51st Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Susan Taylor Batten

Amid a pandemic disproportionately affecting Black people and communities and ongoing calls to combat anti-Black racism, ABFE and its president and CEO, Susan Taylor Batten, have been leading the way in calling on philanthropy to take action in support of racial justice.

Soon after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers sparked protests around the globe, ABFE released a letter signed by Batten and more than 60 Black foundation CEOs that included 10 recommendations for philanthropy to follow in order to combat racism. 

“Our long-term goal is to free Black people from disparate treatment that result in the racial disparities we see in COVID-19, police brutality and on almost every indicator of well-being,” the letter stated. “We need deep, transformative institutional change in this country; foundations and donors that support Black communities, in addition to those from other sectors (government, business, etc.) must commit to and deploy an equity analysis to investments moving forward.”

Yet this letter is only the latest example of how, under Batten’s leadership, ABFE has been a prominent voice for change within the field. Even before Floyd’s death, Batten had directly tied the pandemic to America’s long, painful history of racism.

“In the age of COVID-19, we are all reminded that Black communities are subjected to racism that continuously puts us in harm’s way and that Black professionals in philanthropy grieve for our community and tackle anti-Black racism head on every day,” Batten wrote recently on her blog. “The work to address inequities in our community is our life’s work; COVID-19 shines a spotlight on existing injustice, but there are so many philanthropy professionals of African descent who are willing to fight through this.”

While applauding conversations, peer exchanges and discussions on racial equity that have become commonplace in the field in recent years, Batten has urged the field to turn that talk into bold action.

“We need to lead our conversations about racial equity grantmaking to achieve the results we have in mind,” she writes. “We need to spread the word about policy and system-change initiatives, as well as organizations doing compelling work.”

Attendees at SECF’s 51st Annual Meeting can expect Batten to issue a bold call to action during her closing keynote. While many foundations have taken steps to combat racism in recent months, much more work remains ahead – and Batten will likely offer insights on what that work needs to include, particularly greater support for Black-led nonprofits.

“Congressman Lewis dedicated his life to racial justice and his story reminds us that this work is a journey, not a sprint and that we must be in it for the long haul,” Batten wrote recently, reflecting on the death of Rep. John Lewis. “This country is in crisis; Black-led organizations have been at the forefront of every social movement in the U.S. and we need to invest in their capacity now.”


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