What We Learned from Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free!

September 18, 2020

At Borealis Philanthropy, we are invested in honoring the joyful legacy and powerful contributions of Black trans folks, particularly Black trans women, whose determination and innovation continue to shape the direction of many of our social justice movements today. 

On September 10, 2020, we hosted a dynamic donor-learning event, Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free: Black Trans Leadership & Organizing for Catalytic Change, where we made space to soak up the wisdom of three Black trans women activists across generations.

Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free showcased the work of the legendary Miss Major Griffin-Gracy whose legacy of activism extends six decades and founder of the House of GG – Griffin-Gracy Educational Retreat and Historical Center, Toni-Michelle Williams, the executive director of Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative in Atlanta, and Bré Rivera, whose Black Trans Fund project is currently being incubated at the Groundswell Fund

During the webinar, each of these trailblazing leaders shared invaluable insights on the realities of trans women today, how far they’ve come as a community, as well as the legacies they hope to impart on the world. 

Watch Miss Major reflect on her journey as a Black trans activist since the 1950s. “This has been going on since the 50s when I was a young person. And it’s just not going to stop. You know, we have to fight as often as possible, wherever we stand.”

Watch Bré Rivera reflect on the significance of the Trans Tipping Point and the dire positions many trans folks find themselves in today. “We were at this moment where we reached a peak and now we’re slowly but surely losing our rights, more trans people are being murdered. Right. And the resources aren’t set up to actually set us up for liberation.”

Watch Toni-Michelle Williams speak on legacy and her dream for her community.  “And I wish and desire for my people true satisfaction […] satisfaction that allows you to truly rest. And I want black people to be able to rest. I want black people to be able to experience joy, to laugh out loud.”

Organized by Borealis’ Fund for Trans Generations, led by Ryan Li Dahlstrom, the Black-Led Movement Fund, led by Julia Beatty, and the Transforming Movements Fund led by Dani Martinez, this event provided Borealis an opportunity to showcase the collective impact of our intersectional approach to grantmaking, and model for others the value of collaboration in philanthropy.

“There are real opportunities right now for transformation in our society, to have divestment from systems that tear our communities apart, and to invest in real community safety and resilience. The possibilities of this moment are thanks to the energy and vision of Black trans women, leaders and communities,” says the Transforming Movements Fund’s program director, Dani Martinez.

A Call To Action for Philanthropy

Our panelists shared tangible ways that Philanthropy can support Black trans-led work moving forward, namely investing in Black trans-leadership, welcoming trans folks into decision-making spaces, and resourcing folks with continued and sustainable financial support.  

Watch Bré Rivera name the importance of seeing Black trans people in philanthropic spaces. “I envision a world where joy and liberation are at our center. Where we have the resources we need and are able to thrive.”

Watch Toni-Michelle speak about the trans community’s desire to lead themselves. “Trans folks deserve the right and have the capacity to govern ourselves, resource ourselves, and also to keep ourselves safe.”

Watch Miss Major make the case for increased financial support to Black trans communities.  “They don’t fund us with enough money to get the job done, you know, because if we had enough money, we would do the things [and] a lot of Black girls would be able to get settled and then go on.”

We extend thanks to Miss Major, Bré Rivera and Toni-Michelle for sharing their stories and reminding us of the philanthropy’s responsibility to serve our communities. We encourage you to invest in the powerful work of Black trans organizers, and to consider partnering with Borealis Philanthropy so that together we can ensure that the needs of these communities are always met. 

To learn more about partnering with Borealis contact Maya Berkowitz

Learn more about our panelists today: