Learning from each other: Racial Justice work in our Chapter Leadership

By: bex kolins

IMG_397211Since joining the leadership team of the It Starts Today! campaign to fund Black led organizing work, I’ve been inspired, excited, and energized by the incredible work RGers are doing in not just redistributing our wealth, but redistributing our wealth with a clear priority to support Black led organizing.  With the release of the series of three blog posts several months ago about giving to Black organizing, and a particular emphasis on reparations and the importance of non-Black people with wealth–especially white people with wealth–giving to Black organizing, I’ve had beautiful conversations with fellow white people with wealth/class privilege; in these conversations, we’ve talked not just about prioritizing funding to Black organizing, but also about building deep relationships with Black organizations and leadership where we are living.
Over the course of this campaign, I’ve learned about two RG chapters that have built relationships with local community funds and Black organizations/groups to raise money for on the ground organizing work in their communities and–in the Philadelphia chapter–for organizing in Ferguson.  In Philly, the chapter partnered with their local community fund, Bread & Roses, to start the “Resources for Racial Justice” initiative in November.  This coalition committed to giving $27,490 this year; half of the money will go to the Organization for Black Struggle (OBS) in Ferguson, an organization fighting for political empowerment, economic justice, and cultural dignity for Black people, and the other half will go to the Bread & Roses Racial and Economic Justice Fund in Philly to build local movements towards racial justice.  They also committed to giving $15,000 a year for two more years to ongoing work in Philly!  By funding work both in Ferguson and in Philly, the coalition clearly highlights the ways that anti-Black racism is entrenched throughout the country and the importance of supporting local Black organizing; it is this type of work, moving our money and building relationships locally, that is what I think is fundamental towards our collective liberation.
The Let Us Breathe Fund in NYC, a coalition between the NYC RG chapter and North Star Fund, recently held a forum to highlight the different strategies that have been at the forefront of the movement to support Black lives in addition to dialoguing about building deeper investments in Black organizing.  The Fund itself supports immediate work on the ground and long-term investment in Black organizing and prioritizes Black led organizing, puts decision making directly into the hands of on the ground activists, and brings together a broad cross section of affected communities.  Stay tuned for another blog post coming soon about the Let Us Breathe Fund.
Just like the Philly chapter, the NYC chapter is forging long term relationships with Black organizing in their local communities, one of the goals for RG and chapters, and certainly a goal in working to dismantle white supremacy.  And it is through this exciting work–and through the commitment from so many others–that we have surpassed our $1 million goal to fund Black organizing work across the country by Mike Brown’s birthday on May 20, 2015!
As a white person with class privilege, I am constantly searching for ways to support the incredible organizing work led by Black people not just with my money (though certainly with that), but also in other ways like relationship-building.  Through these two chapters, through the commitments by so many people with RG (and not), I feel like we have seen what it means to prioritize and support on the ground work by the most vulnerable in our communities. The It Starts Today! campaign has provided ways for us as white and non-Black people with access to money to redistribute our money to match our values, AND, has provided a starting point for us in the work we should all be committed to for our collective liberation, for a world working towards an end to racism.  The It Starts Today! campaign … starts now–we must continue to redistribute our money, build relationships, listen to Black voices, and show up.