With Foundations as Partners, Communities of Color Can Share Creative Visions

David Cournoyer is co-chair of the board of directors of Native Americans in Philanthropy, a Council on Foundations affinity group that seeks to build bridges between foundations and Native communities. He has worked at two national private foundations as well as the American Indian College Fund, and he previously worked for a decade as a television journalist. Cournoyer is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota.

It’s no secret that the United States is growing more racially and ethnically diverse. Don’t you remember the breathtaking pictures of literally tens of thousands of people taking to the streets about immigration reform? Did you miss the news about the growing number of states with “majority-minority” populations?

More recently, the headlines have focused on Senator Barack Obama’s courageous appeal to Americans to recognize both the progress we have made and the significant racial disparities that still exist. It was an historic call to acknowledge that we are not yet “a more perfect union” fully capitalizing on America’s rich diversity, which brings a broad array of knowledge, cultural values and perspectives.

What is philanthropy doing about this? Where’s the Obama-like, bold leadership? If the nimble nonprofit sector can’t provide aggressive support and commitment to help the U.S. capitalize on its diversity and fully promote the voice of underserved communities, where will it come from? Unfortunately, many of us in the sector who represent communities of color are not setting our expectations very high.


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