Mission, Mutual Liberation, and BLM: A Letter from Affinity’s Executive Director
On June 1, like many local and national organizations, Affinity Mentoring made a public statement supporting Black Lives Matter (BLM). We struggled with the decision of whether or not to release a statement, not because we don’t fully support it, but because a statement is just words unless there is action and accountability behind it. We decided to publicly show our support for BLM to hold ourselves accountable, lean into our mission, and leverage our networks and resources to encourage others to do so. Included in our statement we wrote:
“We believe an individual’s ability to provide for their family, have access to basic resources, and an opportunity for equitable education are all pieces of this broader work. Over 80% of the students and families that partner with Affinity identify as people of color, and over 80% are economically disadvantaged; this is not a coincidence (Learn more about equitable economic growth and access to capital).”
Additionally, our website reads: “[w]e work towards the mutual liberation of all community members and believe that youth are already leaders and community members, but need equitable access and platforms to use their voice.” This verbiage is based on a quote by Lilla Watson, an Indigenous Australian artist and activist who stated, “[i]f you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
As we continue to internally scrutinize our work and identify our blindspots and where we have room for improvement, one key area is in how we spend our dollars, and deciding to intentionally reinvest back into the communities we partner alongside. We have taken advantage of the Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses’ (GRABB) #30days30dollars challenge to hold ourselves publicly accountable to making financial decisions that support Black lives.
In GRABB’s words, “[t]he challenge aims to promote Black-owned businesses across the city and increase dollars flowing to the businesses and communities they are located in. By shifting your dollars to Black Businesses you will be playing a vital role improving the quality of life in economically marginalized neighborhoods in Grand Rapids while purchasing great products and services.”
We want to make it clear that this is not charity or philanthropy work. We need these services and products, we investigated who had the ability to provide quality services and products, and Black-owned businesses have earned our capital. During the month of September Affinity Mentoring spent $3,898 at local, Black-owned businesses, and between last quarter and this quarter we will have spent $5,845 at local, Black-owned businesses. As September comes to a close and the #30days30dollars challenge ends we call on individuals, for-profit, and nonprofit organizations to consider not only how programming and products impact our community, but how expenditures can contribute towards greater wealth divides or greater equity amongst community members; our mutual liberation depends upon our conscious decisions.
Below is a list of businesses that Affinity has or will receive excellent products and services from; we highly recommend each of them. We invite the community to continue to hold us accountable and continue challenging us on ways that we can improve living out our belief that Black Lives Matter. We also gratefully accept recommendations or new ideas for how we can continue to spend our money at Black-owned businesses.
Cassandra Kiger, Executive Director
Local Black-Owned Businesses:
- Daddy’s Dough Cookies
- We highly recommend the Cookie Baking Kits for a team building activity to do in-person or virtually, individually wrapped snacks for in-person events, and they will be a featured part of our Cuentos y Comida event goodie bags.
- Shannon Cohen, Inc.
- Not only do we keep a stash of Shannon Cohen cards for every occasion in the office, but four staff members attended the Rockstar Woman Brunch 2020.
- Malamiah Juice
- A featured part of our Cuentos y Comida goodie bags, part of our staff “Shout Out” prizes, and they make excellent booster shots to keep our team healthy.
- Rising Grinds Cafe
- We encourage teammates to recognize each other’s achievements for a chance to win local gift cards! Also, don’t miss the mouth watering Rising Grinds Soul Food Menu.
- Mosby’s Popcorn
- Their Social Pop program will be a featured part of our Cuentos y Comida goodie bags.
- Genesis Consulting Group
- They will be running our online Cuentos y Comida event; tune in to see their amazing skills.
- Grounded In Equity
- Christine Mwangi is highly experienced in leading teams through diversity, equity and inclusion work, and she will be supporting our team as we work to build better DEI practices into our long-term strategic planning. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Medra’s Art by Medra Stoner
- Medra Stoner, a local mix-media artist, completed two commissioned pieces that now hang in the Affinity Mentoring Goei Center office. You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook at @medras_art.
- The Diatribe
- The Diatribe collaborated with Woosah to create a series of posters in support of Black Lives Matter. Four of these posters hang in the Affinity Mentoring Goei Center office.
For a more comprehensive list of Black-owned businesses check out GRABB’s Directory.