January 17, 2017
by Afrah Ali
In the 1960s, a multiracial coalition of athletes, entertainers and artists risked their careers, reputations and personal safety to fund the movement that would transform the civil rights landscape of our nation. Their collective and individual philanthropy helped community, faith and union leaders bring awareness to racial justice issues and win historic civil rights victories through organizing, litigation and strategic communications. It also spurred a renaissance of individual philanthropy that funded the infrastructure of the movement.
Today, the spirit of movement philanthropy is alive and well. Athletes like Colin Kaepernick are taking a knee to protest racial injustice and police brutality. They’re also pledging their financial support to build power in communities of color and dismantle institutional racism.
In the fall of 2016, Kaepernick pledged to give $1 million to community organizations over a 10-month period. Despite remaining unsigned to an NFL team in 2017, he made good on his promise and is inspiring others to give to community organizations tackling issues of the modern civil rights movement: ending the school-to-prison pipeline, policing reform, equal education and justice for Black and Brown lives. Despite the uncertainty of his own career and financial future, he’s putting his money where his mouth is.
Advancement Project learned it would become one of Kaepernick’s final awardees. His generosity inspired our board member, actor Jesse Williams, to match his gift. Williams and Kaepernick understand that one of the ways to show up for racial justice is to give dollars to support organizers, litigators and communicators working in the movement.
We’re extremely grateful for Kaepernick’s gift, but we’re even more grateful for the message and momentum he continues to create. Individual philanthropy has long been the backbone of social change in our nation. Individual philanthropy helps push forward progress on important issues like voting rights, immigrant justice and education equity.
What we often fail to realize is that we don’t need celebrity or millions of dollars to be racial justice philanthropists. We can start by giving whatever we can now and spreading the word about organizations like Advancement Project that are working to hold America to its promise of a just democracy.
We hope you will be inspired by Colin Kaepernick and Jesse Williams, and will give one of the most impactful gifts that can be given: an investment in the movement for racial and social justice.
What will you give for our freedom?
Afrah Ali is Advancement Project’s Manager of Major Gifts.