Posts tagged with "Minority"

illustration by Mina Tocalini for use by 360 Magazine

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles Announces Naomi Strongin as Vice President

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (The Foundation) today announced the promotion of Naomi Strongin to vice president of its Center for Designed Philanthropy (the Center).  A 12-year veteran of The Foundation, Strongin had most recently served as the Center’s acting director.

In her new position, Strongin will oversee a portfolio of responsibilities that include developing and implementing Jewish and general community grant programs, providing capacity-building support to nonprofit organizations, advising and educating Foundation donors on effective charitable giving strategies, and managing grantmaking for major Foundation fund holders. She will lead a Center team which advances strategic, high-impact philanthropy that improves lives and strengthens society in the Los Angeles Jewish community, community-at-large, and in Israel.

Established more than a decade ago by The Foundation–the largest manager of charitable assets for local Jewish philanthropists–the Center helps donors create more meaningful and effective giving strategies to enhance the impact of their philanthropy.  

Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Marvin I. Schotland stated: “We are pleased to welcome Naomi as a member of our senior management team. During her tenure at The Foundation, she has distinguished herself in positions of increasing responsibility on both grantmaking and donor-advisory sides of the Center. Naomi is an outstanding leader and manager and this promotion is well-deserved recognition of her exceptional contributions over the past decade-plus. Additionally, her thoughtful approach to strategic philanthropy will help our family of donors better achieve their charitable goals and make meaningful investments in the community.”

Strongin joined The Foundation in 2009 with a background in direct social services and fundraising. As a program officer, senior program officer, and associate director of the Center, Strongin has directly managed The Foundation’s institutional grants programs, including its Cutting Edge, General Community, Israel, and Capital initiatives. She also was integrally involved in leading The Foundation’s response to the pandemic as well as its Racial Equity grantmaking in 2020-2021, spearheading its COVID-19 Response Grants and Reimagine Grants programs that provided nearly $12 million in support to approximately 100 nonprofits for pressing and long-term needs. She possesses extensive experience and expertise that includes developing charitable mission and vision statements, providing philanthropic guidance to multigenerational families, and giving interest-area issues such as early childhood development, economic development in Israel, and the Jewish nonprofit landscape in Los Angeles, among others. Strongin earned her master’s degree in social work with a concentration in community organizing, planning and administration from the University of Southern California, and her bachelor of arts in human development from U.C. San Diego. She is a certified 21/64 philanthropic advisor.

About The Jewish Community Foundation

Established in 1954, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles manages charitable assets of more than $1.4 billion entrusted to it by over 1,300 families and ranks among the 10 largest Los Angeles foundations. It partners with donors to shape meaningful philanthropic strategies, magnify the impact of their giving, and build enduring charitable legacies. In 2020, The Foundation and its donors distributed $116 million to 2,700 nonprofits with programs that span the range of philanthropic giving. Over the past 12 years, it has distributed more than $1 billion to thousands of nonprofits across a diverse spectrum.

Covid-19 illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

National Minority Health Month

National Minority Health Month: 
Working Together to Help Communities Become Vaccine Ready

April is National Minority Health Month, and this year, the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) and national, state, territorial, tribal and local partners will focus on the impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minority and American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Together, we will underscore the need for communities at higher risk of COVID-19 to get vaccinated as more vaccines become available.

The theme for National Minority Health Month is #VaccineReady and observance activities will support helping vulnerable communities get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines, share accurate vaccine information, participate in clinical trials, get vaccinated when the time comes, and proactively practice COVID-19 safety measures. 

“Since the start of the pandemic, data show that racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to test positive for COVID-19, more likely to be hospitalized and more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to non-Hispanic whites,” said RADM Felicia Collins, MD, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and OMH Director.  “While there appears to be light at the end of the long pandemic tunnel, it is important for all of us to be vaccine ready and to continue the public health precautions while we wait our turn to get the vaccine – wearing a mask, watching our distance and washing our hands.” 

Studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping people from getting COVID-19 and the CDC recommends that everyone get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. As more vaccines become available, there are steps individuals can take to protect themselves until they can get vaccinated:

  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others and stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from others who do not live with you.
  • Avoid crowds. The more people you are in contact with, the more likely you are to be exposed to COVID-19.

Fully vaccinated people should continue to take precautions in public like wearing a well-fitted mask, maintaining physical distance from unvaccinated people or people whose vaccination status you do not know, and practicing other prevention measures as recommended by the CDC

To learn more about National Minority Health Month, find resources, events, and information in English and Spanish, visit the Office of Minority Health website. Follow OMH on Twitter or Twitter in Spanish, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube

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.

New National Scorecard on Juvenile Record Policies

Juvenile Law Center today launched Failed Policies, Forfeited Futures: Revisiting a National Scorecard on Juvenile Records – a national report evaluating state juvenile records policies. The organization will be holding a national press zoom call on the scorecard today at 12:30 pm EST.

The report updates a project the organization launched in the fall of 2014 – the nation’s first-ever, comprehensive evaluation of state juvenile record confidentiality and expungement laws against best practices for record protection. The 2014 study showed that over 50% of the states failed to adequately protect juvenile records, thereby limiting opportunities for youth exiting the juvenile justice system.

Six years later, Juvenile Law Center’s new report shows some reform but remaining widespread deficiencies in the legal protections necessary to keep juvenile records secure.

The report’s primary author, Staff Attorney Andrew Keats, emphasized the importance of reforming juvenile record laws. “Kids make mistakes,” said Keats. “The role of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate them to prevent future mistakes and ensure they can become productive members of society. These goals are frustrated by ongoing access to juvenile record information by law enforcement, schools, businesses and the public, long after a youth’s system involvement has ended.”

While some states acted quickly to reform their laws following release of the 2014 report, too many states continue to provide easy access to juvenile records, which push young people with system involvement—primarily Black and Brown youth—deeper into the criminal justice system and poverty. Juvenile Law Center hopes this new report will return a spotlight to this issue and drive states to do better by their youth. While overall incarceration rates of young people are down substantially since 2014, lax records laws will continue to impede opportunities for future success going forward.

“The collateral consequences of unprotected juvenile records fall most heavily on Black and Brown youth, who are far more likely to face obstacles to securing housing, employment, and a college degree than their white counterparts,” said Riya Saha Shah, Managing Director. “If we want to advance equity, strong juvenile records laws must be part of the solution.”

Mr. Keats and Ms. Shah are available for comment and interview. Please join them both at 12:30 pm EST for a national national press zoom call on the scorecard:

Meeting ID: 764 9954 1320

Passcode: Lm3N15

Juvenile Law Center advocates for rights, dignity, equity and opportunity for youth in the child welfare and justice systems. Founded in 1975, Juvenile Law Center is the first non-profit, public interest law firm for children in the country. We fight for youth through litigation, appellate advocacy and submission of amicus (friend-of-the-court) briefs, policy reform, public education, training, consulting, and strategic communications. Widely published and internationally recognized as leaders in the field, Juvenile Law Center has substantially shaped the development of law and policy on behalf of youth. We strive to ensure that laws, policies, and practices affecting youth advance racial and economic equity and are rooted in research, consistent with children’s unique developmental characteristics, and reflective of international human rights values.

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.

360 Magazine, Chadwick Journals

“The Chadwick Journals” QxA

“The Chadwick Journals” is a 3-season series featured on Amazon Prime that deals with psychological and sexual journeys of men of color while they lead double lives and explore their identities. Deondray Gossett, a Los Angeles native, has been writing and producing this series since 2011. Married to Deondray, Quincy Le Near is also a producer and director of this series. Below, both masterminds share their experiences and insights related to creating the series:

1. How did your past directing experiences prepare you for directing “The Chadwick Journals?”

DEONDRAY:

Our whole franchise The DL Chronicles and The Chadwick Journals has always been produced the same: no money, guerilla-style, last-minute shooting. Chadwick Journals was just business as usual for us: no money and last-minute. We greenlit it 1 week before shooting and was still casting the project all the way up until 17 hours before call time on the first day. 

QUINCY: 

If I think about it, from the scope of my earliest experiences, this is literally how I began as a child. I created short films as a child, casting my younger cousins and friends in roles, and shooting in and about our homes. It’s pretty comical to recognize that directing the Chadwick Journals is basically the same process, albeit with real SAG actors and much more expensive equipment but with the same Indie spirit and approach.

2. What have been some of the biggest challenges with directing this series?

DEONDRAY:

Money… (laughs). With our limited budget, we often don’t have a lot of money to finesse our scenes. We get a max of three takes from each very limited angle on our very short shot list. It’s very intense and fast-paced. We shoot 10 pages a day on average, so casting is crucial; we have to get actors who are well-trained, come to set extremely prepared, and can nail the material in the limited amount of takes we give them. The cast and crew are completely exhausted after our typical 12-hour workdays and 5 consecutive days of shooting, so as I directed, I have to find creative ways to help them keep up with the pace. We keep a very Zen and fun atmosphere so that the exhaustion never compromises their performances, but instead enhances them.

QUINCY: 

In the beginning, season I, it was basically a two-man operation; cinematography, lighting, wardrobe, sound, direction, editing, etc. Not having money means you have to juggle all of the plates and it’s much more difficult to give 100% focus on perfecting one aspect of production. Luckily, we both have very versatile skill sets and experiences so we can perform those roles, but a director should only have one important job to focus on. A cinematographer has one job to focus on. A sound engineer, gaff, grip, etc. all only have to do their jobs when there is a full paid crew and you create a better-quality project because of it. 

Trying to do it all yourself, out of necessity, leaves a lot to be desired in the end. We managed to spend a little more and afford more crew each season, but it’s been an uphill battle. Luckily the fans are captivated by the great story and the strong performances but the perfectionist in me wishes we could remake the first season the way it deserves to be seen. Who knows? Maybe if we strike a deal to bring this show to cable or streaming networks like Amazon, Hulu, or Netflix, we can remake and expand upon them. That would be amazing.   

3. What have been some of the most rewarding experiences of working with the actors?

DEONDRAY:

Watching them have breakthroughs as artists. Particularly from the latest season of The Chadwick Journals, Damian Toofeek Raven, Jemar Michael, and Skyh Black all had breakthroughs right before my eyes on set. There was no time for a pre-table read, so a lot of my direction was on-the-fly. I was amazed at how quickly they adjusted to the slightest nudge from me. They would go from zero to a hundred with emotion with just a simple, “Dig deeper.” It was at these moments, even in the midst of all the exhaustion and all of the fires that were burning that I thought to myself, “I made some damn good casting choices.” They made my job so much easier, and Damian’s breakthrough garnered him a 2020 Daytime Emmy® nomination for “Outstanding Principal Performance in a Daytime Program” for his leading role in this season of The Chadwick Journals.

QUINCY:

Damian Toofeek Raven who plays Chadwick has been with us for 15 years since the DL Chronicles series was created in 2005. He is our brother and working with him is like playtime for us. He’s always very concerned about connecting to the backstory and inner world of Chadwick. He cares about how Chadwick is portrayed as much as we do. Just to be able to create with someone we’ve grown to love is a plus and with someone who cares for your creation the same or even more than you do is priceless.   

4. How have the LGBTQ+ and African-American communities responded to the series?

DEONDRAY:

Honestly, though we’re critically acclaimed in the larger LGBTQ+ community, we’re really only known by the film connoisseurs and the gay Hollywood Elite. To the average white viewing audience, we still remain largely unknown even after 15 years of making this show. Conversely, gay and lesbian African-American, LatinX, Asian, and other people of color hang our posters on the wall. Two very different worlds that still remain separated by cultural and racial lines. We also surprisingly have a large straight African-American female audience who watches the show. They are some of our most vocal viewers who astonishingly aren’t always harping on the DL phenomenon, but actually are engaged in the characters and the plots. To have them as part of our fanbase is SUPER flattering for us. 

QUINCY:

I second that. 

5. What kind of audience(s) would you advise or want to watch the series, and why?

DEONDRAY:

Though we obviously are a series that’s trying to give a voice to the gay black community, we feel like our stories are universal. I think most people can identify with identity and self-love issues, which is ultimately the theme of both of our shows. Love is the undercurrent of every single episode, and I feel like you possess any amount of empathy, you will resonate with the characters whether you’re straight, gay, black, or white.

QUINCY:

Anyone who has ever felt like they had to pretend to be someone they weren’t to be accepted. Anyone who has felt forced to make decisions that were not in their best interest or desires out of fear. Anyone who has felt they would be unloved for being their authentic selves or voicing their dissent. That’s who these stories are about. Regardless of gender, race, or sexuality, we hope that anyone watching who might share those experiences can identify with these characters. 

6. How has the series evolved over the 3 seasons and why are the seasons spread out in the way they are over the past decade?

DEONDRAY:

The Chadwick Journals literally began as a fundraiser for the, then upcoming, re-launch of the The DL Chronicles back in 2011. It was meant to be a hybrid prequel/sequel that was going to energize the fanbase and raise funds. Fans always wanted to know who Chadwick Williams (the narrator of the The DL Chronicles) was and how he was tied to the characters, so this spinoff web series idea done much like HBO’s In Treatment seemed like a perfect vehicle. The first season, “Donovan” (co-starring Nic Few) took the festival circuit by storm and added more than 10,000 subscribers to our YouTube channel in just a month. We knew we had something, and we knew we needed to make more episodes, but just didn’t have the funding. We still self-finance the series to this day. Our second season, “Niquarterli” (co-starring Thomas Hobson) didn’t happen until 2016, and the current season, “Oren” (co-starring Jemar Michael) in 2019. The gaps are simply due to financing. We’re making moves now to up our content volume so that our &SEEN Network streaming platforms can provide more programming to our viewers, which will create a stable and consistent subscriber population.  

7. What does it feel like to be nominated for an Emmy and how will you use this accomplishment to move forward with your careers?

DEONDRAY:

This honestly feels like a dream. We’ve been creating this content for the past 15 years. We’ve gone from being independent, to being on the air, then back to independent again. We’ve sat on the front seats at award shows and won, and then years later not even able to get into the afterparty. Hollywood can be very mean and two-faced. We kept our chins up and continued to believe in the work we were doing thanks to our very loyal and loving fanbase. This current season of The Chadwick Journals almost died after having been passed around to several would-be investors who ultimately weren’t interested. Something told me not to let this die, so I took out a personal business loan and once again financed it ourselves. Looks like it was the best decision I could have ever made.

QUINCY:

I’m honored and still pretty flabbergasted. We’ve had a good campfire once before and when that died down there was no more heat. We managed to keep the ember smoldering, waiting for that gust of wind that will ignite it again. This industry is all about the heat, whose bringing it, whose flame is brighter, whose sending up the visible smoke signals this week. Who can I make s’mores with? LOL. One minute you’re hot, the next minute you’re not, so you have to be ready to jump on the opportunity when the opportunity comes back around. This nomination feels like that gust of wind. If we win, it will open the doors again to “be in the room where happens.” 

So, I feel just like Alexander Hamilton, “I’m not gonna miss my shot.”   

8. What is the overall message that you both want to convey through the series?

DEONDRAY:

It sounds cliché now, but the message simply is, it gets better. DL and closeted men are often seeking approval from the folks that ultimately don’t matter.  Everybody you want to love you, won’t, but you can find your own tribe. Stop seeking out the things and people that can’t see your beauty. Pay attention to the ones that can. 

QUINCY:

To find a way to heal yourself and be authentic. I want people to feel free and unafraid. I want people to know that they may only have this one life to live and to not waste it on conformity. Live in your truth and not in a lie that someone else, society, culture, or religion, coercers you to accept. There is joy to be had if you let it lead you.  

9. How has the past decade’s pop culture and history informed the series’s direction over the course of the 3 seasons?

DEONDRAY:

Pop culture has had very little impact on the show really, as we are still dealing with an age-old and unfortunately timeless issue. This question has been posed to us before: “How does The DL Chronicles and The Chadwick Journals fit in with the current state and condition of LGBTQ+ people? Is it still relevant? Is it dated?” And my answer to those questions is always yes, it still has a place, yes, it’s still relevant, and no, it’s not dated. While the larger white LGBTQ+ community is becoming more and more emancipated, the subsets (LGBTQ+ African Americans and people of color) have largely been stagnant. I’m not talking about life for the Black Gay Elite (myself included), which is drastically different in terms of acceptance and access than it was 10 years ago; I’m talking about the average gay, lesbian, trans-Black and LatinX folks who still live in the hoods and barrios of America. It’s still unsafe for them to walk the streets in their truth and to be out and open in their churches. This series is speaking to and for them.

QUINCY:

I’m not sure that Pop Culture itself has had a direct influence, but I can say that some modern social issues have had an influence, specifically with episode Oren which deals with an HIV serodiscordant relationship and the use of PrEP for prevention. Even season 2 Niiquartelai touched on sex-positive sex work and polyamorous relationships which were once pretty taboo subject matters. Those weren’t topics of conversation that were openly discussed 10 years ago or even existed. If I think about season II it did include a sex tape that was found on a smartphone. Does that count as Pop Culture since everyone seems to have them? 

10. Are you both planning on directing more seasons, and in any case, how do you both want “The Chadwick Journals” legacy to live on?

DEONDRAY:

TV and Film directing is our passion, so yes, we will definitely continue to direct on the shows; however, we don’t have to do all of them. It has always been our plan to nurture new talent to be able to pass the torch and allow them to add their creative spin on our shows and possibly help them to produce their own original ideas.

We hope that the Emmy® nomination will help get the much-needed eyes on the show to enable us to not only continue to make this two needle-moving and groundbreaking series to be there as moral support for the community, but to also be able to create new original content that graduates our community from a place of self-acceptance to a place of full unapologetic existence and expression.

QUINCY: We have created a franchise and this character, and these stories can live in so many ways; TV, film, podcasts, novels, interactive books, chapter books, graphic novels, web shorts, etc. So, the sky’s the limit and I look forward to exploring it.

 

Rita Azar, 360 Magazine, illustration, corporation

Companies Profiting from BLM

By Eamonn Burke

As the nation grapples with the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, among many others over many years, protests have called for massive police and corporate reform. Changes have already been made, as major companies and institutions have begun to exclude forms of racism and include new reforms and statements. However, as with many corporate sentiments, the genuine nature of these statements is being called into question and exposed as hollow.

It has become a trend for major companies to undertake policies and claim responsibility for social issues, in what is known as “Political Corporate Social Responsibility.” Media is flooded with brands preaching change and pledging to be a part of it. In today’s instant society, however, it is difficult to discern the true motives of these businesses in their support of the BLM movement.

Major companies like Microsoft and Amazon have been actively projecting support for the BLM movement, yet both corporations have shockingly low involvement of black people within their company structure. Intel joined in the trend with a cringey tweet as well.

Fast food companies like Wendy’s and Burger King, and Popeyes have also seemingly been using the movement to boost their reputation using tweets and ads, despite the fact that they thrive on minimum wage workers who are often people of color. The stark insensitivity is reminiscent of Pepsi’s distasteful ad that was pulled amidst the movement in 2017. Some companies, however, didn’t even try to voice support. One such company was Starbucks, who announced that employees were forbidden from wearing BLM merchandise, a policy that has since been reversed. Other food brands such as Quaker Oats are making real changes – the Aunt Jemima brand will be dropped because of it’s racial stereotyping, as well as Uncle Ben’s.

Following a petition signed by more than 5,000 people, Trader Joe’s announced in July that they would be changing the names of their “racist packaging” such as “Trader Ming’s” and “Trader José.” San Francisco High School student Briones Bedell, who started the petition, claimed that “The Trader Joe’s branding is racist because it exoticizes other cultures — it presents ‘Joe’ as the default ‘normal’ and the other characters falling outside of it.”

The company is now going back on that promise, and have says in a new statement that “We disagree that any of these labels are racist,” arguing that they are meant to show appreciation for these cultures. Company spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel originally had accepted the petition, acknowledging that it may have the opposite effect of its intended inclusiveness. Now, however, she says that they will only look into these types of changes from employees, not from petitions online.

The racial revolution in the wake of George Floyd’s death has seen the downfall of other brands and images such as Aunt Jemima and the Washington Redskins, but Trader Joe’s is the first prominent one to resist the “cancel culture.”

What consumers really want, however, is not posts on social media. They want real action and real change. This means companies should “Open Their Purse” and donate to anti-racism organizations. Many companies have, but many have also donated to campaigns for Congress people that are rejected by the NAACP.

The public is skeptical of these statements and promises, and not without reason. The history of major businesses like Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have in the past had to cover up allegations of discrimation, and others fail to include minority members in their top ranks. Other major institutions like the NFL condemned the kneeling for the National Anthem just a few years ago, but is now apologizing and admitting the players were right. The question remains: have sentiments truly changed?

Brands and institutions are recognizing that being anti-racist and pro-BLM is selling more than ever. “Costs Signals,” which are the cost that companies pay to undertake these policy changes, are what should be used for judgement, says UPenn Marketing Professor Cait Lamberton to ABC News. Andre Perry, another ABC correspondent from Brookings Institution, warns that “These statements are a sign of defensiveness more so than an indication that they are proactively working to deconstruct racism in this country.”

For a list of donations made by major companies click here.

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.”