Thank you for coming to Hillombo! After decades of working, succeeding and failing in building culture and community, while working in almost all-manners of Pittsburgh’s non-profit sector: philanthropy, arts, community development, out of school time programming, community organizing and education, Bonnie and I have formed Hillombo LLC. to “Lift Black perspectives, negotiate and build alternatives to systemic racism and capitalism, in the memory of our ancestors, for the benefit of Black people.”
We are excited and curious about where our mission will take us! In the short term, we will be working with foundations and grantmakers that are developing strategies with grantee partners, partnering with community development organizations that are building power by engaging community in planning and strategy and working with white led arts organizations on issues of racial equity. Our interest is in applying and furthering what we’ve learned to help groups make progress on specific challenges while imagining what the implications might be for higher system level interventions. And we have a lot to learn. We know that capitalism’s many ways of hoarding resources intensifies and facilitates racism- which today we think of as an ongoing systemic project to create, define, defend, enforce and justify (a) the idea of race, (b) white people being the top race (c ) the material and psycho-social benefit of white people to the detriment of “others”. Yet neither idea just emerges out of the forest, both concepts are children of European people and culture, as am I, so, we are interested in thinking, acting and creating spaces that examine how culture both feeds and offers alternatives to these systems. We also know that this work will not always be a linear progression of these ideas and that we will continue our ongoing effort to both live our ideas and live with economic resources.
And the work of Hillombo has already begun. For the next two years, The Heinz Endowments have engaged Hillombo in the management of the networking, knowledge building and communications of its field building program, the Transformative Arts Process. Shouts and thank you the Endowments. We are excited to have been engaged in a couple of other projects recently as well, so please be sure to go the “Projects” page over the next couple weeks to check them out. And we’ve been slowly building. In the last year, Justin worked with Chamber Music America in their successful process to create a Statement of Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (DEI), at the invitation of the League of American Symphony Orchestras Justin facilitated a conversation with Kerryl McCord, CEO of the Equity Quotient, about race and the orchestra business and worked with Grantmakers in the Arts colleagues to begin designing racial equity workshops for Arts & Culture Program Officers. We are looking to connect our various interests. We’ve also begun talking with our teacher son, Kufere Laing, on liberatory educational tools we can create with teachers, out of school programs and home schooling parents. So, inspired by the Kawaida Theory (the theory behind Kwanzaa holiday created by Dr. Maulana Karenga) “the most powerful critique is an alternative”, we are really excited to see how how all of this can come together.
Much to think about and work on. Please come back here for posts on our blog. We’ll be updating regularly. Again, thank you for checking us out!