February marks the observance of National African American History Month, a commemoration with origins dating back to 1926 when Dr. Carter G. Woodson instituted a week-long celebration to raise awareness of African Americans’ contributions to history. 50 years later, as part of the United States Bicentennial, the week became a month, and today February is celebrated as National African American History Month in the United States and Black History Month in Canada.
While the nation celebrates the advancements which African Americans have made in our society, our sector remains challenged by the representation of African Americans. In its Final State of the Work report, the D5 reported that African Americans represented 11 percent of the total U.S. professional workforce but accounted for only 3.4 percent of foundation CEOs and presidents. Many in our sector have expressed their support for and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, yet we struggle with the pipeline of talent entering the field and the retention of talented individuals within the field. I am heartened by the Council on Foundations’ Career Pathways Program, our leadership development initiative designed to assist a more diverse pool of leaders in reaching their potential. The program kicked off in Miami toward the end of January and the diversity of the participant pool was incredible. I had the opportunity to address this exceptional team and I truly believe that the group of leaders in the 2017 cohort comprises the changing face of philanthropy.
As our nation looks to philanthropy to help in addressing our most pressing concerns, it will be the leaders of our sector who will guide us, thoughtfully and methodically, in responding. In January, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation launched the National Day of Racial Healing, the beginning of a year-long effort “to bring healing to the country, to build bridges and ensure a more perfect union and oneness within our country.” That same month, the Puerto Rico Community Foundation, the Association for Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) and Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) co-hosted a funders’ conversation on Afro-Latino communities. This convening brought together representatives from a number of foundations to address the intersectionality of Latinos of African descent as well as the patterns of marginalization, present throughout the Americas, in communities of African descent.
The Council on Foundations seeks to collaborate with our members in elevating and addressing the concerns of our nation. As we celebrate National African American History Month, we honor the pioneers on whose shoulders many in our field stand today. We also pay tribute to the many leaders working diligently to serve the African American community and fulfill the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion within our sector.