A statement from the Vermont Community Foundation’s President & CEO Dan Smith on bigotry, prejudice, racism, and all systemic social inequalities.
I’m looking out the window at the blessed calm of early June in Vermont. Trees as green as can be. And yet the country suffers. It is gut-wrenchingly incongruous.
There is no explanation for the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the countless others that can mitigate the anger and sadness we see and feel. Life after taken life, it’s hard to grasp the number of families torn from their loved ones, friends lost, bright futures extinguished. It is not fair to hope—or to expect—that these deep-seated emotions get tempered or that people “play by the rules” until those rules change to reflect the promise of America that got made every time we recited the Pledge of Allegiance together as kids: justice for all. That’s not someone else’s promise to keep. It’s a shared commitment we made to each other.
These acts of violence against people of color are avoidable and unacceptable. In Vermont and within our organization, our privilege is self-evident. Vermonters who identify as non-white make up less than six percent of our total population. We exist in a place of respite—relatively healthy from the pandemic and isolated from the combustion we witness elsewhere. And yet we know that Vermont is not without its own share of broken promises. We must all continue in our daily lives to combat bigotry, prejudice, racism, and all systemic social inequalities—both implicit and explicit. If we are to make progress, it starts with addressing the underlying conditions that hold people in place and prevent them from living securely, from living with hope and confidence that their engagement in community is met with a set of promises that will be kept.
There is no question in my mind that the opportunity gap work in which the Community Foundation has been engaged offers a critically important platform from which we can act and bring the power of philanthropy to bear on those broken promises. The opportunity gap framework was motivated by questions of equity and pulled from the thinking of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others in The US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty. It was pulled from Robert Putnam and Raj Chetty and the data and systems that build frustration and anger by crushing hope, zip code by zip code and town by town. It has been driven by increasing visibility into the injustices that plague too many Vermonters and which are too often felt disproportionately by people of color.
We continue to have the opportunity to think deeply and act boldly. How we do that thoughtfully and meaningfully is a question we’ll be working through in the days and weeks and months ahead. In the meantime, for those looking for ideas about what to do, remember that you can always give. Below are some community organizations doing vital work to lift voices, open eyes, and bring people together in this most challenging time. Thank you for all you do to keep our communities whole.
With deep appreciation for your courage and support,
Dan Smith, CEO & President
One way to take action right now is to mobilize your philanthropy to effect change. The Community Foundation’s philanthropic advisors are here to support you in this effort. To reach your philanthropic advisor, contact Jane Kimble firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-388-3355 ext 286.
Guidance for grantmaking to advance racial and social justice
- Provide organizations with unrestricted grants to give the greatest flexibility to respond to the moment and the highest needs of the people and communities they serve.
- Seek out and fund organizations led by and serving communities and people of color, frequently under-resourced.
- Give multi-year grants to add stability and sustainability—make known to the organization your intention to fund on a multi-year basis.
- Create a designated fund for the nonprofit, a financial tool that can offer ongoing stability.
- Support capacity building and professional development—investments that will have a long-term impact on the health and success of the organization.
We recognize Vermont entities working on racial and social justice who have been in the field for years in Vermont. They do programming, education, network building, as well as advocacy, grassroots organizing, and campaign building. They are varied and exist across the state.
Vermont organizations that you can support:
- Abenaki Helping Abenaki
- ACLU Vermont
- Association of Africans Living in Vermont
- Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington
- Boys and Girls Club of Burlington
- Building Strong Families Clinic
- CEDO Burlington’s Equity Programming
- Center for Health and Learning: Connecting Rural Communities – Abenaki Partnership and Suicide Prevention
- Equity Practitioners Network
- JAG Productions
- Justice For All
- King Street Center
- Migrant Justice
- NAACP: Windham, Rutland, Chittenden
- Partnership for Fairness and Diversity
- Peace and Justice Center
- The R.E.J.O.I.C.E. Project
- Root Social Justice Center
- Sara Holbrook Community Center
- Showing Up for Racial Justice: Middlebury, Central VT, Burlington
- Spectrum Youth and Family Services
- USCRI/Refugee Resettlement
- Vermont Legal Aid
- VT Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools