By Palmira Figueroa
Ubax Gardheere is the Equity Strategies Manager for the City of Seattle by day. She is a fierce fighter for justice by heart who exemplifies all of what Social Justice Fund NW is about.
Ubax is also SJF’s outgoing Board co-chair. This month we are honoring Ubax and and her outstanding job on our Board.
Ubax started her relationship with SJF nine years ago, after attending SJF’s annual dinner. Shortly thereafter she joined SJF’s first ever Giving Project in 2010. The Project came at the right time as she was wanting to expand her understanding of philanthropy. “It was one of those things where the universe conspires” Ubax said. Ubax recalls the first Giving Project:
“I was struck immediately by the opening session, a powerful two-day exploration of class privilege and racial injustice, and how being on the receiving end of injustice had shaped me. For the first time I was exposed to very different people who were also shaped by injustice but were seeing it through a lens of privilege. I saw how they were learning to share that privilege.
The transformational work started happening from the beginning – a collective of people from different backgrounds, races, classes and realities bonded through working for the same goals and shared values. Very powerful stuff!
I knew about philanthropy before the Giving Project as a someone on the receiving end. I knew I wanted to help my community but I had this colonialist perspective – the one where “others” can help and make the decisions for you. Being part of this collective group opened my eyes to a different possibility: one where people can come together, create their own vision, understand the possibilities of that power, and then go out and raise money to support the organizations doing the base-building work in our communities. As a donor organizer on the grantmaking side it was unfamiliar territory. I was at the table making decisions, and became cognizant of the power I was gaining as a grantmaker, and the importance of the work that SJF is doing to make grantmaking a democratic exercise.”
After three Giving Projects and many site visits around the region, Ubax was amazed by the work being done. She decided to join the board of SJF.
“I was in love with the work, and wanted to contribute to the strategic direction of SJF and be even more part of the change that we were making, especially around the understanding and exercise of philanthropy. SJF has this capacity to attract people with the same values, and I wanted to be a part of that choir, you know what I mean?”
And the choir was lucky enough to have her join our leadership team and stay for six years, the last two as a co-chair of the board. Ubax recounts her time on the board as both meaningful and full of changes. She started not knowing much about philanthropy and finished as “the board co-chair of a multi-million dollar philanthropic foundation – that’s pretty remarkable!” Her experience on the board of SJF also gave her a lot of joy. “This community knows how to have a good time! People at SJF work hard and have tons of fun while they’re at it.”
Ubax, you will be missed as part of our board but we know this relationship is far from over. We will keep singing and dancing together for years to come as part of this movement for justice.
Photo of Ubax Gardheere by Naomi Ishisaka