We Are Hard Pressed on Every Side, but Not Crushed

Jacqueline Martinez Garcel

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-9

We barely had time to grieve the loss of life in Gilroy when the news of the El Paso shootings emerged. It was beyond devastating. As the news unfolded of a gunman who traveled 10 hours to kill Mexicans, Latinos, and immigrants, our hearts were crushed, and spirits broken. For the first time in the past three years, we were not quite sure how we could get back up from this one. We knew that after a presidential candidate won an election by fanning the flames of hate, ignorance, and racism, things could turn really ugly in our county. This reached a new dimension of darkness. The pain was unbearable. The tears unrelenting. For days, the grief was debilitating, and we could barely find words to comfort our friends, colleagues, and family who felt numb, heartbroken, angry, and afraid.

This had transpired less than two months since the images of Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter, Angie Valeria, face down in the Rio Grande flooded the media. A family in search of a new beginning was now counted among the hundreds that lose their life in that treacherous journey towards hope and opportunity.

All these emotions were raging, when the news broke that ICE raided food processing plants in Morton, Mississippi and arrested 680 Latino workers, a record. As we watched the news, we cried with Magdalena Gomez Gregorio, 11 years old, who begged the government to release her father. She stood surrounded by five- and six-year old children crying in the streets, alone, confused, crying out to the world that their parents were not criminals. It wasn’t a new method for separating families, but the timing of these raids made it feel like the walls were caving in.

This was the backdrop of our work over the course of this past summer. But we pressed on because these parents, these families, and these children are the reasons we are relentless about our mission. The Latino Community Foundation (LCF) exists to unleash the civic and economic power of Latinos. We do this because our nation’s democracy and economy depend on the vitality and strength of our community. And, we are determined to play offense — not just defense — in these trying times. Most of all, we chose to lead with love and courage.

On the days that followed El Paso, we mustered the strength to organize a vigil in Concord, a healing circle with community members, a fundraiser for the families affected by the shootings. But it’s not enough. This moment in time requires that we — the philanthropic sector — dig deeper and invest boldly in brilliant grassroots leadership. The Latino, Black, Native and Asian communities who are on the frontlines organizing and creating solutions need our loving support and investments. These grassroots organizations are often overlooked by big foundations because budgets are too small. “We don’t want them to be dependent on philanthropic dollars,” is a phrase we’ve all heard too often — and it is driven by the power dynamics that made philanthropy part of the problem.

The philanthropic community has a window. A window with an opportunity to make things right. In the chaos, the pain, the rising hate crimes, the philanthropic community could choose to break free from the norms that have confined us and unapologetically invest in the leadership in the communities most harmed by the Trump Administration’s bigotry. Now is the time to break free from the chains of logic models and process-driven strategic planning. Now is the time to break free from the aristocratic, slow-paced, monotonous grant cycles that we have held us back. We believe that no one in this sector wants to be remembered as a paper pusher at this critical crossroads for our nation.

Let’s invest in the Latino communities who in past decades won farmworkers the right to unionize, defeated anti-immigrant Prop 187, and led movements grounded in hope and opportunity across the country. Let’s consider how we triple our investments in black and brown youth organizers and community leaders so we can wake up to a nation that has inched itself closer to the ideals of a just and equitable democracy. If not now, when? If not us, then who?

We invite you to go all out. Maybe you already are — and we are grateful. If you still wondering how, we offer these three basic principles that have guided our work at the Latino Community Foundation:

  • Build on the Strength of Community: Our approach to grantmaking is to trust the wisdom, expertise, and drive of our Latino leaders and invest in what is possible simply because of who they are.

We encourage our leaders to own their narrative, define their impact, and lead with their strengths. As funders, we often focus on the deficits of communities: the “what” we are trying to fix. We have committed to investing in and highlighting the ‘what is possible’ when we build on the strengths of our leaders. This is at the heart of our Latino NonProfit Accelerator, a groundbreaking initiative that is about building stronger, bolder, more powerful nonprofits. In 2017, LCF launched this initiative by asking the question ‘what if we invested in Latino nonprofits the way we invest in start-ups.” What if we truly surrounded them with the world class tools accessible to our entrepreneurs?

Latino Community Foundation Accelerator, Todec in Perris, CA. June 28, 2019.

Living in the heart of the world’s Tech Hub, we were resolute in reimagining a future where investors — including funders, venture capitalists, and donors — made large bets on Latino nonprofit leaders that are on the frontlines of building civic and economic power for their communities. Why not invest in these game changers who are organizing, mobilizing, and reinventing a new future for Latino families and youth? This work is about the long game.

  • Communities Define Their Impact and Narrative: We use an African proverb to ground our work in evaluation and storytelling. It says, “Until the lion learns to read and write, the story will always glorify the hunter.” In philanthropy, we get so caught up with our logic models and strategic plans that we rarely make room for communities to define what their own success and impact looks like. Then we wonder why programs aren’t successful.

Across all of our efforts, we are intentional about creating space for community partners to define their north star, articulate the impact they want to see in their communities, and shape their own stories. Through our Accelerator, we help organizations re-build their websites, their one-pagers, and partner with a Pulitzer-prize nominated photographer to capture the power of their work. Then, we work to lift up the authentic stories and victories. We give grassroots leaders the platform to share their truth and to own their vision for transformation.

  • Lead with Love and Invest in Power: Love and trust are transformative, and these foundational values ground the work of the Latino Community Foundation. From our grantmaking to our convenings and our Giving Circle movement — love, power, and culture are at the center of it all. When you love, you listen. And we listen deeply to our leaders because our goal is not just to support them, but to know them and understand them. When you are seen, respected, and cared for, you stand taller, become bolder, and step into the fullness of your power.

This power unleashed in our leaders of color — generated and sustained by love — will not only get us through these dark moments in our history, it will be the force that propels us forward into a more just, equitable America. That is worth fighting for.

Jacqueline Martinez Garcel is CEO of the Latino Community Foundation. You can follow her on Twitter @JMGarcel.

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