Adjoa Florência Jones de AlmeidaSista II Sista Collective, Brooklyn, New YorkWhat has happened to the great civil rights and black power movements of the 1960s and 1970s? Where are the mass movements of today within this country? The short answer: They got funded. Social justice groups and organizations have become limited as they’ve been incorporated into the nonprofit model. We as activists are no longer accountable to our constituents or members because we don’t depend on them for our existence. Instead, we’ve become primarily accountable to public and private foundations as we try to prove to them that we are still relevant and efficient and thus worthy of continued funding.In theory, foundation funding provides us with the ability to do the work—it is supposed to facilitate what we do. But funding also shapes and dictates our work by forcing us to conceptualize our communities as victims. We are forced to talk about our members as being “disadvantaged” and “at risk,” and to highlight what we are doing to prevent them from getting pregnant or taking drugs—even when this is not, in essence, how we see them or the priority for our work.And what are our priorities? Perhaps the real problem is that we don’t spend enough time imagining what we want and then doing the work to sustain that vision. That is one of the fundamental ways the corporate-capitalist system tames us: by robbing us of our time and flooding us in a sea of bureaucratic red tape, which we are told is a necessary evil for guaranteeing our organization’s existence. We are too busy being told to market ourselves by pimping our communities’ poverty in proposals, selling “results” in reports and accounting for our finances in financial reviews.
Southern Poverty Law Center
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