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.
President & C.E.O.