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Don’t Forget the Sugar: Ingredients Make a Strong Community!

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

A portrait of Executive Director, LaDawn Sullivan

Cooking is a longtime love that was nurtured by time spent in my grandmother’s kitchen. My experience there shaped who I am today. When I was twelve, I spent the summer with my grandparents. Early one morning, I asked my grandmother if we could make cupcakes. She said maybe later. Later, in my eyes, meant now, and I began to bake while she was chatting with a friend on the phone.

I vividly remember being proud that I made the cupcakes from scratch, solely on my own. They looked wonderful going in and coming out of the oven. But the true test was in the taste…Cue my grandfather’s response, “These cupcakes are VERY solid. Umm…I have never had cupcakes that aren’t sweet.” I took a bite, looked at the recipe and rolled my eyes trying to force back tears, realizing I forgot to add the sugar. They looked so good but tasted so bad. They were missing a critical ingredient that made them a barely edible treat to share with my family.

Years later, to hear my grandmother tell it, I had those cupcakes mixed and in the oven in less than ten minutes. Over the years, this story has often been retold at the family dinner table, wrapped in hearty laughs and callouts to my much-improved culinary skills (smile). But there is also a lesson in the story that can be applied to my other love, my community.

Just as I hurriedly threw together ALMOST all of the ingredients to make those cupcakes, so can we, in our hurry to fix issues in our community(ies), miss the critical “ingredients” needed for a strong and equitable community. For many years as a professional in philanthropy, I witnessed community members negatively affected by community issues missing community-led solutions. Bland community change is the result of a lack of seasoned lived experience, history, and culture— minimal impact from undercooked relationships and poorly mixed collaborations.

The BRIC Fund was created to be the soulful blend of collective ingredients necessary and community-building tools, ready to build strong Black communities. Continued BRIC Builder support, coupled with more than 25 years of community and philanthropy experience has developed BRIC’s Recipe for Strong Black Communities.

What’s needed:

1 bowl full of community members who recognize the valuable assets within their community

Add at least 2 cups of community-led ideas and 1 cup of community leadership;

Mix in generous handfuls of commitment.

Blend all the above ingredients with:

1 cup of communications

5 cups of collective community giving (5Ts- time, talent, treasure, testimony, and social ties in portions to be determined by need and donation)

1 cup of community empowerment power and ownership

1 cup of relationship-building

1 cup of inclusive planning

1 cup of community action

Stir until you see partnerships, collaborations, and impact starting to emerge from the mixture.

Add 1 cup of capacity building and a few dashes of Black Resilience in Colorado Fund support.

Let it rise, then:

Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of shared reflection and learnings.

Top with 2 cups of celebration!

Serve heaping servings to Colorado’s Black communities and beyond!

The outcome is a perfect mixture that produces a sweet, collective solution that all community members can benefit from and enjoy. But more importantly, it provides the community with a recipe for community building that people can be a part of producing, sharing, and talking about for generations to come. During this season of giving and throughout the year, the BRIC Fund wants you to remember that you are an essential ingredient for successful community outcomes. Unlike the sugar in my early cupcakes, you will never be left out of the BRIC Fund recipe!


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