People sitting on benches at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in Oakland, Calif., with signs supporting election integrity.

An Important Step Forward

I’m sure that you are seeing many statements like these right now, but I think it is particularly valuable for us to stay connected during this very important moment. As of this writing, the presidential contest has not been officially concluded, although it is looking increasingly likely that we will have a new president in January. For that, we can be profoundly grateful that the people of our country have spoken through their votes, even though this election has revealed our country to continue to be deeply divided. We will have much more to say about this later.

Regardless of how the state contests turn out, we can acknowledge that the amazing gains that have been made in places like Arizona and my home state of Georgia are the result of organizing and voter outreach led by communities of color. These leaders have fought tirelessly on behalf of people whose voices have not historically been heard, and thanks to our democratic process they will not be silenced. If it weren’t for these devoted heroes, we would surely be looking at a much different political reality today. If there is a lesson to take away from this election it’s this – organize, organize, organize.

In California, grassroots leaders devoted an incredible amount of energy and passion to create a more just and equitable system of taxation. Regardless of the outcome of Proposition 15, the work that our grantees and colleagues have accomplished is nothing short of astonishing. Thanks to the amazing work of these great leaders, having a thoughtful debate about property taxes is no longer the third rail of California politics. The question is no longer whether we will reform the system, but when and how.

And although Proposition 16, which would have ended the ban on affirmative action, did not succeed, I believe the fact that it was on the ballot has re-ignited the discussion of fairness and opportunity in California. We need to continue to press for laws and practices that will ensure that everyone has equal access to our public institutions and resources, regardless of color or gender.

In many other areas up and down the ballot in California, we saw amazing gains and we have a great deal to be excited about. In Oakland, voters approved Measure QQ, which we supported. This will allow 16-year-olds the chance to vote for School Board Director. In Los Angeles, voters approved Measure J, which will provide more money for on a variety of social services, including housing, mental health treatment, and investments in communities disproportionally harmed by racism. There were many others like these.

You will also undoubtedly be receiving communications from many organizations about the challenges we face in the aftermath of the election. The fact that the voting results both nationally, statewide, and locally in many places revealed significant divisions along race, gender, religious, political, and other lines — which feels even more present than what we’ve seen with the Covid-19 pandemic — is something all of us should take notice of. Indeed, while we should certainly celebrate how far we’ve come, we must also acknowledge that the work to address these divisions and advance racial and social justice is a marathon, not a sprint. Change takes time and we have to acknowledge that we are in this for the long haul.

This is our commitment at EBCF – to use this moment as proof we are on the right track but need to accelerate our efforts to move towards our vision of “A Just East Bay”. We owe it to our community partners to make sure that we are there for them just as they have been there for us. In the coming months, we will be rolling out ways for our donors and grantees to partner with us to engage in this deeply meaningful and important work. We will stay in touch with you about the role you can play in advancing justice in our community.

At the East Bay Community Foundation, we are taking a nice deep breath and then rolling up our sleeves to continue our fight for justice with as much enthusiasm, excitement, and determination as ever before.

With appreciation and in solidarity,

James W. Head
President and Chief Executive Officer
East Bay Community Foundation