Black Liberation

SJF supports the liberation of all Black people across the diaspora. We see anti-Blackness as a weapon of white supremacy and are committed to confronting and addressing it within our systems and the world in which we operate. Black liberation is dynamic and expansive, so our commitment to understanding it must be, too. We find power in imagining a world where all Black people are treated with full humanity, protected, and valued without fail. SJF centers Black liberation because we know it to be the root of collective liberation; when all Black people are liberated, everyone is liberated.

What this values looks like in practice at SJF:

  • We prioritize funding grassroots organizing led by Black folks and committed to Black liberation.
  • We ask all organizations that we fund to understand Black liberation in the context of their work.
  • We create all-Black regional spaces within philanthropy for Black donors and organizers to connect, share, heal, and learn.
  • We develop our internal policies and programming with Black liberation as the centermost principle.

Decolonization*

Centuries of colonialism across the globe, and settler-colonialism specifically in so-called North America, including the territory SJF serves (currently known as Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming), have severely harmed, exploited, and displaced Indigenous and Native American peoples. Colonialism produces deep power disparities and unjust systems such as capitalism, racism, and patriarchy that are the foundational causes of injustice. At SJF, we aim to liberate our organizational culture and practices by uprooting white supremacist norms and putting Black liberation, Indigenous sovereignty, anti-capitalism, and reparations frameworks at the center of our work. We affirm that decolonization is not a metaphor, unequivocally support the return of land to its original stewards, and seek opportunities to support such work.

What this value looks like in practice at SJF:

  • We ask all organizations that we fund to understand Indigenous sovereignty in the context of their work.
  • We are intentional in naming the origins of wealth accumulation, including stolen land and exploitation of Indigenous peoples, cultures, and knowledge, and drive our donors to take material action with this learning.
  • We prioritize funding Native and Indigenous-led grassroots organizations.

*We want to share Decolonization with our community as an eventual part of our entire set of values because we feel the set is not complete without it; together, these values form a complete picture and without it they cannot. However, we believe SJF has work to do before we can embody Decolonization more fully. We will share more insight into our thought and action process to embody this value in a blog post to be published in Spring 2023.

Collective Power

We understand power as the ability to control, change, and/or create outcomes. Collective power — power that is shared by many people instead of just a few through collective decision making, mutual encouragement, and an abundance of pathways for growth — is key to working toward liberation because it distributes and creates more power instead of limiting it arbitrarily or unjustly.

What this value looks like in practice at SJF:

  • We fund organizing that builds collective power, based on our Grassroots Organizing Principles.
  • Our Giving Project model is centered in collective giving, donor organizing, and democratic decision making.
  • The majority of our funding recommendations are made by SJF community members who are not staff members, primarily through Giving Project participants and Grant Panels of community members.
  • Our donor organizing programming provides skill building and leadership opportunities for donors and often asks them to participate in democratic decision making.
  • SJF’s policies and practices involve regular, accountable opportunities for staff participation and feedback on organizational strategy.

Abundance

Our work is grounded in the idea of abundance: that, together, we have what we need for everyone to live full, sweet lives. Plenty of societies have existed that worked differently than the one in which we live; it’s SJF’s responsibility to fund organizing that breathes life into better alternatives. We are motivated by endless possibility and radical imagination instead of scarcity and risk; we are excited by futures that deconstruct and replace capitalism and its norms. In SJF’s approach to resource organizing, “resources” include lived experiences, relationships, wisdom, and people power in addition to money. If we create our policies and practices with abundance in mind, we can look beyond the limitations of capitalism and white supremacy.

What this value looks like in practice at SJF:

  • We intentionally fund a broad range of issue areas, recognizing that the work of social justice must be expansive to address how interconnected liberatory struggles are.
  • We generally offer grants that are unrestricted, multi-year, and require simple reporting so our grantees can dig into their work with as few SJF-imposed limitations as possible.
  • We recognize our work is stronger and more impactful when our staff is well resourced, and offer wellness-focused benefits and other supportive methods to maintain staff wellbeing.
  • We operate within a four day/32 hour max work week to create a pace of work that’s more supportive of staff, grantee, and community wellness.

Equity & Accessibility*

We believe equity and accessibility means that everyone can access the resources they need to thrive and fully participate in their communities with the goal of achieving self-determined wellbeing and liberation. Access to money has the profound power to open access to other vital resources. As a funding organization, we see moving money in support of equity and accessibility as a vital part of our role in the movement for social justice. We know that we, as an organization, are part of a society built on historical and ongoing institutions of oppression and exploitation that produce inequity. We continually strive to dismantle all manifestations of these institutions in our work.

What this value looks like in practice at SJF:

  • We prioritize funding organizations led by and serving communities traditionally shut out of mainstream grant opportunities.
  • We work to design our programs, communications, and operations to be as open to participation as possible to a broad range of lived experiences.
  • We explore and work to adopt grant application and reporting methods that welcome a wider variety of communication styles.
  • We work to apply disability justice principles to the tools, physical spaces, and practices we use.

*In this context, we use the term “accessibility” to describe how accessible resources and systems are to people impacted by structural oppression. However, this word is used within our field to also describe accessibility of spaces, tools, and technology for people with disabilities. SJF has identified disability justice as an area where we need to grow our knowledge and practices. As of Winter 2022, we are contracting with disability justice consultants to undertake this work. We want to be clear about what we’re referencing with this value, currently, and note that we plan to continue developing this value with greater specificity around disability justice when we’ve done more to embody disability justice principles within our organization.

Accountability

We believe accountability means an ongoing effort to make sure our actions reflect our values in all areas of our work. To do this, we build opportunities for feedback and critique into our policies and practices. When we hurt or harm, we work to repair relationships, understand and take action to support the needs of the hurt/harmed party, and transform our organization with the lessons we learned. We reject the concept of perfectionism, but affirm the importance of continual learning and change to build solidarity and strengthen movements for social justice.

What this value looks like in practice at SJF:

  • We understand that our power as a funder in the field of social justice organizing increases the impact of our actions, both helpful and harmful. Therefore, it is critical for us to utilize practices that ensure community guidance and build accountability procedures into our regular operations.
  • We provide regular opportunities for grantees, donors, and other community members to assess our work and incorporate their feedback.
  • We strive to build trust through sharing and clarifying expectations from the beginning of collaborative work with the goal of every person feeling resourced, valued, and in their full humanity.
  • SJF staff and board are given opportunities to learn and practice conflict navigation, healing, and repair tools.

Transformation

As the world transforms, so do its movements for social justice: communities uncover new ways to understand, communicate, strategize, and drive change. To fulfill our mission, SJF must also continually transform so we can support our grantees, staff, members, and wider community as one part of a larger movement. We commit ourselves to regularly evaluating the needs of these groups and transforming our policies, practices, and programming to best meet those needs in pursuit of a just and liberated world. We center rest and honoring our humanity as necessary practices in transformation to prevent burnout and perfectionism.

What this value looks like in practice at SJF:

  • We share and take part in learning opportunities from grassroots organizers and other leaders and thinkers.
  • We evaluate our programs and procedures through data collection and community feedback and incorporate our learnings to improve what we offer in pursuit of community-driven change within our organization.
  • We regularly assess how our operations can better serve our staff, grantees, and community, and take action to transform our work with these assessments.
  • We nurture a culture of humility and openness; as a funding organization, it’s critical for us to assume that there is always more for us to learn and improve. We design our programming and feedback opportunities with this principle in mind.
  • We strive to build relationships that are transformative instead of transactional.

Credits

Primary contributors

SJF Staff: Marc Mazique, Shardé Nabors, and Alison Cheung

SJF Board: Em Bookstein

Secondary contributors

SJF Staff members (2020-2022)

SJF Board (2020-2022)

Dr. Tashia Harris

Racing to Equity

Supporters

C. Davida Ingram

Resources (concepts and language referenced in the values development process)

Unsettling America

Mia Mingus

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

bell hooks

Third Wave Fund

Surge Reproductive Justice

Giving Project Network

With permission, we modeled the format of our values (definition followed by values in action) on the format used by Surge Reproductive Justice. We are grateful for their leadership of thought!