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Moving beyond DEI in order to prioritize racial justice and equity

Cyndi Suarez's republished Nonprofit Quarterly article, The Nonprofit Sector as White Space, outlines how the concept of "white space" plays out in the nonprofit sector.

“For black people in particular, white spaces vary in kind, but their most visible and distinctive feature is their overwhelming presence of white people and their absence of black people.” Further, white spaces have an “implicit racial order—whites as dominant and blacks as subordinate.” In white spaces, black people can only gain “provisional acceptance from the immediate audience.” In other words, black people in white spaces repeatedly encounter the challenge to “pass inspection.” White people in white spaces wield enormous and outsized power."

Suarez goes on further to point out that the framing of racial equity work has been sanitized in nonprofit white spaces as diversity, equity, and inclusion versus racial justice. It shows up in who leads -

"In the design of racial equity change processes... capturing of our work and sharing out into the world with a white frame for an audience imagined as predominantly white."

I lead with this information because it is precisely the reason why Talem is beginning two unique initiatives in the coming weeks. We are working closely with nonprofit leaders of color as we develop our programs and we welcome critical feedback during this process. Our team has a lifelong commitment to learning about racial equity, as well as, unlearning white supremacy and its impact on our personal and professional lives. We won't always get it right but we also won't stay silent against the harmful actions of the systems we live and work within.

Introducing Virtual Leaders Ummah

Connection and community are important now more than ever. With budgets being slashed, we’ve created a brand new way for you to get affordable support and strategy. This program was designed to welcome individuals who prefer informal learning spaces and reduce barriers to access fundraising education for grassroots nonprofit leaders. 

What does it mean?

Ummah is the whole of Islam, each member bound to all the others by the special religious ties from which they find meaning. The word itself means simply “community” or “nation.”

Talem works closely with the Muslim faith community and we connected with Muslim nonprofit leaders to develop a space that is welcoming to Black, POC, and Muslim nonprofit leaders who may not feel welcome in traditional nonprofit education spaces; whether due to the nonprofit's work, their identity as a minority ethnic or religious nonprofit leader, or the lack of diversity within the space. Our goal is to use this as a place of shared values at a collective level and embody the ideals of the nonprofit community.

What is it?

The Virtual Ummah is an online community facilitated by Talem’s founder, Rachel Branaman. We will welcome a range of special guests from diverse backgrounds who specialize in nonprofit fundraising, marketing, and organizational development. One of our featured guests is Saadia Ahmed, founder of Fluff and Logic, LLP. She is a community and thought leader in Dallas/Fort Worth in addition to being the founder and adviser to numerous nonprofit and community initiatives. Saadia's areas of expertise include event planning, social media optimization, individual major giving, and annual fund development. 

When is it?

The small group will meet once a month for 2 hours to discuss key topics and share resources, with plenty of opportunities to ask individual questions and trouble-shoot fundraising in the time of COVID19. In addition to this, members will receive worksheets, strategies, and other documents to help navigate the fundraising landscape of the coming months.

Together, we will look at these initial topics:

  • Pivoting away from the traditional banquet event model

  • Finding the most useful virtual fundraising tools like Zoom, Slack, and DonorSearch (prospect research)

  • Building donor engagement through stewardship and annual campaigns

How much is it?

The first quarter will be beta tested for $100 for three months. Following, membership will be available at $100/month and can be purchased per quarter, with scholarship options to lower economic barriers of entry.

Talem is offering the Virtual Leaders Ummah at cost because we believe educational resources should be accessible to grassroots organizations - many of which are led by Black and POC leaders with limited financial resources for continuing education. We are able to offer these scholarships because we are allocating a portion of our profit from the Healing in Solidarity program.

Introducing Healing in Solidarity

This moment is about the injustices perpetrated on the Black community at the hands of the police and tearing down the American systems that disproportionately harm and kill Black Americans. The global pandemic has overwhelmingly sickened and killed black people, the resulting economic crisis is enacting outsized damage to people of color, and black people are continuing to be killed in their own homes and on their own streets by white violence and police.

Consequently, white communities are asking how they can help. It is an overwhelming proposition –

  • Where do you start?

  • How do you move beyond the shame and guilt you are carrying because white people alive today didn’t create racism or choose to live in a white supremacist country?

  • How do you face reality, give us permission to forgive ourselves, and become better co-conspirators in the movement?

  • How do you do this work without relying on the free emotional labor and work of Black leaders?

  • What do you do if you make a mistake?

  • How do you provide emotional outreach to your Black friends and family without centering yourself?  

What is it?

This series is for white accomplices who are in leadership positions and are ready to take on the inner work necessary to create systemic change in their places of work and other areas of influence.

This is not a book club - while we may discuss passages from anti-racism texts we intend to move deeper focusing on actionable change within the nonprofit sector including shifting organizational culture, transferring power to communities and leaders of color, and dismantling systems of inequity.

When is it?

This series will include four sessions, each two-hours long, to process your whiteness and use your spaces to create systemic change. This is a sacred and protected space that will be set up as small groups of five participants who will meet once a week for four weeks.

How much does it cost?

The cost of the series is $1,000 and can be paid in two installments of $500.The cost of the series will help underwrite scholarships for the Virtual Leaders Ummah.

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