Mary-Pat Hector became a community organizer as a preteen. Now 24, the Georgia-based graduate student still notices that whatever issue she campaigns around, she struggles to get investors to fund her projects. She didn’t see investment in work done by Black women organizers as she got older, and wondered if funders put up more walls not only because of her age, but race and gender, too.
Hector noticed more investment in Black people since summer 2020, when the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police sparked a racial justice reckoning across the globe. But not many people were investing time or money in Black women organizers “who are making a difference in the world in different spaces and different fields,” Hector said.
At the same time, Gabrielle Wyatt noticed “phenomenal Black leaders” faced burnout that felt “very different and dire” following the demand on Black activists during 2020, she said. She couldn’t wait to see if companies would “put their money where their mouths are,” and wanted to create a “by us, for us” approach. In 2021, she launched the Highland Project as a funnel to get dollars in Black women leaders’ pockets, including Hector’s.
“I kept asking myself what if my friends, what if I, no longer work in these fields as systems change to create generational opportunity? What would happen to our babies, to their babies?” Wyatt said. “I wanted to figure out how do you pair trusting capital for Black women leaders with a space that’s unapologetically focused on their sustainability and well-being.”
It’s hard to tell where companies’ dollars promised in summer 2020 went, or if internal changes occurred nearly two years later, as there isn’t a central entity tracking outcomes of these commitments.
Economist William Michael Cunningham has not seen as much “intentionality around actually getting money out the door.” His consulting firm, Creative Investment Research, tracks pledges and efforts of 261 private companies that promised financial support for Blac
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