I grew up in the punk rock scene. Our slogan was D.I.Y. – Do It Yourself. Since I was young, I’ve known that if we want the world to be a fairer place with justice for everybody, we have to do it ourselves.
When I lived in New Orleans, I tutored kids in my neighborhood. Every kid I knew had at least one family member in prison, and going by the statistics for Black males in our neighborhood, most would end up in prison by the age that kids from my Midwestern home-town would go to college. One of the kids I tutored got busted when he was 15 - maybe for having drugs, or maybe for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was a good kid who was facing 6 years in prison. I went to court with his mom 8 times, and because a white person who could read showed up, the judge let him out on a probationary program.
When my parents sold a business they started, I got a million dollars, giving me opportunities they never had. It was more than I needed, which didn’t make me any happier. I gave 75% of the money I get from my family to social justice work. Because I had seen first-hand how prisons destroy communities and exacerbate racism and poverty, I put $500,000 into the Beyond Prisons Fund, and worked with an advisory board of 8 long-time activists to fund alternatives to incarceration.
I worked for several years as the Donor Education Coordinator at Resource Generation, a national organization working with progressive young people with wealth. I used to worry that my story might intimidate people. I didn’t want anyone to think I was pushing an agenda. But I think sharing my story also makes it easier for people to understand what the work of groups like Resource Generation is about.
I understand the importance of working with people with wealth to support social justice by giving money, and also by becoming involved in organizing and movement-building - that's why I like to support Headwaters!
Originally published in Bolder Giving.