Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) and Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP)’s joint convening, Power in Solidarity. On a personal level, this convening was special, as it was the first in-person conference I attended since the outbreak of COVID-19, and it was a wonderful space to be in!
I’ll be honest that I was a bit nervous—this was my first work trip in over two years, and I was not sure if I was ready to be jammed indoors with hundreds of people. But the energy I felt reconnecting with colleagues I hadn’t seen in so long, as well as the COVID-19 precautions and the requirement that all attendees provide proof of vaccination, quickly eased my worries.
I was also excited to finally meet colleagues at NAP in person for the first time. Candid and NAP have been working together since 2018, launching the Investing in Native Communities website in 2019 to highlight the little investment by private philanthropy going to Native organizations. Since the launch, both Candid and NAP have gone through several organization changes, so it was a nice opportunity to connect with new NAP colleagues.
Conferences are great places for connection and joint learning, but the wealth of rich, meaningful information can sometimes be overwhelming. As I continue to process the many sessions I attended and the new connections that I made, three key themes stuck out for me:
- Grounding our work in culture and values: Almost every session I attended brought attendees back to who we are and what values we hold. In a world where we’re always quick to “get down to business,” I appreciated the space to reflect on my own cultures and values and how they have influenced my professional journey. We are often so bogged down by the work itself, that we forget why we’re doing the work in the first place.
- Turning words into action: Our sector has managed to turn “diversity, equity, and inclusion” into buzzwords, distanced from real accountability or meaningful action. Shawn Escoffery from the Roy & Patricia Disney Family Foundation shared an anecdote during a plenary session about how he refused to do land acknowledgements until he felt that his foundation was taking action and supporting Native communities. Land acknowledgements are important, but they also need to be accompanied by action and commitment. This has me thinking about other ways the sector can start pairing words with action, like funders going beyond simply talking about “trust-based philanthropy” and actually providing more flexible support or practicing participatory grantmaking.
- Respect, reciprocity, relationships, and responsibility: I heard these four words often throughout the conference and I think they can help frame how an ally can support AAPIP and NAP friends and colleagues. It starts with respecting the decades of work already being done by AAPIP/NAP circles; creating relationships with Native-led organizations; taking responsibility of our actions and committing to better support AAPIP and Native communities; and creating a space for sharing and joint learning.
The beautiful cultural performances and the insightful sessions left me feeling energized and inspired. Conferences can be such a great respite from the daily work grind, and I’m grateful to have spent the week at Power in Solidarity celebrating, learning, and reconnecting with my colleagues.