Make the Road CT knows that a commitment to Black lives and futures is a commitment that furthers all futures in Connecticut and in our country. Our country and its economy were built on the exploitation and dehumanization of Black people. It is this painful reality that has made possible the exploitation and dehumanization of all people within our systems and institutions for over 400 years.

Today, this practice continues in the form of indentured servitude, exploitative prison labor practices, and underpaid labor from migrant communities who come to this country in search of opportunity. We know that the hatred and xenophobia harming our immigrant and Latinx communities in 2021 is built on the framework of anti-Black and racism rooted in white supremacy. The creation of race was and is a justification for the mistreatment and enslavement of people in this country.

“Legal codes hardened racial boundaries and entrenched chattel slavery so that society came to be based on the principle of white supremacy. It was in this context that whiteness served to unite one portion of the population in the unmitigated exploitation of another.

At Make the Road CT we work tirelessly to end that unmitigated exploitation of our communities. We work with low-income and working-class Latinx and immigrant people in Connecticut on immigrant rights, worker rights, education equity, women’s rights, securing access to housing, healthcare and more.

We know that our communities continue to be marginalized along with our Black American and indigenous brothers and sisters. We work for justice whether it is through our fair schedules campaign, our immigrant rights campaigns, and education equity campaigns. As we do our work, we are confronted with how our communities of color are pitted against one another.

The anti-immigrant narrative uses citizenship status to unite the American people against immigrants– documented or otherwise. It blames immigrants for the loss of jobs for poor and Black communities. And on the flipside, the labor of immigrants is exploited and then used as an example of Black Americans not working hard enough. 

At the end of the day, all of this only serves to help solidify the stereotypes that white people hold of communities of color and uphold our current systems that centers and values whiteness. In the process, it dehumanizes immigrants and desensitizes the public.

Donald Trump ran a successful campaign for the presidency on a platform that categorized Mexican immigrants as “drug dealers, criminals, rapists,” and accused them of hurting all Americans by taking their jobs. It was not long after those blatant dehumanizing descriptions that his administration began to put immigrant children in cages in detention facilities across the country. These atrocities are what happens when narrative shapes policy.  

Simultaneously, racism in the American narrative collides with the dominant colonialism embedded in many immigrants’ home countries to claim violence as an inherent part of Black communities. We know that the diaspora of the Latinx and immigrant experience is not immune to anti-Blackness.

This is another way in which our communities are pitted against each other. However, Make the Road CT continues to work against these fear-mongering tactics by centering its anti-racist values and pushing the truthful narrative and experiences of our Afro-Latinx and Black immigrant communities as we continue to work with them for justice.

It is hard work and it is also a reminder that Black futures and immigrant futures are not separate and apart from one another. Within any movement for justice, Black lives should be centered. Many benefit from the fractures that divide oppressed communities, but history shows us glimpses of what collective work can yield- the Rainbow Coalition in Chicago is revisited in the new film ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ and reminds us just how far back we have been fighting this fight, and how we have done it, together. Our liberation is deeply connected and intertwined because our dehumanization and oppression has been as well.

As our organization and others continue to do the hard work that is needed to ensure that all of our people are treated justly, we look to philanthropy to continue to make investments in our communities. It is not an act of charity to invest in the communities that have been purposefully, historically, and currently disinvested. It is an act of justice.

We specifically call on foundations built on white wealth to treat this work as restorative and a step towards reparations. We applaud the investment that the Graustein Memorial Fund has made in the Movement for Black Lives, but we can’t help but wonder where the rest of philanthropy is. Prior to 2020, funding focused on racial equity accounted for less than 1% of overall foundation funding in the U.S. We need philanthropy to step up. 

Furthermore, we need more philanthropic foundations to move away from programmatic grant-giving and lean into a model that funds general operations. This signals that there is trust in the organization achieving its broader vision and making a wider impact.

By entrusting people of color-led organizations to spend their grant where it’s most needed, philanthropy begins to step away from the antiquated formula of grant-making based on power and a desire to have control over how money is spent and towards a shared vision of the world we are all trying to build together and the key role our organizations play in that.

Barbara Lopez is the Director of Make the Road CT.