Shanelle Matthews: “I do not know that pro-Blackness is commensurate with the traditional nonprofit infrastructure. These organizations are proxies for power for the rich. So, in some ways, we’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I do think that the charity model ends up ultimately being ineffective in many ways, because the people who fund us often get to determine what our agendas look like. So how could my agenda at my organization be meaningfully pro-Black if the people who are giving us the money are deciding what that agenda looks like? The organization itself cannot be pro or anti really anything, as an organization. It is an entity that is meant to receive money.

So if we talk about the process for the individuals inside of that organization—to themselves start the deeply transformative and hard work of becoming pro-Black—then I think it starts with the self. There is no way in which you enter movement and advocate for radical ideas without interrogating your own allegiances to oppressive systems. So if we’re not offering political education to our staff and board to understand the complexities and history of anti-Blackness in not only the US but globally—so that they can have enough context to be able to make some of the political decisions and commitments authentically that they want—then we’re missing the mark on that.

Organizations are made up of people, and those people, in order to build a more inclusive world, have to identify that the shared problem around [the question]: ‘Why is it so hard for us to have these kind of lasting commitments to being pro-Black or advancing an agenda that is in defense of Black lives beyond these moments of uprising?’”