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Carmen Rojas—Voices of Climate Justice

Voices of Climate Justice

As we see a concerted push by local service providers, community organizers, and think tanks to link their work to larger efforts that impact city, state, and national climate change policy, it is crucial that foundations step up as partners and allies in this work. In city after city, it is clear that movement building for policy change builds the power of low-income communities of color to have a stake and a voice in the political and economic processes that shape their lives. Too often, environmental grant makers shirk their responsibility to address the issues affecting these communities, which are disproportionately impacted by issues of pollution and waste, food access and quality of life, and employment and sustainability. This is a call for a new moment in grant making and charitable giving. centered on partnership, solidarity, and movement building.

As someone new to the field of philanthropy, I am consistently disappointed by the often cited issue of capacity used to explain why certain grantees are funded while others remain under resourced. Capacity has come to replace the concept of risky and is overwhelmingly used to describe community-based organizations working in low-income communities and communities of color and led by committed leaders of color. If there is a capacity issue with an organization in one of our communities, the Mitchell Kapor Foundation understands that it is our responsibility to step up and provide the necessary resources to these organizations and work in partnership with them to make the change we hope to see in the world.

Organizations working to engage low-income communities of color in the climate change debate are invaluable resources to these communities and to the issues we hope to address through our grant making. They are able to build local awareness of the issue of climate change and how it impacts our communities and the globe. They are the vehicle through which our community members feel empowered and engaged in the battle for green jobs, clean air, and healthy food. They are able to collect the stories of how these issues impact everyday people and use them as a jumping point for policy transformation. I would not only like to recognize this work, but also call foundations to support this work and join as partners in pushing for racially and economically equitable solutions for climate change.

The Mitchell Kapor Foundation, along with our partner social and racial justice foundations and affiliation groups like Bay Area Blacks In Philanthropy (BABIP) and the Social Justice Infrastructure Funders Group (SJIF) are at the forefront of prioritizing building relationships and movements with our nonprofit partners. Whether we are supporting organizations to participate in the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, which is meant to inform the scoping plan of AB32 on behalf of low-income communities of color, or funding the work of Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, or Brightline Defense Fund to actively engage in actions to halt the expansion and development of high polluting industries in these communities, we are committed to funding for the sake of movement building, for the sake of empowering and engaging community members, and for the sake of giving individuals and families an opportunity to reimagine and rebuild their neighborhoods, cities, and regions.

Carmen Rojas is the grants officer for the Green Access program at the Mitchell Kapor Foundation.

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