Posts tagged with "equity"

Community illustrated by Mina Tocalini for 360 MAGAZINE.

Alt-Right Billboard Petition

The internet has given everyone a voice, and Change.org has become one of the most popular platforms for using that voice.

One of the site’s petitions that seems to be picking up steam, almost reaching 100,000 signatures, is a petition to remove a billboard advertising WhitePrideRadio.com and AltRightTV.com.

According to the post on Change.org, Harrison Sign Co., a sign company based out of Harrison, Arkansas, has posted several racist billboards over the past few years.

“The billboards have done tremendous damage to our community by giving the impression that our citizens support their messages and don’t object to their presence,” the post said.

The post also said that the community has worked to remove previous billboards found to be equally offensive, but this one still stands.

Commenters and residents have also taken to Change.org to express their discontent with the billboard.

One commenter by the name of Amber Harris said, “This sign is an embarrassment to our community and a stain on our town. Our community deserves better. Our minorities deserve better.”

Another commenter, John Henderson, said, “This does not represent the view of the people of Harrison. It is bad for the reputation and economy of the town.”

The petition has a goal of 150,000 signatures. If you’d like to help by adding your signature, you can click right here.

Gabrielle Marchan illustrates Dianne Morales for 360 MAGAZINE

Dianne Morales

As of late, one of our team members had the opportunity to sit down with New York City mayoral candidate Dianne Morales for an interview. After eight years under Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City will see someone new in the position in 2021, and Morales, a member of the Democratic Party, is jumping at the opportunity.

360: What are the major points of inspiration throughout your life, so far, that have led you to where you are today?

Morales: At my core is a commitment to community, and I learned community at home. I am the youngest of three girls and the daughter of Puerto Rican parents. My mother, a secretary for the Leather Workers’ Union, and my father, a building manager on the waterfront, created a working-class life for us in Bed-Stuy. But our home was not just for me and my sisters. My grandmother, Mami, lived with us my whole childhood. In fact, she and I shared a bed until the day that I left home for college. Our home was a resting place, a layover, a transition point for whoever needed it. There was always someone new sleeping on the couch or joining us at the dinner table. Whether they had just arrived from Puerto Rico, were in between jobs, had just returned from the military or from being incarcerated, there were always other people staying with us while they “got back on their feet.” My parents opened their arms and their front door to whoever needed it. I never questioned this way of life. I was taught, “If you have, then you provide.” We took care of each other. I saw, firsthand, the opportunity created when we each take responsibility, not just for ourselves, but for our neighbors and for our communities. This belief has spurred me on through 30 years in the public sector, as an educator, a foster care worker and a leader of nonprofits.

As I established my own home in Bed-Stuy as a single mom, my children and I recreated the dynamic my parents had built. We always have a few extra people living in our home – whom we often refer to as our “chosen family.” These extended family members have filled my home with love and reciprocal support. In a twist of fate, since the pandemic hit, I have shared my home with my parents and my children. I envision a New York City where we take care of each other, where everyone is welcome to the dinner table, where neighbors provide more support than extra sugar and all of us have a warm place to rest our heads. Although NYC is vast with diversity, we are all inextricably bound together and are only as strong as our most vulnerable link.

360: How can a mayor, as opposed to any other civic official, lead unique positive changes for equity?

Morales: Over the past several months there is a mantra I have been repeating consistently: a budget is a reflection of our values. The mayor has executive power over what gets funded in the city and by how much. Funding for services that contribute to true public safety (access to housing, medical/mental healthcare, economic stability, job training, education) will provide access and opportunity to those who have historically been left behind by our elected officials. Line by line, the budget reveals the values of a city and government. The NYC budget passed in June was a failure. It failed the residents of NYC, who have been raising their voices in protest and demanding a divestment from law enforcement since May 29. It failed those whose lives have been lost at the hands of the NYPD. It failed communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by violence and brutality.

The budget highlights the need for NYC leadership to put New Yorkers first by investing in communities. The NYC Mayor also has the ability to work to desegregate public schools and impact the quality of education provided to over 1.1 million students, many of whom are students of color living in poverty. This alters the course of a student’s life and provides an entry point to economic mobility and a true career trajectory. New Yorkers deserve a bold, transformational leader who is unapologetically committed to prioritizing justice in the budget’s bottom line. I fundamentally believe that those closest to the problem are closest to the solution. Our city needs a mayor that is in tune with her people and provides a vision for and direction for what is possible.

360: What are some of the most pressing or urgent issues that need attention within New York City, and how would you address them?

Morales: New York’s problems all stem from structural oppression by Race, Gender and Class, so our solutions must go deeper, all the way to the root causes. Too many New Yorkers are living in a time of scarcity, and that’s been going on since long before the virus hit. The are working two jobs, just barely surviving and always one misfortune away from losing everything. Instead of this “Scarcity Economy,” we need a “Solidarity Economy,” and that requires bold action. First, transforming public safety in the city by providing access to the same critical resources found in wealthy communities will be a critical step toward creating the long-term change we need for all to live in dignity. True public safety includes ensuring that every New Yorker has access to “life essentials,” like quality transportation, affordable housing, excellent and equal education and human-centered healthcare. All New Yorkers deserve access to these fundamental resources in order to live in dignity, and it is the necessary floor needed to break through glass ceilings.

Next, we must enhance and overhaul vital infrastructure requiring multi-part, creative solutions that address the deeper issues embedded in the fabric of NYC. To break the racist cycle of poverty that divides our city into the “haves” and the “have-nots,” we will establish a guaranteed minimum income. We will push for universal healthcare and eliminate inequities in the health system faced by women, and especially women of color. We will work to address the persistent segregation of our schools and disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by replacing school safety officers with trained mental health professionals. The driving force behind all policy initiatives is the experiences, needs and voices of women of color. Particularly, Black women. As the Combahee River Collective wisely wrote in its 1977 statement, “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” We know that if New York does right by Black women, the entire city will be better for it.

360: How can you use your personal experiences with serving as a single mother and observing the many other challenges that face New York City residents to enact policy reform?

Morales: So many of New York’s problems have impacted me directly, and so much of who I am and what I know comes from being a mom. My greatest joy is being the mother of my two children, Ben and Gabby. They constantly push me, teach me and nourish me. As a single parent, I share experiences with hundreds of thousands of other New Yorkers. A 2018 study found that single-parent households are the second largest household type in New York City. I navigated New York City’s systems – economic, health and education – on my own. I balanced a budget for my family each month, figuring out how to make it work. My greatest challenge was parenting my children through the NYC education system. The rigid and unforgiving education that my children received did not allow any space for their learning differences. They did not see themselves in the white-centric curriculum and we struggled to find support during their developmental years. Advocating for my children was a full-time job on top of my paying-full-time-job. Again and again I have stood with parents for a more equitable and life-affirming education for our kids. It is with this same community spirit of coalition building, advocacy and bettering of our social safety nets that I will push for policies that support all types of families in NYC.

360: What is one of the most significant components of your background or experiential knowledge that separates you from any other candidate?

Morales: I am, in so many ways, the average New Yorker. I was born and bred in Bed-Stuy. I am an Afro Latina single-mom of two children who survived the New York City public school system. I am a first generation college graduate who came back home to my city after school. I am a woman of color who discovered that I was not being paid the same as my white male counterparts. I’ve watched my neighborhood change, I’ve seen Starbucks replace the corner bodega, and I have spent my weekends marching side by side – 6 feet apart – with my fellow New Yorkers demanding justice for those killed at the hands of a racist policing system. Because I am the average New Yorker, my voice reflects the voices of thousands of others. We share our lived experiences, frustrations and joys. I love New York City because I see our full potential for all of us.

360: How does your previous extensive work with social service nonprofits inform your motivations and goals to serve as Mayor?

Morales: For decades, I worked within the community to address structural inequities burdening communities of color. I worked alongside those experiencing the symptoms of our broken system most acutely – poverty, lack of access to education, homelessness and mental health services. I witnessed firsthand the day-to-day struggles of New Yorkers that are perpetuated by cycles of poverty and oppression. I worked from the ground, up and from the inside, out. But as I hammered away, I recognized these structural and institutional barriers, and began to ask, “So how do we burn them down?” It felt as though I was only tinkering around the edges of the problem and providing Band-Aid solutions to deep, deep wounds. The core, perpetuating issues were centralized and foundational. I realized that if I want to create lasting, effective change, I must address these systemic and political problems at the root. As Mayor, I would carry with me the voices of those I have served.

360: In outlining your points of action and reform for New York City, how does the COVID-19 pandemic affect any of these potential strides for change?

Morales: As we know, COVID-19 is a catastrophe that illuminates all of the cracks and splinters in our broken systems. At first, many claimed the COVID-19 was a “great equalizer,” affecting all people, regardless of race, class or gender. Instead COVID-19 disproportionately impacts people of color and low-income communities. This is not a coincidence or personal failing, but rather the direct result of racist systems, putting structural oppression in stark relief. While some New Yorkers are able to escape crowded areas, arm themselves with personal protective equipment and work remotely, others, namely people of color, are on the front lines providing essential services to our city.

As COVID-19 has had devastating consequences that will leave a lasting impact for years to come, it has also provided us with a unique moment. As we saw after the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, being homebound and isolated forces us to pay attention. We have paused. We have slowed down. With fewer distractions and a center of focus, folks all across the country have had the veil lifted. People are noticing the interconnected webs of oppression I have lived with and that I have been fighting to dismantle my entire life. In this moment, we need leaders in office who are of, by and for the movement for social change. There is a momentum and hunger for justice that can no longer be ignored. As we overcome the challenge of the disease, I will never let the city forget who is truly essential. Together we will create a world in which front-line workers are truly valued as indispensable. A world where we accompany our applause and platitudes with a livable wage, unquestionable dignity and real community power.

360: What are some of the most rewarding takeaways you have gained from leading several momentous organizations?

Morales: I’ve learned firsthand about the barriers and challenges that people have to overcome in order to gain access to opportunities that are alleged to be available to everyone. I also have watched as community members care for one another to bridge the gaps in access to those opportunities. This is testament to the power of our communities to be true partners in determining the solutions they face when given the resources to do so. Finally, I have been able to bear witness to what is possible when people finally gain access and opportunity and how that has the potential to change the trajectory of people’s lives and transform families and communities.

360: Regarding the national and global movement, Black Lives Matter, how will you utilize your unique identity to empower minorities in the City of New York?

Morales: Like many people of color, I have lived years of my life trying not to take up space. I have seen the ways that my identities – my Blackness, my Latina roots, my politics, my womanhood – make people, namely white people, uncomfortable. In these spaces I would constantly ask myself, “Do I seem too opinionated, too articulate, too aggressive?” I would contort and deflate myself to fit into tight corners and small boxes. I would shrink myself so that others could feel big. When making the decision to run for Mayor of NYC, I decided it was important for me to run as my full, unadulterated, unapologetic, multi-hyphenated self. There would be no more shrinking, questioning or self-doubt. I recognize that by the very nature of stepping into this space, I am opening up a path of possibility. As the first Afro-Latina running for mayor of New York City, I recognize the awesome responsibility I hold. I know that when I speak, unfairly or not, I am representing all Afro-Latina women. Missteps become mass stereotypes. Accolades become communal achievements.

This is both beautiful and deeply terrifying. But in moments of fear, I am guided by a greater purpose to bring with me those whom have been devalued and made to feel small, as I have been; to elevate the voices of those with shared experiences and claim our rightful place in democracy and representation in leadership. People like me, individuals and communities of color, women of color, we must be at the forefront of our politics and policies. I am deeply committed to divesting from racist systems and investing in Black and Brown communities. I am committed to reimagining public safety on our streets and in our schools. I am committed to shifting wealth opportunities to those who have been historically marginalized. I am committed to redressing and repairing the wounds of oppression that scar our city. I am in this race to stand taller in the face of a world that tells me to shrink. I am here to tell them that Black lives are beloved. We matter today and every day forward.

360: To all of the NYC citizens following your efforts to better numerous communities, what are some of the best ways individuals can support your campaign?

Morales: The best way to help me is to join the campaign with a small contribution. I am not a career politician, and unlike other candidates, I have not spent decades cultivating a war chest of people, networks and resources to kickstart my run for mayor. I want to be responsive to the people, not the special interests.. My campaign was born out of my home in Bed-Stuy, out of conversations with my neighbors, friends and colleagues. Our campaign is 100% powered by the people, not the 1%. We are an intersectional coalition of Black and Brown, Latinx, LGBTQIA and working class New Yorkers. We are backed by the people being hit the hardest at this moment in time. I am so incredibly humbled that in the middle of a pandemic, without employment, people are finding a way to donate to our campaign. I know what is at stake and the choices they have had to make to do so. If donating to our campaign is not possible for you during this financially uncertain time, we understand. Visit my website, dianne.nyc, for information and volunteer opportunities. Spread our mission to your fellow New Yorkers. Reach out to join our team. Remember me in November 2021.

To learn more about Dianne Morales, you can click right here. To learn more about her stances and solutions, you can click right here. To support Morales through donations, you can click right here. You can also support her on Twitter and Instagram.

Miss America Diverstiy, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force Selected

Miss America DEI

During this time of national protest and unrest, many participants and volunteers within our organization have reached out to MAO to express their thoughts and feelings regarding the ongoing conversation around racial justice and MAO’s role in it. We have heard you and we are committed to further action.

As many of you know, a few years ago MAO formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) task force led by Miss America 1990 Debbye Turner Bell. A few weeks ago, the Miss America Organization put out the ask to Current Titleholders, Forever Miss Americas, Miss America State Titleholder Association, Executive Directors, and Volunteers to gauge their willingness to form a new committee with renewed focus. We are grateful that 68 women and men from across the country expressed interest in being a part of the forward movement of Miss America.

Given the current makeup of the Miss America Board of Directors and staff, we felt that it was appropriate to have an outside Selection Committee take on this important task. Below are the professionals who volunteered their time and energy to MAO:

Samantha M. Fennell

Samantha is the founder of HONE, a New York-based business development consultancy that helps purpose-driven organizations in three key areas: revenue growth, strategy, D&I sales talent, and strategic partnerships. Her clients include media enterprises, advertising agencies, B Corps, and e-commerce platforms who share her passion for driving societal transformation through corporate action and social change.

Samantha has held senior-level and management positions at both major media companies and start-up ventures. From a nearly decade-long stint at Condé Nast where she rose to become the first African American Advertising Director of Vogue, to growing an international advertising agency and building a digital division from the ground up, Samantha has achieved many “firsts” in her 20+ year career and continues to push boundaries.

Samantha launched an online publication this year- A Blessing of Unicorns- a repository of inclusive insights that seeks to dispel the myth of scarcity of outstanding BIPOC and change the world for the next generation.

Brian Vaught

Brian has over 14 years of experience in the advertising, marketing, and media industries. In his current role, Brian leads Publicis Media’s US Talent Inclusion practice across its six brands – Starcom, Zenith, Spark Foundry, Blue449, Digitas, and Performics. Brian leads internal inclusion programs including the Publicis Media Multicultural Talent Pipeline and the agency’s Inclusion Council. He also serves as a mentor and coach to the company’s business resource groups (BRGs) and drives awareness of professional development experiences.

He is a member of Publicis Groupe’s Talent Engagement & Inclusion Council, a board member for the American Association of Advertising Agencies Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee, Do The WeRQ, and the T Howard Foundation. He is a recipient of the 2018 Leadership Excellence Award by the Tri-State National Diversity Council

Jason Bryant

Jason Bryan is an Associate Clinical Professor in Educational Leadership at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama for the past 4 years, and is now serving as the director of the Truman Peirce Institute with the College of Education at Auburn. Jason spent 17 years in public K-12 schools serving as a science teacher, high school assistant principal, middle school principal, and high school principal.

Linda Karbo

Linda Karbo serves as Marketing Brand Manager for Residence Education and Housing Services (REHS) at Michigan State University where she is responsible for strategic marketing initiatives & brand oversight of both REHS and the MSU Union. She is proud to be part of the task force that has advanced the “Hate Has No Home Here” and “You Have a Home Here” initiatives at MSU, which pledge and promise to foster a diverse, inclusive, equitable, and safe environment for all within the Spartan community.

Prior to joining the REHS team, Linda served as Assistant Director of Alumni Relations and Special Events for the MSU College of Arts and Letters for six years and the Assistant Director of Development for the MSU College of Music for three years.

Linda is passionate about relationship building, empathetic listening, mentoring, bridging connections, and the art of the written word. She always has her eye out for a quality life hack or budding trend, and sincerely appreciates good manners and a can-do attitude. Linda describes herself as a realist with a very real layer of imagination mixed in and believes that integrity with a side of empathy is key.

Jennifer Munger

Jennifer Munger is a former elementary school principal and special education teacher. Jennifer’s experiences showed her the importance of every child having an effective teacher, especially students struggling academically and/or engaging in challenging behavior impacting their learning.  She is currently an instructor in the area of special education at Dakota State University.  Jennifer helps preservice teachers and strives to teach effectiveness by developing awareness and understanding of the students that will be entering their classrooms, leading them to better research-based instructional and behavioral tools and strategies.

Abby Charles

Abby Charles is a Program Director at the Institute for Public Health Innovation (IPHI), The public health institute for Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia. At IPHI she provides leadership and coordination for the Community Health Worker Initiatives and provides oversight to a network of Community Health Workers and a portfolio of programs in which the Institute for Public Health Innovation addresses cross-jurisdictional policymaking and information sharing, program refinement, policy, research, training, implementation, evaluation, and technical assistance.

Abby is one of IPHI’s lead trainers and provides technical assistance to organizations regionally and nationally on health and racial equity, collaboration & partnership development, community health workers, health in all policies, women’s health, gender-based violence, and HIV.

Abby is an Adjunct Instructor of Clinical Research and Leadership at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. She is also a graduate of the George Washington University with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and a Master of Public Health in Global Health Promotion. She presently serves on the board of The Well Project, the Bishop Anstey High School Alumnae Association of Washington, DC and serves as a Commissioner on the Mayor’s Advisory Commission on Caribbean Community Affairs for Washington, DC.

Justice illustration

Global Though Leader on Ending Racism

George Floyd’s murder ignited a wave of national and global protests demanding justice and change, including police reform and reparations for Black Americans. Structural Racism is not exclusive to the United States. Racism is clearly a global problem.

In a new interview with C.M. Rubin, Michael Baran, the Co-Author of Subtle Acts of Exclusion, says communities “need to work to address structural inequalities in societies in health, wealth, education, and criminal injustice.” Baran believes that it is important to start talking about bias with preschool children. “If we don’t teach them about this, they will learn passively through all the subtle messages in our culture, which leads to unconscious biases.” Baran additionally advocates for more focus on training teachers to be inclusive, “as teachers can have unconscious biases as well.”

Michael Baran is the Senior Partner & Digital Solutions Lead in InQUEST. He is also the Co-Author of Subtle Acts of Exclusion: How to Understand, Identify, and Stop Microaggressions. As an Author, Speaker, and also a Strategist for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Baran has been committed to conducting and organizing ethnographic research for varies social issues, including race and identity, racial disparities in education, violence against children, healthy housing, environmental health, human services, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, climate change, and early childhood development. CMRubinWorld’s award-winning series, The Global Search for Education, brings together distinguished thought leaders in education and innovation from around the world to explore the key learning issues faced by most nations. The series has become a highly visible platform for global discourse on 21st-century learning, offering a diverse range of innovative ideas which are presented by the series founder, C. M. Rubin, together with the world’s leading thinkers.

TokenPay Buys Equity Stake

TokenPay Swiss AG, a Crypto Startup, just bought an equity stake in Naked Brand Group (NAKD), an Australian lingerie company that is best known for Heidi Clum’s fashion lines. TokenPay is looking to introduce women (via lingerie) to crypto in hopes of mainstreaming the crypto space. The average owner of crypto is men from 18 – 35 and TokenPay is hoping they eventually purchase crypto for their significant others to introduce them to the space. Crypto and fashion are unique in that both always take chances to set itself apart from others. Every year a designer needs to create new ideas whereas crypto is changing the way people globally send and receive payments. The goal is to accept TPAY and other currencies at all their online properties.

A Voice for the Forgotten Minority

If foundations fall short on equality for people with disabilities, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi puts them on the spot.
By Alex Daniels

A microphone in Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi’s hands is a powerful weapon. At venues across the country, Mizrahi has used her strong, clear voice to ask foundation leaders variations of one simple question: Why aren’t people with disabilities included?

As large foundations have placed more muscle behind programs that promote equity in terms of race, wealth, gender identity, and sexual orientation, Mizrahi believes people with disabilities have been overlooked.

During question-and-answer sessions at major foundation gatherings, she is the first with her hand up, ready to put foundation leaders on the spot. Why isn’t a foundation’s website accessible to the blind? she’ll ask. Or why isn’t data on disabled voters included on a conference speaker’s chart of voting patterns among residents of rural areas, African-Americans, and young people?

The reason for the neglect, she says, is that disability groups have too often come to foundations looking for charity. That strategy is rooted in the idea that donors should take pity on people who are blind, have dwarfism, or are intellectually challenged, she says, rather than treating discrimination against them as a violation of their civil rights.

“The overall messages of the disability community caused us more harm than good,” she says. “The more they were repeated, the more harm was done.”

Through RespectAbility, an organization she co-founded five years ago, and through her own philanthropy, Mizrahi has pushed to eliminate stigmatization and to reduce barriers to employment for people with disabilities.

Sometimes her approach is direct, such as when she called Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, a “hypocrite” in an email for not including disabilities in the grant maker’s shift to focus entirely on equity. After that, and with the input of lots of others in addition to Mizrahi, Walker issued a mea culpa and announced that Ford would work to address inequalities based on disability throughout all of its programs. Mizrahi now calls Ford’s response the “gold standard.”

Donn Weinberg, executive vice president of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and co-founder of RespectAbility, said Mizrahi is “fearless” in asking difficult questions of foundation honchos. When she’s able to get face-to-face with philanthropy executives at conferences, she seizes the opportunity to educate them about disability issues.

Private Consultations

Some nonprofit leaders grumble privately that Mizrahi sometimes claims credit for efforts that were already underway. And sometimes her questions come in the form of short lectures.

At a Philanthropy Roundtable conference in 2017, the group’s staff asked Weinberg, who also serves as Philanthropy Roundtable’s chairman, if he could persuade Mizrahi to tone down her rhetoric and get to the point. “She clearly wants people to hear a bit of commentary before the question,” he says. “She’s planting seeds of thought and bringing to people’s consciousness an issue they often don’t think about.”

But Mizrahi doesn’t see herself as a provocateur or a grandstander. She consults directly with nonprofit leaders to make sure their websites, grant applications, and program strategies benefit and are accessible to people with disabilities.

She’s created a set of guidelines and tools for organizations that want to gauge whether they are being inclusive. And she dispatches young professionals and students working as RespectAbility fellows to interview foundation employees about how they communicate with, employ, and benefit the disabled population.

“We try to call people aside and not call them out,” she insists, saying most of her work is done in private consultations with foundation leaders, not in the public spotlight. “I like to see myself as a partner, a facilitator, and a resource.”

Aaron Dorfman knows from experience.

Mizrahi said her annual-dues statement from Dorfman’s group, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, sold the organization as a social-justice champion — but something was missing.

“They were very proud to send me a 12-page, single-spaced memo on diversity, equity, and inclusion,” she says. “The word ‘disability’ wasn’t in it.”

The two met for coffee to discuss the matter. Afterward, as the committee was preparing to release a guide for foundations interested in social justice, Dorfman asked Mizrahi to analyze a draft to make sure it adequately covered disability.

Dorfman said he welcomed the challenge. By putting foundation leaders on the spot at conferences, Mizrahi is helping philanthropy see its shortcomings and grow.

“There’s a certain amount of discomfort when you get called out, even if you get called out rightfully,” he says. “This culture of politeness doesn’t serve marginalized communities well. It’s all right to make someone feel uncomfortable in pursuit of full inclusion.”

Diversity Includes Disabled People

Some foundations recognize they need help. A survey of 205 foundation chief executives conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy found that most leaders thought their organization was staffed by people with a diversity of backgrounds and served a diverse set of beneficiaries in terms of race, gender, and sexual orientation. But over half said they fell short when it came to people with a disability.

The reason, according to Judy Belk, president of the California Wellness Foundation, is many people think the Americans With Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, cured injustices faced by disabled people.

The existence of handicapped parking places and curb cuts on street corners, Belk says, doesn’t mean all of the challenges have been addressed. Similarly, just because philanthropies have crafted strategies designed to ameliorate inequities doesn’t mean they’ve faithfully put them into practice.

For Belk, concentrating on disabilities could be a good way to achieve progress in some of the foundation’s existing programs, including efforts to improve oral health for low-income adults, prevent HIV/AIDS among women of color, and help women of color adjust to society after being incarcerated. All of the groups that stand to benefit from that work, Belk says, include a large proportion of people with disabilities.

To start, the California Wellness Foundation had RespectAbility audit its website. Mizrahi’s staff found that the grant maker’s web presence wasn’t an inviting place for everyone. Belk ordered a redo to make sure the site complied with content-accessibility guidelines.

“Foundations have diversity, equity, and inclusion statements up the wazoo,” she says. “They can show you a statement and say they’re committed. I’d like to push ourselves and hold ourselves accountable.”

Easy Improvements

Foundations have largely failed to incorporate disability into the programs they run and the data they collect, Mizrahi says. And she thinks nonprofits in general have fallen behind businesses and government agencies in accommodating people with disabilities. Though many organizations would like to make progress, they often fear it will cost a lot.

Many fixes aren’t expensive but require presence of mind. For instance, Mizrahi says, it’s free and easy to make Twitter and Facebook feeds accessible and put captions on YouTube videos. And avoiding meetings in places like church basements that aren’t accessible for people in wheelchairs requires the presence of mind to schedule gatherings elsewhere.

Mizrahi says she’d rather educate than scold, and help people understand that people with disabilities are productive team members.

“I don’t view every organization equally,” she said. “The Americans With Disabilities Act treats organizations differently based on size and budget, and so do I. If it’s a small, fragile organization with nobody on staff, I have very few expectations they’ll all of a sudden have a personal-care assistant for someone who is a quadriplegic and on oxygen in order to participate in their program.”

Nonprofits lack clear guidelines on the steps they should take to make their organizations more accessible, according to Michael Thatcher, president of Charity Navigator. Over the past year, he has been in discussions with Mizrahi about how to encourage charities to get started.

Master Problem-Solvers

The first step, Mizrahi says, is to help organizations understand what kind of contributions people with disabilities can make.

At a Capitol Hill conference that RespectAbility held in July, Vincenzo Piscopo, the director of community and stakeholder relations for the Coca-Cola Company, told the 200 attendees that people with disabilities are often accustomed to overcoming obstacles and are master problem- solvers. It’s incumbent on people with disabilities in the work force to serve as ambassadors, to help employers understand what they bring to the table.

“When companies have people with disabilities, they’re providing value to their company,” he told the gathered crowd. “They’re not doing charity.”

Stephanie Farfan is one of those ambassadors. Farfan, a little person who calls herself a “master Googler,” was looking for internships specially geared toward disability issues and found RespectAbility online. There weren’t a lot of other opportunities like it.

RespectAbility’s fellows program, which is supported by the Stanford and Joan Alexander and Ford foundations, allows students and young professionals to work in public policy and communications roles and in the organization’s foundation practice.

Before she came to Washington to attend graduate school in international studies at American University, Farfan worked in Florida with Little People of America. A fluent Spanish speaker, her volunteer work with Little People of America often involved talking with Hispanic parents of children with dwarfism.

Coming to RespectAbility, Farfan, who wants to pursue a career at the State Department, has spent much of her time delving into state laws and regulations on disability issues.

“Coming over to the policy side has given me a new perspective,” she says. “It’s rounded out my skill set.”

‘One Toe in the Water’

Mizrahi’s behind-the-scenes work has resulted in changes in foundation practices. In addition to the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy and the Belk Foundation, she shared — on the condition that they not be named — emails from several grant makers showing they had incorporated RespectAbility’s suggestions into their website design and broader communication strategy.

While she’d like to keep those successes private, she’s not afraid of publicly criticizing foundations she thinks are lagging behind.

She slammed the Lumina Foundation for not specifically incorporating people with disabilities in its work-force development grants. She said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided little money to directly support disabilities and did not collect or disseminate data on the progress of students with disabilities in its domestic education work.

“I am deeply disturbed that Lumina and Gates aren’t doing dramatically more,” she says. “They are both sort of one toe in the water.”

In response, Lumina’s director of strategic communications, Kevin Corcoran, said that while there is “laudable” work being done to ensure people with disabilities succeed after high school, the foundation’s focus was on educational outcomes for students of color. The Gates Foundation said it has been making changes to address the issue, but it did not single out any one person who pushed for the revisions.

In October 2017, Gates “refreshed” its approach to education grant making. Since then, the foundation has said it has begun to disaggregate the data it collects so it can track students with disabilities, and it has begun to support programs to accommodate disabled charter-school students.

“We have already begun to fund research to help us understand how the foundation could best support success, engagement, and transitions for students with disabilities, and we plan to make the results of this research publicly available, via our grantees,” the foundation said in a statement.

An Advantage From Dyslexia

Activists have pushed foundations to recognize disabilities in the broader civil-rights context for decades. In the 1980s, Donors Forum, a collective of Illinois grant makers now known as Forefront, had a board meeting to discuss a survey on diversity it was going to send out to members.

Marca Bristo, who was a board member at the time, said there were no questions about disabilities. “They just plain forgot about it,” says Bristo, who is president of Access Living, a Chicago disability and housing advocate.

More recently, Bristo has noticed a desire among large foundations to learn more. Before the MacArthur Foundation awarded $100 million to Sesame Street Workshop and the International Rescue Committee last year as part of its 100&Change challenge, Bristo sat down with the foundation’s president Julia Stasch to figure out how to incorporate inclusion of people with disabilities into the award.

With Susan Sygall, a former MacArthur fellow and CEO of Mobility International, Bristo reviewed the contest’s eight semifinalists and developed a disability checklist that the applicants could use to assess their pitches.

“Leaders from the disability-rights movement have been working on these issues for years,” she wrote in an email to the Chronicle. “The work RespectAbility has focused on is critically important but not new. No one organization can do this transformational work alone. The intransigence of stigma, prejudice, and exclusion requires a sustained and collaborative effort by all of us.”

Before the winners were named, Mizrahi was instrumental in “amplifying” the work to include people with disabilities, according to Cecilia Conrad, who leads MacArthur’s 100&Change program. Mizrahi consulted with the foundation about what constitutes full inclusion and wrote opinion pieces that highlighted the role of inclusion in the award.

For Mizrahi, becoming an effective communicator didn’t come naturally. As someone with dyslexia, she didn’t begin reading until she was 12 and didn’t achieve functional literacy until two years later. After an early growth spurt, she reached her full, above average, adult height at a very early age. She seemed all grown up, but she was having a difficult time. Adults around her expressed their disappointment in her academic progress, calling her “lazy.”

Mizrahi responded to the challenge through intensive work on reading. She expertly honed her listening and speaking skills. Now, she says, when she enters any conversation or debate, her disability has given her a huge advantage.

“Having a disability means there’s something you can’t do in your everyday living. But there’s nothing in the world that says you can’t be the best in the world at something else.”

MAINGEAR x deadmau5

MAINGEAR PC, an award-winning PC system builder of custom gaming desktops and notebooks, announced that Joel Zimmerman, known professionally as deadmau5, has joined MAINGEAR as an advisor and investor, and that they have partnered with NetCapital to launch an equity offering open to the public. 

 

Grammy nominated producer, musician, composer, and life-long gamer, deadmau5, joins MAINGEAR as an advisor and takes a stake of the soaring PC gaming market by investing. “I first found MAINGEAR when looking for a high end PC for my studio, and started as a customer first. I became a huge fan” said deadmau5. “Since then MAINGEAR has powered all of my projects including, my recently released “where’s the drop?”. As a gamer at heart I’m a big believer that the future of PC gaming and eSports has amazing potential for growth. It was obvious to pick MAINGEAR as my first investment in the space and with MAINGEAR’s crowd raise you can invest as well. »

 

As an advisor, deadmau5 hopes to direct the future of PC gaming with MAINGEAR by advising on future products and projects. “It doesn’t get more authentic than working with deadmau5” said Wallace Santos, CEO and Founder. “He’s an amazing artist, hardcore gamer, MAINGEAR customer, and is one of the most technically driven people I have ever met. »

 

With over 15 years of experience crafting the industry’s most award-winning gaming PCs and growing a passionate community, MAINGEAR has established itself as a leader in the industry and is now opening up an opportunity for its community to invest. “I had the opportunity to engage with a few different VCs and the experience wasn’t always the best. While VC investment can be a great thing, it only makes sense if you find the right fit.” said Wallace Santos. “I didn’t want to bring on an investor that would suck the soul out of our business. After this experience we decided to ditch the traditional VC route altogether and instead offer equity to our community. »

 

“I’ve been in the gaming and tech space for as long as I can remember, and I can safely say there has never been a more exciting time in the history of our industry!” said Rahul Sood, CEO of Unikrn. “I’m excited for the future of MAINGEAR and the passionate community that they have built. As one of the most established high end PC builders on earth, we wanted to do a non-traditional raise and offer people from this community the opportunity to invest at the ground floor.”

 

For more information on MAINGEAR’s equity crowdfunding campaign, click HERE.