#Ferguson: The Nonprofit Sector as Secular Conscience

#Ferguson: The Nonprofit Sector as Secular Conscience

Seconds after the Grand Jury announcement came out of Missouri last night, my Facebook and Twitter feeds began to fill with #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter posts.  Some were from friends expressing sorrow, outrage, disbelief.  But most were from the nonprofit organizations I follow.  I wasn’t at all surprised to see that organizations like Black Women’s Blueprint, Colorlines, and the Black Youth Project had powerful, thoughtful, full-fledged posts at the ready only moments after the news broke.

What did strike me, however, was that the posts didn’t stop there.  #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter posts were flooding my feed from organizations covering a whole host of issue areas - folks like GetEqual, Resource Generation, Community Voices Heard and so many others showed up, each saying in their own way, “This has to stop.  We must do better.”

Seeing the range of organizations brought to mind something I once heard Kim Klein say during her closing remarks at a gathering about the Commons.  She said:

“The nonprofit sector should be the secular conscience of society.”

It was something she said almost in passing, either because she was on her way to a larger point or because she assumed it was already a commonly held belief.  Either way, it’s something that has always stuck with me.  At the community level, the bold visions and focused missions of our organizations call out our values as a society.  Many of us are called to this sector because we feel there is some wrong that needs to be righted or some group of people who is denied access to America’s promises – freedom, justice, health, and well being. Many of us are called to this sector not because we’ve lost faith in America but because we see the nonprofit sector as the way to both help fulfill and hold America accountable to its promise to every person who calls this place home.

I was reminded as I scrolled heavy-hearted through my feed that whatever our focused organizational mission, we also have the responsibility to call out and push back when something runs counter to values as a society.   Our organizations have bold visions, and racism has no part in the world we are trying to create.  As a sector it is our duty and our privilege to call that out.
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Photo by Elvert Barnes Protest Photography / Flickr.com

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