by Lauryn Bray
At the end of Nov 2022, Black Future Co-op Fund announced the release of Black Well-being: Moving Toward Solutions Together, a report identifying solutions to inequities harming Washington’s Black communities. Written by Black Washingtonians for Black Washingtonians, the report somewhat acts as an updated extension of the 2015 report, Creating an Equitable Future in Washington State: Black Well-being & Beyond, by Byrd Barr Place. The Black Well-being report is intended to function as a tool for advocacy and policy change for the investment in community solutions that support Black well-being.
“This is the first [report] of its kind in Washington State where we are telling our story on our terms,” said Andrea Caupain Sanderson, CEO of Byrd Barr Place and co-architect of Black Future Co-op Fund, in an interview with the Emerald. “We created this thing that was for us and by us, in our likeness, with the language that we chose to use to describe ourselves. We controlled the narrative.”
Black Future Co-op Fund is a philanthropic organization dedicated to redistributing funds back into the Black community through investment in community-based organizations. Founded by Black women, the organization is unapologetically focused toward the securing of funds to promote Black generational prosperity and wealth.
“These are the resources that were extracted off of Black bodies historically and they need to be restored to the Black community, and we are a conduit for that,” said Stephen Robinson, director of community engagement & learning at the Black Future Co-op Fund.
For over two decades, Caupain Sanderson has worked with communities, policy makers, and investors to promote racial equity and economic prosperity for all people across Washington State. In 2008, she became CEO of Byrd Barr Place and in 2020, she, along with T’wina Nobles, Michelle Merriweather, and Angela Jones, launched the Black Future Co-op Fund.
“The genesis of this report was over two decades ago when I often found myself in meetings where stakeholders, policy makers, [and/or] funders would say to me, ‘You guys are really good at telling your anecdotal stories, but where are your stats?’ Enough of hearing that, and I thought, ‘I will never put myself in a room again without understanding my people’s stories both qualitatively and quantitatively,’” said Caupain Sanderson.
At the time, Caupain Sanderson was working at the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs to support legislation that worked to advance the rights of Black people throughout the state of Washington. While traveling across the state and interacting with Black communities across counties, Caupain Sanderson identified several recurring themes in response to the question of what Black people want the State to prioritize on their behalf. These recurring themes are highlighted in the report under the five pillars of civic engagement, education, economic mobility, public safety, and health.
The report, however, does not only rely on Caupain Sanderson’s experiences from her past employment with the State. It also includes recent data collected from surveys and focus groups.
“We divided the state into four quadrants: rural, coastal, suburban, and urban. We took our time and were thoughtful about getting equal amounts of feedback from each of those regions. It was time consuming, but it led to this body of work that we feel extremely confident that most Black Washingtonians will see themselves and envision themselves in this report,” explained Caupain Sanderson. “We want it to [inspire] a sense of belonging.”
According to Nobles, the report is also intended to perform as a call to action. “This Black Well-being report is an organizing tool. This is to get you fired up, to change policy, to continue to create change in [the] community, to have even more validation of why funds need to be added to the Black community,” said Nobles.
Black Future Co-op Fund prioritizes partnerships with investors who already understand that funding is intrinsic to ensuring that Washington’s Black community has the resources necessary to thrive.
“There are folks who want to make the investment. There are folks who want to see the Black community in Washington State thrive, want to see the building of generational wealth, and so we want to engage in those types of relationships. And we get to be in control of that. We get to manage that, we get to direct that,” said Nobles.
Nobles also wants grantees to know they are entitled to these funds, and that the work Black Future Co-op Fund does is not for charity.
“I want our grantees to [understand] that this money is long overdue. This money does not belong to Black Future Co-op Fund,” explained Nobles. “This money should have been invested in the Black community — it should be invested in the Black community presently in the form of reparations — so we’re not doing our community a favor. This is not money from our personal pockets. We are redistributing money that should already be in the Black community.”
If you want to read the Black Well-being Report, you can access it online at BlackFutureWA.org.
This series is supported by the City of Seattle’s Generational Wealth Initiative. The South Seattle Emerald and its contributors maintain full editorial control over all its coverage.
Editors’ Note: This article was updated on 02/15/2023 to use Andrea Caupain Sanderson’s full last name on further references.
Lauryn Bray is a writer and reporter for the South Seattle Emerald. She has a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from CUNY Hunter College. She is from Sacramento, California, and has been living in King County since June 2022.
📸 Featured Image: Spokane residents come together for the Black Well-being statewide gathering to discuss community-identified approaches to manifest Black health and prosperity. (Photo courtesy of Black Future Co-op Fund.)
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