Celebrating the Black diaspora, its power to inspire solidarity, and pathways to repair

Portrait of Carter B. Woodson

By Fanta Condé and Vanessa Mason

We come together
with hearts that know hurt
but souls that choose joy,
testifying that we matter.
— Melvina Young

Today we know and acknowledge Carter G. Woodson as the “father of Black History Month.” In 1926, Woodson garnered support from a number of white-led philanthropies. He used this financial support to elevate and chronicle the Black American experience, and what he referred to as the “neglected aspects of negro life and history.” Woodson demonstrated that Black history was American history and worthy of inclusion in intellectual, public, and social spheres. He later founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and published the first issue of the Journal of Negro History. Despite encountering pushback, some of which came from his philanthropic partners, Woodson was steadfast in his vision. This resulted in February as a month to celebrate the innumerable contributions of Black people in the US.

Omidyar Network takes deep inspiration from Woodson’s work, in addition to a learning for the philanthropic community to support and uplift our partners rather than persuade or critique. Last year, we announced Cultivating Repair, a strategy within our Building Cultures of Belongingfocus area, along with a call for nominations for early stage innovators in the field of repair. Cultivating Repair supports a growing ecosystem of efforts to heal past and present-day harms stemming from the legacies of colonialism and slavery in the United States.

As we commemorate Woodson, we reflect proudly on the work of our partners who embody his legacy, the power of the Black diaspora, and solidarity across our communities:

This month, and every month, we celebrate our partners who keep Black History alive in their work, and teach us what it means to “plant songs where there were curses” — an excerpt from Joy Harjo’s (Mvskoke Nation) poem “It’s Raining in Honolulu,” which has served as a guiding light for our work.

EAT Chicago recently celebrated their five-year anniversary — a dynamic five years in which they launched and ran two rounds of the Chicago Future Fund, a guaranteed income pilot program for formerly convicted or incarcerated individuals living in the West Garfield neighborhood of Chicago. In addition, they conducted a Get out the Vote campaign for Chicago’s mayoral run-off election and advocated for Black informal workers on the Johnson Administration’s Economic Vitality subcommittee. Finally, they secured over 2400 signatures for their “Vision for Drug War Reparations” and released several reports that delve into “survival economies,” cannabis equity, and worker health. These accomplishments are a small glimpse of the Midwest heartbeat that is EAT Chicago, and we are proud to be co-conspirators in their work.

Liberation Ventures pursues a culture of repair for a just and democratic society. With an explicit focus on the promise of America, they serve as a narrative incubator and a funding intermediary. Since its inception in 2021, Liberation Ventures have moved $3.2 million to organizations working on racial repair. In 2023, partnering with 13 brilliant movement leaders, Liberation Ventures released “There are New Suns.” The report showcased the strides made in reparations and the movement to transform associated narratives. In addition, their commitment to field research and relationship building is seen through their database of reparations polling over the last 25 years in the United States, their Reparations Roadmap for Philanthropy, and the many communities they have created, such as the Reparations Research Consortium.

Since its launch in 2013, Resonance Network has been deeply committed to eradicating violence of every kind. Initially created to end domestic and sexual violence, the network invoked its radical imagination to envision a world centered on community-based organizing, mutual aid, and movement building. Today, the network includes over 3,000 multi-cultural and multi-identity partners, committed to their vision of a safe and dignified future for all. In our work on the Cultivating Repair team, our partners often describe the difficulty in generating imaginative thoughts about our collective futures. We are grateful to Resonance Network for challenging us to not only dream, but to believe in a world beyond violence and within reach. As the great Phillis Wheatley shared: “Imagination! Who can sing thy force?”

The Decolonizing Wealth Project (DWP) serves as a burgeoning example of philanthropy re-imagined. The work is led by and for those principally impacted by colonialism and slavery — from the shores of the Atlantic to the banks of Turtle Island. Launched with inspiration from the book “Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance” by its founder Edgar Villanueva, DWP challenges the narratives that pit impacted groups against each other. Instead, they recognize the shared struggles of Black and Indigenous communities, building efforts toward federal and state reparations in the United States. As we acknowledge the Day Of Remembrance Of Japanese American Incarceration that also falls in this month, we commend the efforts of DWP to convene recipients of reparations for Japanese incarceration in solidarity with their Black and Indigenous neighbors at Alight, Align, Arise, the first ever national conference on reparations.

The Radical Loss Movement Building Project, led by Malkia Devich Cyril, harnesses the emotive strength of grief work to enable healing and activism in the face of continued racial violence. Devich-Cyril has a rich history in movement building spaces, such as MediaJustice, and is a writer, public speaker, and award-winning activist for digital rights. Additionally, experiencing close personal losses has led them to identify grief as a key component in dismantling the systemic, social, and interpersonal elements of racial violence. The Radical Loss Movement Building Project inspires communities to see, feel, and process their grief, harnessing it on the pathway toward liberation. Devich-Cyril’s work reminds us of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s words: “We are not responsible for what breaks us, but we can be responsible for what puts us back together again. Naming the hurt is how we begin to repair our broken parts.”

The roots of Cultivating Repair are deeply connected to the aims of Black History Month and the painful but triumphant histories of the Black people it honors. We celebrate and thank our partners for their vision, leadership, and work to inspire dreams of a just tomorrow.

Our ancestors whisper to us
from the pages of history
so that we may write
our future.
— Elle McKinney