Seattle Foundation Blog

N2N Joins in National Equity Summit

Delegation shares reflections on increasing racial equity, inclusion and dignity

June 05, 2018

By Aileen Balahadia, Neighbor to Neighbor Program Consultant

In mid-April, six grantees from the Seattle Foundation’s Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) grassroots grantmaking program traveled to Chicago to join with 4,000 other community advocates, public officials, educators, artists, youth, philanthropists and private sector leaders to participate in an Equity Summit aimed at coalescing around a vision of racial equity, inclusion and dignity.

In the political context of our times; from defending the rights of immigrants to supporting the sovereignty of indigenous communities and addressing the systemic mass incarceration of black Americans, the Summit was a safe, thought-provoking place to gather in a multiracial and multisector community.

Angela Glover Blackwell, the outgoing CEO of the sponsoring organization, PolicyLink, spoke about the need for “radical imagination” to drive community solutions to fix our deepest social problems, while also emphasizing that all Americans should strive for equity because it has wide societal benefits. For example, Blackwell talked about how sidewalk curb cuts, a solution created to benefit a vulnerable disabled community, end up benefiting everyone.

I asked two of our N2N grantees to share their thoughts from this inspiring gathering.

Analia Bertoni, Executive Director of South Park Information and Resource Center

As a representative of a neighborhood in Seattle that still has opportunities to fight displacement, this Summit was very significant to me and an opportunity to learn how other organizations are supporting the resilience of vulnerable communities.

A field trip to visit several programs in Chicago was an eye opener and a relief. After listening to many community organizers at Urban Growers Collective, Grow Greater, Inter City Muslim Action Network and Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, I realized that we are going in the right direction in our community organizing work.

And we felt shared relief that we are not alone in fighting for housing as a human right. The main takeaway for me is that housing issues are connected to education, economic opportunity and leadership development. I felt touched by the work my peers are doing and came back very motivated to continue learning and looking to advance our skills in land banking so that we can claim power for our most vulnerable and working community in South Park.

Risho Sapano, Executive Director of Mother Africa

Power lies in the collective action of communities. The Equity Summit highlighted important trends of increasing community engagement and collective impact. Leaders of color are achieving more equitable results as they empower their communities to take bold actions such as working to close the wealth gap. One way they are doing that is through creating community land trusts where banks and cities invest in economic justice projects while residents lead and inform decisions that impact their livelihood.

In the area of restorative approaches to end violence and intergenerational trauma, other leaders shared their healing-informed approach to create spaces in schools and community for storytelling, poetry, art and cultural activities. In King County, we are heading in the right direction slowly and steady. Many historically marginalized communities are forming collaboratives to address issues collectively. A great example is the newly formed Kent Community Development Collaborative which will create community-driven solutions to increase affordable, safe housing for Kent residents, as well as opportunities for living-wage jobs and access to healthy, affordable foods.

Over N2N’s long history, we’ve focused on addressing those racial and economic inequities by investing in grassroots efforts led by communities of color and low-income communities to increase community engagement, power and influence for the long haul. Our most recent annual grantee convenings have been designed to purposefully deepen conversations around race and equity and we look forward to supporting imaginative new efforts from the community.



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