Dear Black Folks:

We need to have a hard, honest, but real conversation. We have a race problem in the social service sector, a lack of Black ran organizations, leaders, and Black created policies. Right now, we have White folks (well-intentioned, I am sure) but White people, who have professionalized “helping” the struggles of Black people. Even more troubling, is not only are White people are dominating the leadership of social sectors that are designed to help Black people, as: executive directors, foundations, social work instutions, policy think-tanks, even, Black social justice movements. Even the few organizations that have Black leaders, are tokenized position, where they still get their “orders on how to help Black people” from majority White boards, foundaitons, and policy makers.

I believe that the lack of Black leadership and directors of policy is the major reason we have NOT had gains for Black folks since LBJ’s, “War on Poverty.” And, as our community drowns in over incarceration, foster system, school to prison pipeline, economic poverty, health disparities, and segregated communities.

White people who have professionalized the “helping of Black people” have a vested interest in keeping the system, racism and White Supremacy, the way it is.

So, Black folks, if want to be free, we have to do it ourselves.

So I am urging, pleading, Black people support Black NPO and Black ran (staff and board) organizations.

White folks are making real money off “helping Black people,” by getting the majority of foundation and donation money, with no accountability to Black folks or to outcomes that improve the quality of life for Black folks.

Black professionals, I know asking you to leave White ran organizations to go and work for Black ones is a hard ask. I know, I know, its easier to work with White organizations than Black ones.

  • White folks have the money and pay better. 
  • They have the office spaces and professional fundraisers. 
  • They have the relationships with funders and rich folks. 
  • They have steady funding streams. 
  • Working for a White NPO is a much more secure financial bet.

But for White NPOS, their work for Black folks is their job; it is not personal. Many of these “woke White folks” live in segregated communities, send their children to segregated schools, live off the unearned financial support of their families and provide that same unearned financial help to their White children, creating more generational wealth income inequality.

Helping Black people is their job. They are not trying to revolutionize the system because they are benefiting from racism and racial inequality.

Black folks, we HAVE to start building our own and supporting each other.

If you are a talented NPO professional, take your gifts and help Black organizations. Black folks can’t depend on getting the same financial help as White organization.

  • Foundations are NOT funding Black ran organizations.
  • Rich white people aren’t donating to us directly. 
  • White ED’s and Boards of Directors, aren’t hiring/paying/treating us the way they are White folks.

If we are going to dig ourselves out of the racism this country was founded on and still operates, if we are going to free ourselves of oppression, we have to support and love each other.

  • I believe in us.
  • Support Black leaders.
  • Support Black businesses.
  • Support Black nonprofits.

Look at the racial make-up of the leadership of organizations and put your energy and resources where they are most needed: Black organizations and Black leaders.

For those of you, who can NOT leave White organizations, I plead that you be honest with your White organizations about their racism and demand that they adopt an anti-racist platform and true, not tokened, the leadership of Black employees.

This is an uncomfortable conversation but it needs to happen. The lack of Black leadership in nonprofit, social justice movements and organizations, is a crisis for Black folks. It won’t change if we don’t talk about it.

We can’t fix racism, if we don’t talk about it. And, there is a whole lotta racism in NPOs.

Black people, we have to fix this ourselves. We owe our future generations a real shot at freedom and that can’t happen in this current system.

In solidarity,

ShaRhonda Knott Dawson

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