This week, the entire staff of The San Diego Foundation heard from a great nonprofit CEO, Lisa Cuestas, who leads Casa Familiar in San Ysidro. We asked Lisa to join us virtually to talk about Casa’s vital work during the COVID-19 pandemic and how her organization put a grant from the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund to work.
Lisa began her remarks by stating, “This is a difficult time on top of another difficult time.” All of us at The San Diego Foundation could not agree more.
Our work during the pandemic crisis has been daunting and eye-opening. The pandemic has not affected all of us evenly: minority populations in San Diego County have been disproportionally afflicted by the loss of work, COVID-19 susceptibility and health consequences, the inability to connect to the Internet for schoolwork at all grades, seniors feeling abandoned, and so much more.
Our entire team is mobilized to address these issues and provide comfort, relief, and hope to the families throughout our County who have been significantly challenged from the pandemic’s economic crisis. We do so remotely, like most everyone else. It seems that much of our collective future is “on hold” until a COVID-19 vaccine is publicly available.
However, the societal outrage and dramatic tipping point realized by the brutal and senseless death of George Floyd as well as other innocent Black men, women and children makes clear that another incredible challenge will not be solved by chemists in a lab.
That problem is, as we all know, racism. There is no other word to describe decisions made by those in positions of authority that are based solely on the color of someone’s skin.
For me, acts of racism are outrageous and painful to witness. In Black communities, parents worry about their children’s wellbeing when interacting with the police. Why should a parent or child worry about being harmed by those sworn to protect them? How can this be happening in the United States in 2020? How is it that our communities have not come together to solve this seemingly intractable problem before now?
Racism is a 400-year old stain on our country and seems so pervasive, but each one of us can do something. In March, The San Diego Foundation Board of Governors unanimously adopted Core Values that are central to all that we do. All of our decisions—from hiring staff to launching new initiatives—will require an affirmative response to, “Does this uphold our Core Values?”
- All People: We act with integrity and respect for one another and the communities we serve.
- All Partners: We engage diverse perspectives to foster collaboration and innovative solutions.
- Our Region: Together, we strive for an inclusive community where everyone has equitable access to opportunity.
As we move from a focus on pandemic emergency response to community recovery, rebuilding and resiliency, addressing inequity will be at the center of our decisions. Likewise, our staff and Board will engage in learning opportunities to better understand implicit bias, equality versus equity, and what it means to live in poverty with no hope in the future.
Soon after I joined our community foundation, I was asked to share my initial thoughts for the work that lays before us. I stated then, and I believe it is more true now than ever before, that our work will not be complete until everyone who calls San Diego County home has the opportunity to prosper, the opportunity to thrive and, perhaps most of all, has the opportunity to feel like they belong right here.
That is how your San Diego Foundation will listen, learn and fight the scourge of racism alongside you.
About Mark Stuart, CFRE
As President & CEO, Mark reports to and collaborates with the Board of Governors and is responsible for developing and managing relationships with a wide range of stakeholders as well as for the operating health of The Foundation.