Even with the hard-fought efforts of the Civil Rights Movement, the disastrous effects of slavery and the toxic aftermath of a country fractured by hatred have shaped the South and ignored its deepest suffering. Until we address these wounds, not just with empathy, but with action, the full promise of America will remain unfulfilled.
The era of Reconstruction, though turbulent, was a time of abundant promise and opportunity in the American South. From 1865 to 1877, the United States government laid out plans and policies aimed at reintegrating Confederate states and guaranteeing legal rights and protections for the nation’s newly freed Black populace—toward a “more perfect union” for all. Tragically, this promise did not come to fruition. The Compromise of 1876 and withdrawal of federal troops from the South in 1877 signaled an abandonment of the ideals of Reconstruction, codified the post-abolition racial hierarchy and divide, and cut short the process of healing and reconciliation.
The South’s failed attempts at Reconstruction have left a gap in our country’s foundation and moral obligation to liberty for all. The time for Reconstruction is now - one that is honest, earnest, and bold, but most importantly, that focuses on orienting America towards a future rooted in justice and equity.
The Southern Reconstruction Fund will take up that unfinished legacy and accelerate place-based community change across the South by facilitating transformative investments, connections, and technical assistance in up to six southern communities. Our investment approach, (W)Health Capital, is rooted in an understanding of the racialized history and power dynamics of the American South. The scale, flexibility and patience of our investments will directly challenge the region’s history of extraction and enable a broadly defined community asset building agenda.
Southern communities have long been subject to overstudy and underinvestment. It is time for the people who live, work, worship, and raise their families in these spaces to be adequately capitalized so they can set the vision and direction for their own destinies. SRF’s investment strategy will be grounded in the following core values and principles:
Communities and local leaders must be in control of their own destinies to achieve sustained transformation. Our approach to processes, power sharing, and funding are grounded in this conviction—centering communities’ assets rather than deficits. There are no inherent deficiencies in communities, only historic and current policies that produce inequities by design.
This work requires a foundation of trust and commitment among members and the broader community. Communities will undertake a process of acknowledging the harmful effects of extractive capitalism, facilitating collective healing, and creating opportunities for public kinship across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
Each community will self-determine the mix of financial mechanisms—from philanthropic grants and program-related investments (PRIs) to market rate equity and debt—best suited to their circumstances at any given time. We will help position communities to be opportunistic and to utilize investments to achieve not only restoration and healing but also innovation and excellence. Our funds will also provide them with connections to the agencies and resources necessary for their transformative agendas.
We value lasting, accountable relationships, with community leaders as equal partners. We will not advance our own ideas and agendas, but rather honor, complement, and accelerate the vision of local leaders and institutions. We will work closely alongside the organizations we fund for a full 10 years, providing ample time for institutionalized changes and long-term resilience. The result will be a locally owned process that changes systems to build community capacity and grow—rather than extract— social, political, emotional, and financial capital.
© 2020 The Southern Reconstruction Fund