I have been reflecting since last week when the events around the death of George Floyd began to resound not only in Minneapolis, not only around major cities in the United States, not only around the world, but most specifically in Spartanburg County.
As a community, we know that from the Spartanburg Racial Equity Index Report that was commissioned by the Spartanburg Community Indicators Project and released in 2018, we have significant inequities in our community, and when you disaggregate that data, you see that the black community is most disproportionately affected. “Data” is also such a sterile word; the data are people’s lives in our community, and The Spartanburg County Foundation is committed to improving the lives of ALL Spartanburg County residents. For me, this imparts a moral imperative to make a difference…but how?
In reflecting on data, on impact, on current events, on the voices being heard, I find myself trying to process all this information into a worthy response, from me personally and from The Spartanburg County Foundation. I want that response to be “perfect;” I want that response to be a solution, but I am reminded that four centuries have brought us to this reckoning. It will take more than a “perfect” response from one person or from one organization to break systems of inequity. As I reflect, I am frustrated that there isn’t a quick fix, a quick remedy, but I also know that we must have more than just reflection for a remedy. We must have action.
I was on one of what has now become an endless stream of Zoom calls the other day listening to a presentation on mission-aligned investing. One of the presenters was responding to some concerns from a listener about how to get started with mission-aligned investing: What if you make mistakes in the investment choices? How long did it take to implement? What were the obstacles to getting started? The listener wanted the investment makeup to be “perfect” from the start, and the presenter responded, “Don’t let ‘perfect’ be the enemy.”
It hit me like a ton of bricks…”Don’t let ‘perfect’ be the enemy.” It is time to take reflection to action as a community in Spartanburg County. The actions may not be “perfect;” there may be setbacks. There may be disagreement; there will be discomfort, but we must take action to move our community forward, and it starts with me. It starts with you. It starts with both the usual, as well as new and unexpected partners. It starts with donors and fundholders. We can all make a positive difference. Our community will benefit, but we must get started…”perfect” or not.
At The Spartanburg County Foundation, we have been seeking to uncover the inequities that have become so evident through the COVID-19 crisis that are impacting, again, disproportionately the black community. The Foundation, The Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Change and Community Leadership Fund, and Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System have been hosting REAL TALK: the Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on the Black Community. We were planning that our third forum in the series would bring some levity to encourage people in a crisis, but that levity was removed last week. You will see a different response now from the Foundation.
Equity is a stated value of The Spartanburg County Foundation, and the Foundation has been pleased to join with many community partners on the Racial Equity Collaborative; the Foundation has worked with community partners to bring to Spartanburg County the Racial Equity Institute Groundwater and Phase One convenings. The Spartanburg County Foundation and the City of Spartanburg are in our 17th year of the Grassroots Leadership Development Institute. The Foundation and partners have brought to Spartanburg Wes Moore, Joy Thomas Moore, Susan L. Taylor, the daughters of Katherine Goble Johnson, Connie and Steve Ballmer. The Foundation has hosted private screenings of Hidden Figures, Emanuel, and most recently, Just Mercy, all followed by community convenings for conversation and reflection.
What more must we know about the “who” and the “why” before we now come together as a community to move from reflection to action, “perfect” or not, and work on the “how”? I’m in; are you?
President and CEO
The Spartanburg County Foundation