How Do We Persevere?

January 23, 2022—I am a longtime admirer of Ford Foundation President Darren Walker for many reasons, including his groundbreaking redirection of the Ford Foundation’s philanthropic philosophy. Today, the foundation’s mission is “guided by a vision of social justice,” which includes Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Access (EDIA), and a commitment to work towards a global society that recognizes the dignity and potential of all people.

At the end of 2021, the foundation’s e-newsletter, Just Matters, offered an overview of its previous year, which it dubbed “A Year of Perseverance.” The Ford Foundation’s work was both groundbreaking and headline-making. From its push for vaccine equity, focusing on the Global South, and its decision to divest from fossil fuels in the battle against climate change, to its support of ongoing movements for justice in the Southern United States and its participation in the Disability Inclusion Pledge, I believe the foundation’s work is both brilliant and forward-thinking.

The Ford Foundation’s efforts in 2021 to “challenge inequality” included:

Making resources available to reimagine care systems for the most vulnerable

Fighting gender-based violence

Equity of funding to women’s organizations

Reforming philanthropy by putting the “grantees first”

The establishment of a Latinx Artists fellowship

Nigeria Youth Futures Fund to help youth become a powerful force for social good.

The implementation of America’s Cultural Treasures, an initiative supporting Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) arts groups and their contributions to the cultural fabric of the country.

Providing financial relief to artists in the Middle East and North Africa working without a safety net to document the effects of war and a theater troupe comprised of Syrian refugees

Of course, with an estimated $16-billlion endowment at its disposal, the Ford Foundation is expected to do good work; of course, it can persevere. However, I think, as a philanthropic organization, it has set an example for all of us by remaining true to its conviction that “justice begins where inequality ends.” All of the foundation’s efforts affirm its vision that the people of the planet are interconnected, and it has made the commitment (reflected in its actions) to take responsibility for fighting for justice throughout the world.

As artists and arts administrators, how do you persevere? What are your goals for “challenging inequality?” How are you, your organization, or institution staying true to the vision of establishing anti-racist arts organizations that have, as their cornerstone for engagement the principles of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Access? Given your resources, how are you supporting audiences and communities in a mutually respectful and mutually beneficial manner that creates value for all?

As readers of Arts & Culture Connections, I invite you to share your comments and thoughts below about your efforts—successes and setbacks—so that we can continue to learn from each other, grow as an arts community, and persevere!

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