Melissa Harris-Perry: You're listening to The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry in for Tanzina Vega. Listen.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Those are the unmistakable rhythms of Double Dutch. The skill that generations of young Black girls in cities have perfected and passed on. Double Dutch is low-cost. It's collaborative, and it requires great communication. In other words, Double Dutch as a Black girl solution to the reality that so few institutions took note of or invested in the specific needs of Black girls.
Philanthropy continues to under-invest in Black girls. In 2017, less than 1% of the $67 billion in foundation contributions went to organizations focused on women and girls of color. That's according to a report from the Ms. Foundation for Women. Once again, Black girls and women are innovating their own solutions, and here to help us learn a little philanthropic Double Dutch is Dr. Monique W. Morris, President and CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color. Dr. Morris, it's always great to speak with you.
Dr. Monique W. Morris: Great to be here. I'm really thrilled to have this conversation with you today.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Talk to me a little bit about what Grantmakers for Girls of Color is.
Dr. Monique W. Morris: Thank you. As you mentioned, there has been a very poor woeful under-investment in the well-being of girls of color. Generally, research from that same Ms. Foundation report that you just cited from showed that as at 2017, less than 15 million was noted as benefiting Black women and girls specifically. Grantmakers for Girls of Color is seeking to be a remedy in this space. We serve as an anchor funneling and facilitating resource exchanges from donors, grantee partners, movement leaders, advocates, and organizations in multiple directions. Crucially, I will say our work revolves around a deep engagement learning and listening with youth.
We see philanthropy through a lens of reciprocity, intersectionality and cultural responsiveness, not just as a framework, but as a practice really. We draw on cultural traditions of communities of color that invite complexity, reciprocity, accountability and we sustain community and make investments that are material, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual. We act as an intermediary to help uplift and organize and mobilize resources to support movements that are specifically engaged in working with, and for girls of color broadly. We have some specific funds that wrap themselves around the identities of some of our youngest folks in crisis.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Let's back up just a bit. What is it that philanthropy does within the context of social justice movements? Why should we care if there's philanthropic dollars for any particular set of concerns?
Dr. Monique W. Morris: Philanthropy is a significant mobilizer. I would say it's really important for us to care what philanthropy does because philanthropy is resourcing movements and helping to direct those actions that inform how we engage in a community articulating justice, articulating what is wellbeing, and articulating and moving and actively mobilizing within our communities. The thing about it, and the reason why I started by saying that we engage reciprocity in our notion of philanthropy is that communities have always been involved in philanthropy of some sort.
We think about philanthropy as this distant way of engaging that is primarily about the wealth of a very small group of people, but really if we broaden our perspective about what philanthropy is and what it means to give and what it means to give with love and engage in this notion of building together and working toward a better community, then we'll recognize that there were multiple ways that our ancestors, grandmothers, grandfathers participated in philanthropy that sometimes didn't involve money, that sometimes involved the exchange of resources.
Emma: What's crazy is that there are 300 girls in this school. A good majority of girls here are Black and they go through a lot and I know they go through a lot because they're Black, they live in America.
Melissa Harris-Perry: That's Emma, she's one of the Black school girls featured in the documentary Pushout: The Criminalization of Black girls in America. You were saying that we need to expand our notion of philanthropy and also of reciprocity and it made me think of the work that you did and Pushout, listening very carefully to young women like Emma.
Dr. Monique W. Morris: Thank you for that. I think that the work that we do is all connected. The work that we do to amplify and engage girls as co-constructors of not just our understanding of what is possible in their lives, but also how we should be resourcing what is possible in their lives is critical to this work. At Grantmakers for Girls of Color, we serve as philanthropic educators, if you will, organizing foundations and donors and other co-investors to mobilize resources. We recently joined a force of Black women calling for a billion-dollar investment in the wellbeing of Black girls through the Black Girl Freedom Fund and the 1Billion4BlackGirls campaign.
We support organizations that are serving Black girls and other girls of color directly through grantmaking, but also through capacity building, which is important for our organizations and especially important for those organizations that are working with and on behalf of Black girls and other girls of color. Our Love is Healing Fund, which we launched last June has distributed nearly $4 million to more than 168 organizations in nearly 35 States, Washington DC, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Since 2020 and our Black Girl Freedom Fund just made the announcement that we are resourcing our first $600,000 to six Black-led wellness and safety organizations serving Black girls.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Take an example like the Black Girl Freedom Fund, and these dollars will go to questions of wellness and Black women-led organizations. How do you know if your dollars are making a difference?
Dr. Monique W. Morris: We know that our dollars are making a difference because we've worked with our organizational grantee partners to co-construct measures of success that include specific metrics around how they articulate justice and wellness, but also how we are understanding from the girls themselves that this is necessary work. All of our work is co-constructed with girls.
We have youth advisory groups that work with us that help with the decision-making around who gets resourced and what is getting resourced so we really trust the leadership of Black girls in this work. In the trusting of Black girls in this work, that tells us so much of what we need to know about whether this is working because they not only are truth-tellers, but they can also help us design like I said, specific metrics that we can use then to translate these bits of information to philanthropy, our co-investment partners, and the public at large.
We know that ultimately this will make a difference when we see a transformation of outcomes for Black girls. When we're not only talking about Black girls through a lens of deficit but when we understand that a deep investment in their joy and wellbeing is part of how we construct this narrative about Black girlhood.
The work of Pushout, the work to end to Pushout, and the work to engage girls in helping us better understand what educational systems look like for them, taught me a lot about how we should be engaging with young people, how our organizations should be responsive, what it means to engage in practice intersectionality beyond just as a framework, but as a real practice in how we are engaging young people in mapping the margins and doing what we've been invited to do in this grand scheme of social and racial justice.
For us, racial justice and the deep investment in racial justice needs to have a strong gender lens. That in order for us to fully engage in conversations in the narrative development around this work, that it has to be co-constructed with girls. We take that very seriously and have moved to operationalize that in our work, in our distribution of scholarship, our distribution of resources, and also just how we talk about this in general.
Melissa: Dr. Monique W. Morris is the President and CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color. Dr. Morris, thank you for joining us on The Takeaway.
Dr. Monique W. Morris: Thank you, Melissa Harris-Perry.
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