How Can We Invest in the MASA Community Beyond Rapid Response?

Centering Racial Justice: How Can We Invest in the MASA Community Beyond Rapid Response? - Proteus Fund

Centering Racial Justice: How can we invest in the MASA community beyond “rapid response”?


As part of an ongoing series, on October 16, 2018, the RTF hosted a funder briefing, “Making the Case for Inclusion of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Communities into Racial Justice, Immigration Portfolios.” The briefing challenged philanthropic partners to examine personal and institutional biases against funding MASA communities and served as a means to educate funders on how MASA communities and policies impacting them are a critical part of the wider racial justice movement. This understanding is important for supporting the MASA community over the long term, and not just in response to “crisis.”

Presenters included Deepa Iyer, Senior Fellow at Race Forward and part of the RTF-funded MASA Organizing Team; Connie Heller, Co-Director of the Linked Fate Fund for Justice and RTF donor partner; and Eric Ward, Executive Director of the Western States Center and Proteus Fund board member.  Participants included national, regional, and local funders, some of whom are already funding MASA communities, and some of whom were interested in learning about how to “make the case” in their own institutions and communities.

During the briefing, we discussed how MASA communities continue to exist in an increasingly Islamophobic, xenophobic, anti- immigrant, anti-black, and misogynistic environment around the country – seen as both physically threatening and culturally inferior by their fellow Americans, while also being targets of government policies aimed at securing the country from another terrorist attack. Panelists urged funders to be bold and push against the labeling of the MASA community issues as part of the “national security” landscape within their own institutions and the sector. In addition, panelists shared strategies for funders to think beyond rapid response giving and consider longer-term, sustainable funding to MASA communities, as Islamophobia is inextricably linked to structural racism in this country and the challenges for the MASA communities will continue regardless of which administration is in power.

Finally, participants worked together to workshop ideas on how to take the role of “advocate” within their own institutions to help make the case for beginning or deepening support to MASA communities. Steps to take included:

  1. Lead/ask for an audit of your institution’s giving to MASA Is there a reason for a lack of strategic focus in funding MASA communities? What are philanthropy’s priorities for MASA-related funding?
  2. Look at who is making decisions within the organization on Are there program officers directly tied to impacted communities? What about leadership and trustees?
  3. What resources do you need to advance the case for including MASA communities?
  4. Resist the frame that there is a lack of power and agency in the MASA field by investing in their A lot of organizing and mobilizing is being led by MASA organizations run by MASA women.

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