Southern California Grantmakers Conference focuses on equity and intersectionality

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Southern California Grantmakers’ Annual Conference welcomed more than 600 funders and community members to engage in discussions about intersectionality in philanthropy. Our San Diego Grantmakers staff joined in the plenary sessions and workshops to learn about topics such as: storytelling, health disparities, gentrification in underserved neigborhoods and homelessness.

In her welcoming remarks, Chair of Southern California Grantmakers Board of Directors Beatriz Solis said, “There is no way we can live our lives along one axis of identity.”

This is intersectionality. The framework means to understand the overlapping issues and identities that impact the well-being of community members we serve. Factors such as health, poverty, food access, criminal justice, trauma, and others have a critical impact on the overall well-being of individuals—and gender, sexuality, race, and class further shape how these issues and systems are experienced in our communities. 

Philanthropy can become a powerful force to advance equity in our communities once we make these connections to understand where support is needed.

It is also important that communities work together in equity. “How do we recognize that we are all in a similar fight? That when there is a win for one community, it is a win for all,” explained Marya Bangee, Director of Programming for Harness, in the Changing the Narrative through Arts and Culture session. While these sessions were very LA centric, they provided key findings and approaches that can be applied here in San Diego and shared amongst our membership.

One of the more unique and creative parts of the conference came from Grammy Award-winning band Quetzal and guests who led the audience in a collective song writing exercise. A standing ovation accompanied the powerful and soulful interpretation of the words “A home, we all need it. We are all connected. Love, we all need it. It binds us.”

 performs at the SCG Conference

From the energy of the main ballroom we were then confronted with some sobering statistics presented in the Closing the Wealth Gap session highlighting that college educated African American men have 13 times less wealth than high school educated white men. As such, this session discussed how grantmaking strategies can lead to transformational change in marginalized communities.

In the afternoon session, Kristen Lewis, Co-Director of Measure of America, provided a sneak preview of “A Portrait of Los Angeles County.” Health disparities, such as life expectancy, showed that people living in Sun Village had the lowest life expectancy rate of 75.8 years and those in Walnut Park have a life expectancy of 90.5 years—a 15 year difference! This data point is further validated by Rev. Alvin Herring’s comment, “The richest 1% of Americans will outlive the poorest populations by 15 years.” Just think about that for a moment…

Of interest to some of our local funders, SDG staff then participated in a discussion ofintersectionality in county systems to address homelessness. The County of Los Angeles’ Office of Diversion and Reentry explained how they work at the intersection of housing, mental health and the criminal justice system. They operate with a housing first strategy which removes barriers to entry for housing. Clients do not need to be sober to join the program. Once they are moved into stable housing, they can focus on additional services and recovery. The office collaborates across human services providers and public safety divisions to reduce cycles of incarceration and homeless.

County of Los Angeles’ Office of Diversion and Reentry Panel Session

As the event concluded with a panel sharing how collaborations between movementshave been enhanced by storytelling to make a tangible difference for vulnerable populations, we couldn’t help but thankful of our own members who inspire our work through their own dedication to supporting equitable, thriving communities right here in San Diego.

We applaud our partners at Southern California Grantmakers for a successful 2017 conference that provided plenty of food for thought as we move our philanthropic work forward with equity and intersectionality at the helm.

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Written by San Diego Grantmakers staff, Ryan Ginard and Annie VanDan

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