Many believe you can determine what a “Justice Funder” is by examining the actions and behaviors of the individual. While I agree those are important, I believe it’s as important to use “feelings and instincts”. Let’s look at this in the context of what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri. Yes, this small suburb of 22,400 residents outside of St. Louis that has captured the attention of the country.
A “Justice Funder” understands the social justice aspects of the tragic death of Michael Brown by a police officer, including race, power, community, and institutional disconnects. But he/she senses that the issues as presented, and the solutions as needed, are much more complex. He/She feels the need for deeper dialogue and understanding of these issues, rather than looking for a quick end. The “Justice Funder” feels that the many media reports, with their 20 second sound bites and numerous panels of experts, just won’t provide the information and frame that are necessary to ease the tensions and anger. Nor will it allow the outside public to fully understand what transpired in this community before this current crisis.
A “Justice Funder” feels the need to create an environment is which all sides are in dialogue and can be heard, while at the same time insuring the inclusion of those most marginalized and negatively impacted as equal participants in the conversation. His/Her instincts know that healthy dialogue needs views from all sides, even while understanding that some views are given more credibility and weight than others. A “Justice Funder” seeks to lift up the voice of those that are trying to move the dialogue forward, regardless of the perception or reality of their power or motive.
Lastly, a “Justice Funder’s” instinct is to support the issues rather than be the issues. In the end, those most impacted need to be at the forefront of the activities and solutions to address social, human, environmental, and economic injustices. In journalistic terms, He/She wants to support and help “tell the story, and not be the story”.
So when one is trying to decide whether he or she is a “Justice Funder”, the first place to look should be inside one’s self. If you feel you are, you’re likely to be right.
James W. Head is vice president of programs at The San Francisco Foundation and has more than 25 years of experience in the field of community and economic development.