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Doing Philanthropy Differently

A Conversation with Toya Randall

Toya Randall is the curator of Voice. Vision. Value. This digital narrative project celebrates the leadership impact of Black women in philanthropy. Toya connected with Chanda to talk about what it means to be a person of color working in philanthropy, her 2020 experiences, and the benefits and challenges of proximity.

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Souphak Kienitz  00:02 

Our next trailblazer is Toya Randall. Toya is a writer, philanthropist, and curator of Voice Vision Value, a digital narrative project about the historic leadership impact of black women in philanthropy. Toya connected with Chanda to talk about what it means to be a person of color, working in philanthropy, her 2020 experiences, and her journey in creating Voice Vision Value to celebrate and elevate the stories of the amazing black women leaders, whose stories are often gone untold. Here’s Toya Randall and our host, Chanda Smith Baker. 

Chanda Smith Baker  00:55 

Toya Randell, thank you for being on Conversations with Chanda. So when you agreed to be on the podcast, I was super amped and then also kicking myself because you should have been on this a long time ago, and when I think about you, I have to just tell this story because I got my job at the Minneapolis Foundation, and right away you were one of the first people that reached out to me that said, we have this retreat for black women and philanthropy, I would love to sponsor you and have you come be part of this and meet some amazing women in the work, and I remember going to that before I officially started in my role, and you know, I think about that often in terms of, you know, how we welcome people into the work, and I remember going to that and people talking about like finding time to breathe, and I’m just like, you know, how possibly can philanthropy be hard? You know, coming from the other side of the work, so I have so much more insight now I was so judging, Toya, I was such a judger. 

Toya Randall  02:00 

Philanthropy can be hard. Yes. Like, like most things, right, there are tough spots, and having a safe space to unpack and connect with folks who share an experience, a unique experience in this sector, particularly, has proven to be a highly valuable and needed space for so many of us. 

Chanda Smith Baker  02:25 

You know, when I hear people sort of describe, and we can talk more about your work, but when I hear people sort of talk about you and your essence and how you show up, particularly for women in the work, like, you know, I felt very special to get that invitation to learn that you have done this for many, many women in terms of making sure that they’re connected to each other, and amplifying opportunities for them, amplifying their work to others. Can you talk about just why that is an approach that you take and how that is actually supported, your work along your journey? 

Toya Randall  03:01 

Yeah, absolutely. For me, it is born out of what I experienced early on in my career. Having come to philanthropy, as a fresh, idealistic, naive, little girl from East St. Louis, I came to philanthropy working for a private foundation and I started my job January 4th, 2000, and it was my move to sort of re invent myself in the new millennium, right, like everybody was figuring out how they were going to do something different, and so mine was to pack up and leave my home and my family and start a new career. For the first few years, it was very isolating for me. I lived in a community and worked in an organization that was predominantly white. While we were 35 miles outside of Chicago, that 35 miles felt more like 300 miles and so to be in proximity with other black folks in the world, was not a frequent experience for me, those first few years as I was learning the organization, learning the field, and sort of finding my rhythm and groove in this new way of life and in this new way of existing. So I remember what that was like when I got to a place where I could support others, to not have that experience or to help ease the stress of that experience was something that was important for me to, to sort of activate, right, and there were moments over the course of my early career where that investment and sponsorship of me having access to spaces was made available, particularly, the one most glowing example would be Linetta Gilbert’s formerly a For foundation, sponsoring me to attend a retreat in Bermuda, because having to make the case for why I needed to go to Bermuda with black people in philanthropy was going to be a real hard thing, and so Linetta sponsored me and many others through travel stipends to make that trip, and so I always held that with me. 

Chanda Smith Baker  05:19 

Yeah, it’s funny, you know, in the social sector, and we’ve seen criticism, critique of folks going to places like Bermuda or wherever, places where it’s ocean and beautiful, and, you know, I think that it’s sort of necessary for the weight of the work, and I’ve been in some pretty beautiful spaces where I’ve had the most amazing breakthroughs, right, both relational breakthroughs, strategic breakthroughs, where I felt appreciated for what I brought to the space by just having room, right, to think outside of your typical set of circumstances. For the folks that have been sort of maybe a champion of wellness, but sort of a critical of folks in the in the social sectors spending resource on these types of retreats and wellness, what would you have to say to them? 

Toya Randall  06:21 

That’s an interesting question, because I’ve never, you know, we built into the model for the women’s retreat, and a way to resource women attending who would not be supported within their organization for the very reasons that you, that you’ve indicated. I would say, the importance of having time to step away, fully, and intentional and be in community with folks who share an experience and a set of sort of unique circumstances around you know, how we are positioned not just in our work, but sort of in the world, to find respite to disconnect is important in the safeguarding of our leadership and our humanity. In the last five to seven years, there is a new narrative that is being sort of emboldened in our field around restorative justice and philanthropy funding the ability for organizers and movement builders and bipoc communities, both inside philanthropy and in community to have the spaces of healing and restoration,  and so there is a, a greater sense of enlightenment and advocacy for these types of investments, but there still needs to be, the way makers, right, who can help others afford those opportunities when their organizations are not in or not in a place of enlightenment, particularly for folks who are outside of the C suite, right? Like we, there is a appreciation for senior level executives, to have that room to reflect and grow through sabbaticals or through these sort of cohort experiences and far off beautiful places, and I am an advocate for those opportunities being made available in a more equitable way, and we’ve been able to do that, in many instances through the women’s retreat. We need more, because that’s just one event a year, and, you know, we have folks like Trista and Sylvia, who are creating additional spaces as well. 

Chanda Smith Baker  08:57 

Trista Harris and Sylvia Bartley, Dr. Bartley? Yeah, our sisters in the work. Yeah, one of the things that that you touched on, I think, is the evolution or the deepening and understanding of what it means to be a person of color leading in the work either in community or in philanthropy, and certainly in all of the sectors there is a way in which we show up, and I know we’ve talked about this before and that in these roles, we are showing up from community and you know, proximity has its benefits, but also has its challenges, and this last year has been particularly difficult for a lot of people in the work coming from brown and black communities that have been leading while their community has been so impacted by the pandemic, by not just George Floyd, but by Breonna by just this regular onslaught of these videos being seen and communities that are outraged and tired, is sick and tired of being sick and tired in showing up in new spaces, and I think the weight of responsibility of trying to lead in this time is showing up in a lot of ways over this last year. I know you’ve been in a lot of those conversations as I have, and you’ve been in a lot of them with me, but, you know what, you know, for someone that may not understand, sort of the different way, if they have a staff that’s not diverse, but maybe diversifying, you know, how do you how do you talk about the difference of how leadership shows up for people of color? 

Toya Randell  10:46 

Yeah, I think there is a serious deficit in the ability of people who are not of color to see the breadth and depth of our humanity, right, and to connect our humanity to the disproportionate outcomes and data points and like all of the ways in which in philanthropy, we have this intellectual knowledge that is based in research. We have the data like we understand intellectually, the disparities, the disproportionality, the way in which systems have failed and continue to fail, communities of color. How that then gets operationalized, and humanized in relationship to those of us who are in these predominantly white spaces, is continues to be a challenge, and it is something that organizations over the past year and a half have truly had to grapple with, and are continuing to grapple with. But what I’ve also seen, is that folks of color inside philanthropy have been emboldened in a way that and again, I’ve came into the sector in 2020, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, right, and it could speak into your point about sick and tired of being sick and tired. There is a heightened sense of explicit advocacy, and absolute clarity around what is needed and necessary inside institutions, and folks are pushing the conversation and the dialogue, beyond conversation and dialogue to get into action and results. I culture, the Funders Network, the Greater New Orleans funders network. That group of local leaders, Flozell Daniels and Carmen James Randolph into Tequila Robertson, along with community partners, are turning philanthropy on its head, and have put out a bold strategic plan and theory of change that truly centers equity and justice, and this is a philanthropic, you know, net regional network of foundations, with some national partners that are saying we want members of community on the board. We want members of community making decisions about how funding decisions are being made within this network. We are prepared and positioned to share power, and to open up space in a way that really does center equity and justice not just as part of a mission or purpose statement, but as part of how we do philanthropy in this region, and I’ve not seen anything like that before in my career. So I think this moment that we are living and reliving folks have taken the gloves off in many ways, and are unapologetically demanding a different way of being in this sector. In, in in many, right, like this is happening across sectors, but watching this occur in philanthropy, mostly through the leadership voice of black women has been something to bear witness to, and it’s been beautiful and difficult, but it is absolutely necessary. 

Chanda Smith Baker  14:27 

Yeah, Toya, do you think that this sea change exists only because of the murders of George Floyd or Breonna, or was it headed in this direction, and then that moved it with a different level of urgency? What do you think accounts for this? Because I would hate to think that the way that philanthropy evolves is on brown and black death and pay, right, like I would hate to think and there’s a lot of research on when philanthropy corporations lean in that will show these these pivot points on, you know, George Floyd or Katrina or, you know, there is there is documentation of when people come in, but and when it was sustained and when it hasn’t been sustained, but do you think that it, this is, the catalytic point was George Floyd or was it headed this way? 

Toya Randall  15:19 

I think it was headed this way. You came into the sector, I’m trying to remember like we met in 2017, 2016, right, and so the narrative around equity and equity and inclusion and diversity, right?  

Chanda Smith Baker  15:38 

You should write a book called Equity and Conclusion because people go to conclusion on a regular basis. 

Toya Randall  15:46 

Right, the narrative and the conversation was, what’s happening before, right, you had the Executive’s Alliance to improve outcomes for boys and men of color, which was born, you know, out of the the murder of Trayvon Martin, and you know, Obama picking his speech on race, and then you have my brother’s keeper. So it’s sort of been building, but even in that instance, and those two examples of sort of this national conversation and sort of strategy focused on improving outcome from boys and men of color came out of right, black pain, black death, and the horrors that continue to occur after that Mike Brown, right, like Tamil Rice, it doesn’t stop, it didn’t stop, it doesn’t stop, it won’t stop. So, you know, 2020 was a year that, I think, with the pandemic, sort of forcing everybody to be still. Our typical way in which we respond to the incidences of black and brown citizens being killed or significantly brutalized at the hands of police, unarmed citizens, mind you. We were all stuck in our houses, right, and watching this unfold in a way that I think typically we could distract ourselves. There was no turning away from it, and I think that moment of sort of stillness and isolation, forced a different reaction in a different response, because we couldn’t distract ourselves with the business of life in ways that we had before, where we would have conversations and maybe launch a thing, and then we would do that simultaneously, while all the other things were happening. COVID forced a different, it forced a different reaction. 

Chanda Smith Baker  18:00 

Yeah, let’s just talk about 2020 for a minute. So you and I took a trip. We went to Italy, we went out there just decided we were going to hang out and come together and… 

Toya Randall  18:14 

Begin the New Year, bring in the new decade. 

Chanda Smith Baker  18:16 

Bring in the new hair, do some shopping, just start out 2020 with a bang, that we leave there in January. Yeah. 

Toya Randall  18:26 

We were there, and this deadly virus was hovering all around us, we just didn’t know. 

Chanda Smith Baker  18:32 

We did not know it. Really amazing, when I think about it, and how the year shifted so quickly under our feet. I loved how it started, and obviously, there were so many things that that happened in the middle of it. What, how was 2020 for you? 

Toya Randall  18:51 

So it was so many things, there’s so many things. You know, I went into 2020 knowing that by the end of the year, I would likely be divorced, right? I went into 2020, preparing to launch a book project about black women in philanthropy. I went into 2020 as you made me sort of realize and recognize, ushering my son into, you know, a new decade. He turned 10 last year, 2020 was a year of sort of new things happening for me, and it really was closing a chapter on my right, it was my 20th anniversary working in philanthropy. Nothing happened the way that I thought, for me, personally. The world was and still is a mess, but the way in which I talked about 2020, forcing philanthropy and forcing this country to, you know, sort of recognize with a sense of focus and discipline and unrelenting clarity, the racial divide and the ways in which black and brown people’s humanity is brutalized and dehumanized every day. All of that happened while I was in my house with my child, right? This nine seem to be 10 year old little black boy, and it forced me to, I didn’t travel at all. So I was home every day, all day, with my son at a time of such suffering and loss and pain, and I got to navigate that and marry that in a very intimate and deeply intentional way around his safety and his emotional well being, and I think it allowed me to mother and love and connect him connect with him in a way that I’d never had before, and it allowed me to narrate what was happening in the world in a way that I hope when he tells the story, right? He didn’t internalize, and we got to have conversations about racism and what that means in the world, and what that means for him in a way that doesn’t make him feel like something’s wrong with him, or there’s something that he needs to fix or do with himself, right? Like, this is a problem and an issue, and it is unrelenting, and it’s awful, and it’s inhumane, but it has absolutely nothing to do.  

Chanda Smith Baker  21:43 

Okay, can we stop right there for a second, because I think this is where, you know, I’m saying that proximity has its advantages, and sometimes it’s incredibly challenging to navigate, and so this is a clear example of something that we are all wrestling with the issue of policing, but in our own homes, there’s a narrative and a reality, externally, in which we are trying to assure our sons that they are safe, they are loved, right, that the narrative around black men and boys are not one that they should be absorbing, and we are also part of a sector that has contributed to that narrative, and that felt really real for me last year, right? Like, you know, all of us are navigating and very real things, right, like personal and professional realities, and I think it hit everybody, like we all became proximate to the pandemic, right, we all shared a fear. I think with George Floyd, at least here in Minneapolis, we were able to see like what it did to our city. How we plugged in to where it hit us personally was different along a continuum, but this whole narrative around brown and black men and boys in our communities, is something that has been very challenging to navigate. 

Toya Randall  23:18 

Yeah, and I would imagine, again, Zach is just 10 years old, and it’s gonna get more challenging as he gets older, but I’m so grateful that in the year that was 2020 how I got to navigate that was with him close, as close to me, as he had ever been in his life that we were in such close proximity to one another. That became our cocoon and he has been released back out into the world. I wait for the moment when some shit is gonna happen right to him personally, and we will have to revisit that narrative in that conversation within the context of his own identity, right and I pray that I will have the words and that I will have the folks you know Dawn Marie Friend who’s a dear friend and colleague is a child therapist by training. You know, there have been points in Zachary’s little life where I call on Marie and seek counsel. How do I talk to this boy about this thing? So being able to have again, a community of black women who can help coach and guide me through these moments, both personally and professionally has and continues to be a secret weapon. 

Chanda Smith Baker  24:44 

You know, 2020 did give us some gifts and you just described one of them. Were there any other lessons that you feel like you walked away with from 2020 that have been informative? 

Toya Randall  24:54 

Yeah. I walked away from 2020 with a really deep appreciation for in the midst of so much of crisis and pain and suffering, still being able to carve out space and time for creativity and  to create something that is now Voice Vision Value at a moment where I didn’t know that was possible. Right? I didn’t know, that wasn’t even on the, we didn’t talk about that in Italy. So tapping into my creative spirit was something that I walked out of the year having a deep appreciation for, and now sort of reflecting on all the ways that women in the community created organizations and initiatives, and you know, various platforms again, all pushing for there to be a different accounting and responsibility, and calling to the truth in our sector. So doing it within our institutions, but leveraging our networks, leveraging our relationships, and leveraging resources to create the very things that we are demanding philanthropy do differently, was a huge and beautiful lesson for me personally, and then to witness others manifest creative enterprises and platforms as well. 

Chanda Smith Baker  26:40 

Yeah, let’s talk about the creativity because we did talk about the book project in Italy. 

Toya Randall  26:45 

We did. Yeah, and then, you know. 

Chanda Smith Baker  26:47 

We have other, and the world COVID happen I get, but the evolution of ideas is what’s growing it right and bringing people into it, and so can we talk about where you are with the book project, and the concept around that? 

Toya Randall  27:00 

Yeah, so in August of 2020, I launched Voice Vision Value as a digital narrative platform to really celebrate and elevate the leadership impact of black women in the sector. We also launched a research project to really document the leadership impact of black women in the COVID Racial Reckoning Black Lives Fair moment, and we’ll put that out at the one year anniversary of Voice Vision Value. But the book is back on track, and I received the first sort of major investment about six weeks ago, really, really grateful for that show support, and by the way, I just wanted to give a shout out to all the folks who’ve supported getting this project to now which have primarily been black women in philanthropy. So this is for us and by us in every possible way, but the book will launch it in September, once we get through all of the activities to celebrate the anniversary, and it really is, it will be a series of essays written by black journalists from around the country, through a series of interviews and focus groups and questionnaires sort of capturing the leadership narrative of black women in regions around the US. There will be a beautiful pictorial element that sort of tells the story of our, sort of, brilliance visually, and all the proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Association of Black Foundation Executives, ABFE, and hopefully, we will be rolling out the book to the public in August of 2022. So I’m sort of putting myself on this every August, which is black philanthropy month will have something to offer by way of the story of black women 

Chanda Smith Baker  28:57 

So you’ve talk to me about Voice Vision Value, and how did you come up with Voice Vision Value as like the main? 

Toya Randall  29:05 

Yeah, so this is deeply, deeply personal for me. I talked earlier about my own sort of isolation early in my career and the way in which the support and sponsorship of black women has helped carry me through. I have to give a shout out to my boss, Antoinette Malveaux at Casey Family Programs who in 2014 gave me the green light to hire an executive coach and the journey to finding my voice to sort of strengthening my level of comfort and confidence and my own leadership and the value that leadership brings. It began with the work with my coach Eva Montalvo and she still coaches and guides me to this day and over the course of that time, I really, you know, got clear about my voice got clear about my vision, and the value, not just my own value, but the value again, of black women in this sector. Black women are the largest professional community, of people of color in professional philanthropy, you know, we are able to stick and stay and deliver in all the ways, in all the spaces, but particularly in philanthropy, that story has gone untold, and so being able to develop a platform, to document the narrative, to celebrate the wins, to talk about the hard fought battles, to research, the strategies, and create something that can help minimize the isolation, for those coming up the line is really what this is about, and again, to do that, with the trust, and the support of other black women in this sector, has been a phenomenal, phenomenal thing for me to experience and deliver, with a lot of joy. 

Chanda Smith Baker  31:17 

One of the things that does make me think of is when I first came in, I think I talked to you about it, but all of the things around sort of emergent practitioners or whatever in philanthropy or some of the other sort of fellowships in philanthropy are for people that are kind of coming out of college or new to career, and here I was sort of mid career coming into my first role in philanthropy, like I’m a little bit older, like, where do I go, right? Like I need, I need to find my people in here, and I sort of laugh at it, because I think that there’s these assumptions that if you have life lived and sort of another sector, and you come in, that you’ve got it all, sort of, figured out, and I just think the importance of those circles, and when I think about who it was, you know, Sylvia interest in you and others that kind of came in and welcomed me in and can you talk more about the importance of building out an accurate narrative? Because I do think that part of the isolation, and part of the storytelling components are not just about what’s not working, but where do you go when you need stuff, right? Like, what are the wins, not just the problems that existed before you, I think that’s important for any community to understand that. But for the work that you’re leading, particularly around supporting, elevating, amplifying, connecting black women, what is the importance of building out that accurate narrative? 

Toya Randall  32:51 

I literally get to talk to black women about this every day, and so they’re just so many nuggets, right, and I think it was to Kima Robinson, who said, when we tell our stories, we set each other free, and because when you hear the story, and when you hear the narrative coming to you from the person who experienced it, right? You see yourself and you realize so much of what you thought was made you inadequate or ill prepared or needing something more than what you had, you realize how untrue that is, and you also realize how common the isolation and the feelings of some have called it the imposter syndrome, right? You realize that is a common, that is a common set of experiences and sort of emotions, and, you know, conditions that we are navigating, I want to be able to elevate that narrative and create not just spaces where we tell our stories, but document them in ways that then can be used to create what are the strategic tools, what are the ways in which we resource ourselves and one another, so that we can address, combat, minimized and hopefully eliminate that noise that often can shake us at our core, and we don’t fully bring ourselves into the space and into the work, and I can say again, I was in 2014 by the time I met, I got my boss and that gave me the green light to hire the coach and I could begin doing this work around building my confidence and comfort in my own leadership and really being intentional about sort of understanding how I wanted to use my access to the the the sort of privilege and space of philanthropy to have impact around the things that I cared about. I wish somebody had been having those conversations with me in 2000 Like 14 years before and so how do we, together, tell these stories, create tools, create safe space, so that the next Toya or the next Chanda, at whatever point you come into this sector, there is a readily available set of resources that you can look to and lean on so that you can launch in a far quicker way than most of us were able to. 

Chanda Smith Baker  35:32 

Yeah, we’ve talked about sort of black women in philanthropy and sort of the informal network of connecting, and then you talked about Antoinette and the way that she supported you as your supervisor, as your people leader, and we can underestimate the importance of that role, that formal role of leadership, and, you know, here, we’ve talked a lot about black women supporting black women, and we know that in philanthropy, that is not often the case. What tips might you have for white leaders that are supervising women of color or people of color? 

Toya Randall  36:16 

Yeah, so, you know, I have grown to live by this motto of asking for what I need and trusting that I will get it. I think for white folk who are supervising people of color, ask them what they need, and then give it to them, and for us, we have to get clear about what we need, and ask for whether someone asks us or not like, we need to ask for what we need, and those who are in positions of power and authority to greenlight those things that we need, also should be asking us that same question. 

Chanda Smith Baker  36:55 

Do you think philanthropy is growing its ability to support the diversity that’s showing up in this space right now? 

Toya Randall  37:06 

Well, the philanthropy is trying, I think institutions are trying, but often times the folks who are making decisions about what to do are not informed by the people who are doing the score, right. So this point about asking people what they need, you have very well meeting Human Resource Officers and talents, you know, we have all these interesting names that we have for what used to be called personnel, talents officers, talent cultivators, but they’re not necessarily engaging their workforce in a really intentional and authentic way to gather the intel and the feedback, and then if they do, what is typical, is then the folks inside the organization try to deliver it, and they don’t always have the skill set, right, the training, the preparation, the analysis, to deliver it in a way that is of quality, and that is truly responsive to what the employee or talent pool needs. So those are blind spots, I think, not engaging folks authentically and honestly around what they need, and then when we do we sometimes lead on our existing talent inside organizations, when that’s not always or often not where the brightest shining stars are on these issues. 

Chanda Smith Baker  38:56 

There are spaces where people are like, we need to hire a person of color, and people call me and I’m just looking at him like, I know what you’re looking for is diversity, and I’m not sure you’re ready to be fully available to support someone coming into your organization, your foundation that has not been diverse, that is newer to the issues of race and equity, that where you aspirationally are and where your readiness organizationally are not aligned, and if you’re not having those conversations, I would feel responsible for bringing someone into that space. Yeah. I’ve been really challenged and thinking about like, what are the questions I should be asking because I get asked about, you know, what persons of color for this role might actually be a recruiter at this point. 

Toya Randall  39:50 

Yeah, I mean, that, that comes up a lot and what I’ve done with recruiters and in some instances where I’ve been part of interview panel, right, is to really interrogate the folks who are wanting to bring on people of color on their teams. Right? Like, tell me a little bit about your culture. Tell me a little bit about sort of the makeup, the ethnic racial makeup of who’s on the team right now, and what are you doing to prepare yourselves in advance of bringing on a more, you know, diverse workforce? Like there’s work you have to do so that you don’t harm or abuse, folks of color, and people, folks are not thinking about that. 

Chanda Smith Baker  40:42 

No, but what, what worked? What? When they come back and say, well, what does that work look like? Do you have a response to them? 

Toya Randall  40:49 

Yeah, perhaps you should conduct an equity audit, in advance of launching your search, right? Because in this moment in history, we can’t afford to be putting folks in harm’s way on purpose, and right now, what, we know the trend is and predominantly white spaces, and not just in philanthropy, but the stories are everywhere. Folks choosing to remove themselves, because of the harm, the pain, the insensitivity, the microaggressions, right? The violence that is being inflicted upon people of color right now. So it’s wonderful that you’re curious, and interested in having people of color on your team, but there’s work that you have to do to be ready to welcome, receive and care for people of color as colleagues in a way you don’t have experience doing, and it’s not their job to be hired to teach you how to do that. 

Chanda Smith Baker  41:55 

I don’t even know where to go with that. I mean, because you know, people don’t understand hard, they don’t understand what it means to be not safe in a work environment, and when you have, when you are witnessing or experiencing something and you raise it, and you and you have people that don’t believe the experience,  right, when you have a point of view, in a conversation around an experience that you have worked through live through, have proximity to, and your voice is not heard, because it’s only one voice in the room, but you’re actually the only one that has the expertise, that’s harmful.  Yeah, and I think I wonder whether or not those of us… 

Toya Randell  42:50 

And it takes some experience to even know that it’s hard, right? Like, we can sit here today, because of all that we know, and the language and the training and all the things that we know to be true, but when I was in my early 20s, working in this field, being in situations where I was being, I didn’t know what I questioned, whether or not there was something wrong with me, right, and so I think being able to speak truthfully, from our positions, today in a place where like folks are calling us asking for candidates to be honest, and intentional, in sort of pushing folks beyond what you think you need right now. To doing some more sort of investigative or interrogative work within your organization, is critically important, while also creating the space and the tools and the resources and the sort of pulling together folks who are experiencing that harm inside their organizations, by helping them document and sort of revisit these conversations with evidence and sort of not just evidence that it happened to them, but these are the ways in which philanthropy shows up in the lives and then the experiences of people of color, who are part of organizations that I’ve experienced as well, and I’m not crazy, because there’s quite a lot of research and writing on these things, and so here’s and here’s some ways in which, you know, you can do better.  

Chanda Smith Baker  44:31 

The other thing that, you know, I have struggled with, and I know, you know, I’m not the only one is the number of boards and places that are going down their own sort of DEI work, and that is often centered around white people or white organizations that are coming into their understanding, which is actually what we have wanted. What it doesn’t often consider are the brown and black folks that are sitting at the table that have the experiences. So how do you, how do you do that in relationship with the people that are already sitting there, not just with the consultant? Are you on a board that you’re doing this, but you’re not engaging with the people of color that are also on that board? Are you socializing with them in the same way? Are you relationship building with them in the same way? Are you considering that they might be more advanced on these issues, and so just simply sitting through that, and listening to the conversation can be challenging, and so I don’t think that there’s a right or wrong, but there are ways to consider experiences along the journey that I don’t often see or hear being considered, given the growing diversity of who’s at the table. 

Toya Randell  45:58 

Yeah, and I think for us, in those instances where we are one of you, or the only, like, we also have to pick our battles, because we’re walking through these instances and examples all the time. Right? It’s not, oh, in this one instance. It’s a repetitive, it’s unfortunately repetitive. So you’ve got to pick where you want to sort of draw a line and show up and put that energy? Or else you’re gonna be exhausted, and where there are, where are the spaces where folks are authentically and intentionally trying to figure it out, and that it’s not gonna, they’re not going to get it right, most of the time? Because this is a marathon, right? It is, this is generational work, it’s highly unlikely, we’re going to see the full manifestation of these efforts in our lifetime, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to press towards that mark. I mean, one of the things that I did after the murder of George Floyd is there were a few boards I just stepped back from, and I said, I’m stepping back because as the only person of color in this space, I now realize that my best value and talent cannot be spent here., and here’s what I recommend you do to interrogate and investigate how you were using their privilege and your power in the fight against anti black racism, against state sanctioned violence, against black and brown bodies, but I’m gonna go do some stuff with folks who I know, are better aligned with what the moment is calling me to do right now, and that just ain’t you. Love you, bye. 

Chanda Smith Baker  48:00 

I can appreciate that. Yeah, and picking your battles is right, and I think that, you know, the thread again, of this conversation is that when you’re in relationship with people, and I have a diverse set of people around me, right, like, you know, like some of my friends, like, we could ask each other some of the craziest question. I love them, right, like, and we’re in relationship, and even on some of the boards, you know, I’m on, there’s relationships that I’ve built, that I really appreciate, and they’re like, hey, I heard something like, I saw your facial expression, and like, did that bother you, and I’m like, actually, did I appreciate you picking up the phone and asking, and here’s what I was thinking in the moment, and I don’t even know if I should have thought that way, but I did react. This is what I was thinking, what was your perspective, and we’re able to grow in each other’s understanding, and I do think that these issues a race, you know, we come with so much. It’s so personal, that in some ways is preventing us from really getting to the type of conversations and the type of relationships really need to break through some of this. 

Toya Randall  49:04 

Absolutely, and sort of all of us recognizing that there is anger, and it’s perhaps in some instances, rage on the part of people of color, right, and then there is sort of the fear of being uncomfortable or blamed or shamed on the part of white people. Can we hold those truths and still have the conversation, right, still sort of be in a mad right now we need to leave the room, but I’ll be back, right? Or I’m feeling, I’m grabbing my pearls and feeling fragile. Give me a minute, and then let’s pick back up and that is okay, because we are in a place of the sort of two extremes and then there’s all the stuff in there. 

Chanda Smith Baker  49:58 

I spend time not a lot of time, but I have spent time saying to stop like, are the people saying, you know what that was not perfectly said, but let like in this incident, like, let’s talk about the intention because we do have to make it together to where we’re trying to head, and I think that when we anger so quickly, without asking the clarifying questions, it prevents what we’re ultimately trying to achieve. 

Toya Randall  50:28 

And I don’t know that we’re all like that we are all trying to achieve the same thing. That’s the other piece around like being in a place of sort of having discernment to know where to pick the battles, because some folks just want to be where they are, they want to say what they got to say, and feel the way they feel. There’s no movement, there’s no change that can occur, and so when you encounter those individuals, then you give yourself a stroke, trying to rationalize and humanize and, you know, sort of arrive at the same place when it’s just not, it’s not possible. 

Chanda Smith Baker  51:14 

There have been a lot of questions, you know, conversation around like, oh, the silent majority, or, you know, we need to get people that are already in the fight, and I’m just like, why? Why? The people in the fight, we’re not even aligned. Right? Let’s build a really strong alliance here. Let’s build some wins here, and people will come or they won’t, or they won’t. 

Toya Randall  51:40 

A lot of people won’t come, and we can’t fool ourselves, or cause ourselves further harm trying to bring folks along that have absolutely no intention, interest or desire to go anywhere. They’re fine where they are. My grandmother used to say, change comes slow, one retirement or death at a time. So some folks just have to die. 

Chanda Smith Baker  52:11 

This is why I love her. There it is. Bam, it’s over with. It way too out, either you got to change, or you got to make your exit the cycle of life, the circle of life. Our Lion King just keeps on the good things. While we were in Italy, between our shopping, we were talking about all of this stuff, and one of the conversations that we had was, you know, talking about you, as you know, just the brilliant leader, you are, in your time in philanthropy, and what has the road you traveled in philanthropy taught you about what you suspect the road ahead will bring us? 

Toya Randall  53:01 

For me personally, again, I’ve said this a couple times asked for what I need and trust that I will get it, and not trying to figure out where it’s gonna come from. It’s just gonna, I don’t know where it’s gonna come from, if you’re gonna bring it to me, or, you know, whoever.  

Chanda Smith Baker  53:20 

But it’s out there, though, because, because we get into a lot of conversations with people where there are a lot of assumptions around what institutions that people should be doing for us, right, just in general, like the company’s not doing, that people’s aren’t doing, the communities and doing whatever. But this ability to really articulate what it is that we need, is something that often needs to be worked on. Yeah, whether or not you know what you want, but you can be afraid to ask for it, because the assumption is you won’t get it. So part of what I’m hearing the thread of here is sort of the discipline, the confidence and the network, for you to lean in to the roles in a way that says, here’s what I need, here’s what the community needs. Here’s what we need. To just go out boldly, and we’re asking for it in a very different way that what perhaps, people felt comfortable of asking in the past, perhaps. 

Toya Randall  54:17 

So that is true, but but to step back, I do have my own sort of way of documenting what the what the it is, and often the it has more to do with the way in which I want to be an experienced life. Right? So what I asked for is courage. What I asked for is to be comfortable in my vulnerability. What I asked for is the courage to take risk, right, and to believe that I can have the life I deserve, right? So it starts there with me just sort of languaging for myself, what quality of life and characteristics Toya wants to sort of own in my being as a mother, as a sister, as a friend, right? Like who I am and how I want to move through the world, and then what the specific things are, I don’t even always know what that is. Right? I didn’t know I was going to lead, you know, a kick ass,black owned, communications and marketing firm to help develop the brand for Voice Vision Value, I didn’t know I was going to beat that. I just knew I needed courage to ask and to trust that it would come. So I think more than anything, for me, it’s just been able, being able to get inside my own head and my own heart, and be bold enough to have conversations with myself about what kind of life I want, or what kind of people I want in my life. I took a dating class last year, I got divorced, I took a dating class, because I knew I wanted to put myself back out there, but I hadn’t dated in 20 something years. So I had to have the courage to admit that I didn’t know what I was going to be doing out here in the streets. Right? So it’s courage in all kinds of ways to do things that I’d never imagined that I would do.  

Chanda Smith Baker  56:26 

How’s that worked out for you?  

Toya Randall  56:29 

It’s worked out so wonderfully and lovely. We’ll have to do another show about him, but yeah, it is, it’s being clear about who I am first, right, and who, and how I want to show up in the world for myself and for my community and for people I care about, and trusting that when I asked for the things that I need to do that they will come, and some of those things I asked for at work. Some of those things I asked for in my family. Some of those things I asked for my, you know, squad. But then I also have to be responsive and ready to show up in the same way for the people I care about when they ask me for what they need. Right? It’s not, it’s gotta be reciprocal. 

Chanda Smith Baker  57:19 

Yeah, the one thing that I’m going to try and articulate and I don’t know if I’ll be able to, but I do think that last year, with the intensity of the year, there are so many people, you know, what, what is happening? How do we stop? What is taking place in community? How do I better support bipoc communities? Like, I’m not a fan of the language bipoc but I’ll use it for the sake of it. But like, you know, people of color brown and black communities, indigenous communities, how do we better support them. There’s a lot of people that are sitting in very uncomfortable space, and you know, one of the values that we have at the Minneapolis foundation that I really appreciate is change is personal. That really understanding who you are, how you show up in this space and what value you bring, right? What value you bring to the space, being very, very comfortable, confident and bold in that way will allow you to be the best ally, to be the best ally black way, indigenous, like you will be a good ally, if you’re confident in how you do that. But I feel like there’s so many questions in this space that it can be swirling. I can appreciate that last year, feels like it may have been a grounding year for you despite it all. 

Toya Randall  58:42 

It definitely was. It absolutely was, and again, I was very fortunate in that, you know, I, my employer committed to its workforce early on, and assured us all that it was doubling down on the budget, the board approved for the year. We were closing offices, and no one would have to travel and put themselves at risk. Everybody was shifted to work from home. I work from home all the time, but everybody was shifted to work from home and resource to give them the tools that they need to work from home. So the way in which our institution prioritize the well being and safety of the family that is its workforce, right like that box was checked pretty early on for me and the other almost 400 people that work at Casey Family Programs in a way that so you know millions of people didn’t have that assurance, and again, my and so that meant I was home with my one child. I also primarily work with colleagues and organizations that are led by and created for the betterment of communities. So the other place of safety for me in the year that was 2020 is not only did I get to engage black women around Voice Vision Value, but the majority of work that we do on our team is in relationship with communities of color and leaders of colors. So many of the challenges or difficulties that folks had, sort of with colleagues and peers internally and externally, my whole team is women of color, and many of the folks we work with, and resource and partner with our people of color. So there was a safety and in that sort of community of ally ship, and shared experience that was really unique. It was really unique for me, and for my colleagues, we could get on a team call, and just look at each other and nobody say a word and adjourn the meeting and go on about our business. Like, yeah, we’re not doing this today. Right? That was invaluable. It was not common for many, many colleagues. So I earn a living, working with people of color, every day, resourcing their work, helping to support their ideas, and invest in their ability to bring those ideas to fruition. 

Chanda Smith Baker  1:01:38 

Yeah, I have seen in the last year, more people in the work that don’t live the reality that you’ve just laid out. Creating that reality for them outside of their work environment, right, communities of psychological safety, where you can go and just be without saying a whole lot, explaining a whole lot, and everyone sort of understands the gravity of the moment, and even if it means that there’s levity, like we need, we need a break from it, so that we can survive it and move through it, because that’s what we do. We do what we do together as a way of building fellowship and community, and then we get up and we come back at it. Before we wrap, can we talk about the retreat that’s coming up? Or is that undercover? 

Toya Randall  1:02:35 

It’s not undercover. So we’ll celebrate the one year anniversary of Voice Vision Value in August, and we’ll release the report, and then we’ll launch the book project in September, and then in November, I am going to spend time with about 10 women from across the sector, and they really are the 10 sort of closest thought partners and, you know, strategy, strategic minds that have contributed to me getting to now personally and professionally, and the piece that we will begin sort of working together to articulate and carve out a framework around at this retreat in November will be what would it look like to have a curriculum or a set of resources that speak to the unique professional and personal holistic development needs of black women in the sector, and the leaders that we’ll be with in the fall are folks like you Chanda, who, you know, we’ve arrived at a certain points, based on the years we were born into the world in extreme cases we’ve had to this date, and then I’ll do it again in the spring with more mid career to early career, black women and the unique and I think really special part about these gatherings separate and apart from what I’ve described, as far as programming and content is that part of, if not all, expenses will be paid for the women attending, going all the way back to the importance of understanding that our access to these spaces are about always recognized as deserving and needed, and so I don’t want to extend an invitation to someone and they can’t come because their boss said it’s not in the budget or you’ve got to you got this much. You choose how you want to spend it. So I want the labor cost to be really, really low or non existent, because we deserve that. We deserve to be invested in and trusting and trusted to bring our full sales to experiences and to opportunities without having to figure out how we’re going to pay to get to. We’ve paid enough already. 

Chanda Smith Baker  1:05:13 

Amen to that. I’m sort of still stuck at I think you just said, I’m in late career, because you’re bringing mid and early career and I’m still stuck at that. 

Toya Randall  1:05:23 

What you are saying, you are later on, we are later on. 

Chanda Smith Baker  1:05:27 

Yeah, later on, did part. Oh, wait a minute, 

Toya Randall  1:05:31 

Or a little bit further along in this thing. 

Chanda Smith Baker  1:05:35 

I appreciate you, I think, you know, thank you for being part of this conversation, I think being able to bring sort of voice to what it means to be in these positions, I think when you came in in 2000, and there’s lots of places where women of color, people of color are still the first and the only, you know, the few, that are living their daily experience in a very isolated way. While they’re being very proximate to the issues that the philanthropy, the foundation is working to solve. It’s a very complicated role to be in, and to be able to do that with the resources, the support, the ally ship of your colleagues is extremely important, and when you don’t have it, it’s isolating, and so I appreciate all of the ways in which you’ve leaned in, to bring people into the work. I personally have tried to play that forward in the ways that I can. I look forward to retreating with you and to elevating what this means in a scalable, more reliable and dependable way. So that if a Toya doesn’t exist in that region, or someone doesn’t know the Toya, but they come into this role, that they are able to be there and be sustained and be supported, and when the voices get cloudy, and crowded in their head, they have someone coming and saying we’ve all been here, let me tell you about what I, let me give you my narrative. Let me give you my song, let me give you my story. Does it sound familiar, and let me tell you how it goes, right? It’s the natural rhythm of the work, and so, you know, thank you so much, and I appreciate you. 

Toya Randall  1:07:25 

Thank you, and I appreciate you for having me here and for doing all that you are doing. Not just now but over the past year and a half in all that has happened in your life outside of work and all that. I know you’ve been called on to do and to be in community and inside the foundation, and you are just one example as you know, of women this, the you know idea that women hold up the sky is, it’s an understatement. You are one example of all that you’ve held and continue to hold. So thank you, for your love, for your sacrifice and for your commitment to seeing this thing through in a way that only you can. You bring a unique set of tools and language and movements to this work, and the City of Minneapolis is lucky to have you. Minneapolis is better because of you, and I say thank you.  

Souphak Kienitz  1:08:45 

That’s Toya Randell and our host Chanda Smith Baker. To learn more visit or follow on Instagram If you’re interested in sponsoring Conversations with Chanda Podcast, or looking for ways to do more, please contact me. You can find me on our website at thank you to Sarah Gillund for making her artwork and copy for this episode, and thank you to Darlynn Benjamin for coordinating and making this conversation happen. This is Souphak Kienitz from the Minneapolis Foundation. Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you, soon. 

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About Our Guest

Toya Randall

Toya Randall is Catalyst & Curator of Voice. Vision. Value. Black Women Leading Philanthropy a multimedia narrative platform created to document the historic impact of Black women. With over 20 years of executive experience in the philanthropic sector, Toya champions Black women and the honoring of their leadership and legacy to transform philanthropy to be more equitable, inclusive and just. She curates Voice. Vision. Value. in collaboration with a multi-generational network of partners and investors all committed to elevating the leadership stories of Black women and documenting their historic impact in professional philanthropy.

In addition to Voice. Vision. Value., Toya is co-chair of the Greater New Orleans Funders Network Board of Directors and she serves on the Executive Committee of Communities for Just Schools Fund. She is also a Trustee for The Nafasi Fund and The Giving Square. Toya is one of the founders of the Black Women in Philanthropy Leadership Retreat and an inaugural fellow for both the ABFE Connecting Leaders Fellowship and The Funders Network for Smart Growth P.L.A.C.E.S. Fellowship.

Toya currently serves as Senior Director of Community Initiatives in the office of the CEO at Casey Family Programs.