Announcing the First Selection of the Chair's Book Club: The Sun Does Shine
Author: Regan Gruber Moffitt and Robert Dortch
We are excited to invite you to join the new SECF Chair’s Book Club. Our hope is that the books we read and the discussions we have will inspire us to find common ground, build meaningful relationships, and deepen our understanding of equity.
The first book, The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life, Freedom, and Justice by Anthony Ray Hinton, builds on the deeply moving and passionate keynote by Bryan Stevenson at the SECF’s 50th Annual Meeting last November. Stevenson, who spent his career helping those who were unjustly accused or wrongfully convicted, called upon philanthropy to be proximate to the places, people and problems that our organizations support, to change existing narratives, to remain hopeful and, most importantly, to do things that are uncomfortable and inconvenient. Anthony Ray Hinton was one of those who was represented by Stevenson.
The Sun Does Shine is Hinton’s memoir of peace, purpose, and eventually freedom after serving 30 years on Alabama’s death row after being wrongfully convicted. The brilliantly written personal narrative instructs, inspires, and creates an imperative for action.
SECF is providing access to the eBook version of the title through our recently launched Lending Library, or you can obtain a copy through your local bookseller or public library. Sign up here to participate in the Chair’s Book Club and we’ll soon share more information on how to get started and how to engage in discussion groups with your fellow SECF members.
Regan Gruber Moffitt is chief strategy officer at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and chair of the SECF Board of Trustees. Robert Dortch is vice president of program and community innovation at the Robins Foundation and chair-elect of the SECF Board.
A Call to Action for Southern Philanthropy
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin
The murder of George Floyd and the week of protests across the country in response have focused people’s attention as never before on issues of racial justice and police brutality. These events have coincided with a pandemic that has disproportionately affected communities of color through deaths, hospitalizations, health care costs, job losses and business closures.
These events weigh heavily on all of us. But they have also sparked a profound conversation on our nation’s long and painful history of systemic racial inequity, injustice, bigotry and discrimination. This conversation is long overdue – we cannot allow it to fade or dissipate, only to restart when another act of injustice commands our attention. Southern foundations should leverage their reputational capital and convening power to bring people together, bridge divides and ensure this dialogue not only continues, but also results in transformative changes.
As a network of Southern philanthropic organizations, we are acutely aware of our region’s own history. The names are etched into our memory: Emmett Till, Addie May Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Rosamond Robertson, Johnny Robinson, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Jimmie Lee Jackson, John Geer, William Chapman, Henry Glover, Kathryn Johnston, Anthony Hill, Walter Scott, Trayvon Martin, Jamarion Robinson, Alton Sterling, Keith Lamont Scott, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee – they are only some of the people on a list that includes millions of enslaved Africans, thousands of victims of lynching and countless others whose deaths, whether at the hands of racist law enforcement, mob violence, or bigoted individuals, have continually been minimized, justified, ignored or even encouraged and carried out by those in power.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an Atlanta native and a victim of racial violence himself, spent years leading a movement based on the principles of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience – principles he never abandoned even as he and his supporters were often met with firehoses, attack dogs, tear gas and vicious beatings. While denouncing violence, he also understood the context in which it took place, saying “I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.”
We urge everyone in Southern philanthropy, as well as our political and civic leaders in the region, to keep these words in mind. Focusing on the actions of a few bad actors distracts us from the cause that has sparked this week’s protests. It also distracts us from discussing a far greater evil: hundreds of years of racial violence, discrimination and exclusion that continues today and is a direct cause of disparities in health, wealth, education, and other key measurements of prosperity.
In recent years, the Southeastern Council of Foundations has sought to highlight and improve understanding of these inequities and others. In our Equity Framework, we call on philanthropy in our region to acknowledge the historical roots of inequity and the present-day systems that perpetuate it, and to then use its resources to spark transformation that allows all people to reach their full potential, unhindered by hatred, bigotry, exclusion or discrimination.
Foundations have many tools at their disposal to create unity, promote peace and support justice for the people in their communities. Beyond financial resources, our social, moral, intellectual and reputational capital must be expended if we are to achieve real change, advance equity and embody the very meaning of philanthropy: love of humankind.
The past week not only shows just how important this work is, but also strengthens our commitment to it. We ask all people who share this goal to join us so that we, together, may build a region where all people can participate and prosper.
Our Chair's Book Club Winter 2020 Selection: The Color of Law
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations
During last week's Annual Meeting, we announced the Winter 2020 selection for our Chair's Book Club: Richard Rothstein's The Color of Law!
As we did with our previous selection, Anthony Ray Hinton's The Sun Does Shine, we will bring Book Club participants together for virtual programs over the coming months while also providing discussion guides to help deepen understanding of the issues Rothstein addresses. All SECF members are eligible to join the Chair's Book Club, one of several initiatives inspired by our Equity Framework.
In The Color of Law, Rothstein argues that unconstitutional government housing policies, not merely de facto segregation caused by private actors, have systematically deprived Black families of generational wealth and access to quality education for decades.
These issues were also the focus of Rothstein's plenary remarks at last week’s Annual Meeting. (If you registered for the Annual Meeting, you can watch Rothstein's plenary now -- other SECF members will be able to access a recording next month!)
You can join the Chair's Book Club today! More information on programming and resources for Book Club participants will be announced soon! If you're already a Chair's Book Club member, you'll automatically receive updates related to our latest selection!
Member Highlight: Rev. Shantell Hinton Hill
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations
The ongoing integration of SECF’s Equity Framework will depend in part on member leadership – in particular, the voices on the Equity Committee and its four subcommittees, including a group focused on Reimagining Equity-Focused Grantmaking.
One member of that subcommittee, the Rev. Shantell Hinton Hill, says she is excited to bring a variety of perspectives to the table as the group begins its work.
“It excites me to use my knowledge and embodied experiences to inform what innovative solutions could look like,” she says. “Equity-centric grantmaking is the only response in a world that teaches us scarcity above sustenance. Without this necessary reimagination of what philanthropy could be, funders will remain a part of the problem.”
Those embodied experiences go beyond her work as an equity officer at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas. Shantell is also an ordained minister.
“Everything I know about meeting people where they are and building them up to become their highest selves, comes from my upbringing in the Black Church,” she says. “Just as the pandemic has caused everyone to shift their ‘normal’ ways of going, being, and doing in the world, I believe philanthropy is called to do the same.”
Shantell’s work with the Equity Committee is a natural extension of her day job, where she helps lead the foundation’s implementation of its AR Equity 2025 strategic direction. The foundation has placed a particular focus on a group of people described by the acronym A.L.I.C.E. – asset limited, income constrained, employed.