Honoring the Legacy of Sandbranch:
Yesterday and Today

In its 142-year history, the town of Sandbranch, Texas, has seen many births and deaths. Today, this unincorporated village outside Dallas is attempting a long overdue rebirth — but residents here, devoted to their community but envisioning a safer, cleaner, and more flourishing version of it — don’t look forward without looking back. 

In 1878, an intrepid group of people from Louisiana — newly emancipated from slavery — traveled to Texas seeking a place to settle. Together, they bought a parcel of land and built a homestead. They wanted to provide financial security and opportunity for themselves, and for their descendants. At its peak, Sandbranch — the only unincorporated settlement in Dallas county, and its most impoverished area — was home to about 400 residents. Today, one hundred residents remain. 

Back in 1910, local residents Doc Glenn, Charlie Stark, and Cicero Floyd donated over an acre of land for a cemetery; and it’s said to contain the graves of many formerly enslaved people.

Like their founders, Sandbranch residents are determined to live in a place that is a sanctuary — a healthy and thriving place to call home. Their current efforts involve a wholesale revitalization of Sandbranch. Led by the Sandbranch Planning Committee, the first priority is to provide drinking water directly to 25 households through the cutting-edge, sustainable, regenerative technology of HydroPanels. For a town without running water, this technology and the water it pulls from thin air is life. But there is so much more to their vision — plumbing, street lights, garbage collection, rezoning and reconstruction, community gardens and access to healthcare, new residents (and, hopefully, a return for some previous residents). 

The community’s hub — for meetings, prayer, social interaction, bottled water and food distribution, and a community of volunteers — is the Sandbranch Baptist Church. And, adjacent to the original sight of the church, on Simonds Road, is the Sandbranch Cemetery. Back in 1910, local residents Doc Glenn, Charlie Stark, and Cicero Floyd donated over an acre of land for a cemetery; and it’s said to contain the graves of many formerly enslaved people. Like the town of Sandbranch, the cemetery has seen years of neglect — becoming overgrown, with many gravemarkers lost, destroyed, or illegible.

In 2011, a sign was put up at the Sandbranch Cemetery. While still tricky to find, it’s a start. And, luckily more information about those buried in the cemetery has been discovered.  

Scroll down to learn a bit about the folks that called Sandbranch home.

Donate to the Sandbranch Revitalization Fund’s #H20atHome campaign to support the installation of those Hydropanels.

Left, Bud Franklins was born June 10, 1870, and passed away at 71 on August 24, 1941; right, George Linscome was laid to rest in his 70s.

Top left, a headstone at Sandbranch Cemetery; top right, Wilson Lem Anderson, a veteran, was born on February 19, 1917 in Anchorage, TX. He married Alpha Odell Neal Anderson on June 25, 1942. He lived in Stephens, TX and Atascosa, TX; and died on November 7, 1989, at the age of 72; bottom, May Anderson, known as “8th of May” — her birthday was May 8 — was married to Ordon.

Left, Peter Elber McGrew, known as “Darling Pete,” was born on October 17, 1925. He lived to be 24 years old; Right, John William Crawford was born on August 21, 1877, and died at 61. He grew up on the Crawford Ranch, the land that his father, James O. Crawford, (also buried in the Sandbranch Cemetery), had homesteaded in the 1870s. John did not stick around: he sold the land and moved to Millett, TX, where he worked as postmaster and ran an ice cream parlor.

James O. and Sarah “Sally” Frances Bennett Crawford.

Left, Callie A Slaughter, born July 22, 1870, was laid to rest on August 9, 1926; right, Jessie Wright’s tombstone is one of a handful of gravestones that have become so timeworn that the inscriptions are difficult to read.


The MSC Storytelling Series: Jacqui Patterson

In this installment we get to know researcher, advocate, and activist Jacqueline “Jacqui” Patterson founder and executive director of the Chisholm Legacy Project former director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program; co-founder of Women of Color United; and proud board member of MSC.

“It wasn’t a coincidence, it wasn’t happenstance.” So says Jacqui Patterson — activist, founder of the Chisholm Legacy Project, and MSC board member — on how she made her way to Movement Strategy Center. 

She was introduced to MSC through Movement Generation but if it wasn’t that it would’ve been something else: “the universe … draws like-mission and like-spirited people together.” She knew from the beginning there was alignment in work and in mission and it became clearer as Patterson participated in MSC’s movement support work — the Transitions Labs, the facilitation of conversations and meetings, and the cultivation of projects. “There are so many points of resonance and alignment in everything that MSC does … Whether it is the heart of the people … Or the way that they facilitate conversations about collective organizing toward the world that we want, MSC has been an inspiration, a catalyst, and a facilitator of radical imagination and a radical love in action.”

Patterson hails from the southside of Chicago — a very urban place not far from the other, more suburban side of the tracks. Her neighborhood offered many of the great touchstones of city life — ice cream trucks, block parties, and community. But also some of the worst: there were gangs, the sound of gunshots weren’t uncommon, and concerns about her brother simply existing as a Black boy in America were pervasive. 

Her family blended two cultures — her mother came up to Chicago during the Great Migration from Dublin, Mississippi; her dad immigrated there from Jamaica. The result was an upbringing steeped in both Deep South and Jamaican influences: a culture of food (collard greens plus curried chicken) and music (rhythm and blues plus reggae). Patterson’s ancestry is in sub-Saharan Africa; her common history involves those ancestors being stolen from their homelands and brought to unceded territories in both the United States and Jamaica to become the enslaved labor behind the economy and the infrastructure of those respective lands. 

She says, “I am who I am out of that history and that story. And, I am who I am in celebration of the rich cultural heritage and in resistance to and in reparations from how the heritage and ties to nation and community were interrupted by colonialism. I do what I do to both celebrate and treasure that cultural heritage.”

There are so many points of resonance and alignment in everything that MSC does … Whether it is the heart of the people … Or the way that they facilitate conversations about collective organizing toward the world that we want, MSC has been an inspiration, a catalyst, and a facilitator of radical imagination and a radical love in action.

Her work reflects this. She is working to restore “linkages in some ways to the motherland,” and “address, redress, and correct the carnage and the aftermath of colonialism and where it has left our communities as a result of the systemic exploitation, extraction, and oppression.” The work centers on Black and BIPOC communities all over the world; and is in partnership with all “the aligned and the allied — anyone who is allied and aligned with the mission of Black liberation.”

For her, liberation ensures “that all people have self determination and have what they need to be whole and thriving.” And it starts with accountability — “my purpose is to be in service to the quest for self determination and liberation of Black frontline communities.” 

So much of that begins with being very “intentional about who is not even being thought of by those sitting at the table — much less are they even at the table.” In terms of climate justice, Patterson wants everyone to have a seat. Thus, a focus on chronically ignored Freedman’s Settlements — communities, many unincorporated, established by those “just emancipated from enslavement.” 

One, a community of only about 100 people outside Dallas, is Sanbranch, Texas. Stunningly, this unincorporated village adjacent to one of our country’s wealthiest cities has never had running water. Their well water was contaminated in the 1980s, and today, residents rely mainly on donated bottled water — not just for drinking, but for cooking and bathing. Stories like these are at the center of the Patterson-founded Chisholm Legacy Project — an organization that connects Black communities on the frontlines with the resources necessary to implement transformation. 

It isn’t easy work. And that’s why Patterson so valued the aforementioned Transitions Labs — these safe spaces offered community and reflection. A way to, at least metaphorically, refill your cup. These gatherings also made it clear that “all the work around social justice and systems change is intersectional.” A priceless opportunity “to explicitly be engaged with folks who are doing work from gender justice to education justice to general economic justice and so forth, and to really come together and talk about this notion of Just Transition and this ideal that we want as a society.” She acknowledges the concept “might sound utopian,” but for the frontliners in attendance that discussion and that space is “a necessity in order to survive and thrive as people.”

All the work around social justice and systems change is intersectional.

It can be hard for outsiders to understand what these retreats and workshops were like. Patterson describes them as a chance to step “away from the day to day, the list of deliverables … The nonprofit industrial complex.” Crucially, they offered an opportunity to discuss the roles and purpose of both the individuals and the organizations across various movements in “a space of ideating … Set up to accommodate all learning and being styles.” 

Attendees showed up with “a selfless sense of mission, so there was a level of trust and safety there.” And the work — deep conversation and reflection, “the practices: tai chi, somatics, embodiment … Various exercises that got you out of your head and into the culture” — fostered intimate connection. “We can go whole days, weeks, or months without thinking about that larger arc,” so the safe space to simply “think and be” was invaluable and unlike so many other gatherings and workshops.  

It was at one of these Transitions Labs in the Redwood Forest — “a generative environment” — that Patterson felt everything sort of gel: her work, her goals, her collaborations with MSC. The activity at hand involved focusing on “developing a seed of an idea and being with people who were like-minded, like-focused, and like-spirited who were also growing their own seeds.” The seed that “began to truly blossom” for Patterson that day — while laying on the floor with her peers and remembering the iconic book the Bridge Called My Back, a collection of radical writings by Black women — involved “work specifically focused on supporting the wellbeing of Black femmes.”

That “unformed dream” turned “into an action plan … That birthed the fourth element of focus of the Chisholm Legacy Project — the focus on Black femme support.” Patterson explained that she had observed the “level of weight on Black femmes in terms of holding so much, our families, our organizations, the movement, in the case of Alabama and Georgia — actual democracy. Yet so often you see our sisters in the struggle are so weighed down by that.” 

Sighting stress, premature deaths, and all the ways these weights can negatively manifest in the health of her peers inspired the project’s steadfast support of wellbeing. She believes this concept of “community care, organizational care, movement care — instead of just preaching self care to someone who is always going to put themselves last” is crucial to the future of the movement.   

Today, Patterson feels honored to continue to support MSC as a board member, calling the work “a blessing.” Likewise, she values “the opportunity to continue to be in relationship with the innovations team that is doing amazing work,” citing her participation as a founding member of the National Association of Climate Resilience Planners. She looks forward to “continuing to support Climate Innovation’s (soon to be renamed People’s Climate Innovation Center (PCIC)) team” and ensuring “that the communities that we work with — including the Black femme climate justice leaders — are able to connect with and be nurtured by the rich range of offerings that MSC has,” especially in terms of climate resilience planning and training and Black youth leadership development.

And, circling back to the Freedman’s Settlements and towns like Sandbranch, she looks forward to growing “the ways that MSC’s fiscal sponsorship and regranting programs can benefit some of the most marginalized Black communities in the United States.” She continued, “the hope is that MSC and the Chisholm Legacy Project can together support the self determination and liberation of these communities all over the nation.”

She also hopes that others — new friends of MSC, new members of the collective movement ecosystem — get the chance to experience something like MSC’s Transitions Labs. They so deeply and positively affected Patterson and she recalled — with a lot of laughter and a little bit of embarrassment — one opportunity where participants were invited to write letters of appreciation to each other. Other people maybe wrote one or two and I literally sat there and wrote super sappy love letters to everyone. I was just feeling literally just full of so much love for everyone who participated.” 


Navigating Tensions Within Capitalist Systems

Movement Strategy Center on Forging Authentic Relationships Between Funders and Movement Leaders

Movement Strategy Center (MSC) is values-aligned with the activist organizations we offer infrastructure to and thought partnership with; and dismantling white supremacy in philanthropy and intermediary services is fundamental to our goal and mission. But at the end of the day, we are a cog in the machine of capitalism; and capitalism is core to economic, racial, and environmental inequity we are fighting each and every day. 

It’s with this in mind that we cannot deny the obvious tensions between the philanthropic organizations that fund our works and the on-the-ground movement leaders we partner with.

 

 

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This thinking is by no means new or innovative — it’s ingrained enough within the greater philanthropic and activist ecosystems to warrant parody. There are dozens of social media accounts dedicated to poking holes in the nonprofit industrial complex. Two of our favorites, @nogodsnoprofts on Instagram and @philanthro_tea on Twitter, have amassed more than 4,000 followers thanks to a collection of memes and hot takes that are often humorous, honest, and entirely relatable.  

Dontay Wimberly, rapper and People’s Climate Innovation Center (formerly Climate Innovation) Young Black Climate Leader (YBCL), shared similar frustration in his Instagram stories. He noted that in 2020, $471 billion went to nonprofit organizations — nearly half a trillion dollars. “That’s how much money was given away — so imagine how much the ruling class has in the first place.” He continued, “capitalism is a zero-sum game … for the few to win, everyone else has to lose. That’s why nonprofits are so frustrating. They don’t really talk about capitalism … Then they would have to reconcile with the contradiction that nonprofits are a byproduct of capitalist exploitation.” 

And he’s right — without unfathomable wealth there would be no philanthropy. And without philanthropy, many of the activists behind crucial movement work would be hobbled. Wealth and philanthropy are essential — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do.   

Carla Dartis, MSC’s executive director, wonders: “how many philanthropic organizations and family foundations have direct access to small grassroots organizers? How many have activist organizers on their boards? Their advisory councils?” Without those folks involved in decision making how are funders supposed to fully understand needs? Without a seat on the table, where is the community and partnership? And when the organizers on the ground are honest about their needs, “they are seen as weak — they can never be seen as a true partner.”

Candace Clark, the resource organizing director at HEAL Food Alliance, one of MSC’s fiscally sponsored projects, agrees: “No one can tell you how to fix a problem in the community they aren’t a part of.” 

 

 

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Problems between philanthropic organizations and activists are compounded by what Dartis describes as a “model of scarcity.” These foundations have good intentions but the funding is rarely enough; the timelines too defined; the relationships too “episodic.” It’s nearly impossible for activists to secure enough funding and — crucially — unrestricted funding to support ongoing efforts, growth, or infrastructure. And, she adds: those deadlines and restrictions, that manufactured urgency, is “the white supremacy piece.” All organizations, large and small, need to be able to adapt or shift as circumstances change and hot button issues arise and established funding can rarely be diverted to tackle these issues.

Jose Pienda, executive director for After Incarceration, an MSC fiscally sponsored project, understands this scarcity sentiment. Since his release from prison in 2020, Pienda has worked with the Restorative Center to pursue a personal restorative justice journey and provide restorative outlets for others. Pienda believes “if we replace competition with collaboration, we all have access to everything … At the end of the day, we are all working for each other.” But he doesn’t believe Big Philanthropy always works that way, referring to the status quo as “a competitive rat race mentality of how and where we get our resources.” 

Intermediaries can seem to complicate the situation by standing between one or more foundations and grantees. But MSC avoids this; and part of avoiding roadblocks is acknowledging that we exist in a sort of paradox between capitalism and liberation. We do not try to ignore the inherent capitalist hypocrisy that is the backbone of philanthropy.   

And we make mistakes — all of us do, big philanthropy and otherwise. But the key is accountability. Clark says, “accountability can feel like being reprimanded but that’s not the intention, it’s dialog, it’s sharing, it’s willingness.” Crucially, she adds that “accountability is transparency” and that means being “open to correcting mistakes.”

Terry Marshall, the cofounder of Intelligent Mischief — a member of MSC Movement Strategy Network (MSN), tells us, “anything that is real, started as imagination first.” MSC imagined a leader-full ecosystem of dynamic and strategic leaders, projects, teams, strategic initiatives, collaborations, and organizations working to advance BIPOC, LGBTQIA, and women and LGBTQIA+-led power building. We started as a group of organizers addressing the overlapping issues of our time collaboratively; who know the climate crisis is connected to the immigration crisis; and that racial justice can not be separated from gender justice. Our purpose is to strengthen projects on the ground and reshape collective futures while working towards equity and community — even with funders, large and small. 

 “Accountability can feel like being reprimanded but that’s not the intention, it’s dialog, it’s sharing, it’s willingness. Accountability is transparency and that means being open to correcting mistakes.”

It all comes down to being in a relationship with one another. Our fiscal sponsorship programs are based on a cohort system that builds on a nested network approach. The idea — which brings in classes of activist organizations — speaks to the concept of Beloved Community and to the need for power-building. Onboarding starts with goal and intention setting; and many goals include relationship building. It’s a crucial, foundational part of the work, and determines our resilience and ability to move forward together. In her book, Emergent Strategy, social movement facilitator adrienne maree brown reminisced about an offering of advice that MSC cofounder Taj James once shared: “don’t thingify, humanify! Shifting our way of being is our tangible outcome. Systems change comes from big groups making big shifts of being.”  

Anya de Marie, who helped develop this approach during her time as MSC’s chief fiscal sponsorship officer, said, “we created as much community as we could inside complicated and contradictory philanthropic and nonprofit cultures and constraints. Rather than an individualized focus on organizational development, we use a network-centered approach that is relational and trauma-responsive.” That rationale reflects MSC’s employee culture — it has been and continues to be a community and political home. And that sense of belonging can take the edge off the very difficult work and very difficult conversations that come with transformative movement building.

Movement building is relational work, and our relationships with our programs and partners allows us to be innovative and agile in our approaches. Mariame Kaba, author of We Do This ‘Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice, tells us, “being intentionally in relation to one another, a part of a collective, helps to not only imagine new worlds but also to imagine ourselves differently.” While most intermediaries offer a black and white, client-based approach, our services are designed to address a community’s complete need for resources; and our infrastructure is focused on access and transparency. 

This process extends to many of MSC’s partners. Clark, who is new to the HEAL Food Alliance team, notes that when they are working and planning with their member organizations — a diverse group comprised of rural and urban farmers, fisherfolk, farm and food chain workers, rural and urban communities, scientists, public health advocates, environmentalists, and indigenous groups — they strive for safe spaces, open communication, and the encouragement of all voices from all backgrounds and all geographies to speak their minds and “craft their stories.”

“Don’t thingify, Humanify! Shifting our way of being is our tangible outcome. Systems change comes from big groups making big shifts of being.”

Moving forward, MSC envisions sharing our movement building expertise and ultimately expanding our intermediary model to other activist communities and intermediaries. This equitable service toolkit will be offered to other intermediaries as a guide to setting up their projects and their ecosystems up for success while collectively shifting the paradigm of philanthropy. Crucially, this system will actively engage activists and communities around the model — which will strengthen communities all over. 

MSC proudly focuses on projects that are most impacted by inequities; we don’t have minimum budgets; and we work hard to facilitate powerbuilding and education for our fiscally sponsored partners — with financial literacy, business acumen, and operational knowledge. This not only expands their mission’s impact and their role in systemic change but it helps them walk the walk and talk the talk when in conversation with potential funders, partners, and employers.

This strategic investment in professional development is crucial, as staff and leadership within grassroots organizations sometimes lack the operational literacy required to operate in philanthropic circles. Our focus on building skills and expertise is unique in the world of intermediaries — we believe strategic investment in staff and partner education builds capacity for the movement and the movement leaders, at MSC and beyond. MSC’s Movement Infrastructure Innovation Center (MIIC) project advisor Jamillah Renard‘s financial literacy coaching and resources has increased our organizational breadth while granting our activist partners transferable skills that will increase their income capabilities.

All of this requires funding. And sometimes to get the funding communities need, activists need to be open to partnering with foundations and funders that may not be completely aligned in terms of mission and vision. Per Clark, “it’s important to be strategic, and to look at alignment even if it’s indirect. Compromise is nuanced and sometimes there are still benefits.” It’s hard to know who or what else every philanthropist and foundation is involved with; but it’s safe to say that they don’t set out to be extractive. And here is where communication is again key: “you can walk them through and they may be willing to see things differently.” That said, there are differing opinions on this throughout the transformative movement ecosystem and activists will need to do what’s right for themselves and their communities on a case by case basis.


Essential Shifts in Funding Practices

Movement Strategy Center on How Philanthropy Must Evolve

To decolonize philanthropy, and support this crucial movement work, we must be open to the concept of Emergent Strategy policies and culture building. Emergent Strategy, a book and framework written by facilitator adrienne maree brown, suggests that western culture tends to work against the emergent strategies and processes that are realized over time as intended goals collide with the shifting realities at hand. The writer explains that “emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions.” By being cognizant of how needs and environments change — including a holistic focus on authentic relationships and the evolving needs of movement leaders — philanthropy can reshape their values and what they’re advocating for.

“When we are fueled with a scarcity mindset, as so many of our communities have been conditioned to be, organizations scramble to do as much as they can before the funds run out.”

Philanthropy for social movements must begin to level the playing field and move away from the current hierarchies that temporarily fund outcomes rather than sustainably funding relationships.


Reconsidering Regranting

Movement Strategy Center Re-imagines Equitable Regranting through Philanthropic Innovation

“We need to create spaces and resource opportunities for leaders to experiment and collaborate and also make mistakes, learn, and try again, which is difficult with limited resources and strict project specifications and requirements.”

Our flexibility and willingness to think outside the box allows those receiving funds to “work around challenges and limitations rather than expecting them to work within systems that don’t support their circumstances.”