Voices from the Field with Dr. Monique Morris

October 14, 2020

THIS VOICES FROM THE FIELD, WE SPOTLIGHT THE WORK OF DR. MONIQUE MORRIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT GRANTMAKERS FOR GIRLS OF COLOR, AND THEIR EFFORTS TO BUILD A GENDER EQUAL WORLD.

Q: What is your vision for girls of color?

Grantmakers for Girls of Color (G4GC) envisions a world where BIPOC girls and gender-expansive youth of color have the safety, freedom, wellness, and resources to thrive, dream, and lead. Our work is to mobilize philanthropic resources to support the transformative organizing work led by girls and gender-expansive youth of color to dismantle systems of oppression.

Q: Why is the work of G4GC more important than ever right now? 

In so many ways – including in philanthropy – we generally adopt a male-centered approach to the fight for justice. If we think about girls of color at all, we tend to think of them as trickle-down beneficiaries of our work and investments in these issues. That has to change if we want girls — and our communities — to thrive. According to a landmark 2020 study released by the Ms. Foundation for Women, women and girls of color account for .5% of the $66.9 billion given by foundations, totaling just $5.48 per woman and girl of color in the United States.

Our mission and our calling is to grow Grantmakers for Girls of Color as a philanthropic home to cultivate investments and philanthropic resources for girls of color. That mission is made more urgent by this moment that has so starkly highlighted what we have always known: girls and gender-expansive youth of color are facing multiple, interrelated systems of inequity and injustice. They also experience underinvestment and erasure that prevents the realization of their potential. Despite these truths, they continue to lead local, national, and global efforts to achieve economic, social, racial, and gender justice. When we listen to girls and invest in their needs as well as their dreams, they become strong, powerful women of color leaders in a more fully realized, diverse, and equitable society.

Q: What does 2021 look like in terms of new opportunities for growth and collaboration? 

Given the breadth of everything our girls are facing, and how much we need to support their wisdom and leadership for our collective future, we have no time to waste. So, we have been hard at work over the past few months to grow the strength of our network:

This year, we launched our Love Is Healing COVID-19 Response Fund, and provided more than $1.5 million in grants to more than 80 outstanding organizations in 26 states across the country and the District of Columbia that are providing direct supports to address the impacts of COVID-19 on girls and gender-expansive youth of color. By December 2020, we plan to resource 30-40 more organizations, especially in communities that lack access to philanthropic investment. We know meeting young people’s basic needs and supporting their physical, emotional, and mental well-being will be a priority for our grant partners and groups across the country.

Along with a visionary group of co-founders, we launched the Black Girl Freedom Fund in September to mobilize $1 billion over the next 10 years in Black girls and young women.

The Black Girl Freedom Fund will support work that advances the well-being of Black girls and their families, including work that centers and advances the power of Black girls through organizing, asset mapping, capacity-building, legal advocacy, and narrative work that seeks to shift structural violence enacted against Black girls.

We believe participatory grantmaking is a critical driver of broader systems change. We see our partner organizations and girls and gender-expansive youth of color themselves serving as agents of change rather than constituents. That’s why we are forming a Youth Advisory Committee to engage in participatory grantmaking, and to ensure that we remain accountable to girls themselves in all aspects of our work including our strategy, our programming, our communications, and our grantmaking. The committee will help us figure out how to strengthen the capacity of girls of color to be active decision-makers in the grantmaking process.  It also will help us equip funders and organizations in the field to understand the issues faced by girls and young women of color and help them better respond to those needs.

We are collecting data on how organizations serving girls of color do their work– starting with two rounds of surveys on the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the office and workspace needs of the organizations leading the work to support girls of color and gender expansive youth of color. The needs mapping we’re doing right now will help us inform how to best move forward in 2021 and beyond.

Finally, while we will continue to serve as a resource for donors and funders seeking to support girls, fem(mes), and gender-expansive youth of color, we will also be increasing our capacity in the areas of research and grantmaking. We are building a strong, sustainable internal infrastructure; we brought on a Deputy Director in August of 2020 and will continue to add more team members in research, advocacy, grantmaking, and communications. We are excited about what lies ahead, and we hope other funders and donors will join us in this critical work.

Q: And what can philanthropy do now to meet the needs of the movement?

Girls and gender-expansive youth of color live at the intersections of sexism, racism, and other forms of oppression. Philanthropy must at once invest in racial and gender justice and support organizations and campaigns that are working with an intersectional lens. According to the Ms. Foundation for Women Study, most of the U.S. organizations serving women and girls of color had revenues of less than $250,000, and many lacked paid staff. Organizations focused on Black and African American women and girls were more likely to have budgets under $50,000.

The philanthropic sector and society more broadly are not paying enough attention to the unique issues these girls face. Our work – in everything we do – is to push the sector to be intentional about centering the needs and lives of BIPOC girls and gender-expansive youth. Grantmaking with an intersectional lens means philanthropy is meeting girls where they are, resourcing them as their whole selves, and seeing their full power and strength.

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