The Hill We Climb: Building Forward Together

Friday, January 29, 2021


Dear Colleagues:

As I write my first quarterly President’s Message, I am awed by all that has transpired in our country since I took the helm of GCIR on November 23, 2020. We have weathered weeks of unfounded claims of election fraud, a violent insurrection in D.C., an unprecedented second impeachment of our former president, and a growing death toll of family, friends, and neighbors succumbing to Covid-19. We have also witnessed the election of the first black Senator from the American South since Reconstruction, the promise of a comprehensive, national Covid-19 plan, and the swearing in of the first Black, South Asian woman to become Vice President of the United States. Although the challenges of the last four years have been shaped by, among other things, willful ahistoricism, white supremacy, and virulent anti-immigrant sentiment, I remain hopeful for and inspired by a vision of collective liberation, truth-telling and accountability, and transformative justice.

As the great-granddaughter, granddaughter, and daughter of immigrants from the Philippines, I come to GCIR with a deeply personal understanding that belonging is essential to building strong communities and a healthy democracy. As the descendant of farmworkers who worked in Selma and Delano in the 1930s and 1940s alongside other agricultural workers from diverse backgrounds, I know the importance of being in solidarity with other movements and communities in the pursuit of civil and human rights. As a seasoned and compassionate leader with over 15 years of experience working in the social justice and philanthropic sectors, I know the importance of cultivating strong relationships based in mutuality and reciprocity, investing in movement building and organizing, and centering the leadership of Black, Brown, indigenous, and immigrant communities.

In his inauguration speech, President Biden recognized the challenges we are facing, the “cascading crises of our era.” He asked, “Will we rise to the occasion? Will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world for our children?” Like President Biden, I believe we must, and we will. To do so, I believe that GCIR will need to build forward its critical role in the U.S. social justice ecosystem as a philanthropic mobilizing organization that moves MONEY and POWER.

We will push philanthropic practice and shape strategic opportunities for our members and other partners to advance the leadership of Black, Brown, indigenous, and immigrant leaders; resource advocates and organizers for the long term; and invest in the sustained emotional health and physical security of those movements, coalitions, and organizations working on the front lines to build enduring social change.

We will provide a political home to members and other partners who seek to center Black liberation, racial justice, gender justice, worker justice, and immigrant justice in their institutional and shared work.

We will co-create platforms for GCIR members and movement leaders to shift the narrative on immigrant and refugee justice and boldly advance a pro-immigrant and refugee agenda.

We will facilitate strong public and private sector partnerships, serving as connective tissue between the philanthropic sector and government agencies at the federal, regional, state, and local levels and building on the promise of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to improving the lives of immigrants, through its early decisive actions to fortify DACA, rescind the Muslim Ban, and end government funding of a border wall.

The challenges in front of us are great, and the climb towards equity, justice, and healing is steep. My commitment to you—and to us—is to face those challenges by building and sharing power, acting deliberately and strategically, and fostering justice and equity. As poet laureate Amanda Gorman proclaimed on Inauguration Day, “We are striving to forge a union with purpose,/ to compose a country committed to all cultures,/ colors, characters and/ conditions of man.” Join me as we set our sights on our shared purpose horizon, “For there is always light,/ if only we're brave enough to see it./ If only we're brave enough to be it.”

I welcome your hopes and aspirations for our collective work together in 2021 and invite you to share your thoughts with me.

In solidarity,

Marissa Tirona