A recent QCityMetro profile of Black philanthropists featured Schott President & CEO Dr. John H. Jackson. In the profile John describes the intersection of philanthropy, racial justice, public education, and grassroots movements — precisely where he and the Schott Foundation do our work.
John Jackson came to philanthropy through his work in education justice, first as a member of the Clinton administration, and later in his national work with NAACP Education Division across 2300 sites. Through that work, he grew in his appreciation for the power of grassroots investments, an understanding of which influenced his personal and professional approach to philanthropic investment.
John Jackson subscribes to three tenets of giving. First, he believes that it is about resourcing individuals and institutions “closest to the pain” and offering the best opportunity for progress toward addressing those needs. Second, it is about building trust between funders and recipients, and trusting that those closest to the needs will use resources appropriately to bring about change. Third, Jackson invests for systemic change to ensure that change becomes a public good, not limited to localized impact.
John Jackson is adamant that, in his work and in Black giving, we must use a racial/gender equity lens in funding. Specifically, he believes that we can’t get to excellence in educational systems because the inequities are defined by racial and ethnic inequities. These institutionalized, race-based inequities can only be rectified by funding in a way that targets the sources and root causes of the inequities.
John Jackson described a years-long movement to integrate restorative justice in schools across the country. When he was with the Clinton administration, he saw seven-fold disparities among Black students – especially males – in rates of suspension and expulsion for minor infractions. The Schott Foundation partnered with Atlantic Philanthropies to review and change state- and district-level policies governing suspension and expulsion practices. A total of $43M was invested in grassroots organizations across the country to change practices at district and school levels. As a result, school districts across the country changed their suspension and expulsion practices and codes, resulting in a decline in disparities. Most districts have at least reviewed their policies and made suspension for insubordination more unlikely.
John Jackson stated, “If you have a donor that cares about social justice and you’re not investing in organizations led by people of color, you don’t have a balanced portfolio.” He believes that foundations and donors have to take the long view on investing in leaders of color and organizations led by them, which requires being bold and giving resources in a way that should make us feel uncomfortable.