Moxie Remarks: Minnesota Council on Foundations by Trista Harris, President

Moxie Remarks: Minnesota Council on Foundations by Trista Harris, President

moxies16-trista-stage-1It is an unbelievable honor to be receiving a Moxie Award on behalf of the Minnesota Council on Foundations. PFund Foundation is a leader amongst our 175 foundation members and the PFund staff and board spend lots of time connecting with other Minnesota foundations and sharing their expertise on strengthening LGBT communities.

Our members support many critical issues but in particular philanthropy has gotten really good at grantmaking for disaster preparation. Foundations have helped communities plan for rising floodwaters, wildfires, and storms.

We help communities think about their vulnerabilities and develop plans before disaster strikes so that they can respond more quickly and the hope is that with this type of planning, disasters may not have as large as an impact because you shore up areas that are of greatest risk.

There is another type of disaster that hits our community and may fly farther under the radar. Those disasters are civic disasters. Civic disasters may come in the form of a police bullet shooting an unarmed Black man, or a stranger pulling off a Somali woman’s hijab as she rides the bus without a word of outrage from the driver or the other passengers, or a school district blocking access to an appropriate bathroom that matches a student’s gender identity. They are a civic disaster because these incidents shake our faith in the institutions and society that are supposed to welcome and protect us.

They most frustrating thing about civic disasters is that they are so utterly predictable. We know the broken places in our society and we know who is the most likely to be hurt in those places. Every one of us in this room knew in our hearts that Minnesota was a bullet away from being the next Ferguson and we knew that that bullet was most likely to be fired in North Minneapolis and it was, on November 15 when Jamar Clark was shot.

We could have also guessed that our rapidly diversifying suburbs would also be a place where a police stop would be ripe for misunderstanding. And Falcon Heights was that suburb when Philando Castile, who worked in the lunchroom at my son’s preschool, was pulled over by an officer that saw him as a danger rather than a loving human being who made sure kids without lunch money got graham crackers.

MCF is helping our member foundations understand where those civic disasters lurk and we are helping those foundations adjust their grantmaking strategies and build racial equity lenses for their work so that a bright light is shone on our broken places in society.

As donors and activists you have the opportunity to strengthen these broken places as well. Support organizations that are preventing and responding to civic disasters. Invest and spend your money with businesses that are making our community the type of place that protects kids from Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegone and kids from Lake Street.

(Photo by Jason Bucklin)