Over the past year and a half, you’ve heard us mention more than a few times that SJF has been going through a significant transition. A big part of that has been figuring out what kind of leadership structure best embodies our vision for liberation while supporting staff and organizational needs. We’re grateful to have found guidance in all kinds of places: from our brilliant, committed staff and board, from grantees, members, and Giving Project participants, from consultants, partner foundations, political writings, and more. And while we’re not yet done with our changes, we are elated to announce the newest member of our team: our Interim Executive Director Valériana Chikoti-Bandua Estes! You can reach her by email at Valeriana@SocialJusticeFund.org.
Read on for a message from Valériana and an update about our plans for the rest of 2021.
I come from a long line of historical interrupters, abolitionists and co-conspirators who actively upset white supremacist systems to make room for Black liberation led efforts. Unbeknownst to me when I was first classified so early in my life as a refugee, did I fully realize that the movement to end oppressive structures and the movement to radically engage as an Abolitionist chose me, so naturally it is truly an honor and a gift to be able to join forces with the entire team at Social Justice Fund. As many of you know, SJF has been an agency that has centered radical efforts to be inclusive in the philanthropic world and all while actively examining ways to sharpen a Black liberation centered lens.
My hope is that during my time as an Interim Executive Director, I can be supportive to the SJF team and examine more deeply how SJF can actively interrupt white supremacist tendencies that can be prone in the non-profit structures and examine internal structures that we need to enhance, scale back or potentially do away with, all while making room for an abundance of more Black liberation based actions, practices, and movements that are reflective within the agency and externally facing with our grantees, partners, donors, and members of the general public.
It is also no mistake that our current civil rights chapter that we are navigating is asking more from each of us to interrupt oppressive mechanisms and reexamine how we center our wellness, make room for change, and decolonize systems and policies that only serve the very privileged. Moreover, this pandemic chapter has caused us to humanize so many of the things that we would have otherwise left on auto pilot mode. This chapter is also asking us to be kinder to each other, to make room to grieve, to make room to heal while simultaneously confronting things that are hard, to hold on dearly to the those we love and who are in community with, to make more room to rest, and to also make more room to dream more audaciously.
I am so thankful for all of the well wishes, support, and love that I have been receiving from the SJF team and folks who I am yet to meet. Please feel free to reach out to me, to touch base if you are a past grantee, current grantee, donor and or someone in the movement who would like to learn more about SJF and ways that we can be expansive and courageous in our communities.
Twa Pandula Chalwa (Umbundu language meaning: Thank you very much)
Valériana Chikoti-Bandua Estes
Following a fantastic 2021 Celebration (thank you to everyone who made it out!), we’re taking this opportunity to announce a slow down in our external communications and programming through the end of 2021. We also are planning an organization-wide pause from late December to early January to get some much needed rest, reflection, and time with loved ones. This slow-down and pause will allow us to focus inward on strategic planning, updating our organizational values, reflecting on big lessons from the few years, and more. You can expect fewer emails and social media posts from us until we get back in the full swing of things.
Part of this pause includes figuring out how many grant opportunities, Giving Projects, workshops, and events we’re able to take on sustainably in 2022. Some funding opportunities are already in the works for the year ahead, including our second round of Basebuilding (Fund 4 the Frontlines) grants and our Rapid Response and Seed grants (more information to come about these!), while others will look different than in the past.
To our grantees: we are honored to support your organizing and take seriously our commitment to raising and distributing money for the powerful, necessary, and liberatory work you do. In order to carry out that commitment, we need to address staff burnout, organizational capacity, and the many ways anti-Blackness, white supremacy, and capitalism operate on us individually and within our organization. The road to liberation is a long one and we must be present for it. Slowing down means we can stay in it for the long haul; it also gives us time to evaluate our work to improve accessibility, introduce new and better ways of supporting grantees, and go deeper in centering Black liberation. All that said, we will have funding opportunities in 2022. Thank you for sticking with us.