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An End of Year Reflection from Nellie Mae Interim President & CEO, Dr. Gislaine N. Ngounou

Nellie Mae Ed. Fdn.

Dec 22 · 3 min read

Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages

When our organization sat down to write an end of year reflection in December of 2020, I felt a flicker of light and hope shining in the distance. After one of the most challenging years for many of us, 2021 promised a light: a return to in-person school activities, vaccines, and new leadership in the White House. But we know that things usually don’t go as we hope or imagine.

2021 ended up being full of its own challenges and hardships, including the attacks on democracy we saw across our nation — from the storming of the capital at the beginning of the year, to attacks on public education and the teaching of the true history of our country.

We know that pushback is often a response to change, progress, and movement. Back in June 2021, Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw reminded us of the importance of historicizing these kinds of attacks to remember that we’ve seen similar trends before because “the control of the frame, the control of the ability to communicate, the control over knowledge about racial oppression has always been one of the go-to features of those who want to sustain and maintain an inequitable status quo.” And, this knowledge coupled with the tools and opportunities before us and the incredible work of so many continuously fill me with hope, expectation, and joy.

Hope because organizations like the Equity Institute in Rhode Island are working diligently to create culturally affirming spaces to attract and retain educators of color, and have led efforts in their state to create pipelines and pathways for these educators –beginning with professionals that have already dedicated their lives to working in schools.

Hope because in places like Chelsea, Massachusetts, our Speakers Bureau member and grantee partner Gladys Vega of La Colaborativa has not only partnered with Chelsea Public Schools to advocate for better opportunities and services for families and young people, she has also worked to build a pipeline for Latina leaders in municipal city leadership, where they can play key leadership roles in their school systems and communities.

Hope because advocacy from youth organizers in Connecticut led to the passage of legislation requiring that every public high school in the state offer an elective in Black and Latinx history, which will start being implemented next year.

Hope because Gedakina, an Indigenous-led and serving organization in Vermont, has been leading virtual workshops focused on culturally relevant and historically accurate curriculum, and providing culturally appropriate and historically accurate literature on Indigenous communities through its One Shelf Project.

And hope because of countless other organizations, schools, educators, families, organizers, and young people working for change and racial equity in public education in communities across New England. We are so grateful for and inspired by all of you.

We know 2022 will have its own set of challenges and opportunities, but it is because of our partners that are working to advance educational equity every day that we have hope and are reminded of what love and justice look like in action. We end the year with profound gratitude and in deep contemplation as we consider the immense wisdom and teachings of the great now ancestor bell hooks: “there can be no love without justice,” and “the heart of justice is truthtelling.” We look forward to a season of rest and restoration. We look forward to a new year filled with hope, love, truthtelling, justice, and joy.

In community and solidarity,

Gislaine N. Ngounou
Interim President & CEO
Nellie Mae Education Foundation

Take a Look Back at Our Most Popular Posts of 2021:

Open Letter: Teach Us Everything
The Nellie Mae Education Foundation Appoints Dr. Gislaine N. Ngounou as Interim President & CEO
A Letter from Our Youth Advisors
Announcing Our 2021 Speakers Bureau
When White Tears Are Held In Higher Regard Than Black Life

Open Letter: Teach Us Everything

This image shows students side by side (4 images in one) in a classroom setting.
Teach Us Everything

Here at Nellie Mae, we are committed to equitable public education and teaching the truth, and those values are under attack from special interests who do not actually care about our students. We are taking a stand in support of education alongside our partners in this week’s Sunday edition of the Boston Globe. Our open letter urges New England public schools to teach the truth and continue to make our schools models of equity, inclusion and justice.

It has become apparent that these fights fueled by conservative voices are not going away. At Nellie Mae, we will continue to unapologetically champion racial equity and quality public education for all students across New England. We hope to have your continued support in the weeks, months, and years ahead during this effort.

For a closer look at our letter and video, supported by and shaped with many of our partners across communities, see below. If you are moved by what you see, please join us on this journey and let other supporters know.

In partnership and community,
Dr. Gislaine N. Ngounou
Interim President & CEO — Nellie Mae Education Foundation

Join us by signing on to Nellie Mae’s open letter .

To learn more about additional efforts to teach truth, visit AAPF,

Celebrating Latinx Heritage: Our Stories Part Two

Nellie Mae Ed. Fdn.

Nov 22 · 8 min read

Earlier this month, we shared reflections from Nellie Mae staff members about what their Latinx heritage means to them. We are excited to finish this series with reflections from some of our board members.

Dr. Elsa Núñez, President, Eastern Connecticut State University

It is an honor and a privilege to be a Latina woman. Before there was public housing, projects, and places for poor people to live in Puerto Rico, poor people built little shacks by themselves. In San Juan, the area was called “El Fanguito,” which means “the mudflats.” They would stick bars into the mud and extend those bars into the ocean and put planks of wood on top and then build little huts. My grandmother Ramona lived in El Fanguito, and as a little girl I would jump between the planks of wood and look down at the water- people urinated and defecated in that water. And I would run to her little shack. In that shack she raised eight children by herself- she was a single mother. She would take chickens and stretch their head- that’s how I learned what chicken soup was. She made the best chicken soup in the world in that little hut, and she would put some rice in it sometimes — or noodles. From the eggs of the chicken, she would take the whites and make merengue, and it was the best merengue I ever ate. My big bowl of chicken soup and my merengue was the best meal I’ve had — and I’ve eaten in five-star hotels and restaurants. But my grandmother taught me that. She raised my mother, one of her eight children, and her life was full of hope.

My grandmother’s dream came true; my mother married a wonderful man, my father. She hoped that she could get her family out of there. One day, while I was walking in San Sebastian Puerto Rico, where I was born and raised, a man stopped me in the plaza — I was walking with my father, just the two of us bonding, and he stopped us and said, “I have to tell you something about your father.” And I said “what?” and he said “your father borrowed $60 from me for the airplane ride to the United States. Four men borrowed $60 and he was the only one that paid me back.” I looked at my father and we embraced. My father had so much hope that he would get his family out of poverty and that he would bring us to the United States.

I learned from my mother, father, and grandmother what the importance of family is. There is nothing more important in the Latino culture. You do anything you have to for your family, and I’ve given that lesson to my children, and I see them now execute it in their own families and I am so proud. I also am very proud that my grandmother Ramona, my father Paoli, and my mother Carmen gave me the most important thing I’ve had in my life: my Latino heritage. I am so full of hope.

Cristina Jiménez Moreta, Co-Founder and Former Executive Director, United We Dream

For me to be Latina and Latinx is to know my history, my roots, and where I come from. It also means that I am holding the complexity that I come both from Indigenous people and the colonizer. I don’t use the term Hispanic to identify myself because it centers the colonizers more than my indigenous roots, and because of that I’ve been on a journey of reconnecting with my indigenous history.

In this journey I’ve learned that I come from the land of the Quitu-Cara Indigenous people in South America, in Quito, Ecuador. In the US, for many of us who are immigrants of color part of the process is reclaiming our Latinx identity, reclaiming who we are and to be proud of who we are, because everything around us in this country tells us that we don’t belong here and that what we ought to do is to aspire to whiteness. So, a lot of what I connect with Latinidad is reclaiming and reminding myself and our communities that we’re beautiful, we’re worthy, and that we belong here, and that we are worthy of thriving in this country or anywhere else.

The parts of our history, our culture that bring me the most pride are the resilience of indigenous communities that despite genocide and colonization have kept indigenous knowing, rituals, ceremonies, and practices. Another part I’m really proud of is the role that Latinx people have played particularly in this country to bring about change and to really push this country to stand true to aspirational, unfulfilled values of justice and freedom for all. So I always keep in mind the activism and the leadership of young people like the Young Lords, the Chicanx movement, young people in the southwest and on the west coast, the farmworker movements, and many who have paved the way for organizers like me to be here and do this work.

What gives me esperanza and hope are the new generation of Latinx folks that are getting involved and are organizing in their communities. I have had the privilege and the honor to work with many of them, particularly immigrants from across the country, and every time I see the new generation of high schoolers right now or college students who are getting engaged, I am hopeful about the opportunities in our community but also that we will be in every room where decisions are made about us because nothing about us should be without us.

Betty Francisco, CEO, Boston Impact Initiative, and Co-Founder, Amplify Latinx and Latina Circle

I am Chinese and Puerto Rican- I grew up in New York City and in Puerto Rico. I identify as a “China-Rican,” but I didn’t come to embrace that heritage or even really understand what it meant to be both Latina and Asian until later in my life, and I always felt this tension. When I was growing up in Puerto Rico, everybody there called me “la Chinita” and I hated that because it highlighted by difference. I wanted to look like my family — my uncles are dark skinned, brown, curly hair, and I would go tan, lay out on the beach and curl my hair so I could like them. I wanted to fit some mold that I thought was Latino or reflected my Latinidad.

One day when I was about 10 years old my uncle took me to the Plaza de Añasco in Puerto Rico to show me statue of the drowning of Diego Salcedo in the plaza of Añasco. I grew up in Añasco, a tiny beach town in Puerto Rico that they say you’ll miss if you blink. Añasco is called the town where the gods came to die, named after a famous uprising where the Taino Indians in the 1500’s finally realized that their Spanish colonizers were mortals — not gods and that they could be killed. This statue symbolizes the Tainos defending themselves against the Spaniards, and it led to an uprising where most of the Taino Indians were slaughtered by the Spaniards. But it was this act of uprising, of resilience, of fighting back, of bravery, courage, that struck me so much. This idea of fighting and resisting for your independence and for your rights — that was what my uncle was trying to instill in me. He told me, “You’re the ultimate Puertorriquena, Taina, because you have the blood of your ancestors — Asian, Black, and Latina and you’re a fighter, you’re a warrior.”

After that conversation I began to embrace this idea of resistance and fighting back against injustice. I began to accept who I am rather than focusing on what I am not or what I look like. That’s my most resounding memory of what Puerto Rico means to me. It’s this beautiful multi-cultural place — I have memories of the beach, the food, and celebrating all the holidays with my grandparents. Memories of what a very simple life means. I really cherish all those things, the importance of family, of being together as a community celebrating the good and the bad. Those are my memories of growing up in this very small town, and I feel so aligned to that and my Latino culture because I didn’t learn my Asian side. And what I am really proud of today is that all those memories, all of those things that I did as a child created the person I am today as far as working really hard, standing up for who we are, always putting Latinidad at the front and center. I am proud of knowing two languages, I am proud of being able to codeswitch and go into different spaces and fight for other people. Those are the things that I learned from that story of the statue of the Taino Indians.

What gives me hope today are my children — my daughters are Honduran, Puerto Rican, Asian, Black — they’re everything, they represent so many cultures and races. And that is the future of our country, it is the future of our globe, and they are going to carry the torch for a multiracial, multicultural, multigenerational movement that’s going to change the world. I want them to do that in a way that centers Blackness because my husband is Afro-Latino and I have shown my girls they have to be proud of who they are. They tell me “We love being brown, we love being Black, we are excited to lead the future.” So that is what I‘m excited about — that I have girls that are so proud of who they are, who are so confident in who they are, and that race and ethnicity are not going to be a barrier for them, that is my hope.

Thank you to all of our staff and board members who offered to share these important reflections, and to everyone who took the time to read them.

Additionally, we understand that language is ever-evolving — and how individuals with Latinx heritage describe themselves varies. We understand this complexity and invite you to learn more here.

Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month: Our Stories Part One

Nellie Mae Ed. Fdn.

Oct 15 · 4 min read

As Latinx Heritage Month comes to a close, we’d like to share some reflections from Nellie Mae staff and board members on what their heritage means to them. Read these personal and important stories below.

Delia Arellano-Weddleton, Director of Engagement and Partnerships: Mi Historia

I identify as Mejicana, Chicana and Latina and I often deal with the tension that comes from being a first-generation American. There is an expression — ‘Ni de aqui, ni de alla’ which describes how I often feel. I don’t always feel that I belong in this country, but I know that I don’t belong in Mexico either.

My family comes from Guanjuato Mexico and belongs to the Guamare Indigenous community. That history gives me great pride and strength. I come from a line of warriors that have had to overcome many challenges.

I value showing up as who I am 100%, be it my accent, my brown skin or the straight hair that connects me to my indigenous roots.

I find pride in the stories that have been passed down to me, whether it is about curranderas or stories that show the strength of my people. These stories give me strength.

I find great joy, knowing that I’ve fulfilled my parents’ American dream and that they can look down and say’ ‘mija you have done us well’. I find joy in passing the torch to my children, nieces, and nephews so that we don’t lose our stories.

The youth give me eseperanza. Historically, social movements have been led by youth and there are many great examples of how Chicanos, Latinos have been leading change. For example, the 1968 high school walk outs in LA, the Young Lords, and the farm worker huelgas.

Youth are having the difficult conversations that other generations haven’t had, whether it is about LGBTQ rights, anti-Blackness in the Latinx community or climate change. They are our hope and I’ll always support them.

Marcos Lucio Popovich, Program Director of Grantmaking: My Reflections

My family comes from San Luis Potosi and Jalisco, Mexico. For several generations (probably beginning in the late 1800s), my family began traveling from Mexico to harvest crops throughout the United States. They were migrant farmworkers working in Texas, Ohio, Oregon and everywhere in between, picking cotton, tomatoes, plums. My grandmother would say that they were not rich in material things, but that they were rich in faith, rich in family, and rich in culture. She taught me to be proud of being Mexican, of being Mexicano, even when the world told us otherwise. She taught me to be proud of our culture, language, and history, and to be proud of the many contributions we’ve made to the U.S. even though it is not written in our history books.

I’m proud of our resilience and work ethic, our courage to risk it all to create a better life for our families. I pray that when the history is written about our current times that we don’t forget to recognize the contributions of migrant farmworkers during this pandemic. They fed our country while working under dangerous conditions.

When I went to college, I met other Latinos that shared similar experiences: Puerto Ricans, Peruvians, Dominicans, Salvadorans. While we each had our own unique histories and cultures, we realized that we faced similar challenges, had similar interests, and that by creating a bond across our various cultures, we could create power, political power, power that can effectuate change. “In unity, there is strength” was our motto. “In unity, there is strength.”

I carry that with me today. No matter what we call ourselves, Hispano, Latino, Latinx, Chicano, Borinquen, we are stronger when we are united. And, we need to continue to find ways to bridge divides, build community, be inclusive and grow the movement for our collective liberation.

Latinos will soon make up 30% (2050) of the U.S. population. My hope is that we foster a people that knows and remembers its history, maintains its pride in its culture and language, rejects assimilation and welcomes acculturation, has opportunities to thrive and succeed, and charts a new and better path forward. The next generation of activists brings me hope that this is possible. “Si, se puede.” Yes we can!

While Latinx heritage month ends after today,

we think it’s important to celebrate Latinx heritage year round. Therefore, look out for the next part in our series coming soon.

Additionally, we understand that language is ever-evolving — and how individuals with Latinx heritage describe themselves varies. We understand this complexity and invite you to learn more here.

Announcing New Grant Commitments

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov from Pexels

Today, on the heels of the start of the first in-person school year for many in over 18 months, we are thrilled to announce grant commitments to organizations that continue the work of advancing racial equity in our public education system. We are pleased to announce new grant commitments to organizations as part of our Supporting Organizations Led by People of Color and Advancing Community School Partnerships grant funds.

Supporting Organizations Led by People of Color

We believe that organizations led by people of color are in the best position to organize and lift up the invaluable voices of students, families, and communities who have been traditionally excluded from decisions made about their schools. These organizations are advocating for racial equity in New England schools, such as: implementing culturally responsive teaching and learning; diversifying the teacher workforce; establishing restorative justice practices in schools; and wraparound services and supports for children, youth, and families.

Advancing Community-School Partnerships

Additionally, at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, we believe that when schools work in partnership with community-based organizations, students are better positioned to receive the community supports they need to thrive. We know that when community members are welcomed into the school environment and play a key role in decision-making, all young people benefit. Today, we are also pleased to announce grants as a part of our Advancing Community-School Partnerships fund, aimed at supporting community-driven partnerships between districts and their communities to advance racial equity and excellent, student-centered public education.

Welcoming Our New Community Advisors — 2021

 
Nellie Mae Ed. Fdn.
Aug 25 · 4 min read

In 2019, we launched our first Community Advisory Group — a group of individuals with deep relationships and networks in the communities they serve — to provide perspective and insight on our grantmaking strategy and implementation. Since that time, our advisors have served as invaluable partners in the creation and implementation of our grantmaking strategy focused on advancing racial equity in public education. Each step of the way, they have offered critical insight, feedback, and perspective on how to show up as engaged and supportive funders in this space.

This summer, we are pleased to welcome six new youth advisors to the Community Advisory Group, and know that they will continue to play a key role in moving our work ahead:

Micaela (Mica) Arenas (she/her/hers): Mica is a sophomore at Manchester High School in Connecticut and, in addition to serving on the Nellie Mae Community Advisory Group, is a member of her district’s Youth Equity Squad. Mica is an aspiring author who enjoys reading, playing soccer, watching old musicals, and spending time with her parents and older brother. She believes in the power of words to change the world.

Davyon Clark (he/him/his): Dayvon is a young Black youth leader who is a sophomore at Manchester High School in Connecticut. After high school, he plans on pursuing his next steps in college and is hoping to play sports and major in some type of business management. In his free time, you can find him on the football field or the basketball court! His favorite class in school is math, and has experience participating in his school’s Youth Equity Squad — a safe space for talking and building relationships with others.

Gabrielle Oulette (she/her/hers): A junior at Blackstone Academy Charter School, and a youth leader at the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE) in Providence, Rhode Island, Gabrielle is an active member of her community and continues to seek change within herself and the world around her. She calls Pawtucket home and loves nature, animals, food, laughing, and being around loved ones.

Dara Song (she/her/hers): An incoming senior at Manchester High School in Connecticut, Dara is involved in her school’s student leadership body, tennis and volleyball teams, mental health club, and town youth commission. Dara is hoping to attend a four-year college after graduation.

 

Naomi Felix Monanci (she/her/hers): Naomi is a Dominican-American youth leader at the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE) in Providence, Rhode Island. Naomi attends Highlander Charter School, and in her free time you can find her singing at her church and doing pantomime! She is passionate about combatting social injustices happening in the world and aspires to be an engineer.

Khaiya Proeung (she/her/hers): Khaiya Proeung isa Khmer-American student attending Cranston High School East in Rhode Island. Khaiya is a youth leader with the Alliance of Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE) and has been surrounded by activism throughout her life. Khaiya continues to strive towards her passion for activism in her daily life and has a passion for cosmetology and skin care!

Announcing our 2021 Speakers Bureau

 
Nellie Mae Ed. Fdn.
Aug 9 · 3 min read
For the past several years, Nellie Mae Education Foundation has welcomed a new cohort of education leaders into our Speakers Bureau. After a year and a half characterized by the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism, and where our schools were forced to rethink where, when, and how learning happens, we are thrilled to welcome our newest cohort of Nellie Mae Education Foundation Speakers Bureau members committed to advancing racial equity in our public education system.

This year’s cohort brings together a group of experts from across the region who are united in their quest to create an equitable education system for all. Education has been thrust into the political spotlight as opponents of equity are working overtime to hinder the ability of our nation’s children to learn the truth about the nation’s founding, as well as ask the critical questions about how we can close the opportunity gaps that have been created and reinforced over the decades.

Our new cohort includes administrators, non-profit leaders, students, teachers, family advocates and more. These leaders recognize that schools can’t begin to educate our youth without creating environments where students feel seen, known, and empowered. We have long realized that schools are about much more than teaching or leading specific subject matters or helping students perform proficiently on tests. They are also about creating the global citizens of tomorrow and shaping a more just and equitable future for all of us

We couldn’t be more excited about this new cohort and the passion, expertise, and fortitude they will bring to the education ecosystem over the course of their time with us. Please see the list of our new Speakers Bureau members below:

Book a speaker for an upcoming event by visiting our Speakers Bureau site!

Funders, It’s Necessary to Support Healing and Rest

In a year unlike any other, marked by a global pandemic and persistent racism and violence, we must reckon with what it means to not simply go back to “the way things were.” The way things were was not working for far too many. Our policies, systems, and practices, for the most part, have centered whiteness and white supremacy at the expense and exclusion of the experiences and expertise of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, AAPI, and other communities of color in this nation. We know that many non-profit organizations, communities, and schools — especially those led and staffed by people of color — are often under-resourced, deeply impacted, and overworked. We also know the deep pain and trauma that many have experienced this year. In a grind culture that too often values productivity and capitalism over people and wellbeing, it’s no surprise that so many people are functioning in a constant state of exhaustion.

As funders, let’s step up by not only providing general support to our grantee partners, but by thinking about how we can regularly support our partners in accessing healing and rest.

At the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, we’ve seen so many of our grantee partners working around the clock to meet community needs. In Chelsea, Massachusetts, Gladys Vega, Executive Director of La Collaborativa — a community-based organization serving Chelsea residents — spent the majority of the pandemic working 16 hour days. We’ve seen and heard stories of educators who are working at all hours to support students learning remotely, hybrid, and in-person. In fact, we’ve even seen many educators departing or considering making the hard decision to leave the profession after impossible and unrealistic expectations have left them feeling devalued, exploited and exhausted.

“White supremacy is killing us all — in both blatant and subtle ways.”

Even in our sector — philanthropy — we see people working hard to push for sustained change to better support communities most impacted by racial injustices, while navigating trauma within entrenched philanthropic structures. Really, we are all exhausted. But this is particularly true of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and AAPI people invested in liberation and racial justice work. White supremacy is killing us all — in both blatant and subtle ways.

As funders, we must make a commitment to alleviate some of the trauma that our grantees have gone through not just over the past year, but as they do the work and bear the costs we know come with fighting for equity, justice, and freedom. Healing justice is a critical and necessary part of social justice movements. Without it, we will not have the stamina to move forward.

Activist, political strategist, and organizer Charlene Carruthers advocates for adopting healing justice as a core organizing value and practice — reminding us that everyone needs healing because real work for justice and liberation comes with pain and requires intense self-work, self-care, and community care. Additionally, we know that women of color are at the forefront of these movements, and we often pay for it with our lives and our health. This work is non-negotiable for our survival, and it isn’t easy — whether it’s happening in community-based organizations, public education systems, schools, government offices, the health sector, faith-based institutions, philanthropy, or other parts of the ecosystem. But rest and healing is also non-negotiable for us to sustain ourselves in these movements for change.

As Audre Lorde wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

At Nellie Mae, we are centering healing justice as part of our capacity building program for grantee partners. This past fall, we ran a youth-driven rapid response fund aimed at supporting the mental health of young people, as the pandemic pushed many into remote schooling and separated them from their friends, educators, and networks. Last year, we began a partnership with Getaway and Rachel Cargle, to support opportunities for Black people working for social change — including many educators — to receive a free night of rest away to allow time to recharge and heal. We are aware that these efforts require more resources. We’re organizing time for our staff and community advisors to engage in sessions about healing from racialized trauma, exploring how trauma stemming from racism distorts thinking and sends signals to the body.

“Imagine what a world could look like where healing and rest became a norm, rather than a last straw that we turn to after burnout.”

As healer, trauma specialist, and psychotherapist Resmaa Menakem reminds us, “we heal primarily in and through the body, not just through the rational brain. We can all create more room, and more opportunities for growth, in our nervous systems. But we do t{“type”:”block”,”srcClientIds”:[“e778ec83-6740-4485-8d09-2f7740e6dfbe”],”srcRootClientId”:””}his primarily through what our bodies experience and do — not through what we think or realize or cognitively figure out.” Resmaa advises that our bodies are important parts of the solution and where changing the status quo must begin. They cannot sustain themselves in racial justice and liberation work when they are in pain, exhausted, or constantly harmed by various forms of oppression, overt or subtle.

Photo by @NappyStock
Photo by @NappyStock

Imagine what a world could look like where healing and rest became a norm, rather than a last straw that we turn to after burnout. Imagine paid therapy and mental health or rest breaks for leaders and staff of nonprofit organizations and educators. It would look like prioritizing rest as a regular part of our lives, as Tricia Hersey teaches through The Nap Ministry. I’ll admit that I, too, am a work in progress. I’m working on being more intentional about incorporating more of these practices in my day-to-day, including dedicated time for meditation and prayer, connecting with nature, extending grace to myself and others, choosing joy, and cultivating a practice that encourages us to take care of ourselves and each other.

“What do communities, organizations, and schools we serve need to be healthy, healed, whole, free, and joyful on their own terms?”

A world where healing and rest are a norm would look like curated affinity spaces for folks that feel safe and affirming, where they can be held and supported — so that they can continue to show up and do the work in healthy ways. It would look like making identity and joy essential dimensions of how teaching and learning unfolds in schools, as Gholdy Muhammad advocates for in her Historically Responsive Literacy Framework. It would look like embedding healing in the social and emotional learning of youth, such as the work Dena Simmons leads in guiding educators and communities to do through her work at LiberatED. It would look like philanthropy asking the question: what do the communities, organizations, and schools we serve need to be healthy, healed, whole, free, and joyful on their own terms? Lastly, it would mean making the resources available for the answers to that question to be actualized by those most impacted and closest to the work.

Rest and healing are critical parts of the solution if we are to move closer to a more liberated world in which all people feel sustained, healed, held, safe, loved, and like full, thriving versions of ourselves and society.

Let’s continue this pattern of funding healing justice and rest. General operating support resources are essential so that grantee partners have the flexibility to allocate funds where they think best in their racial justice and liberation work. It is just as important to recognize our individual and collective humanity. Let’s fund grantees’ access and opportunities for healing and rest, and let’s also resource organizations and leaders who provide these supports in culturally responsive ways.

To learn more about healing justice and philanthropy:

Organizations like Decolonizing Wealth, led by Edgar Villanueva, are leading healing summits for professionals of color in philanthropy to heal and engage in community care. Feminist funders like the Astraea Foundation, Groundswell Fund, Third Wave Fund, and Urgent Action Funds have long been doing this work and showing us the way.

In Memoriam: Dudley Williams

Nellie Mae Ed. Fdn.

May 24 · 1 min read
Dudley Williams at the Foundation’s Lawrence W. O’Toole Awards Ceremony in 2012

Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the passing of Dudley Williams, former Board Chair of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. In his 12 years of service at the organization, Dudley was instrumental in shaping the foundation’s direction in rethinking how, when, and where learning happened. He dedicated his life to the service of others, especially in the Stamford, Connecticut community and public school system. In addition to the long list of his accomplishments and public service, Dudley’s graciousness, intelligence, and care was visible in everything he did. We are all better for having known him and are holding his family in our hearts.