Today, Brooklyn Community Foundation announces the appointment of Heather McGhee, the outgoing president of the public policy organization Demos, as the inaugural recipient of its Fair and Just Fellowship. During her year in the role, McGhee will inform the Foundation’s strategic grantmaking and leadership initiatives aimed at advancing racial justice and social change throughout New York City’s largest borough.
A long-time Brooklyn resident, McGhee has been with Demos for 15 years, the last four as president. She will leave her post as president this summer and will continue on there as a distinguished senior fellow, focusing on media appearances and the publication of a major book on the high costs of racism to society as a whole.
As the Foundation’s Fair and Just Fellow, McGhee will counsel the Foundation’s leadership team on policy and advocacy issues, deepen the Foundation’s learning on its strategic priorities, raise visibility for the Foundation and its grantees, and participate in issue-focused public programs in Brooklyn.
“Heather is one of the most important advocates in our country today, taking on the most important challenges confronting us all—from racial justice and economic equity, to democracy and inclusive societies. We are deeply honored to partner with her to leverage her profound and inspiring insight to achieve our vision for a fair and just Brooklyn,” said Cecilia Clarke, president and CEO of Brooklyn Community Foundation. “We believe that Brooklyn can be a national model for progressive, racially just social change thanks to the leadership of Brooklynites like Heather. We are thrilled that she has embraced this partnership right in her own backyard and we look forward to promoting her work alongside our own.”
McGhee, an African American woman, achieved widespread recognition following her August 2016 appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, a morning call-in show, during which a white North Carolina man named Garry Civitello confessed to his personal racism, stating that it stemmed from a fear of black people, and asked McGhee how he could change. Her empathetic and thoughtful response subsequently went viral, as she advised him to get to know black people personally, question media stereotypes, and read African American history. Since that initial conversation, McGhee and Civitello have met in person and formed a friendship; Civitello credits her with helping him to overcome his biases and transform his worldview.
“Brooklyn Community Foundation rightly believes that Brooklyn—one of the most racially and ethnically diverse areas of the country—can be a leading laboratory for ideas advancing fairness and justice, and I’m proud to be named as their inaugural fellow,” said Heather McGhee.
In addition to her policy advocacy work at Demos, McGhee is a frequent guest on such shows as “Meet the Press,” ”Real Time with Bill Maher,” and “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” She has written for numerous national media outlets, including The New York Times, The Nation and The Hill. She is a recipient of New York University’s McSilver Award for Leaders on the Fight Against Poverty and Citizen Action of New York’s Progressive Leadership Award. She spoke at the opening session of the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit, is an advisor to Starbucks, and currently serves on the boards of the Working Families Organization, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Indivisible. She is a graduate of Yale University and the University of California at Berkeley School of Law.
The Fair and Just Fellowship is an extension of Brooklyn Community Foundation’s commitment to racial and social justice, and was developed in partnership with the Foundation’s Racial Justice Advisory Council. Founded in 2009 as the first and only foundation dedicated to Brooklyn’s communities, Brooklyn Community Foundation works in partnership with donors, nonprofits, and local leaders to strengthen communities and promote fairness and justice throughout the borough. The Foundation’s community-led approach was first developed through Brooklyn Insights, an extensive community engagement process involving over 1,000 Brooklyn residents who identified key priority areas for the Foundation, including racial justice, immigrant rights, youth leadership, criminal justice reform, and neighborhood stability. Last year the Foundation invested more than $3.5 million in community-based nonprofits through its strategic initiatives, in addition to over $2 million in grants distributed through its Donor Advised Fund program.
About Brooklyn Community Foundation
Brooklyn Community Foundation is on a mission to spark lasting social change, mobilizing people, capital, and expertise for a fair and just Brooklyn. It is the first and only public foundation solely dedicated to Brooklyn’s charitable community, working in partnership with generous donors and community leaders to bolster vital nonprofits, strengthen neighborhoods, and increase opportunities for youth. Since its founding in 2009, the Foundation and its donors have provided over $40 million in grants to more than 300 nonprofits in Brooklyn and beyond. Learn more at www.BrooklynCommunityFoundation.org.
Liane Stegmaier, VP of Communications and Strategy