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Veatch's Commitment to Racial Justice

Sorrow and rage-filled protest has quickly spread from the streets of Minneapolis to cities throughout the country, following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. These protests are unfolding, moreover, in the context of a global pandemic that is disproportionately impacting communities of color throughout the country. In Minnesota, Black people have contracted at least 29% of the known COVID-19 cases, even though they make up just over 6% of the state's population. The state’s sizable Latinx and Indigenous communities have similarly been impacted at disproportionate rates.

Veatch is a long-time supporter of the vibrant network of community organizations fighting together for racial justice in Minnesota, some of which you’ll read about below. We also fund this critical work across the country. As tens of thousands take to the streets in anguish, solidarity and resolve to demand long overdue change for Black people and other communities of color, our Veatch grantees point the way forward. These organizations on the frontlines of racial justice campaigns have developed scores of community-based leaders and as well as policy solutions that are making a difference in their communities, and that provide the blueprint to achieve broad-based, systemic change. 

What we’re experiencing and bearing witness to in cities across the country is the result of deep structural racial inequalities — bolstered through generations of choices our country has made, and continues to make. The choices we make now, in our own resolve, and in our communities, our states, and our country —  will shape the world we will live in into the future. Veatch grantees, and our 60-year legacy of funding racial justice in this country, has never been more important as we build the better world we so desperately need — and that we know, through our values, to be possible.

Joan Minieri
Executive Director

From left to right: Carol Garbarino, Chair; Joan Minieri, Executive Director; Corinne Hayden, Vice Chair   
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Supporting Frontline Black Activists

The Movement for Black Lives — a Veatch grantee and national network of over 50 organizations, has organized a week of action — each day tied to specific policy demands to strengthen and support communities of color. The Movement for Black Lives has also been providing infrastructure support and resources directly to protesters. It is using its national platform to lift up the local demands for change in cities across the country, including Minneapolis, Minnesota; Louisville, Kentucky; and Tallahassee, Florida.   

As a hashtag, Black Lives Matter has taken on a life of its own on social media. But the Veatch grantee behind the social movement is a vibrant, Black-led network of — all of whom have been supporting emerging activists and frontline protest movements. Black Lives Matter has been demanding the government release more data on the racial disparities of the Covid-19 crisis and is organizing a #DefundThePolice campaign in favor of investments in resources that sustain communities. These campaigns are developing around the country, calling attention to the ways in which funding for law enforcement in many cities far exceeds public funding for healthcare, mental health support, affordable housing and jobs — so that Black people not only survive, but thrive. 

Racial Justice in Minnesota

Uprisings in support of racial justice are occurring across the United States and the world, but its beginnings were in the state of Minnesota. Veatch has a long history of supporting racial justice organizing groups in the state, many of whom are now active in protests for police accountability — in addition to dozens of member-led campaigns to advance racial justice and inclusive democracy. Our grantees include:

  • TakeAction Minnesota Education Fund has initiatives aimed at advancing racial equity in the state, such as improving access to health care and enacting job benefits like paid sick leave.  
  • OutFront Minnesota Community Services is working for the equity and inclusion of the state’s LGBTQ youth population, many of whom are of color.
  • Somali Action Alliance Education Fund, a grantee whose presence in Minnesota is critical to organizing one of the largest ethnic groups in the state — and is working to increase the civic participation and representation of Minnesota’s Somali community. 
  • Isaiah Minnesota, a powerful network of clergy and lay leaders fighting for racial and economic justice, has stated: “No matter the color of our skin or where we come from, we deserve to live in communities where we are safe and our lives are valued.”
  • Land Stewardship Project, a multicultural organizing project that promotes family-run farms over corporate ones — while also advancing sustainable agriculture in the state. In a recent statement, the group proclaimed: “We need change and we need justice now. Getting that justice begins with standing together to express outrage and to push for change.”

Police Accountability

The Texas Organizing Project (TOP) — a Veatch grantee that organizes in low-income communities of color  — is advancing a campaign that calls for independent investigations of police-involved shootings. TOP launched the campaign following the death of Nicolas Chavez, who was shot by Houston police in early May. The investigation called for by the Houston Police and the district attorney’s office is “not good enough,” said Angela Johnson, a TOP leader, in a statement. An independent investigation, the group said, can help reassure a weary public that “the police be completely transparent.”

Similarly, Communities United for Police Reform, a New York-based Veatch grantee, organizes specifically around police accountability in New York City. Working with other Veatch grantees, including Make the Road NY, they are advancing the Safer NY Act, a package of bills that would increase police transparency and accountability within the NYPD — including a repeal of a statute, 50-a, that carves out unnecessary and harmful secrecy for police, fire and corrections in the state. The group has also launched a campaign, #NYCBudgetJustice, calling for significant cuts to the NYPD's $6 billion budget — in order to protect and strengthen much needed services whose funding is now at risk, programs and infrastructure for low-income and communities of color in the COVID-19 era.

Census 2020

California Calls, a Veatch grantee that includes over 30 Black-led grassroots organizations in the state, has launched an effort titled The California Black Census and Redistricting Hub to help maximize participation in the 2020 census — which will impact the allocation of resources for communities across the country and state. Collectively, the groups are conducting outreach campaigns to “educate, motivate and activate” the voices of thousands of Black Californians. Dozens of other Veatch grantees across the country — including VOCAL-NY, Unite Oregon, and Faith in Action — have launched similar initiatives to ensure local communities are represented in the once-in-a-decade Census.

Criminal Justice Reform

Southerners on New Ground — a grantee organizing in Black and brown LGBTQ communities in the Southern United States — advocates for an intersectional approach to LGBTQ and racial justice. The group has also been organizing a years-long campaign to end the system of cash bail in our nation’s prisons — a system that disproportionately impacts women and people of color, including raising funds to get Black mothers out of jail on Mother’s Day. In recent days, the group has helped lift up the stories of two trans people of color, Nina Pop in Missouri and Tony McDade in Tallahassee, who died at the hands of the police in May. 

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a racial justice organization based in Oakland, California, recently won a historic, decades-long fight to close the state’s youth prisons — which were predominantly incarcerating young people of color. “I’m very encouraged by the Governor’s action to divest from youth incarceration,” said Ella Baker Center Executive Director Zach Norris in a statement. “The next step is to invest resources in creating more opportunities for young people, including community services, mental health support, job training, and restorative justice practices.”

Research to Advance Racial Justice

Veatch funds several organizations that are helping advance the study and research of racism and racial justice in an effort to arm community groups and activists with tools and information to advance their work. The Western States Center, a grantee based in the Pacific Northwest, recently constructed a toolkit aimed at helping dismantle white nationalism in our country’s school system, for example. In response to the current political climate, Erik Ward, the group’s Executive Director, also wrote a compelling article, titled “Authoritarian State or Inclusive Democracy? 21 Things We Can Do Right Now,” with a list of items everyone can take to firm up our commitment to racial justice and inclusive democracy. 

Political Research Associates, a think tank based in Boston, Massachusetts, similarly conducts research on rightwing and white nationalist organizations in the United States. The group’s Director, Tarso Luis Ramos, recently wrote a piece, titled “Under the Cover of COVID,” that demonstrates how the rightwing in the United States has weaponized the ongoing coronavirus crisis to advance authoritarian policies in the country. This type of research is not only critical for public information, it provides data for issue campaigns and leadership training. 

And in a recent Sojourners article, White Supremacy is a Threat to Public Health, Robby Jones, who leads Veatch grantee, PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute), examines the growing national conversation connecting health and racism. 

Racial Justice in New York 

Veatch has a long history of supporting racial justice organizing in our own backyard — New York State. In addition to the groups already mentioned elsewhere in this update, the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, a member-led, grassroots group in the Bronx, is also active in the state’s racial justice space.The organization recently released a borough-wide policy platform with a wide ranging list of demands to improve the lives of low-income communities of color — including a Homes Guarantee that would prioritize adequate federal funding for housing in the borough. 

Similarly, Community Voices Heard — a base building organization in New York City and the Hudson Valley led mainly by women of color — has been fighting and winning change for years for progressive policies on housing, welfare and civic engagement to benefit New York City and State’s low income communities of color. Their recent effort, #FollowBlackWomen, is seeking to survey 5,000 self-identifying Black women about the issues they care about to help inform and lead the group’s ongoing campaign work.

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