Felicia Griffin is a racial and social justice leader deeply committed to reducing disparities within communities of color by working to transform its leaders and build community power. She leads by example as the co-founder of Transformative Leaders for Change, an organization that works with BIPOC leaders working to address and implement changes in Colorado and beyond. Felicia is driving critical changes and building a legacy of giving within her family. Recently, BRIC had the pleasure of speaking with Felicia who shared her story, thoughts on community investments, and how to build community power. We are grateful for her support, leadership, and continued commitment to laying bricks for the future.
BRIC: Please share your journey and path to philanthropy. FG: My path to philanthropy has never been straight. It has been a journey to make meaning and build an understanding (some say relationship) with money. As a child who grew up in deep poverty in Aurora, CO., church giving and tithing was my first example of what it meant to share what you had with those in need. It instilled a value in me that it didn't matter if you had a little or a lot – but that we all need to give back and share a portion of what we have been blessed with in a collective pot.
I remember saving pocket change to give during the offering or asking my mom if I could take a couple of canned goods to a school or church food drive and how good it felt. Fast forward to my early twenties, I had the opportunity to work as a Development Director in a nonprofit organization. Being on the asking side deepened my perspective. Knowing that my success equaled the impact on people in my community was a heavy burden, yet it taught me the importance of giving back and sharing my blessings beyond church and direct service. Today, I include my kids in family philanthropic giving decisions. We aren't wealthy, but we take our giving seriously as we want it to support the organizations doing the work for our community that we feel is most important. BRIC: Your career has been and continues to be centered on social and economic justice. What personally led you down this path? FG: I deeply desire to leave things better than I found them. Growing up in poverty and seeing how our systems/laws/policies work against you motivated me to fight for something different. Watching my mom, a single parent, work so hard and still not make ends meet inspired me to dedicate my life and work to social justice.
BRIC: As a community activist and co-founder of TLC (Transformative Leadership for Change), how has your work shaped and influenced your thinking about the need for community investments? FG: First, doing this work as my JOB is an honor. Over the last few years, I've learned that supporting leaders is my true purpose. At TLC, we build power by building deep relationships with each other. There are many examples throughout my career when we genuinely united to build and win. We need to do that more often and on a larger scale. Building and fighting together to challenge the "big," renders them powerless and scared. We have more power than we know, and building spaces where we learn, strategize, and build relationships together is a good step forward. BRIC: How do you believe we build power for our communities? FG: Investing in building people to do this work is critical because working in the nonprofit sector is no cakewalk! Our organizations often do work short-staffed and in a culture of urgency. Our organizers are on the frontlines working with communities experiencing deep trauma and harm. We are in a battle for our very lives and ways of living. We must keep those at the forefront of the work fortified.
BRIC: Can you share your experience as an EDCI alum, its impact on your work, and how you leveraged the insights gained to further impact the communities you serve?
FG: EDCI came at the right time. Taking over an organization filled with crisis and trying to get the organization stabilized was a lonely endeavor. EDCI was a space that felt like home to me. It was a place to build relationships with folks with similar experiences and to sharpen my nonprofit management skills. Also, the home-cooked lunch was such a treat at the end of a busy/stressful week!
BRIC: Why did you choose to be a community BRIC Builder? FG: My family and I feel it is critical to direct a portion of our giving to organizations impacting our community. As a parent of Black children, I still have to fight for them to have opportunities and experiences that other children have. I want to support organizations providing those and other services to our community because, often, they are underfunded. I also know and support the leadership of BRIC and am so excited we have an opportunity to invest in our community through this fund!
BRIC: You discussed including your children in your philanthropy efforts, creating a legacy of giving. Can you talk about the value of doing that and teaching children early about community investments and giving back? FG: Because of the traditions we have set, my teens are already living out the value of sharing their blessings when they can. They often do it daily at school when other kids need something. Or when they see homeless on the street. They also pay attention to nonprofit organizations and ones they may want to give to at the end of the year.
BRIC: Why do you feel BRIC is vital to Colorado's Black communities in working to advance transformational social change?
FG: BRIC is vital because very few organizations/funds work to fill the gaps in the Black community. A fund like this is way overdue. Having intentionality about supporting Black-serving organizations and leaders is crucial, and BRIC has that.
BRIC: What responsibility do you believe we all have to be invested in community outcomes? FG: We have shifted away from moving collectively to reach the common good. Our focus has moved to taking care of ourselves and our own, and it's pretty clear this approach isn't working. We won't sustain ourselves (nor our planet) without investing in each other in tangible ways. And I believe there are times when we must be focused on solving issues we are facing and filling gaps our communities are experiencing. Race and equity issues are real, and if we continue to hate and not care for each other and not see that our destinies are intertwined - we will suffer the consequences – all of us, no matter what we look like or where we come from.
BRIC: Is there anything you'd like to share that we didn't ask?
FG: I appreciate the work the BRIC Fund is doing, and I invite your readers to join me by making a monthly contribution!