After Parkland: Our Commitment to Action, to Our Values, and to the Leadership of Young People
In the weeks since the horrific mass shooting that took the lives of 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, dozens of corporations and foundations have announced actions to reduce the sale of firearms and divest their investment portfolios of gun manufacturers.
The latter is a step we took in the Fall of 2016, following a review of our investment practices by our Board of Directors. In addition to divesting from gun manufacturers, we also blocked any investment in predatory pay-day lending companies and private prisons.
We took these steps as an extension of our mission to spark change for a fair and just Brooklyn—as all of these industries have had a particularly damaging impact on communities of color.
In our announcement at the time, our Chairman Alan Fishman said:
“Our Board has a fiduciary responsibility to safeguard the financial resiliency of the Foundation, but we also have a responsibility to embody the values of Brooklyn’s communities. This critical divestment decision is a milestone for us on our journey to align our values and mission with the complete scope of our operations. We look forward to continuing to be responsive to the needs of our communities today and the challenges facing generations to come.”
As Brooklyn’s community foundation, it is our duty to be responsive to the needs of our communities. It is also our duty to focus our resources on creating change where it is desperately needed.
On average, 13,000 lives are lost each year to guns in America. We know that when it comes to guns, Black and Brown communities across the country are among the most adversely affected—especially by the illegal trafficking of guns across state borders and into our neighborhoods. Black men are 13 times more likely to be victims of gun violence than white men.
And Black and Brown communities have also been the loudest voices for ending gun violence through policy change. Young people from outstanding local organizations like YO S.O.S. (pictured above), K.A.V.I., Brownsville In, Violence Out, and H.O.L.L.A (all Foundation grantees funded through our Invest in Youth initiative) have long called for tougher gun restrictions, and we are heartened that students from around the country are joining their demand for action.
Each year we invest nearly $3 million in Brooklyn youth because we believe that they are the most effective levers of change.
We are witnessing young people making history right now. On multiple levels, young people are at the forefront of powerful justice movements—from the DACA Dreamers to Black Lives Matter to the March for Our Lives. Young people are the first to speak truth to power and “call BS” on politicians, corporations, and yes—foundations—for their inaction.
In order to succeed, we must commit to take action right now, and follow the lead of our young people who demand a safer, fairer, and more just world for themselves and for us all.