Exploring the connectedness of health in our communities and imagining a better future
April 26, 2022 | Issue #23
“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
We believe that communities’ power is strongest when they define their vision for health and well-being. During the past two years, three pivotal efforts have emerged in California to shape, name, and resource the world we want to see. The California Black Freedom Fund
, the Latino Power Fund
, and Activate California seek to transform our state by dismantling structural inequities, investing in culture as an asset, and defining their own narratives. We invite you to learn about these power-building efforts through this month’s stories, read more about why we support them
, share your vision for how we can build power together, and forward this newsletter to a friend or colleague
who shares our goals.
||Carolyn Wang Kong
Chief Program Director
The power of self-determination
“Self-determination” is the word Marc Philpart, recently named the first executive director of the California Black Freedom Fund, uses to describe what power-building means in his work. His experience includes previous leadership at Foundation grantee PolicyLink and working directly alongside the Obama administration to launch My Brother’s Keeper.
Now, Philpart has a great opportunity to further Black liberation through the five-year, $100 million initiative.
“Our focus on ‘power-building’ supports an interconnected and locally rooted ecosystem that gives Black community members the power to design and advocate for community agendas that reflect their needs. play decision-making roles in the policies and systems that impact their lives, and exercise power to win systemic change,” Philpart says.
As the fund works to ensure that Black-led organizations have sustained resources to eradicate systemic and institutional racism, it will treat culture as an asset that fosters Black advocacy and leadership.
“There is a saying: ‘culture cures.’ I wholeheartedly believe that and strive to integrate history, culture, and the arts in ways that captivate and motivate people,” says Philpart. “Culture allows people to tap into a historical legacy and cultivates a sense of self and purpose. This is the formula for agency and self-determination, the building blocks required for a vision of the world different from our current experience and the hope and belief that we can usher forward a more just world.”
Innovative approaches to organizing AAPI communities
Activate California was born to empower a new movement of Asian American and Pacific Islander community leaders, change narratives about the AAPI community, build cross-racial solidarity, and invest in activism against injustice.
Leaders of this fund are using new approaches to build power in AAPI communities, advocate for policy reform, and define their own narrative. They are focusing on younger people and using culture as an asset to activate Millennial and Gen-Z Californians who are primed to lead a narrative shift.
“Younger AAPIs are ready to shed the image of Asian American and Pacific Islanders as invisible and passive and emerge as leaders to join with communities of color to make California and the country more inclusive and just,” says Joanna Kong, Activate California co-founder and board member of Asian American Futures. “We want to make it culturally acceptable to be loud, to raise your voice in protest, and to demand change.”
Later this spring on social media, Activate California will be asking AAPI youth to share their hopes, visions, and ideas for the future of California. The hope is to illustrate a new generation’s conceptions of AAPI heritage, identity, and what binds them together as a community.
What does it mean to build power?
The California Black Freedom Fund, the Latino Power Fund, and Activate California — recognizing that on-the-ground leaders know what their communities need — share the goal of putting power in the hands of the communities they serve. Even though these multi-million dollar initiatives aim to direct resources to and build power in distinct communities in California, they also have common causes and intersecting opportunities. As Activate California puts it, “Racial solidarity is a core value of Activate California because many young AAPIs understand structural racism and want to build solidarity with people of color in the fight for dignity, justice, and inclusion.”
Where culture unifies, community power can grow
Since launching the Latino Power Fund in June 2021, the Latino Community Foundation has focused its investments in Latino-led nonprofit infrastructure, civic leadership, and movement building. We asked leaders of this five-year, $50 million initiative about the role of culture in strengthening the civic, political, and economic power of Latinos in California. They replied:
“We lead from a place of strength and center our work in joy. We choose to celebrate our culture — our music, our food, our artists, our families, our ancestry, and our faith. Our culture is a source of joy and strength — and joy is medicine for the soul and antidote to pain.
“We invite our youth to paint murals in the middle of a pandemic to remind our communities that they are seen and loved. We invite mariachis to play music when we set up vaccination clinics. We set tables of food representing the diaspora of our Latino heritage when we bring our community partners together because that’s what family is all about. We organize events for our Latina entrepreneurs that end with dance parties because their brilliance deserves to be celebrated. We kick off policy summits with spoken word and drummers because our voices will be heard.
“We center love, power, and culture because we know it’s only then that social justice movements will stand the test of time, trials, and tribulation. We are an unstoppable force when we lead with joy and culture.”
This month at Blue Shield of California Foundation