LEADERSHIP LETTER: CHAIR OF THE BOARD
When I think about my parents’ legacy, many moments and memories come to mind. But I believe their most meaningful accomplishment was the way they passed down their family values to the next generations — and how they instilled those values not only in our family members but in the fabric of the foundation’s culture. These values include respect, hard work, persistence, humility and, of course, the foundation’s core values of continuous learning, integrity, collaboration and commitment.
These values have been with us and have guided us from the very beginning. But as with our work, there has been an evolution in our values — not so much in what they are but in how we embody them and think about them in relation to power and equity.
I think it is important to understand that as philanthropists, we have been uniquely — and rightfully — challenged to consider what role we have historically played in perpetuating unequal power dynamics, systems of racial inequality and economic division between us and the communities that our organizations support. Through a process of critical internal reflection this past year, we identified areas where we want to improve (three of which are outlined in the stories that follow). We know it’s no longer about philanthropists holding the resources and telling communities what they need. It’s about listening to the community in a way we have not done in the past. It’s about being nimble and flexible with our partners to follow the community’s lead. It’s about shifting the power dynamics inherent in funder/partner relationships. And it is about acknowledging that we have fallen short in these areas before, but we are willing to keep making changes to be better in the present and future. That’s what living our core values is all about.
My parents were very intentional in their efforts to advance opportunities for Black children. But each generation has to learn anew that racism is deeply embedded psychologically and socially and culturally in all of us. Therefore, as a foundation and as individuals, we will continue to commit ourselves to advancing race equity and understanding what it means to be an anti-racist, trust-based, community-centered funder.
My mother passed away in August 2021, and while she is dearly missed, her unique impact and legacy will live on. She was the “quiet force” behind the scenes of the foundation’s work. And as a philanthropist, in many ways she was ahead of her time. My dad prioritized the deliverables and requirements with his funding. She, on the other hand, was always encouraging him to be even more generous and to give without imposing burdens or undue requirements — two beliefs that have very much shaped our approach and operations at the foundation. Her unwavering passion for this work, paired with her persistence, started the momentum that led us to where we are today — and we will be building on it for generations to come.
Despite a tumultuous and at times deeply discouraging past 18 months in our country, we remain hopeful for the future. I am energized and excited about our new strategy and our vision — and this annual report will give you a preview of what’s ahead for us as well as for our partner organizations and communities. I look forward to the co-creation that lies ahead.