In this issue, we meet with Arelis Diaz (Director, Office of the President) and Ciciley “CC” Moore (Program Officer, Office of the President) of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. We hear their perspectives on the pivotal role individuals play in advancing racial equity and shaping change in organizations and communities.
[Image description: Arelis, pictured on the left, smiling against a soft multi-colored blue-yellow background. She is wearing a dark brown blazer and white shirt. CC, pictured on the right, smiling wearing a black blazer and a bright blue shirt.]
From your personal perspective working in a foundation with a long racial equity history, how has your understanding of the relationship between individual and institutional transformation evolved?
Arelis: Institutions are made up of individuals. What I have learned through my time in philanthropy is that senior leaders must share the same values and vision for racial equity as their organization. This means that they look at their own policies and their own practices and really challenge themselves about what can be transformed. From our foundation’s journey, we know that this is a critical component for effectiveness: that individual commitments must align to the organization’s. We cannot disconnect the institution from the individuals.
CC: Coming out of 2020, it was clear to me the connection between the work necessary for individuals to do and the work of institutions for creating organizational change. The past year taught us that funding can happen at the speed of light. We were literally seeing change happen within timelines that would have previously taken years. A lot of that had to do with public pressure, and a lot of it was individuals having an awakening about the work they needed to do to be better leaders and neighbors. I think our organizations and communities are benefitting from the individual work people are doing.
Do you experience any points of tension between your personal commitment to racial equity and where your institution is on its internal racial equity journey?
Arelis: I think for me it’s not so much tension; it’s an enhancement of my own journey.
I feel blessed to work for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. When I came in, what surprised me was how I could be my full Afro-Latina self for the first time. I had not realized yet that this had not been the case in previous professional spaces. One “a-ha” early on was acknowledging what I had been surrounded by, even in my own family. An example is colorism and the messages I heard growing up about the value of lighter skin. The foundation offered a safe learning environment to analyze those messages. Coming from the Dominican [Republic] I began to intentionally acknowledge and understand how colorism and colonialism created a caste system that disconnects us from our Indigenous roots. There is something powerful about realizing something like that and then the action that you want to take. As a funder, we do a lot of grant and portfolio reviews. As you acknowledge your own personal growth, you start asking what else can we do as a foundation or what else can I do as a program team to advance racial equity? Where are the voices that are not heard? Who is not being included in our grantmaking?
In your own personal and professional journey, what has kept you motivated, curious, and hopeful about the fight for racial equity and racial justice?
CC: The work of racial equity and racial justice is really personal for me, so there’s no giving up. There’s a constant moving forward; there’s no turn off, turn on, or quit. Being able to, like Arelis said, bring my full self into work and pursue the work alongside folks committed to the same thing is that perfect matching of purpose. It’s my peers, colleagues, and our grantee partners that keep me motivated. We meet and work with so many amazing people with beautiful energy, innovative ideas, and deep rooted commitments to move racial equity forward in community. It is a beautiful thing to see and experience. I don’t think we take enough time to pause, talk about it, and really take that in. But that’s what keeps me going personally and professionally.
Arelis: I’m a former elementary teacher and principal. So what motivates me is knowing that there are so many structures needing transformation for our children and communities. It is not okay to suspend 3- and 4-year-olds or arrest a 6- or 7-year-old because they have a temper tantrum. That’s motivation for me to be able to say, we can help. Our foundation can support and work with organizations that are putting a stop to these harmful practices that don’t make sense. It’s because of racial inequities, injustices, and racism that this kind of harmful action and behavior is tolerated. So I am motivated by taking bold, courageous steps to disrupt these types of systems so that we can protect children and make sure that families are thriving.
What do you think has helped accelerate WKKF’s journey to integrate racially equitable policies and practices? What do you think has been a barrier?
Arelis: I think what has helped us accelerate is our boldness. Our entire organization and leadership team, including our board, gives us the backing, the encouragement, and the support to be able to say “disrupt systems.” I think our authentic commitment to infusing what we call our DNA—racial equity, community engagement, and leadership—into everything we do helps us, too, because it offers the right lenses and approaches for pursuing change internally and externally. Our leadership and board challenge us to take bold action. We have this constant support system, and that’s challenging ourselves to do this work. So I think that’s an accelerator for us. It’s like our foot on the pedal all the way. There’s no braking.
CC: I’ll reaffirm what Arelis touched on. Racial equity work is not siloed for us. It’s not one department or team that is responsible for it. Since I walked in the door, everyone throughout the foundation— from human resources to programming to communications to finance—is part of our journey, and there’s time set aside for staff to do dedicated work around it. We hold quarterly learning sessions on the foundation’s DNA (racial equity, community engagement, and leadership) led by internal staff and external experts. The sessions share the foundation’s journey over time and draw from history and relevant topics from today. Everybody is invited to bring whatever knowledge and experiences they’ve had in their lives because we acknowledge that everybody’s on their own journey. Just like in the world or in any type of system, there are differences in perspectives, and we have a lot to learn about and from one another. You cannot make assumptions that everybody comes with the same understanding, experience, or commitment that you do. That was a big eye-opener for me, and I think I wouldn’t really call it a barrier. Instead, it’s something that we all have the opportunity to check for.
We’re in a moment where organizations are making clear commitments, often for the first time, to racial equity and justice. Recognizing that WKKF has been a racial equity grantmaker for decades and committed to being an anti-racist organization in 2007, what advice would you give to organizations that want to put real action behind their words?
CC: Ask yourself: Is your organization doing the internal work? Is your leadership team and board making the commitment and bringing it into the entire organization? Are you examining your organization’s history so you can acknowledge any necessary truths before you begin advancing racial equity work internally or externally? There is a long history, globally, but especially in the U.S. context, of how we got where we are today. How does that history still show up in the policies and practices that are a part of your organization? It’s important to remember that this work is a journey and that it will take time. So it’s really about taking an honest look at where you are and committing time from your leadership and staff to do the hard work. I think that’s critical. The other thing I would say in the context of the past year is to listen and trust the people and leaders at the community-level. When we’re talking about philanthropy and putting dollars out the door in times like these, we have to let those connected to the community lead the way.
Arelis: I echo the recommendation to be close to the voices of the community and the grassroots. Authentic community engagement is part of the foundation’s DNA and formula for change. When you listen to grantees and the communities in which you work, you become part of a consistent feedback loop that informs the racial equity and racial justice work you are doing. You listen and adjust, listen and adjust, listen and adjust. There is tremendous wisdom in the community and a lot of times, humility will take you far. In addition, I’d recommend that people and organizations work to find ways to continually check for implicit biases. We all have them. So checking for them and making sure that you’re facing them as an organization and as an individual will take you further. As an organization, face your brutal facts, so you can do something about it.
Where can people learn more about the Kellogg Foundation’s journey?
Arelis: If you are interested in learning more about our story, take a look at a publication called “One Journey: Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.” It has useful ideas for your organization as you pursue your own racial equity journey.
REP Network and Ecosystem At A Glance
March 8 was International Women’s Day. Women’s Funding Work calls on philanthropy to continue to support intersectional gender and racial justice. “Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day by providing powerful support to funds fueling social change for all genders, worldwide.”
“Recovery Response in the Aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puetro Rico,” co-authored by Dr. Charlotte Lewellen-Williams of the Clinton School. This article examines race and racism in the responses to Hurricane Irma and Maria. Article originally appeared in Health Equity journal.
In response to the rise in violence against elderly Asian Americans across the country, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy addresses ways philanthropy can respond.
Hispanics in Philanthropy’s HIPGive launched #GOMujeres 2021, a digital movement for gender equity across the Americas.
“The Four Principles of Purpose-Driven Board Leadership.” What is purpose-driven board leadership? In this article, Anne Wallestad (President & CEO of BoardSource) dives into how boards can orient themselves differently, centering equity and the communities they purport to serve.
- The State of Small-Staffed Philanthropy webinar, hosted by Exponent Philanthropy on March 24, 2021.
- Register ASAP to attend the GEO Spring 2021 Learning Series (virtual), March 25—May 20, 2021. Deadline to apply is midnight, March 16.
- ABFE Harambee 2021 Virtual Conference, April 4-7.
- Funding Forward 2021 (virtual), May 4-7, 2021. Got a session idea? Submit your proposal by March 18.
- GEO Virtual Learning Conference, May 24-25, 2021. Early bird registration is open now.
- PEAK 2021 Online, May 4—13, 2021
- Call for sessions for R/evolution: EPIP 2021 National Virtual Conference | June 7—11.
Equity in the Center‘s upcoming workshops:
- “For Colored Folks Who Consider Their Mutual Liberation Enough” | April 5, 2021.
- Intersectional Allyship for Racial Justice: A Workshop for White Allies, May 4 & 5 | June 8 & 9
- Building Black Power: Dismantling Anti-blackness in Our Institutions, May 24 | June 21
- Racial Justice Stances: Grounding in Our Truths, April 23 & 30.
- Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture Open Enrollment Sessions | Individuals (July 12 & 19) & Organizations (April 12 & 19, 2021).
Director of Indigenous Knowledge and Power Building Networks, Native Americans in Philanthropy.
Communty Philanthropy Fellowship, Center for Community Philanthropy.
Data and Network Consultant, CHANGE Philanthropy
Borealis Philanthropy is hiring for the following positions: Executive Assistant, Communications Director, Director of Racial Equity Initiatives, Black Led Program Officer, and Racial Equity in Journalism Director. View all positions here.