Interview with editors of the Collecting Courage book by Nneka Allen, Nicole Salmon, and Camila Pereira.
If you like this interview, Collecting Courage is out NOW from The Charity Report:
Check out the book website, https://CollectingCourage.org
There’s a whole playlist to go with the book which is FIRE
Collecting Courage PLAYLIST!
AND if you liked these stories, check out more Name It Podcast interviews, where we talk about Racism in the sector, Sexism in the sector, and more.
Mazarine Treyz: Host
Nneka Allen: Principal and Founder of The Empathy Agency
Camila Pereira: Nonprofit professional
Nicole Salmon: Nonprofit professional
- 00:04:17 –> 1. In your book, authors talk about choosing joy. So many stories of joy are also stories where people were let go from their jobs, over and over again, for speaking out, and for not being grateful and quiet. Black joy is revolutionary. What are you hoping to create with your movement in the Black Canadian Fundraiser Collective?
- 00:13:02 –> In Collecting Courage, authors talk about pain. Muthoni Kariuki talks about the pain of assimilation. She talked about who is allowed to make mistakes, and who is not. Over and over again, expressing herself and her culture is seen as a mistake in white supremacy based nonprofits. What would you suggest to white-led nonprofits that don’t just want to be window-dressing their organizations, but who truly want to show they value and respect Black culture?
- 00:19:19 –-> Kishshana Palmer talked about brushing off micro-aggressions and just trying to keep going as hard as she could. But her body took a toll. To me, it reads as a condemnation of grind culture. It seems like she is saying if Black folks are trying to just work hard enough and then finally be respected, they are wasting their time. What are you hoping readers will take away from her story?
- 00:29:13 –> Olumide’s story of the way international development leadership is so explicitly anti-black was surprising to me. Yet the fact that the imagery is so uniformly one of suffering, and leadership is so white, shows that this might be the most white-savior complex part of the sector. We need to talk about Ethical storytelling. What are some key pieces of this?
- 00:35:17 –> The Collecting Courage book shares a story from Camila Pereira about her journey between Brazil, the US and Canada- and how she started to recognize the need for Black community. What would you say to folks seeking Black community in fundraising now? Who should they look to? Where should they go?
- 00:44:05 –> In Collecting Courage, you and others talk about love. You talked about the discovery of your love of Black culture and Black history. It was so beautiful. I thought it was important that you mentioned that a museum celebrating Black culture and history would not want to talk about the real issues of Black lives matter facing Black folks today. I agree with you, Black museums should be centering Black Lives Matter. It seems a shame that folks at the museum could not understand that. Was it fear? Internalized racism? Or something else, do you think, that made them not want to bring the museum’s messaging into new relevance?
- 00:51:38 –> In your book, it seems clear that one of the messages is if the nonprofit sector wants to remain relevant, it needs to center eradicating the white supremacy that fed the wealth of North America. What would you say to organizations saying, “White supremacy has nothing to do with us?”
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Well welcome everybody to the Name It podcast. I am your host Mazarine Treyz, and today’s interview, I was just so excited to do because these three editors I’m about to introduce you to today are passionate, caring, supremely intelligent, wise women that you all should know. So I would love to introduce Nneka Allen, Camila Pereira and Nicole Salmon to you, and I’d love for you all just to share who you are.
Camila Pereira, PhD.: I’m Camila Pereira, also author and editor of Collecting Courage: Joy, Pain, Freedom, Love. I’m a professional in the nonprofit sector in Toronto and I always say that I have side projects. So that’s what I did during the day, I do my work. My side projects, I’m 100% committed to my community, the Black community. So my projects always involve something that will benefit them. That’s how I actually end up meeting Nneka and Nicole through one of looking for a project or a community to be part of and that’s who I am. That’s what I do.
Nicole Salmon: And as you’ve mentioned, my name is Nicole and I have about 25 plus years, possibly close to 30 years now in the nonprofit and charitable sector. I was the Director of Development at an international development organization for a number of years. And I am actually involved with a lot of community work in addition to being part of the Black Canadian Fundraisers Collective, I Chair a nonprofit board in the health sector, and I also sit on the board of another organization. But that aside, that’s only a sliver of who I am. I’m anchored by family for sure. I’m an avid reader. I’m a sports enthusiast and I’m a gardener, too. So that’s just a little bit about me.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): All of you for being here and for those who are listening and you’re hearing some familiar names. It’s because both Camila and Nneka presented at The New Power Fundraising Conference in November, and I was so grateful to have them share their stories, along with other people in the new book, Collecting Courage. We’ll put a link to buy it in the show notes. And I read it in a hurry last night because I just devoured it. And for everyone listening, I am extremely picky about what I read, and I feel like a lot of fundraising writing really sucks and it’s boring. And this book was juicy and it had poetry and it had stories that were heartbreaking and devastating and real and true and powerful and everything you would want in a book that’s going to change the world. Today is the launch. I know by the time you listen to this it will have been out for a few weeks. You need to go buy it.
And so one of the first things that surprised me when I read this book was the foreword. And Nneka wrote the foreword and it talked about how Canada has eight generations of slavery. And we think of Canada in the US as the more enlightened upstairs neighbor, if you will. I was an Ignorant American about that. Little did I know that toxic white supremacy is just as prevalent in Canada. And that’s one of the things that really was brought home to me. Of course, this book has both American and Canadian fundraisers in it, but story after story in your new book showed me the truth of this. So I hope everyone who reads this book learns more about how truly based on white supremacy our entire sector is.
In your book, authors talk about choosing joy. And that’s kind of like, “Wow, how can we talk about white supremacy and joy and also love and pain as well, but also freedom?” And those are like the four sections of the book. So many stories of joy are also stories where people were let go from their jobs over and over again. And for speaking out, for not being grateful and quiet and black joy is revolutionary. So what are you hoping to create, all of you, please feel free to answer this, with your movement in the Black Canadian Fundraiser Collective?
Nneka Allen: Yeah, it’s interesting. So you may recall from our session that we did with you, our origin story is really organic. And we didn’t set out to create an organization, we just came together to meet each other’s needs. And the need that is primarily met is validation and community, and so out of that emerged an organization. And so we’re still shaping that but I can tell you at its heart is absolutely two or three things. One of them is, you know, the validation that comes through the sharing of your story, and also being immersed in other people’s stories, who are people who are like you. And so we’ve spent a considerable amount of time working on projects like the book where we have had an opportunity to share our stories.
And interestingly enough, just about 30 minutes ago, I was talking with someone who was a part of our launch this morning. And when Mide, the one male author in our book was speaking, one of my male relatives who was on the call began to weep. And that just speaks to what happens when you hear validation of the things that you experience. And so that is a very big part of what we’re doing as a collective. In addition to that, of course, we want to be known. As thought leaders in relation to black philanthropy. So we have a giving circle and we’re in the process of developing relationships with universities in Canada to provide awards to Black students studying fundraising. And we’ve also established other partnerships with the Black Opportunity Fund and looking at creating greater capacity in our Black-led, Black serving organizations.
And then, of course, I mean there is just the community piece that happens when we come together and that part is really very vital and is outlined, I think, beautifully in Camila’s story, the power of collecting, coming together as a collective to just be together. So that’s sort of how I see the movement that we’re building right now.
Nicole Salmon: Camila, do you want to jump in?
Camila Pereira, PhD.: I just wanted to share a little bit of my experience with the collective that I call my community. And it’s sort of what I hope that the movement, this movement and we will be for others fundraisers. So I’ve been in Canada for five and a half years, and I am pretty new as a fundraiser. When I see my sister-friends that have like 25, 30 years, someone has 33 years, and for me, being part of the group or finding a group that will understand the challenges I was going through was very important at a time where I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to remain in the sector anymore because of the challenges. And that’s when because I wasn’t the only one where I was at that time, I’m still the only one where I am right now, but anyways. You’re usually the only Black person in your team. For me, it was very validating, it was very important to hear others’ experiences, even though those were also very painful experiences, but it validates that you’re sane, that the way you’re feeling and the way you are seeing things and hearing them is actually happening. Because at some point, you start rethinking, you start being like, “Maybe I’m being too sensitive.” And so when you are able to talk to others, it is really helpful. And that’s how I came to find – and I’m sure we’re going to talk about that a little bit more – our group, our community. And for me, it was really fundamental, I would say, in really staying in the sector. And I hope that our community can be this safe place, it can create this very caring environment for other fundraisers to come
Nicole Salmon: Yeah, great points. And I just want to add to what Nneka and Camila have said. So for me, I think there’s been this sense of craving on the professional side. So I come from a large family and personally, I have those connections and those were really strong connections and they were anchors for me. On the professional side, because the sector is essentially primarily white, there was this craving to sort of have others who might get a sense of some of the things you were going through, and understand it and having those conversations. And it’s not because I didn’t have colleagues that I could actually, and I do have colleagues from my past jobs that I would actually have great conversations with, but there was that craving of giving back. And if you look at the point that I wrote as part of the book, the first verse really sums it up for me, and it was something that was dear to my mom because she had it in her Bible, and it’s the way she raised us as a family. You have to make sure that you respect others, you do things for others if you can. That was really central to who my parents were.
So when she died, and she passed about three years ago, and I wrote about that experience as part of the Our Right to Heal project, the AFP global project, and I realized that losing her, really I needed to feed that craving I was getting to connect, and what could I do. And I had started taking steps already, but I didn’t actually think of it in those real intentional ways, so when I met a Nneka, whatever eight years ago, it’s because we saw each other at a conference. And there was another person and we thought, “Wow, it’s great to see you.” So that was the first foray. But I think this book and this experience and the need to connect is something that is very deliberate and something that you don’t have to– This feeds a very particular need I have. And on top of that, I think I have something to offer. So it’s not only does it feed me personally, but I am hoping that through my engagement, there are others that I can support and others that I can share the experience with, and hopefully, better prepare them for what the struggle is moving forward.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): I’m hearing a deep underpinning of acknowledgment and community as the core words here. Yeah, and that’s really coming through in the book. And I feel like even if a fundraiser is in Vancouver, BC or San Diego, or wherever, they can find a little piece of that shared experience and community in your book. So I encourage everyone, even if you’re not Canadian, read this book.
And actually Camila, you brought up something that reminded me of Muthoni Kariuki’s story in Collecting Courage. She talked about the pain of assimilation as an African Canadian person. And she talked about who is allowed to make mistakes and who is not. And over and over again, expressing herself in her culture was seen as a mistake in white supremacy based nonprofits. So for all of you this question. What would you suggest to white-led nonprofits that don’t want to be window-dressing their organizations, but who truly want to show they value and respect Black culture and Black women?
Nneka Allen: I think the answer is bound up in the question of proximity, which is connected to representation, which is connected to scrutinizing the norms and the status quo. If you want to respect and value Black people, and by doing that our culture, then you actually have to know Black people. And the reality is we live in a segregated society. And so the exercise of honoring and respecting Black culture is really an exercise of scrutinizing our organizations and asking ourselves, “Why do our organizations look the way that they do? And when we do bring in people who aren’t like us, why are they so few? Where do they reside in the organization, you know? Are they at every level, or are they stopped at a particular level? And have we gone to those people and asked them. What their experience of the organization is?” It’s in those answers you will get the truth. And the reality is, I love this, I heard someone say this, “If your organization is predominantly white, you have a racism problem. You don’t have to do any research. You don’t have to hire anybody to study it. You have a racism problem.” And so we have to strike at the heart of segregation and begin to know Black people. Yeah.
Nicole Salmon: Yeah. I think there has to be intentional action. So everyone will espouse certain values. No one is going to say they don’t value diversity, they don’t value inclusion, they won’t say that. They’ll say all the right things. And so the question is, are they actually practicing. How are they living those values? That’s the key. And once you can actually ask yourself that question– And it’s that work that you have to do yourself. So these organizations, you know, you’re not going to hire a Black person and they’re going to come in there and tell you what to do while you sit back and say, “Okay, well just informed me.” You’re going to have to roll up your sleeves, because if you have that value, if you truly value equity and you truly value inclusion, then you’re going to have to do that work for yourself and not expect others to sort of step in and do it for you. So that’s one of the key things I think in terms of organizations having to make that decision to be intentional and get beyond the values and get to the virtues.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): I like that you talk about doing the inner work as well as the outer work. I feel like both have to happen at the same time.
Nneka Allen: One hundred percent. Yeah, identity development of any sort in isolation is dangerous. It has to be rooted in community.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): That’s the trouble with these one-off DEI trainings. It doesn’t really take.
Nneka Allen: No, because it’s often just an external work.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Right. And people who should be in the room can opt out.
Nneka Allen: That’s exactly right. Which brings us back to proximity. I mean, relationships are the primary driver for the reason why we do things in life. Right?
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Yeah.
Nneka Allen: So if you have no relationships with people who are trying to survive racism, then you’ve not brushed up against it enough, it has not rubbed off on you enough. I think Maz, as you might recall I said, “I like you so much because you’re angry and I like angry women.” That tells me you are rubbing up against the realities of life, particularly issues of injustice and racism. Because you can’t rub up against them, you can’t have proximity to those things and then not be angry and not be motivated to act.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Yeah and there’s a lot of powerlessness that comes with being outside of the system. But there’s a lot of power that comes with having nothing left to lose and just saying what you need to say and then gathering or community around you. And that’s what I’m hearing from this.
Nneka Allen: One hundred percent.
Nicole Salmon: There’s a freedom to be had in that. Yeah.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Yeah, and that’s worth a lot of money, if you think about it.
Nneka Allen: It can’t be bought, so the value of it is exceptional.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Camila, did you have anything you wanted to add before we go to the next question?
Camila Pereira, PhD.: No, I think they nailed it.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): I love how we’re just kind of free-flowing.
Nicole Salmon: We nailed it?
Camila Pereira, PhD.: Yeah, I just want to have to repeat. I echo all of it.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Yeah, one of the things in there– I mean, speaking of people that I know, people I’ve brushed up with, Kishshana Palmer had a saying there talking about brushing off microaggressions and just trying to keep going as hard as she could, but her body took a tool. To me, it reads as a condemnation of grind culture. And it also seems like she’s saying if Black folks are trying to work hard enough, and finally be respected, they’re wasting our time. So what are you hoping readers will take away from her story?
Nneka Allen: So, so many things. One, I think as Black people, we need to know that we are enough. And when we believe that we’re enough, we will care for ourselves enough. And when we care for ourselves, we have boundaries. And those boundaries are meant to keep us safe or safer. When you’re talking about health, I completely understand that. I know exactly what she’s talking about. Had my own health issues as it relates to trying to survive an environment that was toxic and not conducive for Black people. And so when you begin to internalize the fact that you are enough and that you have to care for yourself, and you create those boundaries, it will A) force you to begin to make different choices, but I also believe it’s in those spaces that new opportunities open up and we have to model that.
As a mom, I think about that. I have a daughter. How I manage this myself is important for my own health. But I’m also modeling how to manage this for my daughter. And so much of what kids learn is not through what you say, it’s through what you do.
Camila Pereira, PhD.: When I read her story, I think a little bit about my first couple of years working in the sector and the amount of hours I put in. The amount of extra hours I should have said that I actually put in, the amount of work that I did.
Nneka Allen: The number of extra unpaid hours?
Camila Pereira, PhD.: They’re always unpaid.
Nneka Allen: Can we just say that for a minute?
Camila Pereira, PhD.: Thank you. Yes. Extra unpaid hours that here and there you hear, “Oh, you can just take them later on, like, take a couple of–” But that never happens. So just unpaid and you just keep going. The number of extra work that I did, and also the sense that you do all of that because you feel like you have to prove that you can do it and you’re competent all the time. And I would say until maybe you reach a certain level in your career. But from someone who has five and a half years, I can tell you, in the beginning, it was really hard. And that’s when you definitely work when you’re sick, when you’re sicker, when you’re the sickest, and you just keep doing it because you have to, because you have to prove, because you have to show.
And I think Nneka when you said that we need to understand that we are enough, I think about that too. Maybe I don’t have to be proving that I can do it all the time. But the environment puts you in that situation where you feel that if you don’t prove that you’re enough, they might let you go at any time. So there’s this added pressure as well. And I’ve always wondered if my colleagues felt that pressure. And most of the time, I don’t think so because we’re being scrutinized every second of everything that you do. You can never make a mistake, you don’t have that privilege. You don’t have that. And so it gets to a point where fatigue is real. You get burned out, you get sick, you get exhausted. And I wonder to what extent do we actually have to do that, do we have to put ourselves through that? We shouldn’t have to at all.
Nicole Salmon: Yeah, we shouldn’t. So I think there’s a dissonance between what our rational thinking says when we say we should be enough. And we can tell ourselves that but something that we are weaned on as young Black people, Black children coming up is excellence. You have to be prepared to do more because the playing field isn’t level, it’s not fair. So you get that right off the get-go. So aspiring to be excellent is not something that we don’t know, and we haven’t heard growing up. So I think that it becomes a driver.
So this rational self saying yes, but then the world out there won’t view my putting up boundaries as putting up boundaries. They’ll form some other type of narrative around that if I put up those boundaries, so you’re battling that. And I think it feels very much like you’re on a tightrope all the time. And if you think, Kish in her piece, she talks about that elastic band, you know, when you stretch it to that point, it breaks, it doesn’t come back. And I think that’s the most powerful thing. It’s a constant thing that we have to work on. And that sense and that feeling changes over time.
So where I’m at now in terms of the work that I do, I certainly don’t feel those pressures, or don’t feel them in the same way. I still feel at a little point, you know, got to deliver, you got to be better, you have to do all of that stuff. But it’s different, and I know it’s different than when I was working for someone, an organization.
I think we live in a world of precarity, and there’s no greater precarity than living as a Black person or people who are marginalized – indigenous folks – there is an ongoing precarity to our lives. And it’s fine for us to say that it’s enough, but we know full well it may not be enough. So that’s the tightrope. I mean, it hurts us. Now I want to come back to the idea of agency and I want to recognize that where we are speaking from, we’re three strong, Black women. Not everyone is at that point. So the question then becomes, what happens to someone when they’re not quite there, they’re struggling, they’re trying to balance that tightrope?
The thing is that we always have a choice. And it doesn’t matter where we are in an organization. I think that’s one of the key things we always have to remind ourselves about. And we can choose certain things. It may not be a big decision, but it might be small decisions. So go ahead and do those things until you get to that point where you can really put in structures around you to protect yourself and keep yourself safe. But never lose sight of no matter what is happening out there, you do have an opportunity to make some choice, make some decisions within that.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): I appreciate you saying that. And one of the antidotes I would like to remind listeners about is the Nap Ministry with Tricia Hersey if anyone here has heard of the Nap ministry. She was a scholar. She did Black studies and she did performance art pieces where she had Black people come together to take naps [inaudible 00:28:35] And she really talked about the power of rest as a revolutionary act for people whose ancestors were slaves. jurors are slaves.
Her Instagram is awesome, and her work is awesome. Of course, you can’t be in-person doing these anymore but every time I see her writing I am reminded that that is a way that we have available to us, no matter who we are. So anyway, thank you.
00:29:13 –> 00:29:50
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): The next story I wanted to draw people’s attention to was Olumide or Mide’s story of the way international development leadership is so explicitly anti-black. And that was surprising to me. You’d think that an organization that was founded to “help Africa” would love to have “African” leadership, right? No. Yet, the fact that the imagery that they have it so uniformly one of suffering and the leadership is so white shows that this might be the most white savior complex part of the sector. So when you talk about ethical storytelling, if you all wanted to share, what are some key pieces of this that you wish people knew?
Nneka Allen: For me, I have to direct our attention back to proximity and relationships. So let’s just think for a minute. Do we tell stories that are defamatory or that are crushing or shed our friends in poor light? Do we tell stories about people we care about that way? We never do. You don’t do that, right? And so the people who are leading these organizations, I think a key criteria for determining whether or not they’re suitable should revolve around proximity to the issue that they say they’re supposed to be alleviating. Because I guarantee you, the minute we start doing that as we’re bringing people in, and for the people who are currently there who probably shouldn’t be there, we create some metrics that’s tied to performance and to pay, things will begin to look very different.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): I love that.
Nicole Salmon: That’s a powerful thing. So I was at a fundraising for Oxfam. My journey– Of course, I feel I was qualified for the role, but I also am aware that I arrived at a point in my career where the people who I worked with afforded me that opportunity to step into that role and he’s right. I think of all the conferences and everything that I’ve gone to, without a doubt that is the case in terms of the leadership is all white. I don’t even know if there’s another in terms of International Development. There might be few now that might have people of color and even a Black person heading up fundraising or heading up the organization. So that’s very true.
One of the things, Mide, I think, said, and I don’t know if he said it in the story, I’ve read it so many times. But people have this idea that they know what the continent of Africa [inaudible 00:32:14]. And it’s because of the narratives and the way that people have been represented. And one of the things I have to say is that I spent my early teenage years growing up in Jamaica. So one’s blackness, and there are different groups in Jamaica, but you don’t go around feeling the weight of racism, you’re not talking about these sorts of things. It’s not top of mind. People are people, you move through the world. One of the interesting things that happened for me when I came here and went to university is the reference to Jamaica as a third world country. For me growing up, the way Jamaica was represented and all the images, it’s not to say those things that aren’t present; I can go anywhere in Canada and see horrendous living conditions. We know about indigenous populations, we know about people who are marginalized and the conditions they’re living in. But those are not the images that represent Canada. And so what happens is when you go to other countries, that’s all people see, so they’re defining that single story. That’s a single story, and that’s what they use because, in North America, there’s a sense that you have to appeal to that savior complex. “We’re good people. We’re going to help these people.” So it makes you feel better about yourself.
That’s not what I saw growing up. And one of the first things that someone said to me when I came here, and, I came and did my final year of high school here, someone said to me that I must think this is absolutely wonderful because now I can go to school with shoes on. That was the comment. And I was like, “Okay. Wow.” So people are getting a single story and that’s the problem. An international development organization, there are some that do a better job because I’ll say this, Oxfam had a policy in case, you couldn’t present people in certain ways. And I know there were other organizations that the depiction, you could see it. It’s like, come on, guys. But they are notorious for appealing to people’s emotions and they think that to depict people in one way, they wouldn’t do it to a child here in North America, but they feel okay that because they’re doing good and because they’re raising money, that’s the way they have to go.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Yeah, I really appreciate you sharing the difference between telling the story in a manipulative way and telling the story that shows the entirety of a person and a situation and a country. I think that’s a very important point.
The next question is directed toward Camila. It’s about her story. Her journey between Brazil, the US and Canada and how she started to recognize the need for Black community. Camila, I loved your story. Going to an HBCU and then coming to Canada and just seeing the differences in community versus when you were young versus now. What would you say to folks seeking Black community in fundraising now? Who should they look to? Where should they go?
Camila Pereira, PhD.: First thing that came to mind is come to our collective. You’re going to be very welcome. Immediately. And this is because I am unaware of any other community or collective for Black folks in fundraising. So wherever you are in Canada– Because now we’re getting people from, Nneka, you might know better Alberta, Quebec, from East, West, Saskatchewan, right?
Nneka Allen: Yes.
Camila Pereira, PhD.: And this is because there’s no other group. They’re not aware of any other group. And so we’re open to all of you, so definitely come to our group. And I think the importance is that sharing your story, listening to their story, I’m going to say learning because I’ve learned so much from both of them and others about their experiences, about their career, about their choices, about their struggles. So there are so many different angles and components of all of our conversations. I think it’s extremely important and it would really make a difference into how you see the sector and also into how you decide to stay or not because we know a lot of people decide to leave the sector. And I think many times it’s really because they don’t have any support. They feel they’re alone. So what we’re trying to say is pretty much, you are not alone. And if you need a community, we’re here and we’re open.
We need us to stay in the sector because we need this change to happen and we need to share our stories and we need to make an impact and we need to make it a better place for the ones to come. I always say that and I think it’s because I’m so used to – and that goes back to Brazil – things back home moving so slowly that from a younger age, I would always be involved in community projects, other projects knowing that maybe I won’t be able to see the result, but I know it’s important to work and to do something for the ones to come so may have a better place. That’s another reason why I am involved with our community and our collective because I think that’s important. I feel like it’s my duty to do something about it. I can’t just live my life, go through it without voicing it, without saying it. And I think it’s easier for you to do so when you’re in a group, when you’re in a community, when you’re together. You feel much more empowered, not less scared, I would say. Sometimes, like for our book launch today I was literally like, “Oh my God, it’s out in the universe.” This morning, it really clicked.
Nicole Salmon: There’s no reining it in.
Camila Pereira, PhD.: No. It’s out there.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Vulnerability hangover.
Camila Pereira, PhD.: One hundred percent. And it gets you to think, “That’s kind of scary. What is going to happen?” And I’m thinking, regardless of what is going to happen, I know what I did, I did for a purpose and I did because I believe that I’m doing the right thing and there will be a positive impact. Now, in terms of vulnerability, 100%. What is coming next? We shall see. Good things, but it doesn’t matter because we go through that every day. There’s no security anywhere. And I remember I had a conversation with Mide, and we were talking about job security. He looked at me and said, “You know that it doesn’t exist.” And I’m like, “You’re completely right.”
Nicole Salmon: That’s true.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): He raised $20 million and they didn’t care.
Nicole Salmon: They didn’t care. It didn’t matter.
Nneka Allen: That’s exactly right.
Camila Pereira, PhD.: And so, at least at some point in your life or at some point you have to do what you believe in and go for it because at least that piece will bring your comfort. You’re going to sleep in peace. You know when you go to bed, and you’re like, “I’m good for the day”? Usually, I’m good for the day, not 100% related to work. I’m good for the day because I know that– I always say my projects. I did something that was good. It felt good and it will impact someone else. And I probably kind of derailed a little bit from your question, but I usually do that.
Nicole Salmon: No, I want to jump in here because one of the most powerful– You know, we have these weekly meetings and Camilla will– You know, we’ll be talking away and stuff like that or we read a story and we come back and she goes, “We are beyond excellent.” And I can’t describe how that makes you feel. I’ve been in this thing for a long time and I’m just waiting for her to say those words. It’s like come on, give it to me.
Camila Pereira, PhD.: [I’m good 00:41:13] at it, right?
Nicole Salmon: And she always does
Camila Pereira, PhD.: Because I truly believe we are. We are beyond excellent. I don’t even say exceptional anymore. I like to say beyond excellent.
Nicole Salmon: I love it.
Camila Pereira, PhD.: Because usually, we have excellent as the highest and I’m like, we’re past that. Look at what we do, how we do it. I know, right. I love it. [And Nneka 00:41:42] because I know you say that too.
Nicole Salmon: I love it.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): I agree. Beyond excellent is such a good way to describe the community that you’re building. The fact that you’re creating a scholarship fund for young Black fundraisers is beyond anything I’ve ever heard about here in the States. And that is really, as you said Camila, the next generation that you’re taking care of. And that’s a reason for people to join you. And for people in the US who are like, “I’m not Canadian,” Kishshana Palmer has The Rooted Collaborative and Christal Cherry has the F3 Fabulous Fundraisers group as well, which I will link in the show notes, too, so that everybody who’s listening, hopefully, we’ll have a place to go.
Nneka Allen: And Brigit Burton’s AADO.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): AADO, yes. Must not forget them, over 2000 strong, Black fundraisers, male and female, and brown fundraisers as well. Really, really good.
Nicole Salmon: Yeah, I think what it says is there’s an appetite, and if you build it, we will come. We are there if it’s built. And so we have even The Rooted Collaborative and we had that– What did he call it back in the summer? It was like feeding souls.
Nneka Allen: Uprooted.
Nneka Allen: It was phenomenal.
Nicole Salmon: It felt like feeding souls. And Mazarine, I wasn’t able to join you, was it last week?
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Yeah. A couple of weeks ago.
Nicole Salmon: Again, you created that space, and what happened?
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): The most beautiful community I’ve ever had. The most wonderful conference I’ve ever had. And I’ve done well eight conferences, nine now.
Nicole Salmon: There you go.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): I want that in my life every day. That just fed my soul, and this is why I think that we have to trust Black women to lead, that Black women are the future of fundraising and of the nonprofit sector and if people don’t want to get on board, they will be obsolete very fast.
Nneka Allen: Bye.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Bye.
Nneka Allen: Bye-bye.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Right. And I’m conscious of our time, so I want to keep going but I could just continue to riff on that, but this is your interview. So I might skip over the decolonizing philanthropy question. We may come back, but if we have time.
00:44:05 –> 00:44:57
In Collecting Courage, all of you talk about love. So Nneka, I’m talking specifically to you. You talk about the discovery of your love of Black culture and Black history. It was so beautiful to hear about your 1999 start of a love affair with this and then to 2010, going to the museum and being like, “Okay!”, so excited. A museum is celebrating Black culture and history in Canada, but they didn’t want to talk about the real issues of Black Lives Matter facing Black folks today. So, I agree with you, Black museums should be centering Black Live Matter. I think every museum should, honestly, but that’s a separate issue from what the story was about. And it seems a shame that the folks at the museum could not understand that. So was it fear, was it internalized racism? Or something else, do you think, that made them not want to bring this museum’s messaging to new relevance?
Nneka Allen: So I think there’s a bunch of things happening there. But let me say first of all that I think the work of museums, when I refer to that in my story, I know I’m talking about a Black museum, but I believe it’s true for all museums, I agree with you. We need to be about more than just our artifacts and our four walls. When you look at the history of museums and the role they play in education, there is a real responsibility for museums to be about what the world ought to be while rooted in what has been.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Yes.
Nneka Allen: And that is a departure. So I say that because of course, when I was writing this, I was thinking I don’t want anybody to misconstrue my story about this place that I love. I love the Amherstburg Freedom Museum. The scrutiny I applied to what happened there, I don’t want anybody to misconstrue that as it being a singular thing. It really is a scrutiny for the sector, museology in general. And the majority of museums suffer from what I describe. So that’s sort of the broad context for the story.
When I center in on a small town in Ontario with predominantly descendants of slavery, right, the majority of Black people in Essex County where I’m from are descendants of slavery. And of course, there is a certain brand of internalized oppression that comes with that. There can be some limited thinking that’s connected to fear and safety or the mirage of safety. The issue of precarity that Nicole is talking about in organizational contexts, especially when you’re a Black organization. I mean, if anybody has ever spent any time in museums, working in museums, your employment is never stable. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Hopefully, you get a good government who’s digging the arts and you might get a run for a piece of time. And then on top of that, or beside that, you need to have a robust organization and community who understands the role that fundraising and communications play
So, okay. Fundraising is not always understood in nonprofit organizations. That’s a crazy thing to say out loud, but am I wrong? I’m not wrong, right? I’m right.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): You’re right.
Nneka Allen: Okay. So there’s that layered on top. And I can think about even the way I’ve been conditioned in portions of my life around making sure you have enough for a, b, and c and don’t do anything that’s going to disrupt those things. So all of that thinking is brought forward. Boards and organizations are made up of people and those people come with their values and their virtues and the things that they hold dear. So what will you have happen is a manifestation of those things that they believe. And so the work at the museum was really about trying to challenge those beliefs. And there’s nothing wrong with those beliefs, there is just this higher calling. And for me, that higher calling just was so vital to actually doing something about the inequity and injustice we were seeing specifically as it related to young people, because our founder, the museum’s founder, his whole premise for establishing the museum was a focus on the young people and how they saw themselves and the future that they could carve for themselves.
He believed that they really needed to understand who they were, and I firmly agree with that, and create opportunities for them to go and do a variety of things. The environment that we were in in 2010 up until now, in particular, if we look back, has been acute for Black youth. And so those realities have to challenge the work we’re doing. We can’t just keep going along to get along like, “Okay, as long as we tell them the history, it’s going to be okay. As long as we give them a scholarship, it’s going to be okay.” No, we actually have a fundamental responsibility to pause, and we need to look at what’s going on right now and what is real for them and figure out how can we position ourselves so that while we’re doing these other things – history and the scholarship – we’re also advocating for a better way for them.
So that’s complicated. That would have been complicated anywhere. But for Black people, the idea of losing or risking this gem of an organization that our blood, sweat and tears have gone into just had a heightened sense of fear related to it, and for all very good reasons.
00:51:38 –> 00:51:59
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Well, that really leads me to something we’ve been talking about for the last 10 minutes or so, which is it seems clear that in the nonprofit sector as a whole if it wants to remain relevant, it needs to center eradicating white supremacy that fed the wealth of North America. So what would you say to organizations saying, “White supremacy has nothing to do with us?”
Nneka Allen: I would say, “You’re wrong, ma’am, sir. It is in fact, the water we’re all swimming in.” And they don’t have to agree and they don’t have to acknowledge it, it doesn’t make it less true.
Nicole Salmon: I love it. It sort of reminds me of when you’re on the airplane and they have the smoking section and the non-smoking section. It’s like, “Hello.”
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): It’s all the smoking section.
Nneka Allen: It’s all the smoking section. We can smell the cigarettes as we cough in the non-smoking section.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): I’m too young to have gone on a smoking airplane but I remember how they smelled.
Nicole Salmon: Oh yeah, they used to have them for sure. I love it.
Nneka Allen: So that’s essentially where I would begin. And I don’t feel compelled to have to convince people of what is real. More than that, I don’t feel compelled to convince people about my life.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): And this book really shows that.
Nneka Allen: Yeah.
Nicole Salmon: Yeah, it’s funny. So there’s a line in my poem where I talk about [how] it just doesn’t affect others, but it’s a bamboozled others, self-anointed, belongers, and I think that’s it. I think the issue with white supremacy, I think for a lot of white people, they seem to think of it as not being connected to them in any way and I am all about different opinion. You are connected to it, like it or not. My truth, you cannot deny what I live with, but you have to also understand there’s a disservice to you too. But they don’t see it that way. People talk about privilege; they don’t think of that privilege as actually a disservice where it feeds you things that are not true. And that is what you have grown up with. You have been weaned on ideas that are definitely not true, but unfortunately, I don’t think for most white people, they don’t see it that way. And that’s one of the reasons when we talk about allies and that sort of thing, allies to me is so passive. “Oh, this stuff is happening over there.” As Nneka said, we’re in the water here, but “That stuff is happening. It has nothing to do with me but hey, let me help out,” right? No, no, no, no. This is a combined fight and we’re going to do our part, we continue to do our part. But don’t sit back thinking that all you have to do is to use your privilege. It means dismantling the privilege. It means rejecting that privilege. That’s what it actually means. And until you get to that point, then we’re going to have these issues that we have identified in the book. But we will continue doing the work we need to do. It’s now time for white folks to figure that out and do their part in figuring out what they need to change in order to move things forward.
Nneka Allen: And such a big part of relinquishing that privilege is revolved around the very thing you just said, which is unlearning. And I have found the time I’ve spent in session with white people talking about unlearning or when they discover they have been taught things that are false, not a little bit but like their life is built on it, there is a genuine loss and shock that there’s this whole other world they had no idea about, and it’s actually more real than the world that they have lived in.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): That is where I’ve been this year. That is the last eight months of my life, and that was a real grieving for me to not see how deeply unequal this sector was. And I’m so, so grateful to all of you for sharing your real and true experiences and in this podcast as well what other people have shared. I would also like to tell people who are listening who identify as white or of the dominant culture that whiteness hurts us, and whiteness tells you you have to have all the answers, and you have to be in charge, and you can’t make a mistake. Imagine if you could lay that burden down and share the power and understand more about how the system [inaudible 57:14] you do, because we all have to get free together.
Nicole Salmon: Yep.
Nneka Allen: Indeed
Nicole Salmon: So true.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Well, we’re a little over time and I’m just so, so grateful for all of you here today. Are there any closing thoughts you’d like to share? Anything else you’d like to say?
Nneka Allen: I just want to thank you, Maz, for again, creating an environment for us to come and to share authentically. You engage on such a deep level. Your desire to understand and to be present and to be active is palpable. And I applaud that and I’m just really grateful to have spent this time with you. I never come away from our time together thinking, “Oh, I could have done something else.” I always [think], “When is the next time we’re going to spend some time together?”
Nicole Salmon: Yeah, no regrets, right?
Nneka Allen: No regrets, which is the way I love to live.
Nicole Salmon: No regrets.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): No regrets.
Nicole Salmon: No regrets. It’s been a pleasure for me because I’m sort of new to this piece because you certainly know Nneka and Camila. I have actually subscribed to your newsletter, so I knew who you were, but it has been an incredible time spent with you today. And just from the types of questions you’re asking, it’s the sort of questions that need to be asked and need to be answered. So thank you for that opportunity to share some thoughts with you.
Mazarine Treyz (she/her): Well, I hope people come to Boundless Philanthropy and to The Empathy Agency if they want more of your wisdom. And of course, I hope they buy your book.
Nicole Salmon: A hundred percent, yes
Camila Pereira, PhD.: Thank you so much, Mazarine, for this space. Really appreciate it.