After many years in a career dedicated to racial justice, through community activism, arts administration, and nonprofit leadership, I now find myself in the midst of a hot topic of the day — Racial Equity in Philanthropy. And it’s about time!

It’s exciting to be working with colleagues in the field of philanthropy to deeply investigate how we can change the nature of our work to advance equity. Racial equity has been defined as just and fair inclusion into a society in which all people can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Said another way, a racially equitable society is one in which racial disparities in health, education, wealth, and other areas do not exist. (The Equity Manifesto, PolicyLink, 2018). It’s not easy to get to that place after centuries of structural racism. Structural racism refers to historical and ongoing political, cultural, social, and economic policies and practices that systematically disadvantage people of color. But funders nationally, regionally, and locally are making shifts to center their work in an equity practice.

Two examples:

The Monument Project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will award $250 million to fund new monuments, memorials, or historic storytelling spaces, contextualize existing monuments or memorials through installations, research, and education, and relocate existing monuments or memorials. All in an effort to broaden understanding of how we define commemorative spaces and acknowledge previously untold stories.

The California Arts Council (CAC), after a year-long internal investigation of past practices, established an equity statement which acknowledges the historic role that the government has played in creating and maintaining racial inequities to guide all its grantmaking. In 2020, in collaboration with the Irvine Foundation, the CAC launched the Arts Administrators of Color Fellowship Program to begin to address the inequities in arts leadership across the state. This program is currently being administered by our own local School of Arts and Culture (with grant management support from SVCREATES).

Locally SVCREATES and other funders, are engaging in grantee perception surveys to better understand the needs of our diverse arts community and identify where they might be falling short in providing equitable access to resources. I commend them for this work to build an ongoing equity practice.

So let’s all dig in and do the work! Arts and culture give us the power to come together and imagine a new way of being. With every piece of work, artists challenge us to dream and reconceive what is possible. Together we can continue these discussions in every single room that we are in and build a just society for all members of our community.

Resources and Inspiration:
Decolonizing Wealth Edgar Villanueva
Emergent Strategy Adrienne Maree Brown
Equity Manifesto PolicyLink

Tamara serves as a Program Officer in the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s Local Grantmaking Program in a new role leading the cultural and civic investments in the Vibrant Communities portfolio spanning the five Bay Area counties that the program serves: San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito. The portfolio invests $4 million annually to advance creative, environmental, and civic organizations that connect people with art, nature, and their communities, creating a unique sense of place for all.

Tamara joins the Packard Foundation after serving as executive director of the Leo M. Shortino Family Foundation, a San José, California–based foundation that focuses on youth and arts. Tamara has held executive, board, and director positions at various local, regional and national arts and community organizations, including the School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza; the Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute at 1stAct Silicon Valley (now SVCREATES); MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana; and WESTAF (Western States Arts Federation). She currently serves on the board of SVCREATES.

Tamara holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish Literature with an emphasis in Chicano Studies from Stanford University. She has been a traditional Aztec dancer for over 20 years and is a member of Calpulli Tonalehqueh Aztec Drum and Dance.