Earlier this week, World Education Services (WES) CEO Esther Benjamin expressed our organization’s solidarity with Black lives and protests following the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police. As the philanthropic arm of WES, we want to share our thoughts and commitments as a funder in the fight for racial justice.
The WES Mariam Assefa Fund stands alongside our partners, many of whom are personally and professionally impacted. The fight against racism and prejudice is inextricably linked to our efforts to create safe and uplifting communities for immigrants and refugees. Our work cannot be done until racial justice is achieved.
Philanthropic funders, including ourselves, must do more to advance the fight for racial justice, deepen efforts to dismantle structural racism, and ensure a world where Black lives thrive. Addressing the racism, inequities, and power imbalances that are at the core of our society and the philanthropic sector requires change. Philanthropy must be intentional about whose voices inform strategies, how funding proposals are sourced, the ways decisions are made, the amount in dollars given, how impact is evaluated, and much more.
The WES Mariam Assefa Fund is committed to living our values and supporting racial justice through all aspects of our work. To start, it is crucial that we invest in proximate leaders and organizations that are led by and from local communities. It is similarly essential to provide unrestricted, multi-year general operating support to organizations. New research reveals that unrestricted net assets of Black-led organizations are 76 percent smaller than those of their white counterparts. Funding for advocacy organizations and activists working at the federal, state, and local levels to break down structural racism is also of the utmost importance.
This acknowledgement of the WES Mariam Assefa Fund’s – and philanthropy’s – responsibility and the initial actions outlined above are only the starting point. We will continue to listen, learn, and spend time educating ourselves, so that our funding can better support racial justice. We invite you to hold us accountable to our commitments and look forward to sharing more as our efforts move forward.
Monica Munn and the Fund team