A Sense of Home

By Angela Jones Hackley, Interim President

On behalf of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, I join many of my colleagues locally, in our sister city of Baltimore, and around the nation, in expressing our deepest condolences to the family of Freddie Gray. We also send thoughts of healing and justice for all the residents of Baltimore. Today’s news is a good first step, but it is only the beginning of what must be a sustained effort to address what we all know is a systemic problem. Therefore, I want to implore each of you to consider how you might help to avert a similar situation from ever happening again.

For the past few days, like most of you, my heart and head have been heavy with thoughts about the circumstances in Baltimore.  As I reflect and try to find the words to say that might add value, I can’t help but think about my own recent, as well as past personal experiences and history. Had it not been for a profound sense of community, there but by grace go I.

I am a native Washingtonian, who grew up in Anacostia, South East D.C. It was definitely a neighborhood that by today’s standards, many would call the “ghetto.” But it was HOME. It was and in many ways, still is my community. It provided everything I needed to become the person I am today. It was the community that protected, nurtured, and educated me.   It was the community that told me that I could do and be anything in this world. It was the community that put the fire in my belly for social justice and giving back. Simply and profoundly, it was and is my HOME.

While I chose to serve my community by working in the nonprofit sector, my brother chose a different path — the honorable profession of a police officer — so that he could serve the community. He has been doing so for the past twenty-five years, and I am immensely proud of him and grateful for the work he does every single day. He is an adamant proponent for community policing as a way to avert the tensions within communities, and build trust. At the end of the day the goal is the same for us all, and that is to live and work in a community that is safe and thriving for all.  The goal is for all of us to have a sense of home.

My dad still lives in close proximity to the neighborhood that I grew up in. Often when I visit him, I encounter some young men hanging out on the street, and many fit the stereotype that is being depicted in the news. However to me, these young men are my dad’s neighbors, hence they are a part of my community. They are my neighbors. They are always respectful to me, but I do wonder, if they feel the same sense of being protected and nurtured in their community as I did.

I now have the privilege of working in the field of philanthropy with a cadre of individual and institutional donors who are committed to social justice and lifting up the voices of the voiceless. I am proud of the work of The Community Foundation over the years at calling the question around race and related issues in our community – such as our signature discussions Putting Race on the Table, the investments of the Washington Partnership for Immigrants, the Collaborative for Education Organizing, and the more recent work we are doing to examine issues of affordable housing and the achievement gap in our region. Yet still, I ask myself am I, are we doing enough? Are we doing enough to make sure that young people in our community feel valued and have opportunities? Are we doing enough in our community to call the questions of injustice when we see it and then to do something about it?  Frederick Douglass said. “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

Building on The Community Foundation’s long history of social justice work, and in the spirit of moving towards action, thanks to a generous seed gift $50,000 from The Kovler Fund, The Community Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of the Fund for EQUALITY (Equitable Alternatives to Incarceration for Teens and Youth). In making the grant, representatives of the fund indicated that, “The Kovler Fund is pleased to provide this seed grant to The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region to launch The Fund for EQUALITY. We have worked with The Community Foundation for many years and appreciate their leadership on what we believe is one of the most importance issues of our time – social justice and the disproportionate number of black men and boys in our criminal justice system. We must all do what we can to end the injustice that has been destroying countless lives, ravaging communities, and wasting talent and potential for far too long. This grant is, in part, our way of helping to make a difference.”

The Fund for EQUALITY will be a 3 to 5 year effort of The Community Foundation in partnership with the Kovler Fund and others to provide investments in programs in our region focused on addressing the escalating tensions in low-income communities, and the disproportionate incarceration of young men and boys of color in our region. Our goal for this first year is to raise a minimum of $250,000. We strongly encourage you to join us in the implementation of this fund.

For more information about the Fund for EQUALITY, please contact Amina Anderson at aanderson@cfncr.org.

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