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    Staying Fearless: Supporting Equity in an Era of Backlash (CircleUp DMV)

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    Event description

    The backlash against racial equity and justice has intensified since the Supreme Court struck down race-based college admissions in June. Two months later, the battle shifted to philanthropy, when affirmative action opponent Edward Blum filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Fearless Fund, attacking grants made by its foundation to support Black women entrepreneurs. As the Fearless Fund case unfolds, funders and nonprofits are asking what this means for their work. How can they continue to support equity? What changes should they make to their programs? What impact will changes by funders have on grantees, both current and prospective? And what other challenges lie ahead? The panel will address these questions from the perspective of foundations, grantees, and giving circles and invite the audience into a conversation about staying fearless in an era of backlash.

    This event is open to all giving circle members, supporters of collective giving groups, philanthropists, and anyone looking to participate in this discussion.

    Event Schedule:

    • 6:00PM - Doors Open (Light refreshments available, please arrive early as food is limited)
    • 6:30PM - Panel Discussion

    Event Hosts, Sponsors, and Partners:

    Moderator: Fatima M. Smith, founder, Collective 365


    • Hanh Le, co-CEO, iF A Foundation for Radical Possibility, and co-founder, Cherry Blossom Giving Circle
    • Melody Webb, founder & ED, Mothers Outreach Network
    • Tamira Benitez, ED, Diverse City Fund

    Hanh Le is a Co-Chief Executive Officer at iF, A Foundation for Radical Possibility, which envisions a world in which Black people and people of the global majority live powerfully, abundantly, and beautifully in healthy, self-determined communities free of social, economic, and ideological violence. Hanh was previously Executive Director of the Weissberg Foundation, and she has served as a chief program officer at Exponent Philanthropy and directed training, grant, and technical assistance programs for KaBOOM!, Community Technology Centers’ Network, and the Peace Corps. Hanh co-founded DC’s Cherry Blossom Giving Circle and co-chairs the Metro DC chapter of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy. She serves on the boards of AALEAD, Philanthropy DMV, and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. She holds degrees in environmental geology from the College of William & Mary and urban and environmental planning from the University of Virginia. She is passionate about family, friends, dogs, biking, food, matrixes, and K-dramas.

    The executive director of Mother’s Outreach Network, Melody Webb is a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School. Melody has spent her career practicing public interest law. Her advocacy on behalf of and with marginalized communities seeks to reimagine broken systems. Melody’s work in many legal capacities includes direct representation and federal and local advocacy on behalf of unhoused individuals at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. She served as Legislative Counsel for US Senator Robert Casey; and Associate General Counsel for Service Employees International Union. Melody has supervised public interest attorneys as Legal Director for the Employment Justice Center, and as Pro Bono Counsel for DC’s Neighborhood Legal Services Program. She served as a parents’ defense attorney representing parents whose children were removed by the government as a DC Superior Court Counsel for Child Abuse and Neglect and has served on the DC Superior Court Improvement Program for several terms. Recently appointed to the American Bar Association Parents’ Attorneys Committee, Melody has lectured on the intersection between movement lawyering and family law. She authored Building A Guaranteed Income to End the “Child Welfare” System in the Columbia Journal of Race and Law, Strengthened Bonds: Abolishing the Child Welfare System and Re-Envisioning Child Well-Being Symposium issue and is the author of From Authoritarian State to Black-Inclusive Democracy, 2020 edition of the University of Florida Journal of Public Policy.

    Mother’s Outreach Network (MON) is an advocacy organization that promotes the inclusion and empowerment of Black mothers in the struggle for family preservation by transforming government income and child welfare/family regulation laws, policies, and practices.

    Tamira Benitez (she/ella) joined DC Fund as the first executive Director in May 2022. Prior to joining DC Fund, she served in various leadership positions at the DC Council, the Latino Economic Development Center, the Small Business Development Center, and the Local Initiative Support Corporation. She also served in community groups and committees such as the DC Language Access Coalition, DC Coalition for Immigrants’ Rights, and DC Fund’s Grantmaking team.

    Tamira is a near life-long Washingtonian who immigrated from El Salvador at 13. Tamira has worked to prevent displacement of Black, Brown, and immigrant District residents, strengthen support and resources to organizers, and grow local movements. Tamira lives in the Brightwood neighborhood of NW DC with her wife and dogs where they spend their free time gardening, having bonfires, and cooking with friends and family.

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