Juneteenth kick-off event: SVCF’s Nicole Taylor talks philanthropy and community

Dr. Marvin Carr, Nicole Taylor and Milan Balinton discussing philanthropy's impact on Black communities

For the second year in U.S. history, Juneteenth is on the calendar as an official federal holiday – a momentous occasion for those who have spent years fighting for Black liberation, like local nonprofit African American Community Services Agency (AACSA). AACSA is the only multi-service community center for African Americans in Northern California, and successfully advocated for Santa Clara County to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday before the federal government followed suit.

But long before Juneteenth gained widespread adoption, Black communities around the country would celebrate it. Right here in our backyard, AACSA had been hosting its annual Juneteenth in the Park festival in San Jose for over four decades. The Festival brings together the community to celebrate African American heritage and provides educational opportunities on topics tailored for the Black community ranging from health to educational and financial literacy. Every year, the Festival boasts a star-studded line-up of Black community leaders, celebrities and musicians, and averages more than 6,000 attendees.

“I'm most excited about the community coming together and celebrating freedom now that we are two years into Juneteenth as an official holiday,” said Milan Balinton, executive director of AACSA, speaking at a Juneteenth kick-off brunch on Sunday, June 12.

To mark the start of AACSA’s Juneteenth festivities for 2022, the organization hosted a brunch at Jackie’s Place, a Black woman-owned restaurant in San Jose that serves up some of Silicon Valley’s best soul food. AACSA invited SVCF President and CEO Nicole Taylor and Director of Walmart’s Center for Racial Equity Dr. Marvin Carr to take to the stage and share their insights about philanthropy as a driving force for systems change in local communities.

We’ve featured some highlights from their conversation below.

Philanthropy can help repair communities

Early in the discussion, Balinton asked why philanthropy is important to Black communities. “One word:” Carr said, “Repair.” He went on to say he believes that philanthropy can help fill the gaps where government falls short and address the growing inequality in Black and Indigenous communities and communities of color.

Taylor also spoke to the role of philanthropy as being one part of a larger ecosystem.

“No one player can do it on their own,” she said. “How do we work with our public systems so investments in the Black community are evergreen? Where are we investing and reinvesting in our communities? What is the role that companies, and the public and philanthropic sectors play -- and how are we supporting the nonprofits that are actually doing the work?”

Black representation in philanthropy

Taylor also highlighted that Black communities have some of the richest traditions of giving, from tithing at church to frequenting local Black-owned businesses.

“We hear about the folks who were leading the marches. But what we don't read about are all the women who were cooking on Sundays and Saturdays to feed the marchers and support the movement. We didn't hear about the Black businesses that took their money to invest in the buses and invest in the transportation systems,” she said. “That is what our people do.”

Modern day philanthropy, Taylor said, simply formalizes – through philanthropic institutions like foundations – the giving and philanthropic spirit already prevalent in Black communities.

The next step?

“We need people who look like us and think like us at the table,” said Dr. Carr, emphasizing the importance of bringing more people of color and people with lived experiences into places where important civic and philanthropic decisions are made.

Giving voice to communities of color

Taylor’s comments also touched on the community foundation’s work in recent years to increase resources for local nonprofits that are working on advancing racial justice and equity in our region. From SVCF’s Community Action Grants program, to the California Black Freedom Fund and the LatinXCEL Fund, to our leadership development programs for nonprofits – SVCF is focused on driving our resources to local leaders of colors in our communities.

“When we can’t fill that gap,” Taylor said, “we turn to our donors and say, ‘here are the organizations we really want you to fund in your backyard.’”

Nicole Taylor poses with a portrait of herself that was painted by artist Tyler Gordon, pictured at right

Coming together as a unified force

To advance our collective work to win the fight against social and racial injustices, Taylor emphasized the importance of Black communities coming together with other communities.

“We’re fighting as if the pie is finite. It is not finite. It can be expanded – and part of that is coming together within our own community and supporting one another across communities. That is what is going to carry the day.”

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