Centering Racial Equity in COVID-19 Responses: Strengthening the Collective Power of Those Most Impacted

By United Way of King County Posted on June 3, 2020 In Racial Equity

We know about the disproportionate impacts that COVID-19 has had on communities of color—exacerbating disparities that already existed before the crisis that are rooted in historical and contemporary structural racism, white supremacy and settler colonialism.

During times of crisis, those already at the margins of society face not only disproportionate impacts on their health, economic and social well-being but also are more likely to continue to be underserved as systems struggle to provide emergency relief.

Now, more than ever, we must come together as a community. Raising and donating money is one way to help, and we also would do well to recognize and support the resiliency and collective power of those most impacted.

One inspiring example demonstrating the power of coming together is a new coalition of grassroots communities of color-based organizations.

The Emerging Alliance of Communities of Color (EACC) is made up of seven organizations that came together through a participatory grant-making process in fall 2019. These organizations include Congolese Integration Network, Horn of Africa Services, InterCultural Children & Family Services, Iraqi Community Center of Washington, Southeast Youth & Family Services, Voices of Tomorrow and West African Community Council.

“Too often, grassroots communities of color-based organizations are underfunded or overlooked by mainstream funders.”

In late March 2020, EACC received $250,000 from Seattle Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund. Upon reflection, the member organizations of EACC may not have been given such a significant gift if they had not come together as a collective force. Too often, grassroots communities of color-based organizations are underfunded or overlooked by mainstream funders.

The seven organizations that comprise EACC are led by and for communities of color—they are at the frontlines serving others in their community, know best what solutions are needed and are working together to enhance the collective well-being of all their communities.

During the era of COVID-19, we would do well to remember that racial equity extends beyond targeting funds to those most impacted (though this is a great first step!). We should also seek to uplift the already existing leadership and strategies of communities of color. We should create funding opportunities that support collaboration and collective power-building of those most impacted, not competition.

While we at United Way of King County are in the early stages of our racial equity journey, we have identified models such as participatory grant-making and trust-based philanthropy as ways for funders to better practice racial equity during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.


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