Seattle Foundation Blog

Rebuilding Together. Reimagining Community.

Anti-Black racism, white supremacy, and systemic inequities due to racism have persisted in the United States for generations upon generations. They will continue to persist if we don’t look deeply in our hearts and examine what needs to be done differently moving forward. Black Lives Matter.


June 09, 2020

To Seattle Foundation's Community —

Our community and our country are grieving. People across the United States, and increasingly around the world, are pouring into the streets to make their voices heard, and to mourn and honor George Floyd, and countless other lost Black lives, including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Manuel Ellis. They also stand against the cultural racism we know is present in everyday life for so many, as exemplified through the racialized threats made against Christian Cooper in Central Park. As my esteemed colleague Dr. Helene Gayle, CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, said, “George’s life mattered, and it mattered long before his name was added to a long list of Black men and women whose lives were stolen at the hands of police and civilians who failed to see the humanity in their fellow American citizens.”

Over the past week, I have been holding the emotions of outrage, sadness, and frustration. I am also holding the principles of humility and conviction—conviction to lead and live our values and our mission in service to our community, and to not shy away from this moment.

Black Lives Matter.

For many in our community and country, this grief and trauma caused by racial violence are nothing new, and their effects are compounding. Racism, systemic inequities, and white supremacy have persisted in the United States for generations upon generations, and they will continue to persist if we don’t look deeply in our hearts and examine what needs to be done differently moving forward. For some in our community, the events of the past several days have been shocking. For others, they have been all too familiar and painfully close to home. Black people have been leading—and continue to lead—social movements working to address systemic racism and oppression since the abolitionists fought to end slavery; white people need to step up as partners, shoulder the burden, and engage one another in eliminating racism and helping to build coalitions during these times.

This moment echoes other seminal moments in history. Perhaps most poignantly, 1968 was also marked by the fight for civil rights against systemic racism, including anti-Black racism at the hands of law enforcement. Our actions up until this moment have led us here, but now we must take stronger actions together. We must do more, and that includes redirecting philanthropic resources where they are needed most. As a student of American history, I am convinced this may be one of the few moments in history we can actually turn the tide. We cannot let the confluence of experiences comparable to 1918 (the flu pandemic at the end of WWI), 1929 (the start of the Great Depression), and 1968 (the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the social unrest that followed) perpetuate without powerful civic leadership and bold philanthropic action.

The pain of this moment is magnified by one of the most significant pandemics in modern history. COVID-19, and its social and economic consequences, is further exposing and deepening the disparities and inequities that already existed in our region and across the country—disparities due to racism. We know that while everyone is feeling the impacts of COVID-19, the pandemic is not impacting everyone equally; Black communities, as well as Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander, immigrant and refugee communities, are among those hardest hit.

Long before I joined the Foundation, with the leadership of my predecessor CEOs Anne Farrell, Phyllis Campbell, and Mayor Norm Rice, the Foundation was on a journey to address racial inequities in our society. Today, the majority of our discretionary grantmaking programs center on racial equity and racial justice. But those funds are not sufficient to address the enormity of the challenge ahead of us. More than ever, we need our philanthropic community to join us. As our approach to this work evolves, we must address systemic racism itself, especially anti-Black racism. We must be far more explicit on how we center communities most impacted. We are asking ourselves, how will the Foundation live its mission in this time when Black lives continue to be devalued and destroyed by society, including at the hands of the police?

Words can feel inadequate, but silence is not an option. As the region’s community foundation, we have an overwhelming responsibility to you, our community, and to our mission to act. But to act well, we must listen intensely. Seattle Foundation, like many organizations, has a long journey ahead of us to realize our vision of a region where everyone thrives regardless of place, race or identity. It is critical, now more than ever, to make a pledge to become an anti-racist organization.

We are asking you to join us. Help us to reimagine what is possible, and not settle for a return to what was. Help create a sense of belonging in the Seattle region, rather than othering. These times call on all of us to examine our philanthropy and ensure it is put to work to root out all forms of racism and racial injustice.

  • We, together, must fund Black-led organizations and movements.
  • We, together, must fund racial justice organizing.
  • We, together, must fund advocacy and systems-change work.
  • We, together, must fund work to close the racial and ethnic wealth gap.
  • We, together, must appropriately use our voices to go beyond offering condolences, but to challenge ourselves and all of our community, to be better.
  • We, together, must act well and listen intensely.

While we’ve been on this path, what we have done to date collectively pales in comparison to what we need to be doing. By recommitting ourselves to help create the region we all want, we’re far more likely to get there—together. 

On behalf of Seattle Foundation,

tony-mestres

Tony Mestres
President & CEO

In partnership with

ed-thomas

Ed Thomas, Chair of the Board of Trustees

ed-taylor

Ed Taylor, Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees

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Community Issues

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African AmericansphilanthropistsRacial equity

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