Boston Medical Center recently chatted with Bithiah Carter, president and CEO of New England Blacks in Philanthropy (NEBiP) and BMC Philanthropic Trust Member, to talk about her life’s work of changing the landscape of philanthropy for diversity, equity and inclusion and how she is particularly focused on sickle cell disease (SCD) in this capacity.
Boston Medical Center: Tell us about your non-profit, New England Blacks in Philanthropy.
Bithiah Carter: NEBiP’s mission is to inform, reform and transform philanthropy. We want to change the current philanthropic landscape to be one that provides a philanthropic ecosystem that promotes working within and in support of, black communities. The reason we are interested in sickle cell disease is because it is a disease that primarily affects black people. We truly believe black philanthropic dollars can go a long way in finding a cure.
BMC: How do you feel your mission aligns with that of Boston Medical Center’s? And what made you want to form a partnership with BMC?
BC: Both BMC and NEBiP focus on black assets rather than deficits. Tackle Sickle Cell [an annual event, supporting BMC, founded by New England Patriots defensive players, Super Bowl champions and twins Devin and Jason McCourty, and co-chaired by Carter] for example, highlights black philanthropy in a way that is unprecedented. The McCourty twins’ and countless other black philanthropic dollars raised every year at the event make this a prime example of what philanthropy in the black community looks like. BMC was the obvious choice to partner with in this work because they understand the importance of uplifting the communities they serve. With events like Tackle Sickle Cell and World Sickle Cell Day, BMC truly works to support our communities in order to create equitable outcomes for all.
BMC: What are your ties to sickle cell disease and why have you associated yourself and your non-profit with it so closely?
BC: Sickle cell disease truly hits close to home because my now deceased sister-in-law battled SCD. As we know, this is a disease that has a debilitating effect for anyone diagnosed regardless of income and race. Therefore, it is imperative to not only have NEBiP be involved with SCD fundraising but to partner with BMC in order to find a cure for this disease. We want to use philanthropy as a vehicle to get us to a point in which we can finally declare that we have found a cure for SCD in our lifetime.
BMC: What does it mean to democratize philanthropy? And why is it so important in the world of philanthropy?
BC: We need to democratize philanthropy because philanthropy is about power. If we want equitable outcomes for all people, we must want equitable power. This way, everyone can lead from their seats. People do not have to be C-suite executives to have their voices heard when working to address the causes dearest to them. Democratizing philanthropy means that if everyone can become a philanthropist, we create countless leaders who can use their voices and philanthropic powers for the betterment of society and not just depend on the one percent.
BMC: During the last few months, we have seen firsthand how the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted people of color. Why is it so important to address the social determinants of health that stand in the way of health equity for all?
BC: The greatest resources we have are our people. If we devalue one half of our population this diminishes all of us. The social determinants of health create holistic patient profiles that can lead to understanding why patients present with their specific health outcomes, and subsequently, how to fix these health issues from the root of the problem. For example, if a patient caught COVID-19 but cannot self-quarantine due to living in a multi-generational home, that is something that needs to be addressed in order to stop the spread of the virus. Every person deserves a sound mind, body and soul and that starts with patient centered care.
BMC: Furthermore, recent events have also shined a bright spotlight on structural racism around the world, including in our own communities. What role does New England Blacks in Philanthropy play in addressing these inequities? What can we all do better?
BC: NEBiP makes it a point shine a light on black communities’ assests, especially our philanthropic endeavors. From the sickle cell work we do with BMC to the Giving Black: Cities initiatives we undertake, we have found there is wealth in our communities that continuously gets overlooked in the broader philanthropic space. NEBiP seeks to create a narrative shift that shines a light on the philanthropic work occurs in the black community as well as poise us to be serious contenders in the philanthropic sphere. We must all make it a point to move philanthropy from the charitable lens it currently holds, to a lens of equity. That does not mean hosting one fundraiser, donating money and moving on to the next cause. It means getting involved with the communities to be served on every level, listening to the people most affected and using your power and philanthropy to enact change.