Join us in supporting Give Black KC 2022 in association with Black G.I.F.T. and BeGreat Together
Give Black KC is an annual fundraiser that focuses on providing funds for high-impact, Black-led organizations. Black G.I.F.T. & BeGreat Together have partnered up with the United Way of Greater Kansas City this year with a goal of $500,000. The campaign will benefit 5 Black-led organizations that directly serve the Black communities in the areas of income, employment, education, mental health, and crime reduction. Take advantage of an incredible opportunity to make a difference in KC. Join us to raise funds, spread awareness and contribute to a truly important cause. Please visit GiveBlackKC.org or text GiveBlack22 to 41-444 to donate.
To launch the campaign, we have a message from Brenan Latimer, President and CEO for The Future of Us:
Our understanding is subject to the constraints of our perspective—what we can and cannot see. In this way, your interpretation of racism in Kansas City may depend on your relationship with “the cave.”
The Allegory Of The Cave is an old Plutonian parable that you probably know.
The tale follows a group of people born in and confined to a cave. They have never experienced the outside world. Inside the cave, they are restricted to facing a single wall. Their only light source is the entrance to the cave directly behind them. As the outside world develops, passersby cross in front of the entrance, and their shadows are projected onto the wall inside the cave. The group builds their universe of knowledge from these shadows on the wall because that is all that they can see.
Suddenly, one person miraculously escapes and they, for the first time, exit the cave. Once outside, they find themselves disoriented and confused; their eyes are not used to the sunlight. Immediately, there is a disconnect between the caveperson and the people of the outside world. The caveperson only recognizes the shadows, having seen them on the cave wall, and they acknowledge them as reality.
The outsider doesn’t understand the caveperson’s attention to the shadows and misattributes this as a lack of appreciation for the outside world. They explain to the caveperson that the shadows are not real; they are just illusions projected onto the ground. The real world is bright and colorful. Eventually, the caveperson adjusts; they can see clearly and comprehend the world around them. They come to understand that the sun illuminates everything and is the reason that the shadows exist. Then, they return to the cave to share the news.
Kansas City has created a cave.
There are very established boundaries and systems in places that segregate our metropolitan area and personify cave walls. People outside of those boundaries are afforded better educational resources, school systems, job opportunities, housing, infrastructure, grocery stores, parks, community centers, etc.
If you’re born inside the Kansas City lines, you’re likely to be left staring at the shadows on the cave wall. If you’re born inside the Kansas City lines, the plights of poverty are normal. If you’re born inside the Kansas City lines, underfunded school systems are normal. Food deserts are normal. Overpolicing is normal. Mass incarceration is normal. Unemployment, intrusive business, and pervasive exploitation are normal. The rustling and bustling of the passersby peeking into the cave from behind you, watching you build your universe around the shadows they cast—normal.
We’re taught that escaping the cave is what defines success. That success is attending a predominantly black Kansas City Public School and graduating from a predominantly white college or university. Or it’s working for a primarily white corporation while being from a primarily black community. From renting in the inner city to owning in the suburbs.
But, venturing outside the cave provides context that can be frustratingly revealing—having to realize that some outsiders are the passersby, observers, enablers, and ignorers; completely aware of the conditions inside the cave but unwilling to help. They may even go so far as to smile, shake your hand, and congratulate you for escaping.
On the other hand, it can be discouraging to realize that others have no awareness of the shadows they cast or the difference in resources and opportunities that living 15-minutes east or west of Kansas City provides them.
Context can be infuriating. Context can make news stations look like poplar trees; videos of the police killing black people look like the strange fruit that Billie Holliday and Nina Simone sang about. Context makes the shadows on the cave wall look manufactured. It makes districts, zones, and city lines seem gerrymandered. Context is Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs, and all of Johnson County being adjacent to Kansas City but having single-digit student-aged poverty rates, while Kansas City school districts have well over a fourth of their children living in poverty. Context is knowing that these are issues of race but being told that “I do not see color.” Escaping the cave is not about achieving some level of success; escaping the cave is about identifying the sun – the source of power that illuminates the outside world and casts the shadows.
Give Black KC 2022 is a collaborative, week-long fundraising effort led by nonprofits who have stared at the sun.
The sun is recognized as the system, the longstanding government, the institution that has perpetuated racism and prejudice. But, with knowledge, experience, and conviction, the five participating organizations are attacking the shadows differently: The Future Of Us encourages students to go to college by awarding mentorships and scholarship opportunities that ignore discriminatory metrics like standardized test scores; G.I.F.T. facilitates growth and job creation by providing resources and financial support to black-owned businesses; BeGreat Together provides funding to school programs and changemakers to support their community change initiatives; MOS counsels and uplifts military veterans by providing them with employment resources; SWAGG INC has created an infrastructure that aids people impacted by mass incarceration to help reduce recidivism rates.
Unfortunately, replacing the sun might be as difficult as it sounds. But, uplifting the Kansas City community is an actionable and impactful piece of that puzzle. This year’s cohort looks to empower people affected by some of the main constraints on underserved communities: income, employment, educational infrastructure, educational opportunity, mental health, and mass incarceration. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.” Too many people live in a reality built of shadows that have been created by white supremacy. And too many people who don’t live in that reality either deny that it exists or don’t actively work to help break down the cave walls.
As Juneteenth approaches, we should be thankful for those who escaped the cave before us and returned to help others.
Harriet Tubman escaped physical and mental bondage. Sam Cooke, James Brown, and Marvin Gaye sang songs of the cave to the outside world. Shirley Chisholm, Angela Davis, and Ramona Edelin rose from the shadows of the educational system and dedicated themselves to creating opportunities for others. Standing on the shoulders of those giants, Jay-Z is tackling prison reform, pressuring for investigations into our very own KCK police department.
The allegory of the cave evolves as barriers are broken. Give Black KC 2022 is not just a fundraising effort meant to uplift and support; it’s a demonstration of the power of solidarity, black collaboration, and grassroots community development. Give Black KC is an opportunity to create drastic change and have a substantial impact locally. An opportunity for you to help foster the transformational empowerment of black people in Kansas City. We should celebrate our ancestry and the accomplishments that have propped up our nation. Still, we should also remain unsatisfied and have an insatiable hunger for progress and equity.
Regardless of your relationship with the cave, whether you have never seen it or were born into it, you can help break down the walls.
Please visit GiveBlackKC.org or text GiveBlack22 to 41-444 to donate and help fund the revitalization of Kansas City. To everyone who stands hand in hand with the Give Black KC movement: thank you, you are making history.