Recap: Upswell 2020 / Day 3
// By Christian Clansky
Upswell’s final day began with a Main Stage moment that might have seemed implausible a few years ago.
Stephen Heintz – who as the head of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund represents one of the most influential philanthropic organizations in the country, resourced by the accumulated wealth of one of the richest men in history – said, “Democracy is the ultimate public good. When we erode democracy, we erode the quality of our society.”
And then he continued, boldly, “We have, in philanthropy, anti-democratic roots…Philanthropy exists because of economic inequality and we need to acknowledge in philanthropy that we have a massive debt to society.”
Moments like these matter.
As we work to heal our nation, it’s vital that we continue to wrestle with the complicated and uncomfortable history that created not just the inequities we seek to balance, but indeed the very structures we’re using to affect them.
On the Main Stage
- Led by Stacy Palmer, Stephen Heintz and Marc Morial delved into a thought-provoking conversation about the state of American democracy. Describing it as “in peril and promising,” Stephen exhorted us all to take advantage of our great opportunity to address our nation’s challenges and reinvent America for the 21st century. Saying “social movements move the needle to educate the public in American life,” Marc joined Stephen in calling out philanthropy’s imperative to be more intentional about supporting movements, as well as nonprofit organizations on the frontlines to advance democratic processes and outcomes for social good.
- Pittsburgh-based 1Hood Media’s Jasiri X, Miracle Jones, and Treble NLS discussed the immediate need for radical change. In that pursuit, arts activists are building allyship and coalitions across generations, religions, and other groups to fight the impact of COVID-19, racism, aggressive policing, and homophobia, particularly in Black and Brown communities. Treble NLS noted “growth and comfort don’t co-exist.” He called on artists to keep pushing. “It’s our duty to keep speaking on [social issues], not fan the flames, but build the community and see how we can work together to put out the flames of white supremacy.”
- Multi-hyphenate artist Dash rallied for the non-negotiable need for young people to learn about and pursue creative arts. In particular, he identifies music as “the voice of the culture of our time.” He used that voice in a performance that explored the multiple identities that others put on him as a Black man — hauntingly juxtaposing the power of “a hundred men” with the vulnerability of “a hunted man.”
- On the subject of modern spirituality, Adam Taylor of Sojourners said that today and in our history, “spirituality is the fuel and oxygen for so many social movements…[That] bodes well for some of the change that is on the horizon for the nation as we embrace a bigger, and more inclusive ‘we the people’.”
- On our role in safeguarding next month’s elections, Janeen Comenote of the National Urban Indian Family Coalition says: It’s up to us to help solve the chaos, because we’re the trusted advocates who have been building relationships on the ground for decades.
- Being mindful and practicing breathing while wearing a mask can help reduce anxiety in the COVID-19 world, says Danielle Williams Thum of UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh: “I wear a fun, colorful mask to portray the smile that people can’t see.”
- American Express NGen Leadership Award Finalist Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss, who started Tribal Adaptive, on serving disabled Native youth: COVID-19 has forced his organization and community to build even more resilience and “work on ourselves and reach out in a way that we never had before.”
- On tokenism, Alexandra Bernadotte of Beyond 12 asked leaders to not just make space for one Black woman on boards, panels, or in interviews. “How do you create space for more than just one of us? We are all different with nuanced experiences and backgrounds. Having four of us is so much more powerful than one of us.”
- Abigail Dunne-Moses of the Center for Creative Leadership on listening and collaborating so equity, diversity, and people can thrive: “Without passion, there will not be any change.”
- As nonprofits face the effects of the recent executive order on race and sex stereotyping, Upswell participants brainstormed with attorneys with Sheppard Mullin who talked about intent, interpretation, and complexity – and the critical need to continue monitoring developments.
- Danielle Lewis of Springboard Partners offered three recommendations to organizations around communications: use your brand identity to shape your strategic plan, clarify your brand by writing it down, and use the brand and strategy routinely to make decisions.
- Shifting resources in crisis is nothing new for Terence Narcisse of East Harris County Empowerment Council. “Believe in yourself, believe in your ideas” – that’s his encouragement to young leaders working to strengthen their communities.
- What’s an “ordinary person”? Someone committed to building, and committed to shifting power. With that lead in, Chanel Hampton, 2020 American Express NGen Leadership Award finalist, charged us with a simple and true call to action: the power starts with you.
And on the subject of power, today’s bottom line comes from Miracle Jones of 1Hood Media Academy:
“People in power can do more and should be doing more.”
Use your power well.