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Regional Vignette: Communities Foundation of Texas

This article first appeared in The Racism Issue of Change Agent.

While racial equity efforts have been going on in Dallas for years, the July 7, 2016 Dallas shootings, which killed five police officers and came on the heels of the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were a wake-up call: We needed to step back to better understand and address racial equity issues across our city. Beginning from a place of listening was important. Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT) began working with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to understand its Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation model and how it might work in Dallas. In addition, CFT secured internal funding for an inaugural round of CFT grants in support of racial equity work in Dallas. We specifically sought to support storytelling that gives voice and understanding to marginalized experiences, and those working to engage others in looking at racial inequalities locally, contributing to racial healing activities within and across sectors in Dallas, and creating or implementing practical solutions to race-related challenges in Dallas. We also opened our grant eligibility to faith-based institutions and others who didn’t typically apply for our grant opportunities.

The response to CFT seeking out nonprofits in the community doing racial equity work was greater than even we initially expected. While nonprofits implemented a wide range of activities to call out and address racial inequities in their communities, there was a common thread of engaging honestly and thoughtfully with the community. Work among the nonprofits included equity training for teachers, community forums to examine historical racial inequities, art projects to highlight the experiences of people of color, racial healing circles, conversations across faith communities, programs to engage and elevate the youth voice, and community engagement programs to build local leaders and help engage more neighbors in working together to fight inequity. You can learn more about these projects at https://www.cftexas.org/racialequity.

“Allowing people the space to tell their stories and providing opportunities for others to hear those stories is the first step toward healing,” said Sarah Cotton Nelson, CFT’s Chief Philanthropy Officer. “Additionally, offering grants specifically in support of those working diligently on issues of racial equity allows CFT as an organization to learn more ourselves about what needs to be changed across our community, and to get to know all those involved more deeply.”

We also continue to seek out the guidance of leaders in our community. From their different vantage points, they witness and experience the challenges of racial inequities daily. Their responses to these challenges are rooted in empathy, and build on the strengths of their clients and communities. Their expertise is invaluable and informs our way forward.

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