howard-university-ferguson-protest, Image Credit: Debra Sweet

November 11, 2014; BMAFunders.org

Led by the Deaconess Foundation of Missouri, members and allies of the Executives’ Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Men and Boys of Color released a statement on Monday asking for an observance of civil liberties in response to any demonstrations that may occur after the grand jury decision on the Michael Brown shooting. The statement is addressed to local, state, and federal officials.

It reads, in part, that no one wants to see any escalation, and in light of that, “We must create conditions where people can assemble, as is their right, in a manner that is civil and peaceful for all involved, including residents and officers entrusted with maintaining safety.”

The signers described the Alliance as “a growing network comprised of the presidents and CEOs of national, regional and community foundations that engage in a broad array of initiatives and activities to support boys and men of color, ranging from individual programmatic interventions to broad-scale policy change.”

An interesting aspect to this statement is that the Alliance says it has worked closely with the leaders and member organizations of the movement for justice in Ferguson. It asserts:

“Those organizations follow in the footsteps of other great Americans, civil rights patriots who secured rightful freedoms that were long denied. They have engaged leaders from across the nation and the world. They have set forth well-reasoned reform proposals to improve how we manage future situations at the local, state, and federal level. The Executives’ Alliance applauds their efforts and will continue to stand with them.”

The Alliance then made a list of recommendations, which, they say, “echo those from a longer list created by grassroots organizations in Greater St. Louis.”

  • Preserve human life as the first priority for all concerned.
  • Provide the community with advance notice before the grand jury decision is announced.
  • Avoid tactics and equipment that unduly militarize the police force; this includes use of armored vehicles, rubber bullets, rifles and tear gas.
  • Communicate with protesters to reach common-sense agreements for the protocols that all must follow.
  • Allow every latitude for free assembly and expression. Treat protesters engaged in appropriate acts of civil disobedience as civilians, not as enemy combatants.
  • Make every effort to pinpoint and arrest only individual lawbreakers, and avoid mass arrests of innocent protesters and bystanders.
  • Provide the public with advance information on both the chain of command within and across all participating law enforcement agencies and the rules for how decisions will be made about whether to escalate their response.

The statement is signed by a long and impressive list of U.S. foundation executives and their allies, including:

  • La June Montgomery Tabron, President and CEO, W.K. Kellogg Foundation
  • Rev. Starsky D. Wilson, President and CEO, Deaconess Foundation
  • Leticia Peguero, Executive Director, Andrus Family Fund
  • Patrick McCarthy, President and CEO, Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Kevin Jennings, Executive Director, Arcus Foundation
  • Peggy Saika, President & Executive Director, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy
  • Susan Taylor Batten, Executive Director, Association of Black Foundation Executives
  • Robert Ross, President and CEO, The California Endowment
  • William C. Bell, Ph.D., President and CEO, Casey Family Programs
  • Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, President and CEO, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo
  • Sidney R. Hargo, Executive Director, Community Foundation of South Jersey
  • Yanique Redwood, President and CEO, Consumer Health Foundation
  • Rahsaan Harris, PhD, Executive Director, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy
  • Ivye L. Allen, Ph. D., President, Foundation for the Mid South
  • Cedric Brown, Managing Partner, Kapor Center for Social Impact
  • Ben Hecht, President and CEO, Living Cities
  • Luz Vega-Marquis, President and CEO, Marguerite Casey Foundation
  • Sandra Mikush, Interim Executive Director, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
  • Carly Hare, Executive Director, Native Americans in Philanthropy
  • Ken Zimmerman, Director of U.S. Programs, Open Society Foundations
  • Mary E. McClymont, President, Public Welfare Foundation
  • Timothy Silard, President, Rosenberg Foundation
  • Dr. John H. Jackson, President and CEO, Schott Foundation for Public Education
  • Chet P. Hewitt, President & CEO, Sierra Health Foundation
  • Tonya Allen, President and CEO, The Skillman Foundation
  • Kent McGuire, President and CEO, Southern Education Foundation
  • Kriss Deiglmeier, Chief Executive Officer, Tides

This statement is certainly an unusual, interesting, and significant move for foundations, which have often been unwilling to take public advocacy positions on things other than their own regulatory environment. NPQ hopes to see more from this group in the future on some of the social justice policy issues that underlie the issues surfaced in Ferguson.—Ruth McCambridge

[Full Disclosure: Ivye Allen of the Foundation for the Mid-South is an NPQ board member.]