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Joyful Transition: From BALLE Fellow to BALLE Executive Director

"I am humbled and honored to join every one of you in your efforts to build healthy, equitable local economies."

Friends,

It’s been a tremendous, whirlwind week visiting several communities across the country, engaging and learning from remarkable leaders as I begin my journey as BALLE’s Executive Director.

In New Orleans, I spoke on impact investing and African American business at the Change Philanthropy UNITY Summit, a one-of-a-kind gathering to create a collaborative space for cross-community dialogue and collective action among philanthropic leaders, activists, and advocates from LGBTQIA, Hispanic, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Native American, and African American communities, among others.

In Little Rock and DeWitt, Arkansas, I joined the BALLE Leadership Network for a learning journey focused on ecosystem-building and place-based impact investing to build economies that work for all in those communities.

At the UNITY Summit, panelist Aaron Walker of Camelback Ventures cited recent analysis that the median wealth of African American households will be zero by 2053, with Latino Americans following in 2073. This wasn’t shocking – the racial wealth gaps in America are alarming and well-documented.

As the U.S. marches toward becoming majority people of color by 2044, the precarious economic fortunes of the new majority – a group historically and increasingly excluded from the middle class – spells trouble for the entire economy.

I have reflected on this deeply, as should we all.

I’ve witnessed firsthand the destructive effect the racial wealth divide has on a community from my time living and working in my hometown of Baltimore, a place like so many across the nation that has had its economy devastated by systemic racism, post-industrialization, and corporate welfare. I saw similarities in Little Rock, a city that has become majority African American and Hispanic because of white flight and economic dislocation, and is grappling with its shifting demography as it seeks solutions to the challenges in the local economy.

Despite these challenges, Little Rock is brimming with innovation, ingenuity, and possibility thanks in large part to the leadership of individuals like 2016 BALLE Fellow and Communities Unlimited CEO Ines Polonius, local economy investor Pat Riley, and Local Economy Foundation Circle member, Sarah Kinser, Chief Program Officer for the Arkansas Community Foundation. They are not alone in this work; they have attracted, collaborated with, and organized a phenomenal ecosystem of stakeholders to reimagine and build an economy that works on behalf of all the residents of Arkansas.

As Martin Luther King, Jr., pronounced, an “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I’ve spent my career in philanthropy, social innovation, and economic development guided by this principle. The injustices endured in Appalachia, urban America, and Native communities wreaks havoc across our entire economy. The BALLE leadership community – Aaron TanakaJessica NorwoodDerrick BrazielAlfa Demmellash, and so many others – is at the forefront of building local economies that genuinely work for everyone.

As I make the transition from Baltimore to Oakland, from BALLE Fellow to BALLE Executive Director, I am humbled and honored to join every one of you in your efforts to build healthy, equitable local economies. It becomes clearer to me with each passing day that our individual and collective futures depend on it.

Love and power,

RDF

 

Categories: The Longview