Agents of change: Nonprofits working to promote racial equality with support from SVCF

The following story appeared in the 2017 fall edition of SVCF Magazine.

From the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, it has become clear that now is the time to recommit to the civil rights movement. And Silicon Valley Community Foundation is doing just that by partnering with a variety of organizations that are committed to creating a more diverse, equal and just America. Here we highlight three such nonprofits — and how they’re tackling some of the biggest issues of our time.

The ARRAY Alliance

Tilane Jones, executive director, ARRAY
Tilane Jones
Executive Director, ARRAY

The ARRAY Alliance Many inner cities lack theaters, let alone creative spaces where art can blossom and minds can expand through film. This cinema segregation adds to the marginalization of communities of color throughout the United States.

In an effort to combat these creativity deserts, filmmaker Ava DuVernay launched the ARRAY Alliance, a foundation that aims to amplify stories of underrepresented communities by providing people of color and women filmmakers with the resources needed to ensure diverse perspectives are given a platform for change.

“We’re working to make diverse films available to a wider and broader audience, but we’re filmmakers as well, so we’re also making our own knowledge available to new filmmakers, and we’re advocating through film,” says Tilane Jones, executive director of ARRAY, the film distribution collective that gave rise to the Alliance.

To get off the ground, the new nonprofit is turning to SVCF for back-office support. “SVCF is sharing their knowledge and support as we are finding new revenues to serve our community in a more impactful way,” Jones says.

Jones and the Alliance team are looking to make an impact by distributing more films and providing more grants for filmmakers, as well as for smaller, hyper-local film festivals around the country. “The current political climate has motivated us to work even harder, and has shown us how important the arts are to this nation when we’re in turmoil,” Jones says. “It’s given us a call to action to help communities thrive through all this conflict.”

My Brother’s Keeper

In 2015, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Silicon Valley Community Foundation President and CEO Emmett Carson launched the My Brother’s Keeper: San Jose initiative, along with Applied Research. The MBK: SJ action plan was released in September 2016, outlining how community and city leaders can work together to ensure boys and young men of color in San Jose thrive.

“When we launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative here in San Jose, our focus was on what city government can do with the programs and resources we have to effect change, and how we can better engage our partners in this effort,” Liccardo says. “To do this, we focused on the four MBK milestones that most closely aligned with our existing capacity and program areas: entering kindergarten ready to learn; reading at grade level by third grade; graduating from high school ready for college and career; and creating pathways to success and second chances.”

The MBK action plan has also served as the foundation for the development of a citywide education and digital literacy strategy — an effort also launched by Liccardo in September 2016.

Today, the two efforts align with a single message: that the City of San Shawn Dove, CEO of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement Jose has an important role to play in closing the opportunity gap for all children and youth, and to do so effectively, strategies must be in place to address the particular needs of boys and young men of color.

In the background, SVCF will continue to provide support, building upon San Jose’s success in the region and statewide. “SVCF has played an important role in forming the ‘connective tissue’ of this initiative and ensuring we remain focused on what needs to be done to achieve our bold vision,” Liccardo says.

Campaign for Black Male Achievement

In 2008, as the nation elected its first black president, the disparate challenges faced by black men in America were brought to the forefront of the national conversation. For decades, black males have struggled to realize equal opportunities throughout their lives, especially in education and the workforce.

That same year, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement was launched as part of the Open Society Foundations, and over the course of seven years, CBMA helped catalyze the movement of black male achievement. Then, in 2015, the campaign spun off into an independent organization, and with SVCF as its outside fiscal sponsor, has worked to ensure the growth, sustainability and impact of leaders and groups committed to improving outcomes for black men. Today, SVCF provides day-to-day accounting support so the team can focus on furthering CBMA’s goals.

“I often say that there is no cavalry coming to save the day in our communities across the nation. That we are the iconic leaders that we’ve been waiting for. We are the curators of the change we are seeking,” says Shawn Dove, CEO of CBMA. “As a national membership-based organization, we have always recognized the power of investing in cities where there’s a demonstrated commitment from local leaders to support programs, research and advocacy to improve life outcomes of black men and boys. Oakland has been one of our Promise of Place cities, and the Oakland Unified School District has seen a reduction in suspensions and an increase in literacy for our young men over the past five years.”