Highlights from WDN Connect: Shine On

WDN Connect: Shine On crackled with energy. Over the span of three days, we heard from leaders who are shaping a new vision for action, rebuilding our democracy, and continuing to push philanthropy to respond to the moment. Take a look at highlights from our conference!

Opening Keynote With Kat Vellos: We Should Get Together

“There are millions of people who are living their lives with chronic dissatisfaction with the level of connection that they have.” Kat Vellos, author, We Should Get Together

We’re approaching two years into a pandemic that has rearranged our ways of connecting and gathering. Kat Vellos, a Bay Area designer, writer, and facilitator believes that the number one issue individuals and organizations need to prioritize in the coming years is community connection. “Loneliness is a symptom that our bodies need something, just like hunger or thirst,” Kat notes. She showed us why growing and fostering strong connections is something we should always prioritize and gave us tips on how to do it.

Shifting the Demographics of Power

“If we understand that exclusion by race and gender is fundamental to US politics, we understand that American democracy is at most 55 years old. What’s happening now may be the pain and beauty of building a true democracy which has literally never existed before.” – Brenda Choresi Carter, Reflective Democracy Campaign

There can be no democracy when some groups are systematically excluded. WDN founded the Reflective Democracy Campaign in 2014 to change the conversation on the demographics of political power, and to begin piloting solutions that could break down structural barriers preventing the full talent America has to offer from serving in elected office. Brenda Choresi Carter, Director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign, discussed what the Campaign’s groundbreaking research has revealed about the barriers we face and how we can dismantle them to transform our political system into a robust democracy anchored by inclusion and equality.

The Stars Align: When Movement Meets Politics

“We must lean towards hope. We also must remember, we are constantly sowing seeds for the world we want to see now – right now in this moment – in what we do, in what we build, and in how we create community.” – Katrina Gamble, Sojourn Strategies & WDN Action Advisor

Women are building a new vision for our democracy, and it takes work to get there. We must elevate the leadership of women of color and support space for them to thrive and for their leadership to be sustainable. We must support movements and use a spectrum of resources to sustain and amplify their work. In this panel, Katrina Gamble, WDN Action Strategic Advisor and Founder of Sojourn Strategies, joined Kim Tignor of She Will Rise and Dreama Caldwell, Executive Co-Director of Down Home North Carolina, for a conversation on how we build long-term, sustaining progressive power that is rooted in movements.

Women Leaders Shine On

“I was tired of being told that I needed to serve men. Of being told to cross my legs, that I should try but probably wasn’t going to make it. I was tired of being told that whiteness was freedom. I wanted to be free.” – Alicia Garza, Black Futures Lab

Alicia Garza of Black Futures Lab, Claudia Yoli Ferla of MOVE Texas, Colette Pichon Battle of Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy, and Monica Atkins of Climate Justice Alliance shined a spotlight on their work as women leaders creating radical change. It was particularly powerful to witness the agile leadership of women leaders within the movements we are supporting. In that spirit, we played a video, also entitled Women Leaders Shine On before the talk began. Watch it below.

Our North Star – WDN’s Equity Journey and the Future of Philanthropy

“WDN has a chance to address the inequities that stem from patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and capitalism. This is an invitation. I am calling all of WDN in. When we are brave enough to accept the call, when others call us in, real transformation is possible.” – Donna Hall, Women Donors Network

Affirming our commitment to being an anti-racist, multigenerational, multiracial, feminist network, we asked ourselves: What does that mean for us as a collective, and for all of us as individual members? How do we shift power, decolonize philanthropy, and drive transformative change?

In addition to WDN’s President & CEO Donna Hall sharing a personal story from her equity journey, Aba Taylor and Susan Mooney of Interaction Institute for Social Change joined WDN members on a panel and within small groups to reflect on our legacy, commitment, and roles in our equity journey.

Aba Taylor, Interaction Institute for Social Change, facilitating our equity journey panel.

Capstone With Farai Chideya – The Coming Reality Crash: This Is Your Chance to Build the Future

“We have been called to this moment to do big things. You can do it. You can resource it, you can plan it, you can collaborate with others to build it. I see the capes on you and this is the time to use them in every way possible, with love and humility.” – Farai Chideya, Our Body Politic

Farai Chideya, political analyst, reporter, and founder of Our Body Politic, closed our conference with a capstone speech. Farai discussed the civic death and rebirth we’re currently experiencing, a phenomenon she calls the reality crash. Oppression, disinformation, misinformation, misogyny, transphobia, and political polarization are symptoms of this crash, but this is also a moment of opportunity. Farai laid bare the dangers we face and her vision for how we steer our civic ship to safe harbor.

Moments of Poetry and Music

The Resistance Revival Chorus and poets Franny Choi and Aja Monet brought moments of joy, reflection, and imagination throughout the conference and reminded us that movement organizing means healing collectives, free art spaces, community gardens, and poetry books just as much as it means sit-ins and legislative campaigns. Here is some of what they shared with us.

“​​All I wanted was for poetry to be useful, to fly into the hearts of legislators, to move crowds, to slash the tires of ICE vans and form a protective wall around everyone I loved.” – Franny Choi

“She who unruins us, who fears her own tongue… She who risks riots and braves, eyes on a frontline, who heals earthquakes and conjures tsunamis… Anywhere she smiles is a revival.” – an excerpt from Aja Monet’s poem Her

Listen to “Everybody Deserves to Be Free” by the Resistance Revival Chorus:

Shooting Stars: Other Powerful Sessions

Keep Shining On!

Keep the conference energy going with our themed Shine On Spotify Playlist!

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