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Making Way for Young Black Leaders

Kehila Moreno is the Office and Special Projects Assistant at San Diego Social Venture Partners and shared the below reflection following her participation in a San Diego Grantmaker's event called Shaping the Moment into a Movement: Black Youth Voice and Leadership, wherein Black youth leaders and Black leaders of many racial justice organizations including The California Endowment, Black Organizing Project, RYSE Center, and California for Justice, discussed the role that philanthropy can play in advancing racial equity.

Making Way for Young Black Leaders

By Kehila Moreno

It is evident that people are demanding change. Change in our school system, change in our policies, and ultimately change in our hearts.

After attending San Diego Grantmaker’s webinar, Shaping the Moment into a Movement, I had an uncomfortable conversation with myself about my own privilege. I am the daughter of Mexican immigrants, a low-income student, and someone who identifies with the LGBTQIA+ community. Still, I do not face the same adversity and oppression as the Black community.

An impactful moment in that webinar was when they asked students which types of assistance would best help black students in school. In addition to asking for healthy food options and health services, they said, “Stop suspending and expelling us.” This will help dismantle the school-to-jail pipeline that many people are completely unaware of, and that drastically affects communities of color. The school-to-prison pipeline is a modern system that funnels students of color into the criminal justice system due to a lack of support resources and because of zero tolerance policies which punish but fail to assist. Young Black leaders on the call reminded me that they are not only underserved in academia and within American schools across the country, but their rights are often ignored during the policymaking process.

How can we help the Movement?

The answer is simple - every presenter and panelist emphasized this point. Invest in young Black leaders. Dr. Robert K. Ross, President and CEO of the California Endowment, said that trusting and investing in the voices of young people causes the most change because they push the agenda and do not disappoint. Dr. Ross reiterated this point by saying, “We are no longer funding a pile of grantees, we are investing in the development of a power building eco-system for a structural change!”

Black youth have the unique ability to use the injustice and adversity that they face in school and in their community to understand needed policy changes that will help elevate their community and create a more just system. They are at the center of community organizing. It is clear they can create change, therefore, we must create spaces and platforms that they can use to voice their ideas about reimagining systems. Together, we must create systems that are ready and willing to support young Black leaders.

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