The Movement-Member-Staff Partnership That Sparked WDN’s First Series on Reparations

Photo: WDN Programs & Initiatives Manager Summer Migliori Soto

In 2022 WDN’s Jean Hardisty Initiative hosted its first-ever series on reparations in partnership with Liberation Ventures, Groundswell Fund, and the Fund for Nonviolence. How this dynamic, informative, and inspiring learning series came to be is a story unto itself. Our Programs & Initiatives Manager Summer Migliori Soto (she/they) joined us to share the journey our members and partners went on together.

Summer, how did this reparations series come to be?

First, we committed to educating ourselves with the guidance of movement leaders. Throughout 2021, WDN’s Jean Hardisty steering committee engaged in thoughtful conversations with leaders like abolitionist Mariame Kaba. From those conversations, we understood we will never dismantle anti-Blackness and white supremacy until we have a process of reparations that includes redistributing the wealth and power that has been generated from stolen Indigenous lands, enslaved Black labor, and the extraction of wealth from BIPOC communities.

We believe this means we must invest in BIPOC communities and trust their decision-making power over how those investments are allocated within their communities.

In addition to Mariame Kaba, who else did you speak with and learn from?

WDN members are an important part of our grantmaking committees, and it was Hardisty member Betsy Fairbanks who introduced our team to Liberation Ventures, an organization that is fueling the Black-led movement for reparations in the United States. They helped organize this series with us. 

We were excited about the prospect of partnering with them in a way that educated our network about the history of reparations and the future they’re working towards while providing Liberation Ventures with a platform to share their work in a pivotal period of fundraising and growth. We got to feature the work of so many incredible leaders like Venneikia Williams, Robin Rue Simmons, and others who are paving the way for a liberated future. 

That sounds like a true partnership. The two phrases that keep coming up with this series are “deep collaboration” and “deep learning”. Tell us more.

We often acknowledge that we don’t always have the expertise to tackle critical topics. We are intentional about following the lead of movement partners and frontline leaders without creating additional work for them. When we partner with organizations on an event or series, we gauge how involved they want to be in the planning process and are responsive to their capacity. We also ask grantees and organizations if there are other networks or funders we can connect them to or ask to co-host the event in an effort to amplify their work. We are in service to each other.

Liberation Ventures’ Co-Founder & Managing Director Aria Florant and Director of Operations & Strategic Engagement Jennie Goldfarb were spectacular partners. Together, we designed the series according to our strengths and resources. Part of why I believe it was so impactful is because we provided Liberation Ventures with a platform and let them take the reins on the content. They are the ones who crafted the narrative and messages, which then influenced our grantmaking and continued learning. 

You are describing a positive learning and action cycle! The more you engage, the more you learn, the better you act, and so forth. How has this collaboration with Liberation Ventures influenced our network? And where is our network headed with reparations? 

As a result of this series, reparations became a more significant focus within the Hardisty Initiative last year, starting with a $100k grant to Liberation Ventures. We’ve also explored reparations within the context of our other Initiatives. For example, last summer, the Safe & Sustainable Impact Collective hosted a two-part landback series that explored the connections between Indigenous and Black-led landback efforts and how they intersect with reparations. 

We aim to learn more about the legacy of settler colonialism, understanding how it’s interwoven throughout every facet of our lives, and addressing how to support related work moving forward, whether through our Initiatives or through individual giving to support local reparations and landback efforts. Reparations isn’t something that will happen overnight, it will require decades of sustained investment. In the coming months, our steering committees will be reviewing their funding priorities to respond to the needs of the moment and movement leaders’ requests while embarking on conversations about multi-year grantmaking. For newly established groups like Liberation Ventures, early investment can have a catalytic impact on their ability to build their capacity and infrastructure, making a liberated future a reality. 

Learn More
  • Look through Liberation Ventures’ new website, launched in February of 2023, to learn more about their multi-sector approach and the history of reparations.
  • Read Liberation Ventures’ first report, A Dream in Our Name.
  • Follow Liberation Ventures on Twitter.
  • Understand WDN’s funding principles and collective giving approach.

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