Lately I’ve been struggling with the language of the non-profit world: “giving people a voice” and “empowering people”…
Beloveds, people have a voice. The dominant culture ignores it, drowns it out, disregards it…but people have a voice. People are speaking.
Empowering is defined as “giving someone the authority or power to do something.” The idea that the dominant culture can or will empower the oppressed is an unlikely one at best, a well-funded lie in truth.
Many of you may remember learning abolitionist Fredrick Douglass’s insight:
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
In a recent conversation with a community member serving a large foundation I was told, “if philanthropy had been involved in the Civil Rights movement, their answer would have been to air-condition the back of the buses.”So I have been looking for leaders and models of social change that have stepped away from the institutionally protective illusions of voiceless people waiting to be given power.
Recently I had the honor of sharing WBOK radio time with Deon Haywood, Executive Director of Women With a Vision* (http://wwav-no.org/). She did not waste any precious air time dealing with the smoke and mirrors of dominant culture. She spoke with a voice (hers), from a place of power claimed (not given). Did you hear her?
Beloveds, let’s stop using the white lies of philanthropy to air-condition the damage this country’s white supremacist culture has created. It is time to hear the voices speaking clearly in the world, working to claim power that has yet to be freely shared. People are speaking. Listen.
*The mission of Women With A Vision is to improve the lives of marginalized women, their families, and communities by addressing the social conditions that hinder their health and well-being. We accomplish this through relentless advocacy, health education, supportive services, and community-based participatory research.