders in Philanthropy

Angelique Power is an exemplary leader within the philanthropic sector. As President and CEO of The Skillman Foundation, she has been at the forefront of the movement to bring racial equity to the table. Power has implemented a racial equity audit internally of all grants, operations, and the endowment. This has allowed for transparency and accountability to the community, as well as mission-alignment in all policies and practices. Additionally, an environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) process with The Skillman Foundation’s Outsourced Chief Investment Officer (OCIO) and Investment Committee was created, setting racial equity goals for the first time in the Foundation’s history.

Power is a vocal advocate for youth power and its importance in the primarily Black and brown city of Detroit. She believes that young people must be the designers of their own destiny and their vision will lead us all to the liberated future we deserve. Read our case study on how our partnership with The Skillman Foundation widens the net of inclusion and provides equitable resources to Detroit's communities.

Formerly on our Strategic Partnerships team at Catchafire, Sha-Kim is now the Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships with Tides. In addition to her work alongside grantmakers, she is also the founder of Helen’s Hands, a nonprofit created to honor the giving legacy of her late grandmother. At Helen’s Hands, they serve as a resource provider for the elderly, and more specifically, caregivers of Alzheimer and dementia patients. Sha-Kim has provided 90 percent of their resources out-of-pocket and with her savings, and she believes equity is only made possible by taking on consulting and part time gig work, and sacrificing her retirement funds. She says, “It looks like discomfort, tough conversations, and trust in those in my community who say they need help when they say they need it.” 

Join us for an upcoming virtual event, Why Well-Being Should Come First: A discussion with BIPOC women in philanthropy, where Sha-Kim shares her industry insights and wisdom with us. Join philanthropic leaders for a candid discussion on how to start, elevate, and broaden support for roles and voices for women of color on philanthropic work. RSVP here!

As Chief Impact Officer at The Dallas Foundation, Drexell leads a team focused on the Foundation’s community impact strategy to reduce intergenerational poverty and improve child well-being through investments in programs that ensure a strong and healthy start for children. He works with philanthropic, nonprofit, and civic leaders across Dallas and collaborates with the Foundation’s 350+ donor partners to continue the Foundation’s proven track record of investing in transformational solutions.

In a previous event with Candid entitled Stepping Forward to Build Collective Trust with Your Grantees, Drexell says, “The world is not where we want it to be, and we all have something to give in order to make the world a better place. That’s what philanthropy is."

When reflecting on how grantmaking at The Dallas Foundation works to support local communities, he says, “We at The Dallas Foundation are working really hard at being better and better every day at being out in the community doing purposeful outreach, to get to people who have not talked to us before, who don’t know that we are a place where they should think about applying for dollars. We’re trying to remove all of the friction points that come with trying to find money when you’re desperately trying to do good things for other people. We are working hard to simplify all of our grant applications. We have tried really hard to evolve our grantmaking and our positioning in the community as a whole to be more open and outward as opposed to closed and insular."

Learn more about The Dallas Foundation here, and listen to our past webinar with Candid, Stepping Forward to Build Collective Trust with Your Grantees, here. Check out our other webinar programming available here.

Cassandra is the Executive Director and Founder of Light of Loving Kindness in addition to being a Professor of Linguistics, Communications, and English and yoga instructor. She also teaches meditation and mindfulness-based interventions, and is equipped with the Advanced Master’s Program for the Treatment of Trauma by NICABM (National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine), and dedicates her time to working with young adults who are experiencing symptoms of mental instability like anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicidal ideations, trauma, and coping skills. Cassandra’s goal is to empower these leaders of tomorrow, in order to create the world that we desire to see, for our children, their children, and their children’s children. Her goal with Light of Loving Kindness is to provide access to these science-based, life-changing practices for all people, especially to those who need them the most, but who have access to them the least. 

Cassandra is an active member of Catchafire’s BIPOC Executive Director group, which you can learn more about here.

Richard Bell founded Kids First Initiative (KFI) as a result of his passion to change the lives of the underserved youth. KFI was born with the focus of  “Always Putting Kids First,” and the organization has evolved from being a grassroots effort to a viable pillar in the communities in which it serves. Bell wears several hats – he is a guest teacher in the Pontiac School District, possesses 22 years of experience as an independent Executive Protection Officer, and is currently a Reserve Police Officer for the Detroit Police Department. He was honored with a proclamation for working with young people by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners and given an Image Award by the Northern Oakland County branch of the NAACP for his extensive work in the community. Bell also served as a Democratic National Convention Precinct Delegate from Michigan's 9th Congressional District. 

The impact Bell has had on his community is far reaching beyond Michigan. Bell and his team are avid Catchafire users, and were actually the most active nonprofit in 2022! Check out their progress and projects here.

Get Involved With Catchafire

If you’re a grantmaker and would like to learn more about equipping nonprofits in your community with responsive, high-quality capacity building support, let’s connect. Email us here.

Or you can use your skills to support Black-led organizations by donating your time and talent. Sign up today to volunteer and directly support nonprofits working on Diversity, Inclusion, & Justice. Lend your expertise and boost capacity of nonprofit staff through one hour consultation calls and longer-term projects. Projects range from 1-50 hours across several categories such as design, marketing, operations, finance, IT, and more.

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