Power and Justice: Reflections on our journey to center power-building for the Dr. Frank E. Boston Black Justice Fund
As we enter into the new year of 2022 and embark on the launch of the Dr. Frank E. Boston Black Justice Fund, I have been reflecting on the closing of 2021, Kwanzaa, and power. Power-building is a central tenet of the Dr. Frank E. Boston Black Justice Fund. Tapping into community power and recognizing one's own power to foster social change can manifest in many ways and can have bold and lasting impact. The Community Action Team of the Dr. Frank E. Boston Fund recognized that justice and power were inextricably linked and for us to create a Fund focusing on justice in the Black community in Montgomery County, it was vitally important to lift up power.
Coming to the determination that power needed to play a central role in the Dr. Frank E. Boston Black Justice Fund, resonates when we take a historical view of the Fund and the role of power-building to positively transform communities. During the last week of December, Kwanzaa underscored the importance of power-building in the Black community.
Created in 1966 by Maulana Ron Karenga, Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday that celebrates history, values, family, community and culture. The ideas and concepts of Kwanzaa are expressed in the Swahili language, one of the most widely spoken languages in Africa. The seven principles which form its core were drawn from communitarian values found throughout the African continent. These principles are: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). Kwanzaa gets its name from the Swahili phrase, “matunda ya kwanza” and is rooted in first fruit celebrations which are found in cultures throughout Africa both in ancient and modern times.
Each of the Kwanzaa principles align with power and speak to the values of the Dr. Frank E. Boston Black Justice Fund and the history and legacy of Dr. Frank E. Boston. It is exciting to launch this Fund as we conclude our Kwanzaa celebration for 2021 and reflect on how each of these principles can be supported by the Fund in Montgomery County. Moreover, it is wonderful to imagine how organizations can leverage these funds to support power-building in their communities.
As a funder, investing in power-building is an emerging concept and theme for our grantmaking. In partnership with the Community Action Team, we had robust conversations as to how power is embedded in our grantmaking approach, from the development of the Fund to the selection of the grantee partners, to capacity building for the inaugural grantee cohort. We consciously wanted to unearth how power shows up in philanthropy and what it means to cede power and what does it mean to fund and invest in power-building.
To inform our thinking we reflected on the three frameworks focusing on power. The first framework from Grantmaking with a Racial Justice Lens provided clear examples of power-building across four elements: Constituency, Systems Focus, Framing, and Tactics. It clarified our thinking as to what power-building could look like in Montgomery County. The second framework came from Just Funders’ Just Transition for Philanthropy and the third framework was from Power Moves. The second and third framework provided clear language as to how we could transform our approach to grantmaking. Both provided a framework and context for us to ask the question, "What does power-building mean to us as a funder?" and "How can we cede and share power as a funder?". Taken together, these three frameworks informed our conversation and journey as to how the Dr. Frank E. Boston Black Justice Fund would center power in our grantmaking approach including the development of our application, the decision rubric, and overall application process.
I am looking forward to staying in conversation with you all as we continue to explore power-building and how funders can support movements in creating a more just and thriving communities. I also invite you to check out how some of our members of the Community Action Team (Adrean Turner, Hakim Jones, Dr. Keima Sheriff, and Mark Jones) define power and what excites them about the Dr. Frank E. Boston Black Justice Fund.