A U-turn for Youth Opportunities

April 4, 2012 Leave a comment

This post comes courtesy of staff from the Center for Arab American Philanthropy who attended the convening in Michigan that Cynthia and I facilitated last week. As the post mentions, youth played a key role in the proceedings, offering up moving testimonials and powerful elements of a vision for moving the state forward to a place of opportunity for all . . .

Concerned with issues of youth opportunity and racial equity in Michigan, the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) hosted State of Opportunity? The Road Ahead for Michigan on March 27. The Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) was in attendance, representing the Arab American community while the convening tackled structural racism in philanthropy and “cradle to career” grantmaking.

The Aspen Institute defines structural racism as “a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time.” The March 27 gathering focused on the “dimension” of philanthropy.

State of Opportunity speakers advocated for more holistic grantmaking practices, those that from “cradle to career” (birth through adulthood) support the growth of healthy, skilled, and civically engaged youth. This includes looking at problems that face our youth (such as infant mortality, unemployment, and welfare) through a lens of racial equity. In other words, grantmakers need to take into consideration the concerns that affect minority populations, as these populations generally have higher rates of social challenges.

However, the mission of the convening was not to focus on negative rhetoric, but to discuss grant-makers’ visions for a healthy future in the state of Michigan. Attendees agreed that foundations need to put emphasis on communicating stories about the “bright spots” – the organizations, families, and individuals we positively impact through funding and partnerships. In addition, four youth grant-makers from various foundations in Michigan were in attendance, sharing stories about the impact they have in their communities through grant-making. Their positivity was contagious and they truly have the potential to be the future leaders of philanthropy.

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