In November of 2019, we launched a new initiative rooted in the trust-based philanthropy model to authentically engage, empower, and center the voices and needs of the community. For JBRF, those happened to be the Black women residing in Wards 7 and 8 in Washington, D.C.
The Black Women Thriving East of the River (BWTEotR) initiative was developed to create a series of targeted, actionable interventions that address the root causes of barriers holding back Black women. Over more than two (02) years and through a pandemic, JBRF facilitated discussions among a diverse group of twenty-eight (28) women who were living and working East of the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C.
The BWTEotR initiative envisions a city where all Black women receive equitable access to opportunities and resources that lead to optimal health. We want to see them thrive in the nation’s capital.
The participants of BWTEotR comprised a mosaic of women, including healthcare professionals, cancer survivors, primary caregivers, social entrepreneurs, community-based organizations, and advocates. They were all united by a common goal: to enact positive change in health and workforce-related outcomes for Black women.
After convening this diverse group, we faced a new challenge: where to begin? Through intentional facilitation, we focused our efforts on addressing barriers at cultural, institutional, interpersonal, and individual levels. We sought support from Two Brown Girls to lead racial equity and health disparities training and The Mirror Group to conduct culturally responsive evaluation training.
Through active listening, we deepen our understanding of the dynamics at play, enabling us to address our focus areas of reducing cancer mortality and supporting Black women with long-term career opportunities, particularly in health-related fields. Workgroups were formed to champion each of these topics, fostering focused discussions.
JBRF’s role is to act as a neutral convener that facilitates, rather than directs, the creation of solutions we invest in.
During the workgroup discussions, we uncovered that the challenges faced by Black women when navigating cancer and seeking gainful employment were deeply rooted in racial inequities, systemic injustice, lack of workforce development support, and limited access to quality cancer care. In each workgroup discussion, powerful insights emerged from the firsthand experiences of women who had personally dealt with cancer recovery, caregiving, and the cycle of underpaid employment or unemployment. These authentic stories allowed women to be vulnerable and empowered them to devise long-term community-centered solutions. Afterall, those closest to a situation are the best equipped to identify how to meet and solve them.
The Jane Bancroft Robinson Foundation is proud to have incubated BWTEotR and remains committed to supporting their ongoing efforts. Our shared vision is to create a future where Black women have access to opportunities, resources, and effective cancer treatment, empowering them to thrive. This work serves as a blueprint, demonstrating our ability to effectively support cancer navigation and workforce development efforts in a meaningful and impactful manner. While we have made significant progress, we recognize that this is just the beginning and we need the support of other funders to make an even greater impact..