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Fighting the Good Fight as Women of Color

Fighting the Good Fight as Women of Color

I recently facilitated a discussion of barriers we face both in participating in social issues, and organizing events and rallies. The session, How to Fight the Good Fight When You’re at Capacity, was created in partnership with Mary Nguyen, Communications & Public Education Manager at Cultivate KC. It was part of the recent 14th annual Women of Color Leadership Conference, hosted by UMKC’s Division of Diversity and Inclusion. The conference brings together over 350 leaders and community members for a day of connection and professional and personal development.
My biggest takeaways from the discussion:
1. The most talked about barrier to inclusive social causes is a tendency to speak on behalf of, instead of with, those served. Both organizations and funders need to make a stronger habit of connecting earnestly with people in their communities. 

2. While physical barriers -- time, location, transportation, accessibility, language -- may be the easiest for organizers to identify, the first barrier our group spoke up about was an emotional one: trust. 

3. The language and messaging promoting your event will signal to people whether or not it’s for them. Be clear about who’s invited, especially if they’re often overlooked. Hint: if your organization or planning committee is homogenous, your messaging has blind spots. 

4. Having presented at this conference last year with a panel on the experiences of women of color in nonprofits and philanthropy, I am always so impressed by the power of social change in our city. Kansas City does not shy away from hard, cause-driven work. 

Nonprofit Connect members in the session brought perspectives from nonprofits, organizers, and funders, while the rest of the room was socially engaged professionals and students. All were volunteers in some capacity.
Because of the nature of the conference, our conversations were very quickly honest, direct, supportive, and empowering. I don’t know that I’ve ever engaged a room with such immediate connection between the people whose institutions and experiences don’t always communicate transparently. A funder spoke of the challenges and red tape she encounters, gave tips to nonprofits and organizers, and shared that as one of very few Black decision-makers, many Black-led organizations come directly to her. A nonprofit executive director led us through frustrating examples of imbalanced power dynamics between those served and those funding the work. A community and church leader demonstrated the power of inviting others into our space, and being willing to step out of our comfort zones.
These rich conversations are so vital as we do the work of making our community stronger and more equitable for all, and it was an honor to speak with many of our members where they work and gather and, often, refuel their own capacity.
Check out upcoming webinars related to this topic:
Equitable Representation in Nonprofit Marketing - Thursday, July 11
Presented by the Building Movement Project’s Senior Research Associate Ofranama Biu, and joined by panelist Nicole Collier White, Director with the Kansas City Public Schools Education Foundation.
Women of Color in the Nonprofit Sector - Wednesday, July 31
Presented by Mary Nguyen, Communications & Public Education Manager with Cultivate KC, and Denise St. Omer, Vice President of Grantmaking and Inclusion Initiatives with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.

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