Published in Philanthropy Women on September 18, 2020
On September 15, the 57th anniversary of the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama church bombing that killed four Black girls, a group of prominent Black women launched the Black Girl Freedom Fund. The group’s open letter and social media campaign mark the beginning of a one-billion-dollar effort championing Black girls and their families.
The open letter from the Black Girl Freedom Fund notes that while Black Lives Matter attracts strong philanthropic support, “Black girls and young women still remain adultified, victimized by violence, and erased from the very same social justice movement for which they continue to risk their lives.”
The letter demands that Black girls receive the attention and support they deserve:
We, Black women and Femme activists, artists, educators, organizers, and philanthropists, have come together at the historic time to call attention to the fact that Black girls in the United States are in crisis. From discrimination in education and healthcare to sexual assault and policing, the lives and livelihoods of Black girls and young women are notably absent in the public narratives, policies, and justice movements most crucial to addressing inequality and racial trauma.
Co-leading the effort are:
• Dr. Monique Morris, Executive Director, Grantmakers for Girls of Color, and creator of the film PUSHOUT: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools
• LaTosha Brown, Founder, Black Girls Dream Fund–organized by the Southern Black Girls & Women’s Consortium
• Tarana Burke, Founder, The ‘me too.’ Movement
• Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO, National Women’s Law Center
• Joanne N. Smith, Founding President and CEO, Girls for Gender Equity
• Salamishah Tillet and Scheherazade Tillet, Founders, A Long Walk Home
• Teresa C. Younger, President and CEO, Ms. Foundation for Women
In addition to the seven co-leaders noted above, the open letter has been signed by over 30 other prominent Black women from the arts, entertainment, politics, social justice and philanthropy worlds.
“We believe that by investing $1 billion in Black girls and young women over the next decade, we can make the biggest change possible,” the letter states. The support is desperately needed, as according the Ms. Foundation’s study Pocket Change – How Women and Girls of Color Do More with Less, women and girls of color in the U.S. receive about $5.48 yearly in total philanthropic giving, about one half of one percent of the nearly $77 billion in annual foundation giving.
So far, $12.6 million of the one billion target has been raised, and the Black Girl Freedom Fund is seeking donations, pledges and partners. The Black Girls Freedom Fund will support the well-being of Black girls and their families, including work that centers and advances the power of Black girls. Some of this work includes organizing, asset mapping, and capacity-building in non-Black led organizations enabling them to better respond to Black girls, and to organizations led by Black women and girls. It also includes legal advocacy and narrative work that aims to prevent structural violence against Black girls.
The Black Girl Freedom Fund open letter notes some criminal justice low-lights for Black girls and women, notably the 2013 and 2014 mistrials in the prosecution of a Detroit police officer who shot and killed seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones in her grandmother’s home, and the lack of arrests in the case of Breonna Taylor, fatally shot as she slept in her bed at home earlier this year in Louisville, Kentucky. In the case of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, it took nearly half a century for the perpetrator to be brought to justice.
Still, the Black Girl Freedom Fund does find cause for optimism as Black women are increasingly assuming leadership roles. The Fund notes the civic engagement of Black women, and further states, “They are starting small businesses at a higher rate than any other racial group, and in the 2018 midterm election cycle, there were a record number of Black women running for office. These gains have been made in spite of Black women leaders being grossly underfunded, under-resourced, and underestimated.”
The Black Girl Freedom Fund includes efforts like the Black Girls Dream Fund, a 10-year fundraising initiative launched by the Southern Black Girls and Women’s Consortium to raise $100 million to financially empower Black girls and women in the U.S. South.
The Black Girl Freedom Fund is an initiative of Grantmakers for Girls of Color (G4GC), a fiscally-sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.