What Equity Means to Me: Shelley Hoss, OCCF

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Equity. It is a term heard a lot these days. And yet, if you ask 10 people what it means, you might get 10 different answers. As OCG prepares for our 2020 Summit, “Equity in Action: Stories of Innovation & Collaboration” we are pleased to share with you how different members of our community understand, and most importantly, put into practice, equity. Together, we can move Orange County forward, implementing and aligning with the 10 +1 next steps as recommended in the OC Equity Profile.

Our fourth blog post in the series comes from Shelley Hoss, President & CEO of the Orange County Community Foundation. The Orange County Community Foundation is a member of Orange County Grantmakers.

A Commitment to Justice and Equity

By Shelley Hoss

At the Orange County Community Foundation, where I have had the honoring of serving for more than 20 years, our mission begins, “to inspire a passion for lifelong philanthropy”— or according to Merriam-Webster, goodwill to fellow members of the human race, through active effort. The word’s Greek roots define philanthropy as “love of mankind.”

It boils down to this: Philanthropy is love in action.

On June 5, as cries for justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death shook our nation and the world, OCCF recognized a call to action—in service to our donors, nonprofit partners and the Orange County community – to make public our commitment to create equity of opportunity, fuel educational and economic progress, support racial healing, and build a more just and civil society – starting in our own community.

To help launch this work, OCCF’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, Tammy Tumbling, founded the African American Alliance Fund on June 19 to support African American communities in Orange County and beyond. With an outpouring of community support, the Alliance Fund has grown nearly seven-fold since June, and recently awarded three initial grants in the priority areas of education, health, human services, economic development and civic engagement. 

In July, OCCF’s Board of Governors formed a Racial Justice and Equity Work Group committed to helping create an Orange County where all of our residents have the opportunity to thrive. This Work Group has been meeting regularly throughout the summer, and is now launching initiatives on three primary fronts: Learning & Strategy, Economic Opportunity and Educational Equity.

Our Learning and Strategy group is beginning with an organizational learning process. What is implicit bias? What is the historical context of racial inequities that persist both locally and nationally? What strategies do we need to employ to move forward? Ultimately, the group is exploring models to move the needle on equity aligned with Orange County’s specific demographics, needs and resources.

Our Economic Opportunity sub-group is prioritizing minority-owned small businesses. Our first effort is to build pathways for minority business leaders and entrepreneurs to connect with untapped resources  – including intellectual and financial capital – that may be difficult to identify or access. As we build access to resources that fuel the success of minorty-owned businesses, we will benefit not only small business owners but those throughout our community who they employ.

And through our Educational Equity group, we are taking a systemic approach to addressing the complex set of factors that result in educational inequities. This group will focus on disparities in school readiness, the digital divide, parental engagement and other impediments to academic achievement to fuel students’ success in school and beyond.

We are committed to exploring all the ways in which OCCF can leverage its knowledge, experience, resources and relationships to create a more equitable Orange County, and look forward to working with our many partners in the  philanthropic sector toward this end.

As Nelson Mandela said, “As long as poverty, injustice, and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”

Let’s get to work!

More To Explore

How do we build a compassionate and inclusive America in an age of distrust? WAJAHAT ALI knows from personal experience that when we come together to be the superheroes of our own stories, we can create honest social change. The beloved TED speaker has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic about our urgent issues—immigration, politics, parenthood—with boldness, hope, and humor. His memoir Go Back to Where You Came From, one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year, follows his life as a Muslim Pakistani-American on a surprising, emotional, and challenging quest for the good life. Iconic journalist Katie Couric says that “we are all so fortunate to be on the receiving end of his intellect, his humanity, and his heart.”

Wajahat Ali

“With wit and charm, Ali delivers a masterful meditation on growing up brown in America...he gives us a clear-eyed affirmation of the country America could be.” — Mara Gay, New York Times

Wajahat Ali uses his platform to fight tirelessly for the social change we need in our country—and he isn’t afraid to get personal while doing it. The Daily Beast columnist and former New York Times writer, TED speaker, award-winning playwright, and Peabody-nominated producer of the documentary series The Secret Life of Muslims offers us his experiences of triumph over hardship as a beacon of hope and resilience in the face of life’s impossible situations. From his experiences of Islamophobia growing up as a Muslim Pakistani-American to his two-year-old daughter’s liver cancer diagnosis, Wajahat is living proof that when we share our authentic stories, we build the America we wish to live in.”

In his memoir Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American, Wajahat teaches us how to create our own superhero origin story, invest in hope for the future of America, and enact real social change. The book was called “biting and funny and full of heart” by NPR. Representative Ilhan Omar called Wajahat’s work “hilarious” and “deeply moving”, and legendary writer Dave Eggers said it was the book he’d “been hoping Wajahat Ali would write for ten years—hilarious, stylistically fearless, deeply humane.”

Wajahat is also the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim-Americans in a post-9/11 world. He was the lead researcher and author for the Center for American Progress’s seminal report “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” and served as a national correspondent for Al Jazeera America, where he told stories about communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media.

As Creative Director of Affinis Wajahat Labs, he worked to create social entrepreneurship initiatives to support and uplift marginalized communities. He also worked with the US State Department to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. Wajahat initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore. For his work, he was honored as a “Generation Change Leader” by Sec. of State Clinton and recognized as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. 

He has given keynote speeches around the world such as TED, The Aspen Ideas Festival, Google, the United Nations, and The New Yorker Festival. His writing appears regularly in the New York TimesThe Atlantic, the Washington Post, and The Guardian. He’s a Senior Fellow at The Western States Center and Auburn Seminary and co-host of Al Jazeera’s The Stream.