Black Disabled Liberation:

A Case for Funding Cross-Movement Power

If racism is the ideology for situating specific people in subordinated locations, then ableism is how that goal is achieved: by situating the learning, thinking, and behaviors of Black and Brown people as ‘less than’ and ‘inferior.’

— Dr. Subini Ancy Annamma

As funders who support movement-led strategies, we believe it is our responsibility to heed the guidance of movement. And time and again, movement leaders remind us: our collective liberation will not be realized through silos. This knowing is born of a deep awareness of the manifold ways systems of oppression—like anti-Blackness and ableism—depend on and inform one another.

“Racism and ableism are mutually constitutive because they need each other to survive; whiteness needed to ‘other’ Black and Brown people, and did so through ableism.”

Black disabled folks live at an intersection of identities that carry the weight of historical othering, a ranking of bodies, and individual and systemic violence. But more importantly, they belong to a lineage of resistance, a deep tradition of communal care—and possess an inherent and informed understanding of the steps we must take to arrive at a truly liberated future. And yet, funding for their work is severely lacking.

Only 2% of total philanthropic giving is allocated for disability-focused initiatives, the majority of which goes towards disability services and support. Only 6% of these funds are granted to systems change or justice-oriented work. Intersectional giving is also low, with only one-third of disability-related grants going towards disabled and BIPOC-led work. 

  • Despite an uptick in resource mobilization in response to the racial justice uprisings of 2020, funding for Black communities still represents only 2.1% of philanthropic giving overall—and funds dedicated to racial justice comprise just 1% of overall grants distributed.

  • A majority of Black-led and Black-benefiting nonprofits operate on less than $500,000 a year, with nearly one-third operating with just $30,000 a year.

  • Furthermore, BIPOC-led and -serving organizations are expecting greater divestment due to funders acting out of fear of the Supreme Court’s recent decision outlawing race-based decision making. 

    From these reports—and the words we hear directly, from Black disabled organizers—we know that philanthropic support for organizing around disability and Blackness is essentially nonexistent, and in no way meets the scale of transformation changemakers are pursuing. The Black Disabled Liberation Project is our contribution.

    The Black Disabled Liberation Project

    Seeded by a $1 million investment from the Black-Led Movement Fund (BLMF), in partnership with the Disability Inclusion Fund, we, Julia Beatty and Sandy Ho of Borealis Philanthropy, launched The Black Disabled Liberation Project, a co-funding initiative to resource at the overlapping gap and intersections of disability and Blackness. 

    With our collaborators Yomi Young and India Harville as our guides, we began our grantmaking process by first aligning our teams under a political analysis and praxis steeped in disability justice principles and Black radical tradition. Then, through an intentional and collaborative process, we made awards to 10 Black disabled grassroots groups who are reimagining (or, in some cases, working to entirely erase) environments that reify and evoke anti-Blackness, carceral violence, eugenics, and systemic racism. We are honored and excited to share more about their work, elevate their wisdom, and describe our funding process throughout this site. 

     

    About This Site

    Above all, this site is an offering of love, clarity, and curiosity—an ode to the power of communal learning. It is a documenting container for the reflections and possibility-making that occur when funders center Black disabled wisdom and work. And plainly, it is also our attempt to:

    • Share, with our fellow funders, the need for—and actionable guidance around—abundant, intersectional, and anti-ableist grantmaking, and working in trusted partnership with communities.

    • Demonstrate the expansive nature of liberatory work—from arts and culture to mental health; movement infrastructure and community organizing; and healing justice—and catalog the wisdom of those living and leading at the intersection of Blackness and disability.

    • Make clear the unique role of philanthropic intermediaries in advancing collective liberation. (As our friend Vu Lee has penned, we like mycelium, the rootlike structure of mushrooms, exist to nourish, connect, sustain.) 

     

    Extending Our Gratitude—And An Invitation

    At the BLMF and DIF, we view intersectional organizing—and thus, intersectional funding—as a portal to freedom and joy. 

    To our funders and movement partners: we invite you to join us as co-conspirators on this justice journey, beginning with the wisdom contained in these digital pages. And as you peruse them, please do so knowing that: 

    • This knowledge vault is by no means meant to co-opt or invalidate the many and existing archivals of wisdom at the intersection of Blackness and disability; rather, this is our own attempt at gathering our sources of learning and inspiration into a shared politicized home, with the goal of shifting the philanthropic sector towards deepened accompliceship with Black disabled organizers.

    • This is a living and breathing working space, which we will continue to co-create as we expand our ever-developing liberatory consciousness—and one we invite you to contribute to as well. 

    To our grantee partners—and their fellow Black disabled organizers: thank you for allowing us to peep and grow from your gifts. We extend our endless love and gratitude for the myriad ways in which you bring your unbound thinking to the work of collective liberation. We see you, we appreciate you, and we are humbled to play a small part in furthering your efforts and visions. 

    FOR FUNDERS

    Learn about our process, a project timeline, questions we asked grantees, and more.

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    FOR CHANGEMAKERS

    Learn how you can move into this
    intersectional space, resources for
    organizations, and more.

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    FOR ALL

    Learn about our grantee partners, Black disabled leaders throughout history, and more.

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