Message from Miguel A. Santana, President & C.E.O.: In the Wake of Injustice

November 19, 2021
Miguel A. Santana

Miguel A. Santana
President & C.E.O.

The acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse is both unbelievable and yet sadly, believable. Unbelievable in that the act of violence and entitlement was clear and brazen, and yet justice was not served. Believable in that we live in a country where who you are still defines the treatment you receive by systems that purportedly exist to uphold equal justice for everyone.

This moment strengthens our resolve to fight for racial justice and reinforces why we do what we do. This moment is a call to action for all of us.

Together in Justice.

Message from Miguel A. Santana, President & C.E.O.: Reflections and Looking Ahead—The F.Y. 2022 Program Plan

July 29, 2021

I joined the Weingart Foundation as President and C.E.O. this past January with a strong appreciation for the role the Foundation plays in combating the historic and chronic barriers that have resulted in an inequitable Southern California. Since then, my appreciation for this work—and for the extraordinary leadership of our nonprofit partners—has deepened and grown.

Our work to build a more equitable Los Angeles is centered around three main strategies. 1) We support the nonprofit social justice sector in becoming stronger and more resilient; 2) we strengthen ecosystems, collaboratives, and collective action to increase impact; and 3) we work to advance systems change on broader issues like homelessness, immigration, and youth outcomes through cross-sector partnerships.

One of my first actions was to travel across our region to hear directly from communities—from South and Southeast L.A. to the the San Fernando Valley, the Antelope Valley, the Inland Empire, and Orange and Ventura counties. It’s important to us to cultivate authentic relationships with community leaders who are closest to the challenges and ultimately the experts in developing solutions. These leaders shared how they are responding to the pandemic, what opportunities lie ahead to advance racial justice, and the importance of supporting staff mental health and resilience. It was inspiring to hear how communities—with all they hold—are coming together in creative ways to address the inequities exposed by the pandemic, build grassroots power, strengthen cross-racial solidarity, and achieve big and bold systems change.

In order to make sure the recovery prioritizes those most affected by the pandemic, we joined with others to form the Committee for Greater L.A., a cross-sector group of civic leaders with the vision to advance systems change and dismantle the institutions and policies that have perpetuated institutional racism. Through the Committee, we put forth a plan to fix the fragmented and ineffectual way L.A. addresses homelessness. The Weingart Foundation also made significant commitments to collaboratives advancing racial justice and Black power, including the California Black Freedom Fund and the Black Equity Initiative of the Inland Empire. And we quickly funded grassroots organizations working around the clock to ensure a fair census, to get out the vote during an historic election, to respond to wildfires, and to provide food, healthcare, housing, and vaccines in impacted communities of color. Our work last year was bolstered by our Board’s decision to increase the Foundation’s grant payout by $16 million.

Looking ahead, the Foundation’s current grantmaking priorities and practices will remain in place through the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Our F.Y. 2022 Program Plan builds on our existing framework and focuses on addressing structural racism—including the continued focus on anti-Black racism—and socioeconomic injustice throughout our Southern California region. We’ll continue our proactive grantmaking and impact investing with Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities that are the most impacted by injustice and will invest heavily in their infrastructure and collective needs. This includes partnering with initiatives like Bold Vision 2028, as well as exploring ways to better support the sustainability, resilience, and mental and emotional health of the social justice sector, starting with an assessment of best practices and needs among immigrant rights organizations.

I am proud to share that the Foundation is also launching a critically important process of internal reflection and learning. When we first made our full commitment to equity in 2016, we also committed to ongoing organizational transformation and evolution. We realized then that work of racial justice requires us to go deep. For this reason, we will embark on a “truth and reconciliation” journey to look intentionally and comprehensively at how to further align ourselves with our racial equity mission from the inside out. The process will start with delving into the origins of the Foundation’s wealth in the context of Southern California’s broader history of real estate development, racial exclusion, and indigenous displacement. In addition to our origins, we’ll also look at the ways that our culture and practices continue to perpetuate the racism that permeates our society at large. Our goal is that our our racial justice mandate fully informs our organization, our relationship with the community, and our long-term funding priorities.

As we plan for the future, I believe it’s important to look back and reflect on the many lives lost over the past year—our beloved community leaders, nonprofit staff, colleagues, friends, and family members. Lives lost to COVID, and lives lost due to deeply entrenched structural racism, police brutality, and white supremacist hate. May we honor their memories by rising to meet this moment of racial reckoning and transformation.

Miguel A. Santana
President & C.E.O.

To read the F.Y. 2022 Program Plan, click here.

Message from Miguel A. Santana, President & C.E.O.: Reflection

April 29, 2021

I remember the first time I felt like an American.

On my cross-country trip to New England to begin my graduate program, I stopped at Port Huron, Michigan at an address handwritten on the back of a black and white photograph of my paternal grandparents. In the 1920s it was the home of Victoria and José Santana. These two young immigrants from the central coast of Mexico settled in the furthest edge of the U.S.-Canadian border to pursue a better life. A decade later, they were forced to return to Mexico with their American daughters in the face of the anti-Mexican hostility that emerged at the onset of the Great Depression.

Standing in front of this small wood-frame house, in a town built by steel mills that fed a burgeoning automobile industry, connected me to the American history that seemed to belong to someone else.

While I was born in this country, I always knew that for people like me, being American came with a condition. At an early age I was told that in this culture being American often equals being White. That was the message when I witnessed my father being held at gunpoint by White police officers for being a “wetback” in a town he supposedly did not belong in. I was reminded of this condition when my own daughter was reported to law enforcement by a White neighbor because he did not believe that she lived in the community where she grew up. For people of color, being American often has its limitations.

Today, in the rise of violence against Asian Americans, we are reminded of the unequal conditions placed on who gets to enjoy all the privileges of being an American. The presumption of who can be an American is also seen in the visceral hate spewed against migrant children seeking protection in a country they believe will embrace them, as this nation has for generations of refugees who crossed the Atlantic before them.

I was reminded what it feels like to be an American when the verdict for the murder of George Floyd was announced.

American history has demonstrated that fairness for a Black man in the judicial system is not to be expected. In this case, the American legacy of racial injustice was interrupted by the American value of equal justice.

As a foundation committed to equity and racial justice, we know that this moment did not happen in isolation. It took the work of activists, community organizers, youth, and people of all backgrounds to demand that justice be served for a Black man. It is their courage and the work of our nonprofit partners that gives us hope that we can still become a nation where everyone receives the same rights and privileges promised to all Americans, without condition. This remains a fight worth fighting. We are proud to be part of this struggle with them.

Miguel A. Santana
President & C.E.O.

Message from Miguel A. Santana, President & C.E.O.: Anti-Asian Racism and Violence Hurts Us All

March 19, 2021

On March 16, a shooter killed eight people in Atlanta; six of the victims were identified as Asian and seven were women. At least four of the people killed were of Korean descent.

The Weingart Foundation stands with communities in our collective grief and outrage at these tragic deaths. We condemn the anti-Asian racism that has led to increased hate speech and violence against Asian American communities.

Racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has remained historically invisible. The Atlanta chapter of Asian Americans Advancing Justice points out that this includes a long history of hyper-sexualization of Asian women that is rooted in Westernized and colonial perceptions of Asia. This is inextricably linked to harassment and sexualized violence against Asian women. Women of Asian descent have reported 2.3 times more incidents of violence than A.A.P.I. men, according to a new Stop A.A.P.I. Hate report of nearly 3,800 hate incidents reported since March 2020.

While anti-Asian hate crimes have increased during the pandemic, working-class Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Asian American communities have also been disproportionately impacted by the virus and faced higher rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

It’s important to remind ourselves that racism impacts communities in distinct ways, but it impacts all of us profoundly. From anti-Asian violence to the horrific pandemic death toll in Black, indigenous, and Latino communities, to police and state violence against B.I.P.O.C. people, to the white supremacist insurrection at the Capitol, structural racism is threatening our very existence.

Anti-Black racism and the genocide of Native Americans have formed the foundation from which this nation’s other forms of systemic racism are built. What gives me hope is that communities have been making these connections. They are standing up and standing together, oftentimes led by courageous young people. The Weingart Foundation is united with these movements against racism and in building the bigger We.

Miguel A. Santana
President & C.E.O.

As we mourn the deaths of those murdered on March 16, we encourage you to support the work of the following projects and organizations: