raceAhead: Why Ford Foundation Is Underwriting Black Lives Matter

August 8, 2016, 4:00 PM UTC

I’m back from vacation, refreshed and filled with gratitude for the work that we’re all doing together. Many thanks to Jeremy Quittner for filling in with such dedication, and as always, to Pamela Kruger for her steady hand.

Last week, the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) published a detailed and ambitious policy agenda, with a long list of “demands” that are attempts to match systemic problems with transparent solutions. One subsection of the agenda, “End the War on Black People,” takes on the criminal justice system. Another, “Reparations,” asks for specific remedies from corporate, government, and educational systems for harms related to slavery, and more recently, redlining in housing, education policy, mass incarceration and food insecurity.

The document is strong, clear, detailed and unflinching. And diverse: the movement is led largely by young black women and men, queer people of color and immigrants. The mix is reflected in the language and the issues.

For some, the agenda may help dispel the myth that the movement itself is set on violence. For others, it will confirm their worst fears. But no matter where you sit on the issues, the very existence of the manifesto is a confirmation of the power of distributed leadership, amplified by new technology and organized around a clear cause.

More than 50 organizations have already registered their support, but one, in particular, stands out. The Ford Foundation added their voice to the growing chorus of supporters, in the strongest possible terms.

“That’s why now is the time to stand by and amplify movements rooted in love, compassion, and dignity for all people. Now is the time to call for an end to state violence directed at communities of color. And now is the time to advocate for investment in public services—including but not limited to police reform—together with education, health, and employment in communities and for people that have historically had less opportunity and access to all those things.”

But the foundation is also planning on studying and underwriting what it calls a “new and dynamic form of social justice leadership and infrastructure,” by investing in the Black-Led Movement Fund, (BLMF) a pooled donor fund designed to support the work of the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), and led by Borealis Philanthropy.

Here’s some language that would make anyone sit up straighter if they read it in a pitch deck:

“The BLMF’s strategy is supported by two other components: the first is the Blackprint Strategy, a collaborative process underway to identify movement needs and resource priorities to bring $100 million in new resources to the Movement for Black Lives. The Movement Strategy Center’s Blueprint Philanthropies Project is facilitating this effort. The second component is the BLMF Organizational Development Initiative supported by Benedict Consulting and focused on supporting the organizational capacity building needs of a rapidly growing movement.”


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We know that institutions are essential to the fight against inequality. They develop individual leaders and incubate ideas; they outlive any one person, and their impact can be felt far beyond any one grant.
—Darren Walker