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President's Blog: Closing the Year with Clarity, Solidarity, and Imagination

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Dear SCG Community,

2020 has brought a storm of surprises that left us devastated and exhausted but also activated and inspired. Amid all the chaos and uncertainty of the past several months, I hope that the end of the year will bring you a few moments to cultivate hope and gratitude. While the near future won’t be less complicated or more comfortable to navigate, I am — at this moment of reflection— hopeful and thankful for the clarity, solidarity, and imagination that this turbulent year has brought. 

 

Clarity

During SCG’s 2020 Annual Conference, Black Lives Matter founder Melina Abdullah made it clear the choice we have to make — are we on the side of liberators or oppressors? This choice isn’t necessarily difficult to make, but one that some of us have had the privilege to avoid for most of our lives. As our friend Kaci Patterson — the architect of the Black Equity Initiative — eloquently articulated, “the disease of white supremacy is killing this country. It’s killing our democracy; it’s killing our norms; it’s killing our climate; it’s killing justice.” And so, even while we might not all know the exact next steps, we must remain unequivocally committed to humble ourselves, fight complacency, and dismantle racism.

 

Solidarity

As I reflect on Building Movement Project’s Social Change Ecosystem Map, I am thankful to have been in community with healers, caregivers, disrupters, builders, experimenters, storytellers, visionaries, and other changemakers throughout the multitude of crises in 2020. Together, the SCG community worked to adopt a racial justice framework for a resilient democracy, center Black communities and Black leadership, and support the hardest-hit organizations during the pandemic’s rapid response phase. More importantly, we engaged in difficult conversations about being in solidarity with community-based leaders to sustain the momentum of the racial justice movement.

 

Imagination

We can’t deny that, as a sector, philanthropy has not always been the most imaginative. This year has made me hopeful that a better future is not only possible but is already taking shape rapidly. At the beginning of the pandemic, SCG members shed the many shackles of paperwork and bureaucracy to respond urgently to grantees’ and communities’ needs. And albeit challenging, the 2020 elections showed us the promise of co-governance, the power of woman leadership, and the possibilities of investing in racial equity. Now more than ever, we can push the boundaries to reimagine philanthropy.

 

It’s important to acknowledge that we have felt a lot of frustration, anger, and grief in 2020. However, I believe we still show up to work and continue fighting for social change because we have also harnessed hope and gratitude. Through it all, the SCG team has learned and grown tremendously. Before the year-end, I want to celebrate that growth and extend a warm welcome to three new members of the SCG Board of Directors — Shawn Kravich, Raul Bustillos, and Jennifer Price-Letcher. Their commitment to SCG’s vision, mission, and values will solidify our clarity, reinforce our solidarity, and expand our imagination as we head into 2021.

 

In Partnership, 
Chris Essel

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