When the LGBTQ Racial Justice Fund invited our Atlanta-headquartered grantees to run a workshop on the need to fund multi-issue movements, particularly in the South, at a national conference for funders, we knew that it would be a powerful learning experience for all participants. Little did we know just how much people would respond to the insights and connections that representatives from SONG, Project South, and the Solutions Not Punishment Coalition/Racial Justice Action Center would make. For a standing-room audience of about 100 people at Funding Forward, held yearly by Funders for LGBTQ Issues, the speakers shared the lessons they’ve learned from their long-term Southern movement work and from partnering with different kinds of funders.
They reminded us that Southern organizations have been working for ages on connected issues of economic, racial, gender, and LGBTQ justice, but that their multi-stranded advances and wins don’t always translate to grant reports and tracked outcomes demanded by funders. Funders’ metrics are usually informed by the ways that people organize and win on the coasts, where most LGBTQ philanthropic dollars go. National funders need to push ourselves to recognize and champion Southern strategies and needs, the speakers said – from cultural change work (‘where the real magic is,’ as Mary Hooks, co-director of SONG, put it) to picking up the phone when an isolated queer or trans young person of color calls a mentor in despair.
Those who feel ‘the boot on their neck’ every day need to be in leadership. They are not only closest to the problems of our society, they’re closest to the solutions. – Xochitl Bervera, Director of Racial Justice Action Center and member of Solutions Not Punishment Coalition
Queer and trans people of color are bringing all they have to this work in the South, Hooks said, and when they make advances, they want to share those lessons with everyone in social-justice movements. But this doesn’t mean that locally based, grassroots organizations should be expected to create models for change that will be replicable in every U.S. city, Paulina Helm-Hernandez, co-director of SONG, pointed out. Conditions differ from place to place, and organizers in different states, cities, and counties put together different mosaics of long-term work, as Steph Guilloud, co-director of Project South, said: including legislative and policy change, changing hearts and minds, participating in direct action, working in coalition across issue and sector, fostering family acceptance, and providing rapid response during flashpoints of state violence or uprisings. The workshop couldn’t have had a better moderator than Luis Vivaldi of Foundation for a Just Society and a Steering Committee member of the LGBTQ Racial Justice Fund. Vivaldi connected the experiences and analysis from the speakers with the overall mission and purpose of the Racial Justice Fund, which currently funds powerful partnerships in the U.S. Southeast.
“If there ever was a call to action for big, long-term, core funding for our movements, this is it,” Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice’s Director of Programs Sarah Gunther said of the workshop. At the LGBTQ Racial Justice Fund, we will continue to bring grantees together and make these calls to action, to urge philanthropy to honor Southern and intersectional organizing and to stay in the game for the long term.