The Future is Ms. is an ongoing series of news reports by young feminists. This series is made possible by a grant from SayItForward.org in support of teen journalists and the series editor, Katina Paron.
Nearly half of Black women report anxiety when walking alone at night, according to a poll from the Gallup Center for Black Voices. These safety issues plague communities where many Black girls live. Unlike most young people, however, Tyler Lattimer was in a position to do something about it.
Along with six other girls and gender-expansive youth, Lattimer—a 16-year-old from the Bronx, New York—was a part of The Black Girl Freedom Fund’s youth advisory board that helped to allocate funds and grants for organizations led by and in service of Black women and youth in communities nationwide.
After the Black Girl Freedom Fund raised over $20 million last year, the teens gave out grants ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 to organizations prioritizing safety and well-being last June. Six organizations received grants, including national organizations Pretty Brown Girl and Healing the Black Body that have Black leaders at the helm of its initiatives.
“The work we have done in grantmaking can change the community,” said Lattimer. “Those organizations we donated to will now have more money to create a platform for themselves, be able to accommodate more Black girls and gender expansive youth, and have more resources.”
The Black Girl Freedom Fund is an initiative under the Grantmakers for Girls of Color, an organization that puts minority women and disadvantaged youth in grantmaking and philanthropic spaces.
A former youth community organizer in Philadelphia, Kyndall Osibodu, co-facilitator of the Black Girl Freedom Fund Youth Advisory Board, said the fund disrupts the existing power dynamic.
“It really is about us sharing power and shifting power to them,” said Osibodu, 30, from her home in Brooklyn.
That balance was also important to Shanice Turner, youth leadership manager for the National Youth Employment Coalition. She was introduced to philanthropy and advocacy at a young age in joining the organization Year Up Atlanta, and it helped her to recognize the value of a youth advisory board.
“It was very nervous at first because I’d be put on the spot. At 17, 18, 19, that made me feel like a deer in headlights,” said Turner, 29, recounting her first encounters in working with the group at Year Up Atlanta. “But over time, with growing confidence in my abilities and skills it got better.”
The fund connected teens from around the nation in a virtual setting and taught them about the role philanthropy can have in advancing social change. These experiences help to introduce young people to leadership in philanthropy and build skill sets lacking in the industry, said Yolanda F. Johnson, founder of Women of Color in Fundraising and Philanthropy.
“One of the beautiful things about the world of grantmakers is for those young people to have a voice at the table, a seat at the table helping make those decisions that are going to impact them,” said Johnson.
In future rounds of grantmaking, The Black Girl Freedom Fund plans to prioritize climate and reproductive justice. The fund hopes to recruit new members to join the youth advisory board to increase the number of young people who have a role in philanthropy.
“It’s not checking off a box or making markers, it’s about making sure that you’re practicing what you’re preaching,” said Turner. “It’s a hard thing to do, but [including young people] isn’t impossible.”