By Kenneth M. Jones II
Board Chair, ABFE

In 2018, we will have a chance to reflect on the advancements within the Black community, 50 years after the untimely death of Dr. Martin Luther King. As a graduate of Boston University where Dr. King received his PhD in Theology, I had an opportunity to read many of his papers and other related documents on campus. I mention this because Dr. King’s dream was that all people regardless of race, ethnicity or gender could realize the American dream.

While there have been some gains for the Black community over the course of last half century, economic, social and political disparities remain and many instances have increased. The biggest example is the expanding net worth gap between African-Americans and White Americans. The average White family will have net worth at $144K which is 13x the rate of the average Black family. This gap has expanded, not contracted over time. In addition, African-Americans continue to be disproportionally incarcerated versus their White counterparts.

These statistics are well known and well documented, however, we have not seen systematic change for these affected communities. Philanthropy as an institution is privileged to have dollars and influence to improve the lives of all Americans. More importantly, philanthropy has an obligation to fund organizations that can be change agents versus data collectors. The opportunity moment for Foundations is to engage in a more direct and intentional manner with Black led organizations.

Black-led organizations may not always have the infrastructure of larger, majority-led institutions, but they have several intangibles that will make a difference for the betterment of the Black community. First, they have long standing relationships with the people and the issues that impact those communities. Black-led organizations are trusted to be present long term as partners in underserved predominately African-American neighborhoods. It has been proven since many of these Black-led organizations have operated with shoe string budgets, but remain totally committed to improving the lives of Black people.

Second, many organizational leaders within these Black-led institutions were raised in the same communities that they aspire to change. They may request funding and resources, but their commitment to social change is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year obligation because it is also personal to these leaders. These organizations are the voice for many black communities that are not heard or are misunderstood.
Third, but most important is that Black-led organizations can be the key to positive social change for Black communities. If these communities thrive, American society will benefit. Improving the quality of schools, minimizing food deserts, providing adequate & affordable healthcare and providing equitable opportunities are keys to making long-term positive change.

These intangibles in my opinion clearly states why Foundations should increase funding to Black-led organizations. All studies have shown that if you improve prospects for Black communities, the nation will prosper. Whether the prosperity is realized in an increased Gross Domestic Product (GDP), longer average life expectancies, lower unemployment rates or decreased crime statistics, we as a nation benefit.

In closing, can we affordable to wait another 50 years for the sake of our families? I believe not. Philanthropy, wake up and support these Black-led organizations that can provide long-term sustainable change for underserved communities of color.