Advancing Equity Through Visionary Leadership
As an organization, we have sought out partners led by inspiring thinkers who are pioneering creative ways to address social challenges. In 2020, we invested in partners who share our commitment to creating a more just world. Here are some voices from the next generation of social impact leaders working to create long-term, sustainable change.
Carmita Semaan Founder, President Surge Institute
“Leaders of color need the same thing anyone needs to be successful — the space to operate as our full, authentic selves and genuine recognition of our strengths. Many of the challenges that create an inequitable environment are tied to dominant cultural views on what strength, brilliance, and leadership as a whole look like. This inherently leads to the unintentional, or intentional, development of a space that says if you don’t fit in the box defined by a narrow group of people, you are not fit to lead. It’s harmful and hurts both the individual and the organization that could stand to learn and grow from experiencing that individual’s brilliance. We don’t need to be boosted up. We don’t need a hand. We just need a space that recognizes and appreciates all we bring to the table. Believe in us enough to get out of our way.”
Surge Institute educates, empowers, and elevates leaders of color in education through its prestigious fellowship program.
John Yang President, Executive Director Asian Americans Advancing Justice
“Leaders of color need to be bold and courageous, especially in the Asian American community, where there has been a tendency to “wait for our turn.” Often, because of overt discrimination or implicit bias, Asian Americans and other marginalized communities are spoken over, not called on, or forgotten in conversations even when they are the experts. We need to use our voice, although that may make the existing power structure uncomfortable. Leaders of color also need to act and not let perfection stand in our way. Too often, we recognize that we are under increased scrutiny and feel the need to be better qualified or better prepared before we are willing to act. Especially in this moment, we need to act now — even if that means making some mistakes along the way.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice advocates for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans through education, litigation, and public policy.
Janeen ComenoteExecutive Director National Urban Indian Family Coalition
“Despite being the original inhabitants of our country, American Indians and Alaska Natives are unfortunately a largely invisible population relegated to being viewed solely through the lens of misguided stereotypes and history. We see our work being multifaceted with a goal of providing more visibility to our urban Native communities and engaging them in a process of power-building through civic participation. We believe that exercising our collective right to determine our policymakers is one of many paths toward transformation — and one of the most effective. We also believe that power-building should not happen in a vacuum. When all people of color and vulnerable communities come together, strategize together, and work toward a common goal, our society will be healthier and more just for all of us.”
Founded in 2003, the mission of the National Urban Indian Family Coalition is to elevate a national voice and sustain Indigenous values and culture through a strong network of urban Indian organizations.
Sylvester Mobley Founder, Chief Executive Officer Coded by Kids
“The most important thing a leader can do to advance equity is committing to doing difficult work. Equity isn’t a project that you can launch, an event you can participate in, or a problem you can solve in a few weeks or months. Achieving equity requires a long-term commitment with an unwavering focus and the discipline to stay on course — even when it gets difficult. There’s nothing glamorous about it. There are challenging conversations to be had and many roadblocks along the way, and it requires an ongoing effort to sustain. In the last year, there’s been a lot of rhetoric about change, so now it’s time to act. Because it’s only through actions and meaningful investment that real, transformational change can be realized.”
Coded by Kids increases equity and representation in tech through robust educational programs in coding, web development, and entrepreneurship.
Lisa Rawlings President, Chief Executive Officer National Urban Fellows
“Following the events of 2020, we stand at the crossroads where the urgency to act is heightened and the stakes for inaction couldn’t be higher. We know improvements at the margins of a broken system don’t work. The hope in the wake of this storm is that we have an opportunity to create transformative solutions. If we intend to build a democracy that is a true manifestation of its ideals, we must re-engineer the systems that have hoarded privilege, extracted wealth, and reinforced inequities. A systemic problem requires a systemic response — bold, intentional, and comprehensive actions that cannot be undone or undermined by changing political winds. This is what is possible. But it will not happen without a collective effort that is forcefully pushing back against those who benefit from inequity.”
National Urban Fellows helps professionals, particularly people of color and women who are committed to equity and public service, develop the essential leadership skills needed for transformational change.
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