By Brandi Howard

In June, I celebrated seven months since I joined East Bay Community Foundation as President and CEO. As a daughter of the Bay Area who is deeply rooted in the community, it is my honor to build upon the great work of my predecessors to ensure that the East Bay Community Foundation can help shape a truly just East Bay. 

I joined the foundation in a moment of tremendous opportunity to build long-term community power so that everyone who calls the East Bay home can have the economic freedom to dream, heal, and belong. Three years after the beginning of a global health pandemic and racial and social unrest, the economic reality in 2023 continues to illustrate the inequalities that Black, Indigenous, and people of color are facing in the East Bay. Together with our partners, the foundation is committed to advancing equity and justice. Here are four examples of how we are doing that:

We are helping to build a thriving multiracial democracy in the East Bay: Achieving a thriving multiracial democracy, where all community members have freedom, dignity, and wellbeing, is the north star of social justice and racial equity leaders and the answer to the many disparities we face as a country. In partnership with Akonadi Foundation and other funder colleagues, we are bringing funders together to pilot a Multiracial Democracy Fund. Together, we are working toward our north star by testing new ideas and investing in multiple stakeholders to ensure effective and equitable governance, actualizing a co-governance structure that includes greater participation among marginalized communities in the Bay Area, and utilizing our collective tools and positions to leverage private and public resources. Held at the East Bay Community Foundation, the pooled fund will support community-driven efforts to realize a vibrant, inclusive democracy that centers the voices and prioritizes the needs of Black and Indigenous communities and other communities of color. I am excited to share learnings and updates as the work progresses.

We are supporting organizing for transformative change: In April, we awarded $1.15 million in grants to 25 organizations dedicated to community organizing and power and movement building in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The grants support efforts of local community and movement leaders who are actively working to create positive change in their communities: Efforts like increasing the visibility of those in Contra Costa County who have been impacted by the criminal legal system, securing tenant protections in Alameda County, and much more. Since 2019, EBCF has granted more than $2.9 million in this area.

We are strengthening the power of Black-led organizations: Black-led organizations (B.L.O.s) serve as the backbone for communities throughout the Bay Area. These nonprofits, led by Black staff or Board leadership, are helping to confront racism and anti-Blackness, and to transform culture, policies and systems in order to realize equity and justice in California. East Bay Community Foundation’s ASCEND: BLO program aims to ​​enhance the growth, sustainability, impact, and sense of community among Black-led anchor institutions in the Bay Area in order to ensure the long-term vitality of those organizations and the communities of color they serve. In May, we awarded grants totaling $150,000 to six organizations that are part of the Stabilizer cohort for flexible capacity-building support: ABEN: A Black Education Network, APEB (formerly AIDS Project East Bay), Cypress Mandela Training Center, East Oakland Youth Development Center, Safe Return Project, and The Hannah Project Partnership for Academic Achievement. 

We are shifting capital to communities most impacted by racial and economic inequities: We do this work by funding organizations building economic power and creating new models for a just economy–one that is restorative, non-extractive, and equitable. Since March, EBCF has partnered with community to facilitate an annual participatory grantmaking process that resulted in the recommendation of nearly $500,000 in grants to Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, Oakland Rising, Restore Oakland, Restaurant Opportunities Center United, and Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives (NoBAWC). These organizations are Board members and partners of REAL People’s Fund, a $10M community-powered fund and entrepreneurship program that provides non-extractive capital, holistic business support, and organizing opportunities for BIPOC entrepreneurs with a strong social mission in the East Bay. EBCF’s support and partnership with REAL People’s Fund represents a unique collaboration in the community capital space, with community organizing groups, financial organizations, and philanthropy innovating together to actualize a shared vision of an inclusive economy.

These are brief examples of the work we do everyday to advance a thriving and just East Bay. None of our work would be possible without our Board, staff and partners, from our donors and funder partners to community leaders and members. 

In November, I shared that one of the principles guiding my work as CEO would be bringing donors into a deeper understanding of root causes of inequity and how to address them. Over the past few months, I have been talking with numerous donors who have stepped up in newer and deeper ways to support the Foundation’s way forward. I recognize and celebrate all the ways that our donor partners are helping to build the scaffolding that our communities need to build power and fuel transformation so we can all thrive.

I have also been in deep partnership with funder colleagues in the Bay Area and in California who are collaborating with me and are generous in sharing their knowledge, experience and insights. In addition, I am grateful to community partners who have championed my leadership, and I am looking forward to spending time together this summer to learn how we can do even more to support their vision and solutions. Last but certainly not least, our board and staff have all made important and impactful contributions during this transition period, and I thank them for their continued commitment. 

Thank you for being part of a community dedicated to building an inclusive, fair, and just East Bay.