After the latest spate of black pain and protests interrupted the white gaze, there seems to be a great white awakening afoot. I’m not quite sure what was particularly poignant about this round of lynchings but folks are starting to connect the dots between 400 years of oppression and our present condition. And like Ibram Kendi and Robin DiAngelo’s book sales, the number of personal messages I’m getting from white folks seeking guidance is on the rise.
People want to know what to do, what to read, and I have even been asked to give positive reinforcement to white allies. I never signed up to be a personal DEI coach.
But today, here’s one simple thing white people can do: give to my nonprofit organization.
I know. It might sound self-serving to ask for financial support for TeenSHARP — an organization I co-founded with my wife a decade ago to prepare Black and Latino students on their path to top colleges and premier leadership roles.
But whenever the police brutally etch a new name on our #SayTheirName scrolls, I normally encourage folks to donate to organizations such as the Equal Justice Initiative, Black Lives Matter, Campaign Zero, ACLU, and Color of Change.
That’s the problem.
Most black founders have created gritty, grassroots, and woefully underfunded solutions to the very problems people are perplexed about right now. But our inclination is to sacrifice and be selfless.
While we’re being starved of resources by the mostly-white philanthropic community and choked out of the charitable market by white-founded and led organizations, we continue to maintain a duty to protect and serve others.
And during the episodic and ephemeral moments when white people want to know what they can do to affirm that black lives matter, we reinforce the false notion that the criminal justice system is the only front in the fight for black lives.
My organization is kicking down the doors that excluded descendants of slaves from the elite institutions of higher education that were built on their ancestors’ backs.
We’re building a community of high-achieving black and Latino young leaders who will sharpen and support each other as they matriculate into predominantly white board rooms where they’ll be buffeted by micro and macro aggressions.
TeenSHARP is preparing the equity and community-minded leaders who will be the legislators, lawyers, Attorneys General, educators, researchers, healthcare professionals, and technologists who will make sure make black lives matter in every sector of society.
Our students are fighting against racism in their high schools and colleges right now and will be the freedom fighters of the future.
But TeenSHARP, like so many organizations founded by people of color, does major work with meager resources and operates regularly on the brink of extinction.
When we launched in 2009, we had no idea organizations could attract hundreds of thousands of dollars at inception based on an idea and perceived pedigree.
We were not acquainted with the type of funders who pour hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the education wine, dine, and opine conference circuit flowing each year.
We bootstrapped and crowdfunded our way from our first class of eleven students in the basement of our church to currently serving hundreds of students each year in the Philadelphia region.
It took us six years to get our first five-figure grant and seven years to get our first six-figure grant.
One study found that “the unrestricted net assets of the black-led organizations are 76 percent smaller than their white-led counterparts.”
Nevertheless, we persist in a world where black founders get tested and white founders get trusted by the philanthropic community.
So, if George Floyd, Ahmaud Abery, Breonna Taylor, and now, Rayshard Brooks have you pondering what you can do, it’s time to support black founders.
Give your money early and often.
Make multi-year commitments and recurring donations.
Their sweet predictability shows us you’ll be there with us beyond the current crisis or fleeting fads.
Give to us like you give to the white-led organizations that typically take the top spots on your list of charitable contributions.
Give to us like you give to your alma mater whose current endowment is enough to end world hunger.
Give like you are overcompensating for the fact that there is a massive racial funding gap between Black-led and white-led nonprofit organizations.
And if you’re someone who can make that call that typically unlocks unannounced, game-changing resources for that white, Ivy League-educated founder, we need that juice too.
The solutions this country is searching for are already underway but severely undersupported.
We can get there but black founders need people to value our labor, our organizations, and our ingenuity as much as they value our advice whenever black lives matter.