Nationally recognized social change agents LaTosha Brown and Margo Miller are leading a movement to raise $100 million for Black girls and women in the south.
But Brown and Miller want to empower others to continue in their footsteps. The two are part of the Southern Black Girls and Women Consortium, along with Felecia Lucky, president of the Black Belt Community Foundation, and Alice Jenkins, executive director of the Fund for Southern Communities.
The consortium’s ambitious goal of raising $100 million for Black women and girls over the next decade has already produced $10 million in donations. Some of those funds have already been distributed to community organizations in the form of grants.
Two young women in Lowndes County, Georgia, for example, used a $250 grant to fund a drive-in screening of Black Panther to provide a safe entertainment alternative for their community during the pandemic.
Brown’s work as the co-founder of Black Voters Matter, the Black Voters Matter Fund and Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute was critical in successfully turning Georgia blue during the past election cycle. The Alabama-born, Georgia-based activist helped Democrats gain a slim one-vote majority in the Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris‘ tie-breaking vote.
Community organizer, cultural activist and non-profit executive Miller is the executive director of the Appalachian Community Fund, a non-profit seeking to counter poverty and improve the lives of residents of Central Appalachia, which includes East Tennessee (her home state), West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, Southwest Virginia and all of West Virginia.
The two shared with theGrio the impetus for founding this initiative, and more.
“I had a vision, actually. I’ve worked as an organizer for a number of years, and I’ve also worked in philanthropy for more than 15 years. There was a report that came out from the Southern Rural Black Women, and it was called Unequal Lives, and in the report, it talks about how less than 1% of philanthropic dollars out of the billions of dollars that come to the South are going to Black women and girls,” shared Brown, whose initial reaction was a desire to call philanthropy out.
“Like, why are you not supporting Black women and girls, particularly in the South, when we are basically carrying this region on our backs?”
Brown said that while showering one day, spirit spoke to her, calling her to lead the way in rising funds to support Black women and girls, particularly those in the south, rather than taking the traditional route of trying to nudge philathropists toshift their focus.
“I got this vision of creating this network, the Southern Black Girls Consortium, and it was so strong that I actually had to jump out the shower,” she added.
Miller pointed out to theGrio some of the areas where Black women and girls needed fudning support.
“Black women are enrolled in and graduating from school in the highest percentage across all racial and gender lines, yet we still make far less money than our white counterparts,” aid Miller. “Education is critical, but degrees and financial literacy alone have not closed the wealth gap. The same is true of college-degreed Black women and health disparities. Despite this, philanthropic investment steered toward Black women and girls in the South is still less than 1%. We have to be innovative and intentional about attacking the complex challenges facing us — and we have to listen to the under-represented to develop solutions.”
Brown said their efforts focus on the South because the majority of Black people live in the South.
“What the South has been is the place that has rooted white patriarchy supremacy. We see those policies that have been harmful and traumatic to our community and to Black girls and women. It was Southern Black people that were literally enslaved and were in the slave states that generated the foundational wealth of this country. [But now] we live in some of the poorest conditions. There has been a marginalization of us in our own communities.”
Miller, Brown and crew designed listening sessions to learn Black girls’ perceptions about themselves, their needs, their dreams, and the resources they need. The consortium used that information to design funding approaches that ensure equitable distribution of funds to organizations serving Black girls throughout the Southeast and to identify funding priorities that address the current needs of Black girls, while having a long-term impact on their development and their lives.
“LaTosha hopes [this] work will result in a shift in how Black girls in the South see themselves. Not as victims, but as victors. If we do nothing else but that, then we would’ve been highly, highly successful,” shared Miller.
“Ultimately, we want this to be a fund that’s been invested in by individuals, not just foundations, but our community. We’re in the business of supporting groups that have a track record of distributing resources that’s fair and effective. We want to engage Black women and Black girls,” added Brown. “We see this as a collective effort.”