Inaugural Holland Lecture Explores Race, Philanthropy, and Leadership

Graphic to promote Thomas P. Holland Lecutre with Edgar Villanueva headshot

“Would Lorde, Chavez, or King receive a grant today?” On April 22, this question set the stage for the inaugural Thomas P. Holland lecture by Edgar Villanueva, an expert in race and philanthropy, activist, and author of the bestselling book Decolonizing Wealth.

Using a fireside chat format, with questions posed by Dr. Zoe Johnson, Villanueva invited his listeners to think about how race and colonialism have been forces in philanthropy. He underscored the top-down, White, expert-driven expectations of philanthropies and challenged us to find ways to build an Indigenous and Black-led philanthropic infrastructure.

When pressed by Johnson on whether Lorde, Chavez, or King could receive a grant today, Villanueva paused, and then replied “There’s a small chance, but probably not.” He continued “But we can change that” and discussed actions that can be taken, and that are being taken, to transform philanthropy.

Villanueva invited participants to consider an Indigenous model for the healing that is necessary as a result of historical and systemic racism. “Money is medicine” he said “and it can be used to heal communities if we use it well.” He gave examples of foundations using a reparations participatory grant-making model and supporting leadership of those most impacted by racism. He offered listeners hope—hope that money can be used as medicine to heal and liberate, and that there are organizations already doing this work.

Johnson and Villanueva closed the conversation by talking about what we have learned through the pandemic. Villanueva talked about the spontaneous mutual aid groups that have been created, the new and nimble ways funds have been channeled to communities in need. He invited all to be part of a just and healing process in philanthropy and helping. Johnson ended the evening by quoting the last lines of Villaneuva’s book “Healing cannot occur unless everyone is part of the process. Let it begin.”

The Holland lecture is organized by the UGA School of Social Work Institute for Nonprofit Organizations and its director Tony Mallon. The lecture is named in honor of Dr. Thomas P. Holland, founder of the Institute and of the doctoral program at the School of Social Work. Holland was able to be present for the event, and the evening began with some words of introduction by Holland’s wife, Myra Blackmon, who spoke about Holland’s impact on the university and the field of nonprofit management and leadership. The School of Social Work is grateful to the Holland family, the Riverview Foundation, APRIES, and all friends and donors who made this lecture possible.

Join our commitment to well-being and social justice.

Apply Today Make a Gift