How To Be A Racial Justice Advocate At Your Nonprofit

Gain valuable insight from six nonprofit leaders fighting for racial justice as they share core values and advice about collaborating to make meaningful change.


 

These leaders from Story Tapestries Inc., an organization that promotes accessibility and equity through the arts, work on an initiative to Amplify Voices for Racial Equity. Get their tips on supporting racial justice and see how you can apply them at your nonprofit.


Steven Barker

Managing Director at Story Tapestries Inc.

Who He Is:

Steven is a lecturer of theatre design and technology at McDaniel College. Previously, he served as executive director of the Culpeper State Theatre, a teaching artist for Story Tapestries (Montgomery County), the Redhouse Arts Center (Syracuse), Pied Piper Theatre (Manassas), Imagination Stage (Bethesda), and Orlando Repertory Theatre. He successfully directed the theatre programs at Lejeune High School and Falls Church High School. He has a range of directing and design credits, including Radium Girls (world premiere—one-act version); Godspell; The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe; and A Christmas Carol. He holds a M.F.A. in theatre for youth from Arizona State University, a B.F.A. in theatre education, and a B.S. in chemistry from Virginia Commonwealth University.


Lorienne Beals

Development Director at Story Tapestries Inc.

Who She Is:

Lorienne started her career at Story Tapestries in 2010 after spending more than 10 years in nonprofit administration and eight years in the corporate world. Since 2010, Lorienne has helped develop the current Strategic Plan that Story Tapestries operates under today. As Story Tapestries grew, Lorienne shifted into the role of development director after working as the project manager. Lorienne holds three professional designations that are recognized in the finance industry. Lorienne is an accomplished performer and educator in the United States, England, Italy, Tunisia, and France. She trained at Purchase Conservatory of Dance and the New York Institute of Dance and Education (NYIDE). She served for many years as the vice president of operations for NYIDE and the associate director of Kaleidoscope Dance Theatre. As the former vice president of operations at NYIDE, Lorienne brought a unique perspective on administrative insight to the role.


Regie Cabico

Master Teaching Artist and Poet

Who He Is:

Regie is a spoken word pioneer, having won The Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam and later taking top prizes in three National Poetry Slams. Television credits include two seasons of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, NPR’s Snap Judgement, and MTV’s Free Your Mind. His work appears in more than 30 anthologies, including Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, Spoken Word Revolution, and The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. Regie received the 2006 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers for his work teaching at-risk youth at Bellevue Hospital. As a theater artist, he received three New York Innovative Theater Award Nominations for his work in Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind with a win for Best Performance Art Production.


Michelle Faulkner-Forson

Innovation and Partnerships Director at Story Tapestries Inc.

Who She Is:

Chicago native Michelle Faulkner-Forson connected with Story Tapestries in her role as the community arts coordinator for Arts on the Block. Her professional experiences have centered around bringing the arts to underserved communities of color nationally and internationally. She received her B.A. in photography with a minor in art from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and her M.A./M.F.A. in community arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Michelle is always in search of tools to add her creative toolbox. In her search, she was granted multiple scholarships from the Baltimore Improv Theater’s Diverse Voices fund and has completed the improv education curriculum. Michelle regularly performs on the Baltimore Improv Group theater’s mainstage with improv teams: Big Monsters, Baltimore Tastemakers, and Sneaker Wave. She is also a writer and actor in The Greatest Sketch Show in America. Michelle is skilled in video production and has produced two documentary-style films for the Amplify US! Initiative.


Faith Klareich

Board President at Story Tapestries Inc.

Who She Is:

Faith is the founder and CEO of Sheeler Klareich Associates, LLC, a management services and solutions company. Faith has more than 30 years of consulting experience in sustainability, clean energy, and environmental technologies. She has expertise in program implementation and outreach, including survey design and evaluation. For clients and internal corporate management, she has developed tools, techniques, and processes for enhanced performance and increased operational efficiency. She has served as COO and chair of a joint venture board of directors overseeing the management of a $200 million federal contract.


Arianna Ross

Executive Director at Story Tapestries Inc.

Who She Is:

Arianna is the Founder of Story Tapestries. A sought-after writer, performer and educator, she is considered a leader in arts integration and storytelling. As executive director since 2010, Arianna has worked with the board to develop Story Tapestries into a successful nonprofit. Under her leadership, Story Tapestries obtained the status of an America’s Promise Alliance partner and GlobalGiving “Superstar.” For 20 years Arianna has taught and performed at colleges, libraries, schools, and community centers. As part of her job, she continues to work with artists and teachers to develop innovative programs and concepts.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to nonprofit leaders that are just beginning to think about the intersection between racial injustice and other forms of injustice?

Faith: Once you find the intersection between racial injustice and other forms of injustice, you can work with other groups on common areas of interest. You will change the system faster by standing with many voices.

Michelle: Understanding who you are and how you are perceived in the world is important when starting any organization. If you don’t understand your privilege, you can’t understand racial inequalities.

Regie: Racial injustice is not just an economic inequity, but one rooted in centuries of miseducation. We need to understand history from the perspective of the people of color and Black people who built this country.

Steven: Pace yourself—this is a marathon, not a sprint. Do the reading, come up with actionable benchmarks, keep forward momentum.

Q: What should nonprofits working for racial justice or with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities keep in mind?

Lorienne: Accept that making mistakes is the process of learning and that questions, not answers, guide growth. Because in asking the question, you invite reflection and participation.

Michelle: Educate yourself and don’t rely on the BIPOC community or friends of BIPOC origin to educate you.

Regie: Ask yourself, how many of your friends are white?

Steven: Be honest with what you don’t know. Don’t participate in “cancel culture.” Practice “Oops, Ouch” in your daily life.

Q: What is one book about racial justice or leadership that should be on every nonprofit leader’s reading list?

Arianna: “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo

Faith: “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t” by Simon Sinek

Michelle: “Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds” by Adrienne Maree Brown

Story Tapestries Graphic

Q: What is one piece of wisdom you’ve learned over the course of your career?

Arianna: Collaboration is the key to success. Work with a diverse group of people. Build a team that tells the story of the community. Do not make any assumptions about your team. Ask, and you shall grow.

Faith: Let your team know that you are there to make every member successful. Be willing to have that conversation with each member … it opens up dialogue, idea generation, and support for each other as you provide a safe community/work environment. In return, it builds a high-performance team and information sharing that fuels success.

Regie: People do not understand the intricacies of microaggressions against BIPOC people. If you are being corrected by a BIPOC person, ask questions, let it sink in for 24 hours before getting defensive, and build your own resource of respected BIPOC allies to engage in deep and meaningful dialogue.

Q: At GlobalGiving, four core values guide our work: Always Open; Never Settle; Listen, Act, Learn, Repeat; and Committed to WOW. What principles shape the work of Story Tapestries?

Arianna: Always be open; listen, learn, then act. We are committed to our community, and we recognize that we have much to learn.

Lorienne: Our Collaborative Project Process means we aim to create programs and services that are designed both by and for the communities we work with. It is essential to us to create meaningful, impactful products by first listening and then collectively responding. Story Tapestries is committed to empowering others to create, design, and share their own success stories. Our job is to help identify and provide tools that can get them there. That is why our tagline is “Empower. Educate. Engage.”

Michelle: I would say the way we execute our Amplify US! initiative relates directly to the listen and learn principles. We would usually have listening sessions in invited communities, and then we create workshops in response to the information gathered from the listening sessions. This process makes the workshops relevant to the community Story Tapestries is in partnership with every time.

Learn more about Story Tapestries.

LEARN MORE

Featured Photo: Amplifying Voices for Racial Equity in MD-DC-VA by Story Tapestries Inc.
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