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Moving Forward for Change

Denise St. Omer, Vice President of Grantmaking and Inclusion Initiatives

I have a long title, Vice President of Grantmaking and Inclusion Initiatives. The first part of my title is self-explanatory. I work alongside an amazing team of professionals dedicated to providing best-in-class grantmaking services to our donors and foundation partners. The second part, “and inclusion initiatives” refers to Greater Horizons’ leadership work, which centers on racial equity. I also have the privilege of serving as a national trainer for ABFE: A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities, training foundation staff and boards on how to improve their effectiveness in Black Communities utilizing their racial equity framework. I have always said that the work advancing racial equity is the work that brings me joy. Right now, in this moment, those feelings of joy have been replaced with sorrow, anger, frustration, and hopelessness.

As a child, whenever I was feeling sad and sorry for myself, my mother would tell me that I had 24 hours to sit in my feelings and feel sorry for myself, then I had to lift myself up and move forward. I have been feeling sorry for my community and communities across the country for days now, unable to find a way to lift myself out of those feelings or find a way forward. There is no easy way to dismantle the systemic and institutional racism that is killing Black men and women. But as my friend and Greater Horizons President & CEO, Debbie Wilkerson told our staff and donors, our work is even more important now and we must pursue our leadership work with even greater determination. I can’t tell you exactly what that will look like going forward, but we are committed to continuing to do that work with and in community. We hope you will join us on this journey and in this work.

For now, in this moment, I share with you two things that you can do to start the process of lifting ourselves out of our collective sorrow and start to move forward.

Educate Yourself
For the past decade, the Urban League of Greater Kansas City has been compiling data on the racial disparities that exist in five key quality of life indicators in the Black and Hispanic communities. Greater Horizons is based out of Kansas City, and we were proud to support the 2019 report, which is available on their website. In December, Gwendolyn Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City presented the report’s findings at our annual meeting. If you are interested in learning more or having a representative speak to your organization or group, we can assist you in making the connection.

Give
Central to our work advancing racial equity is supporting organizations in historically under-resourced communities led by people of color. Consider donating to a local, regional, or national civil rights organization working to address the systemic and institutional barriers at the root of the current civil unrest and the disproportionate mortality rates due to COVID-19. We have a knowledgeable staff that can assist you in finding an organization to support if you are unsure of where to give.

In the last years of his life, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when asked his opinion of the current state of the civil rights movement, stated “It is not easy to describe a crisis so profound that it has caused the most powerful nation in the world to stagger in confusion and bewilderment.”

At a time when we are experiencing a resurgence of unrest and demand for change, we must all lift ourselves out of our confusion and bewilderment and find a way to change the policies and systems failing our communities of color. Today, I commit to do that, and I ask you to join me.

Authored by: Denise St. Omer, Vice President of Grantmaking and Inclusion Initiatives