Navigating Courage: Black women redefining the landscape of equity and racial justice

Feature Image on blue background with Robin Martin on left side, yellow spark illustration in top left corner, white The Giving Practice logo in the bottom right corner,  and title centered.
June 14, 2024

In my role as a senior advisor at The Giving Practice, I have the privilege of closely collaborating with Black women who are both navigating and reshaping the challenging environments of philanthropy during this era of racial reckoning. 

Black women have long been at the forefront of the fight for equity and racial justice in the United States — leading movements from the battle for Voter Rights (spearheaded by Ida B. Wells) to the Black Lives Matter movement. Today, they form the largest voting bloc in 2024, continuing their legacy of pivotal civic leadership within their communities. 

The murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin marked a profound, universal call to action; yet, as the immediacy of those harrowing images waned, so too did the vigorous calls for equitable hiring practices and leadership recognition for Black and Brown women.

Alarmingly, recent statistics indicate a significant increase in terminations, alongside a pervasive lack of support and belonging that Black women face in the workplace. These workplace challenges are compounded by systemic obstacles, manifesting in physical, spiritual and mental tolls on many Black and Brown women. The increasing health issues and significant numbers leaving the workforce underscore the urgent need for action. In response, numerous white papers, research studies and calls to action have been circulated nationwide, aiming to address these critical issues.* 

In light of these challenges, I am compelled to speak directly to Black women, sharing strategies that have supported both my journey and those of others toward a brighter future.  

Here are some reflections to consider: 

1. Be Human
Always reconnect with your humanity. It’s crucial to center your needs, desires and hopes for the future daily. This goes beyond simple self-care; it involves recognizing your inherent worth and dignity every day. Intentionality about your personhood and aligning with your core values are vital. My daily practice includes asking myself these questions: What do I need today to be my whole self? What am I raging about? What courageous actions am I taking? What challenges am I currently navigating? These questions help me embrace my full self without judgment and affirm my personal and collective responsibilities. 

2. Be In Community
Create, build and support Black-women-centric spaces that foster innovation, support and safety. Often, being the first or only one in executive leadership positions can be isolating. Establishing and sustaining these spaces is critical — they are sanctuaries where the unspoken is understood, where your beauty, strength, and complexities are recognized, and where you can be both soft and courageous. Such spaces offer a restorative environment to recharge and continue the vital work of transforming our world. 

3. Be Courageous
Avoiding risks won't shield you from workplace challenges. Significant change in philanthropy demands courage, leveraging your unique influence for impactful transformations and equitable outcomes. Even if you find yourself pushed out of current roles, remember that your influence and power endure. Embrace the legacy of the millions of Black women who have fought for equity and racial justice; like them, we must also be bold in advancing this ongoing struggle. 

The road is tough and the journey long, but by embracing our full humanity, building strong, supportive communities and taking bold actions, Black women can and will continue to redefine the landscape of equity and justice. The steps we take today lay the foundation for a more just tomorrow. 

Dr. Robin Martin is a senior advisor at The Giving Practice, Philanthropy Northwest cohort facilitator, and CEO of Navigating Courage. Learn more about Robin here.   

*Resources on Black women leader’s experiences in the workplace:   

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