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Raising Up and Listening to Black Voices

“Black and brown communities are speaking out now, and we must recognize that they (we) are the only experts that can identify the goals to aim for in rebuilding and restoring communities.”

-Deanna Van Buren

Earlier this month, Echoing Green shared reflections and outlined five strategies to support Black leaders and Black-led organizations now and well into the future. While support and investment are crucial, lasting change also emerges when we prioritize gaining a deeper understanding by listening to the perspectives of leaders who design solutions from a place of lived experience and proximity. We know from our community that positive social change starts with listening to those directly impacted by injustice, and then doing everything we can to support their success.

Supporting Black leaders means supporting all Black leaders. There is no justice without intersectionality. As Kimberlé Crenshaw states: “Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LBGTQ problem there. Many times that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things.” We must do the ongoing work of pursuing equity through this cumulative frame.

As we continue to support this movement and engage with this moment of critical racial reckoning in the U.S. and so many other countries, the overlapping systemic inequities affecting Black people who are trans, disabled, immigrants, experiencing homelessness, and more have also been laid bare. While in just a matter of weeks, we have witnessed policies reformed, budgets shifted, and communities continuing to demand accountability for unjust practices and laws, as individuals and organizations, it’s important to center and trust in the leadership and expertise of those who have been subject to erasure within these movements in the long road ahead toward a better future.

As we previously shared, Echoing Green Fellows “were hard at work in their communities before COVID-19 hit, before the uprisings swelled, and will remain in those communities long after the immediate decimation of COVID-19 recedes or the momentary allyship subsides.” Their voices have long been leading discussions about designing equitable solutions that their communities need and want. We compiled first-hand observations, reflections, and solutions about this moment from Fellows with varied expertise and experience. Absorb their words, support those on the front lines of racial justice, and sustain your support of Black leaders for the long haul.

Heart Work
by Hadiyah Mujhid

“Work in racial equity in tech and VC is essential, but it is not the same. It does not replace the heart work that every non-Black ally needs to do to stop the violence and killing of Black men and women.”

Unbuilding Racism
by Deanna Van Buren

“As everyone now understands, thanks to COVID-19 and #BlackLivesMatter, public safety is not the police; public safety is healthcare, jobs, education, housing, and social cohesion within all our communities.”

For Black people, Minnesota is a metaphor for our world
by Yeshimabeit Milner

“Many people all over the US see Minneapolis and St. Paul as liberal, free from the history of racism that characterizes the south. But the data tells a different story.”

Tech community must do more than tweet support. It needs to invest.
by Felecia Hatcher

“If you only post a message of solidarity and not make plans for change in your company culture, your hiring practices, admission into your accelerators/programs and spaces, your VC and Angel investments and philanthropic giving — you are still complicit.”

I’m not okay and I can’t find the right words.
by Allen Woods

“One of the core values at MORTAR is to be Revolutionary. We are angrily and courageously in the fight. The fight against Police brutality, White supremacy, racism, classism, sexism, ageism. We are fighting for equity, education, economics, health, and generational wealth. We are fighting for our people, our lives, and our legacies – and our actions will continue to SPEAK.”

Let Me Speak
by Mario Jovan Shaw

“I call on the ancestors of James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, and Langston Hughes, who were freedom fighters. I ask them to guide those that are same gender loving folks, folks who internally know themselves but can’t invite other folks into their lives and those that are allies. This work, specifically during this time is difficult yet necessary. I am proud, but I am also mad as hell. Let’s do the work.”

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