We’re all on the clock: How will you use your time?

Written by: Ben Barge

Date: September 14, 2017

Today a long-awaited recording goes live from an event we recently co-hosted with Grantmakers for Southern Progress, Ms. Foundation for Women, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation and NoVo Foundation at the Ford Foundation in New York: “As the South Grows: Roots of the Resistance.” When you watch it, you’ll hear a lot of people reference the “timekeeper in the back” – a.k.a, me.

I play that role in many events I manage. And with every conversation, I know we’re working with borrowed time. From the speakers on stage to the audience in the room, we only have so many chances to get it right.

We held this event because philanthropy, too, is working with borrowed time. It’s clear that progress on any issue we care about is at risk, not only in short-term losses but in long-term missed opportunity. What fewer seem to realize is that there is no Trump without a Sessions; no national strategy without a Southern analysis; and no winning solution without centering the Southern women, girls, and especially women and girls of color giving their lives to make the nation better for all of us.

The very communities grantmakers least expect to steward their resources have long pioneered how to survive and thrive in 2017. Yet philanthropy invests just two cents in places like Selma, Alabama, and the Mississippi Delta for every dollar spent per capita on New York City – and less than one cent for advocacy and power-building.

This can and must change. Below are seven quotes from the event that speak to the deep opportunities for national progress available when funders invest in a just South. It is followed by the video recording of the entire event. I highly recommend watching the video in its entirety because a single quote does none of these speakers justice.

  • “Why should you invest in the South? In a lot of ways we are political trailblazers. We are the testing ground for policy, state and federal, that land at your front door. … Those of us who’ve been countering, surviving and thriving in those same environments are quite frankly national teachers of resistance.” – Natalie Collier, director and founder, The Lighthouse at the Margaret Walker Center
  • “If you don’t care about women, you don’t care about children. So we said: What would it look like to put forth a policy agenda that put women in the center of that debate?” – Cassandra Welchlin, director of the Mississippi Women’s Economic Security Initiative at the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative
  • “Trust me to measure it, and watch what we can give you because if we can change a law that’s about targeting poor people and sex work in the most conservative and racist state in this country, then trust us to move other things.” –Deon Haywood, executive director, Women with a Vision New Orleans
  • “Eight out of 10 times in the South there is existing capacity on the ground doing real systems change work. It doesn’t mean it’s everywhere, and it doesn’t mean it looks the same across the South or even within the same state, but it takes landing there and building relationships.” – Justin Maxson, executive director, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
  • “Not only do we have to believe and support and get behind local leadership in movements, we have to get behind and support local philanthropic leadership.” – Tynesha McHarris, Fellow for Advancing Adolescent Girls Rights, NoVo Foundation
  • “When your colleagues say, ‘I’m not sure, I don’t know,’ really explore the place of the ‘I don’t know.’ … The South is our north star right now in terms of what we can learn and how we can organize in this political movement.” – Aleyamma Mathew, director of women’s economic justice, Foundation for Women
  • “I had a lot of assumptions about what was happening in the South. … Those assumptions could not be more wrong. It’s not a place of deficit, it’s a place of incredible organizing – in fact a hotbed of creative organizing.” – Brook Kelly-Green, program officer for gender, racial and ethnic justice, Ford Foundation

“As the South Grows: Roots of the Resistance,” a conversation co-hosted by NCRP, Grantmakers for Southern Progress, NoVo Foundation, Ms. Foundation for Women and Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation at the Ford Foundation on July 7, 2017. Video courtesy of Ford Foundation.

We’re all on the clock. As the words sink in, I invite you to reflect on one question: How will you use our time?

Whether you’re a Southern foundation exploring advocacy, a national funder exploring Southern investments, or a Southern nonprofit or activist wondering what all this means for you, please get in touch with me at bbarge[at]ncrp.org. I’m excited to work with you.

Ben Barge is senior associate for learning and engagement at NCRP. Follow @NCRP on Twitter.