Learn about our work that celebrates the catalytic impact and power of Black innovationINVEST IN BLACK LEADERS

Three Takeaways from the Premiere of Unwavering: The Power of Black Innovation

By Dabney Brice

“It’s ingrained in [Black] culture from the very beginning, right? Like, [Black people] are griots by nature. That’s how we escaped slavery –[through] the telling of stories and what we did with our hair to map out the passages, right? How we tell stories of our ancestors and our parents and pass our recipes. And so storytelling is us by nature.”

Felecia Hatcher, CEO, Black Ambition

When Echoing Green launched our Invest in Black Leaders storytelling campaign earlier this year, we wanted to share the stories of Black creativity, perseverance, impact, and joy present within our community of change-makers. For Black innovators, storytelling has long been an instrumental part of resistance and of movement building. As the late Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis said, “The movement without storytelling is like birds without wings.”

Narratives are used to push back against inequitable systems wherever they may show up, from politics and media to philanthropy and social innovation. At the same time, these stories give shape to joy, hopes and dreams for the future, and Black experiences undefined by barriers to entry.

On May 12, 2022, hundreds of people worldwide tuned in to the premiere event for Unwavering: The Power of Black Innovation, Echoing Green’s documentary short that features Black social impact leaders who are helping to build thriving, equitable communities across the U.S.

Along with the film’s candid interviews about intermittent and insufficient investments in Black-led social enterprises, the premiere featured conversations with leaders in social innovation, media, and philanthropy discussing the power of stories, collaboration, and equitably resourcing Black leaders for the long-term. ​​

TAKEAWAYS FROM THE PREMIERE EVENT

GET CLOSE TO THE SOLUTIONS AND CO-CREATE

“We all need to get proximate to the issues we’re trying to address and the communities that we’re trying to serve…If we’re trying to help address these issues, we know we need to engage far outside of our own walls to get there and co-develop solutions and be informed by communities on how we proceed…”

Dalila Wilson-Scott, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast Corporation and President of the Comcast NBCUniversal

Echoing Green President Cheryl L. Dorsey kicked off the program in conversation with Dalila Wilson-Scott of Comcast NBCUniversal about the power of partnerships in the movement for racial justice and equity. As an anchor partner of Echoing Green’s Racial Equity Philanthropic Fund and a lead supporter of the Invest in Black Leaders campaign, Comcast NBCUniversal is supporting our efforts to employ new strategies to disrupt the cyclical nature of racial justice funding.

Together, they gave voice to the importance of cross-sector collaboration as an avenue to solve our greatest challenges at scale, calling for philanthropy to leverage resources and networks to amplify, rather than speak for, the voices of Black leaders working with Black communities.

LISTEN TO THE WHOLE STORY

“You don’t get a chance to actually see what’s going on in a community outside of violence and incarceration… That [filming] experience, it really felt good because not only were you guys coming to me to talk about the work that I’m doing, you actually got a chance to see other community members doing the work as well, and they got a chance to see you.”

William Evans, ’19, Founder, Neighborhood Benches

Before introducing Unwavering, Tiffany Thompson, senior director of global partnerships & equity at Echoing Green, talked with 2019 Fellow Willam Evans, founder and president of Neighborhood Benches, about his experience being filmed in front of his organization’s storefront in Harlem, New York.

For William and Neighborhood Benches, being filmed was about exposure and connectivity for the whole community.

When asked why benches are a fixture in their work, William explained their significance to the organization’s community impact. “We don’t always want our brothers and sisters to always identify benches with holding cells or a courtroom. We want them to identify it as a connecting piece in a neighborhood…but the other beautiful part to it is that benches normally don’t move. So you know you can always go to that location at any time and have that conversation with whoever you choose to…that’s the beauty about community.”

The bench is a holding place for communities – a trusted place for individuals to gather, be and feel seen, share ideas, and even create.

The experience of filming Unwavering and Tiffany and William’s conversation is a reminder of the importance of listening fully and listening to understand. With listening comes the opportunity to engage meaningfully, establish trust, and support community-led solutions.

 

INVEST IN BLACK STORIES AND BLACK SPACES BUILT BY BLACK LEADERS

“I think Black space for us is being in the room with Black folks. It’s making places for Black folks. It’s preserving the places that we gather, where we come together, where we build community cohesion.”

Deanna Van Buren, ’16, Co-Founder, Designing Justice + Designing Spaces

Following the film screening, journalist Jamil Smith led a conversation with Echoing Green Fellows Deanna Van Buren ’16 and Felecia Hatcher ’17 about the meaning and importance of preserving Black spaces that are created with intentionality.

From the Black church to barbershops and mutual aid groups, Black communities have created and cultivated spaces of joy, possibility, and affirmation in the face of inequitable systems and practices. Our Fellows follow in the legacy of these historical Black spaces and continue to shape new futures and thriving, powerful communities.

“We talk so much about stories from a historical standpoint. We don’t talk about it enough future-facing. How we tell the stories from a visionary standpoint of what is possible in Black communities and Black futures.”

Felecia Hatcher, CEO, Black Ambition

Contemplating the insights and stories featured in the documentary, these three leaders also discussed how stories can be reflections of hopes and dreams of a world that has yet to exist – a world free from racism and its interconnected conditions where all can thrive. At once, stories are a means to share visions for what could be and a blueprint for building anew.

KEEP UP WITH THE INVEST IN BLACK LEADERS CAMPAIGN

Asked in 1999 what she would like readers to take from her novels, visionary Black futurist writer Octavia E. Butler replied, “What sort of future are we creating? Is it the kind of future you want to live in? If it isn’t, what can we do to create a better future? Individually and in groups, what can we do?”

Collectively, we have the chance to leverage our own talents, position, and power to invest in Black leaders, disrupt injustice, and build a new legacy for generations to come.

We are grateful for those who joined us for the premiere of Unwavering: The Power of Black Innovation and helped us celebrate the official launch of the Invest in Black Leaders campaign.

Subscribe to the campaign newsletter to be the first to learn about upcoming events and launches, including the report in late June 2022.


The Invest in Black Leaders campaign is presented with support from Comcast NBCUniversal, Barclays, Bloomberg Philanthropies, General Atlantic, Allstate, and The Moody’s Foundation.

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