New Orleans, LA — August 31, 2021
Only months after launching, ground-breaking new philanthropic organization Women’s Foundation of the South (WFS) is on the frontline, sounding the alarm specific to BIPOC Women as it relates to pre-and post disaster relief associated with Hurricane Ida. Carmen James Randolph, Founding President and CEO of WFS, who has exceptional disaster grantmaking expertise and is known for her remarkable leadership and vision as the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s Vice President for Programs — demonstrated only last year in her outstanding response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During her tenure at GNOF, she excelled in creating the Foundation’s disaster strategy and influenced the equitable disaster grantmaking practices of an additional 20+ regional grantmakers. She is also a renowned thought leader and philanthropic expert who inherently understands the plight of women and girls of color in the South and the second-class fundraising status experienced by many organizations led by women of color.
Established for and led by women of color, WFS acknowledges that male-led organizations may not be as mindful of the nuanced needs of women in disaster relief efforts. Single mothers of color and women of color with infants all have urgent and specialized needs in recovery times, so integrating gender into the disaster management cycle and strengthening accountability for gender impact is crucial. Women also bear primary responsibility for the welfare of their children, and those living in poverty are particularly vulnerable. At the same time, many women’s workloads — caring for children, the disabled, and their own parents — rise at the same time that traditional support networks may be unavailable.
Ms. Randolph also points to the fact that disasters always exacerbate existing conditions. At a time when families are overwhelmed by COVID, an eviction crisis, and unemployment, the expense of evacuating when a storm is approaching can be unbearable: “It takes access to a vehicle, gasoline, and money for hotels and food to leave; if you’re already below the poverty line, evacuating may not be an option. Then, you’re left to weather the storm, with no power and little sustenance. Many parts of Louisiana are still in longer-term recovery from the previous disasters; recovery can take years, and already-established economic rifts are made deeper.”
WFS also understands complex trauma — exposure to multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature — and the wide-ranging, long-term effects this exposure can have on girls and women of color, with particular expertise on the implications in disaster relief efforts. WFS’ leadership is especially aware of the need for healing and help in recovering emotionally and understands the cumulative effect on complex trauma. WFS advisor, leading psychologist, and president of Institute for Women and Ethnic Studies Dr. Denese Shervington says, “People were already struggling and feeling on edge with the pandemic. Although flood waters did not engulf everyone, for many, their psyches have been submerged by memories, making the decision to evacuate or stay, and enduring the storm. For many, this is Katrina all over again. The brunt of the stress and strain often falls on women.”
WFS is a member of the Greater New Orleans Funders Network, and it will work with its network of local and national philanthropic partners to ensure BIPOC women-led organizations are well-resourced to respond to the needs of women and children. WFS recommends supporting the following trusted, BIPOC women-led nonprofit organizations that are providing disaster support to women and families disaster such as: Coastal Communities Consulting, Familias Unidas, Louisiana Public Health Institute, the United Houma Nation, and Zion Travelers Cooperative Center and more.
WFS is a 501(c)3 organization for women and girls of color in the South, and led by the same, founded on the principle that solutions are often held by those closest to the problem. WFS raises funds for active programs, services, and resources for women and girls of color and their families to stimulate building health, wealth, and power, and will serve women of color in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
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