On Juneteenth, Black Leaders Need More Than Anti-Racism Lip Service. We Need Real Investments in Our Leadership.

Organizations led by Black women often grapple with underfunding and skepticism.

Fearless Fund CEO Arian Simone at a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on March 14, 2024. A federal appeals court panel suspended the Fearless Fund grant program for Black women business owners, claiming it violates federal civil rights law. (Tom Brenner / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Black women have long been on the frontlines of social movements—driving change, innovation and progress in our communities and beyond. From the streets to the voting booth, from community centers to the halls of Congress, Black women have made invaluable contributions to advancing justice for our families and communities at large. Despite our invaluable contributions, organizations led by Black women and geared towards women of color often grapple with underfunding, skepticism and being considered an afterthought.

At the heart of this issue lie the remnants of the long legacy of racism and sexism where Black women’s labor and community connections are good enough to use, but not good enough to resource. Numerous studies highlight a stark and damning reality: organizations led by Black women are significantly under-resourced compared to their counterparts led by men and white women. The consequences of this underfunding ripple far and wide. Without adequate resources, Black-led organizations are often stretched thin and forced to navigate an uneven playing field from the outset.

Investing in Black leaders and the organizations we helm is not merely an act of altruism or political theater; it is a strategic imperative for dismantling entrenched systems of oppression and advancing real social justice.

Our communities are resilient; we continue to show up and show out again and again despite the inequitable investment in our organizations. As Black leaders, we have been deliberate about supporting our organizing staff that work directly with our members, whether or not we have funding to support us. When we made the decision to ensure that our organizers had dedicated time to rest and recharge while also enhancing their leadership skills, we committed to sending organizers from our state chapters to a week-long retreat and training opportunity. This kind of investment was challenging, as funders often do not grasp the significance of BIPOC leadership development and the funding comes directly from our own resources.

Investing in Black leaders and the organizations we helm is not merely an act of altruism or political theater; it is a strategic imperative for dismantling entrenched systems of oppression and advancing real social justice. It has been proven repeatedly the importance of marginalized communities in leveraging power to make change in our country. By supporting diverse women leaders and Black-led organizations, funders have a unique opportunity to catalyze meaningful change and foster a more equitable future for all.

The call to action for philanthropy is clear: Invest in Black women leaders, not as an afterthought or a checkbox on a diversity agenda, but as an integral part of the fight against racism and inequality. By channeling resources and support to these in-house experts, philanthropy can amplify our voices, catalyze transformative change and, ultimately, build a more just and equitable world for generations to come.

Only through collective effort and unwavering commitment can we create a future where every woman, regardless of race or background, can thrive and lead with dignity and purpose. Black women leaders need more than anti-racism lip service or external experts parachuting in; we need genuine partnerships with funders who acknowledge that the only way to dismantle all racism, including the racism within philanthropy, is to listen to—and hear—Black women leaders and our calls for action.

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About and

Mica Whitfield is the co-president and CEO of 9to5: The National Association of Working Women where she leads the organization’s vision for economic justice for working women and nonbinary people of color through worker justice, family and community sustainability, and power building.
Ashley Panelli is an organizer, advocate and champion for liberation and economic freedom. She is the co-president and CEO of 9to5 and 9to5 Action Fund, a grassroots power-building organization that advances economic justice to achieve better living and working conditions for women and nonbinary people of color.