For almost two decades, the drive to make the world a better place has fueled SVP. However, our understanding of how we—SVP’s Partners, board and staff—approach this work has evolved over time. The events of the past days, weeks, and months are just the latest reminder of the systemic racism that permeates all aspects of our society. They are also testament to the fact that our evolution must be swifter, deeper, and all encompassing. We can—and must—do better.
SVP Cleveland condemns the murder of George Floyd. We condemn the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and the many others who have been murdered by unjust and racist systems. We condemn police brutality here in Cleveland and across the nation.
Cleveland ranks as one of the most egregiously segregated cities. It is the city where Tamir Rice was murdered. The city where Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were shot 137 times while sitting in their car. The city where Desmond Franklin was killed. The city where Tanisha Anderson was slammed to the ground, the coroner ruled her death as a homicide, but the case did not make it to trial. The city whose police department was deemed as using excessive force by the U.S. Justice Department in 2015.
Over the past several years, SVP’s Partners, board, and staff have ramped up our commitment—as an organization and individually—to work hard to stay alert, learn, collaborate within the community, and expand our worldviews. You can see how we have expressed our commitment to equity so far in our website’s Equity Section. But expanding understanding is not enough. We must more rigorously challenge ourselves, recognize our power and privilege as philanthropists, and shift the power balance. We must move from learning to action. We cannot let discomfort get in the way.
Already, stemming from our equity journey and the realities of COVID-19, SVP Cleveland had paused its investment cycle to reimagine our work—specifically how we can engage with and serve more small and start-up nonprofits; nonprofits led by people of color; and nonprofits serving communities of color. We will be sharing additional updates and specific next steps in the coming months.
We—SVP Cleveland’s Partners, board and staff—are putting a stake in the ground. We will not just listen to black, brown, and indigenous communities; we hear their voices and stand with them as they express their daily, lived experience of injustice and inequity. And we will deepen our partnerships and support of them. No step we take will be enough. But it is clear we can either perpetuate the problem of systemic racism and power imbalance or we can fight it. It is time to fight.
In addition to SVP Cleveland’s statement above, you can view a statement from SVP’s International Network Office about Global Philanthropy and Racial Justice here.