“It’s support like that and it’s people who are actually in this community — that love the community, that want healing and families like this to never have to go through something like this — to step forward,” said Brooks’s attorney Chris Stewart during a news conference this week. “And we want to thank him for such a generous move.”
With the pandemic, protests and another March on Washington planned for August, this year is poised to become a historic one for organizations advocating for racial justice.
Smith, Mayweather and other donors stepped up to pay the $300,000 costs for Floyd’s three services, says the Rev. Al Sharpton, and Sharpton’s National Action Network paid for an independent autopsy because the Floyd family couldn’t afford one. Other donors have pledged to support Sharpton’s march, scheduled for the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic gathering in 1963.
These donations are not just giving back, Sharpton says. They are a way of acknowledging that no African American, no matter how rich or famous, is immune from racial injustice.
“It says to the average black [person] who has not been a success, that those who have succeeded and those who have lived a lifestyle above what many of us could, still identify” with the community, Sharpton explains. “It’s not hyperbole to say that a policeman in Minneapolis would not have known on that corner the difference between Tyler Perry and George Floyd unless he went to a Tyler Perry movie. So somewhere deep down inside, they say, ‘That could have been me.’ ”
Sharpton’s mantra: Everybody has a role. Some people can organize and protest. Some can lobby politicians. And some can fund the movement. “I don’t expect people to do what I do, and I can’t do what others do,” he says. “But if everybody does what they can do, that’s what makes a movement.”
So Michael Jordan and Nike’s Jordan Brand have pledged $100 million over 10 years to fight racial injustice. Kanye West gave $2 million to support the families of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Barbra Streisand donated a chunk of Disney stock to Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter, Gianna; professional hockey player P.K. Subban announced a $50,000 donation for her, an amount matched by the NHL. Chrissy Teigen, Steve Carell, Seth Rogen and Don Cheadle donated to a Minnesota-based bail relief nonprofit organization.
And on Wednesday, Netflix billionaire Reed Hastings and his wife, philanthropist Patty Quillin, gave $120 million, the largest individual donation to historically black colleges and universities. The couple earmarked the money for scholarships: $40 million each for Morehouse College, Spelman College and the United Negro College Fund. The gift had been in the works for more than a year, but they decided that this was the perfect time to make the announcement.
“I only used to give to my alma mater, a predominantly white institution — Bowdoin College, a very wonderful place,” Hastings told the Undefeated. “With the tragedies that the black community is currently facing, the covid crisis, police violence, with everything going on today, we realized this is the time to try to set an example of bringing attention to the HBCUs by doing a really big gift and to try to break down some of those social barriers where white capital only flows to PWIs.”
For many, the million-dollar question is how and where to give right now. Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, gets that query every day.
“I ask them what impact do they want to see and how comfortable are they with risk,” says Walker. “Because some people want to be conservative and just want to make what I call ‘guilt grants.’ They ask, ‘What should I do?’ But they actually want an easy answer.”
Walker describes a ‘guilt grant’ a big, one-time donation to a large African American organization with no real personal connection. Even a grant like this can do good, admits Walker, but “the donor is not really internalizing the problem. It is a superficial response to a systemic problem.”
Walker, the author of “From Generosity to Justice,” says most philanthropy has been based on Carnegie and Rockefeller’s traditional view of charity as an act of generosity. King had a different view: While philanthropy is commendable, philanthropists should not be allowed to forget the economic injustice that makes philanthropy necessary.
“It’s a different idea of what charity ought to be and what philanthropy is about,” Walker says. “I think there are philanthropists who are motivated by justice, and that’s a different idea.”
Those philanthropists, he says, are more interested in root causes. “So much of what we are working to address — inequality, poverty — at its root in America is anchored in the reality of racism and white supremacy. And so how does a philanthropist make grants that get at the root of the problem?”
Long term, Walker steers them toward civil rights organizations supporting research and those on the front lines, such as groups in the network of the Black Lives Movement. Because the Ford Foundation (which just announced a two-year, $1 billion initiative to support racial justice) doesn’t accept donations, so Walker recommends the Borealis Philanthropy, which serves as an intermediary for many grass-roots organizations.
“We have, for the first time in our nation’s history, a real chance to address the historic challenge of racism, because white Americans don’t want to live in a racist America,” he says. “I believe most white Americans are heartbroken by what they saw: the murder of an American citizen by a person who was supposed to be protecting the public. It was so devastating that it is causing a collective convulsion in this country.”
Corporate America has jumped on the bandwagon, pledging $450 million in the past month to civil rights groups traditionally supported by individual donations. But not everyone is clamoring to scoop up the big bucks. Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, is very clear about what money he’ll accept and from whom.
In an email, Robinson said his online racial justice organization does not take corporate donations because it regularly takes on business targets. In the past month, there’s been an “outpouring” of unexpected donations including some from “corporations with no track record or relationship to the racial justice movement.” So his board created the Emergency Fund for Racial Justice to direct the funds to local social justice, grass-roots and nonprofit organizations.
“As part of our mission to challenge injustice and hold corporate leaders accountable, Color of Change continues to urge corporations to follow donations with deeper relationship building,” Robinson writes. “Deep systemic racism is killing Black people in our country and dismantling it demands that we put action behind our dollars.”
And even the best intentions can go sideways: Donors to the Black Lives Matter Foundation — including Apple, Google and Microsoft — discovered that they had mistakenly earmarked their philanthropy for a California-based charity with one employee and an UPS store as its address, reports BuzzFeed. They meant to give, of course, to the Black Lives Matter Global Network, the better-known voice for the BLM movement.
Sharpton’s Aug. 28 march is slated to be the largest gathering of the summer, starting at the Lincoln Memorial and ending at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial — an homage to the 1963 march that attracted 250,000 people and where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Sharpton’s march celebrating the 50th anniversary of King’s march attracted 200,000 people and cost $1.2 million. He’s expecting this one to be bigger and cost more. The logistical plans involve the sound production, port-a-potties, buses for attendees — all the elements of a successful event, especially in the heat of August.
Sharpton and his National Action Network have submitted plans to the National Park Service; once the permits are approved, the fundraising can start in earnest, although he says, “I’ve had several people call me and say, ‘Tell me what you need.’ ”