My Black history:
My grandfather was the first, and only, black man to own a small gas station in Elkton, Maryland.  His business development strategy involved hiring a young white man from the community to play the role of “boss” while he worked in the gas station as “the mechanic.”  My cousin was the first black judge in Wilmington, Delaware.  His image was burned in effigy in the town square during the 1960s.  And then there is cousin Grace, devoted mother, wife, and deaconess at the oldest Baptist church in the city. She rose through the ranks of the state correctional system to become one of the first senior level African American wardens in the state. I am proud of my family, and the many “firsts” they accomplished throughout their lives. Their stories are a part of my Black history.

Our Black history:
Regardless of your race, creed, or color, I have come to realize that all Americans have a Black history. It is evidenced in the ways that your thoughts, words, and actions support the creation of a just, civil and opportunity-rich society for every woman, man and child.

The Twenty-First Century Foundation: building a just America
The Twenty-First Century Foundation is another “first”.  We will demonstrate how large progressive institutions like Tides, together with trusted anchor institutions in black communities, can come together to build a just America, one that is not blind to any color, but embraces all colors.  Building a just America requires that all hold a shared vision for racial justice and equity, a racially diverse and fully engaged leadership, and a firm commitment to an inclusive workplace culture and strategy.
Over the next year, the Twenty First Century Foundation will be strengthening our impact in the black philanthropic space and other new majority communities through the launch of three new collective action funds and a professional leadership development network. These new products and services will strengthen our impact in black and other new majority communities by cultivating donors of color and ally donors, supporting the capacity building of black-led grassroots organizations, and convening platforms for effective strategic collaboration between new majority community leaders in the US and internationally.

New Collective Action Funds:
1. Twenty-First Century Fund
The Twenty-First Century Fund honors the vision of the founder of the Twenty First Century Foundation (21CF), Robert Browne, by developing domestic and international programming on economic and youth development. This collective action fund will be a trusted resource to black and ally individual and institutional donors who care about and want to make grants that address the challenges and opportunities facing black-led grassroots organizations in the US and internationally.

2. The Afro-Latino Opportunity (ALO)
The Afro-Latino Opportunity Fund enables individual and institutional donors interested in building racial and ethnic understanding, equity, advocacy and leadership capacity within and between racial groups in American Latino and African-American communities. The fund is also concerned about the voice, identity and advocacy of Afro-Latinos in Latin America and Afro-Latino immigrants in the US and internationally

3. Employee Resource Group (ERG) Workplace Giving Fund
This innovative new fund will respond to the values and concerns of millennial employees and affinity/employee resource groups by providing a collective action fund that will enable them to link their workplace giving and company matching grants to issues that they care about.

4. Employee Resource Group (ERG) Professional Development Network
We are also launching a fee-based professional development network for leaders of ERGs and employee volunteer programs in a network member’s workplace to create organizational, industry and even regional strategies. The network will help its member organizations and their employee resource group members to set goals, collaborate with key grassroots organizations around issues that are related to their giving, offer online and offline networking, leadership development, share best practices in socially responsible corporate citizenship, community engagement, and teach mission-driven investing strategies to employees and leaders of ERG’s.
It is going to be a fun and challenging year, but one that will move us closer to the dream that we all share during this month and beyond.

Toby Thompkins
Vice President, Twenty First Century Foundation powered by Tides

Photo via Flickr user dukeyearlook, used under Creative Commons license.