Raymond Foxworth, vice president, grantmaking, development and communications at First Nations Development Institute, wants you to remember to engage Native communities in your DEI discussions, and he’ll drive that point home in his Upswell workshop, “DEI (Don’t Exclude Indians).” We caught up with Raymond to learn more about him, including the one thing that would help him do his job better.
Q: If you were President, what’s the first change you would make?
RF: I would make two changes. First, I would have Native American representation in my Cabinet, pulling from a large pool of qualified Native people, which does not happen in U.S. politics. The second thing I would do is try to initiate steps to improve the relationship between the federal government and Native Nations, and that includes looking at issues around land and natural resources and how to restore Native American control of these assets.
Q: If you could change places with anyone in the world, who would it be, and why?
RF: The first person that comes to mind in terms of who I would love to trade places with for a day would be my great grandmother, Joanne Yellowhair. In my life and my family’s life, she has been the matriarch and such a leader in terms of perpetuating and handing down Indigenous knowledge systems to her kids and her grandkids. Secondly, she was an activist on the Navajo reservation and very active in combating forced removal of Navajo people on the reservation. So really trying to think about or getting a peek into her motivations and reasoning behind being such a strong and incredible influence in my life and other people’s lives in the Navajo nation – that would be exciting.
Q: What’s the one thing that would help you do your job better?
RF: What would help me do my job better is having individuals working in the philanthropic sector acknowledge that the people they serve in local communities have incredible knowledge and capacity to craft impactful solutions to local challenges, and having that work be a priority for investment by philanthropic institutions.
Q: What one incident or occurrence in your life has had the most influence on the work you’re doing today?
RF: I don’t know if I can name one. The reality is for me, like other people of color, you just grow up in an environment where you witness and experience injustice, and it somehow becomes normalized in your everyday experience. And so, I can’t say that there’s just one experience that has shaped the work that I do. I think it’s the culmination of living in an unjust, and in many ways, racist society that treats Native people and other people of color in ways that make us want to take a stand and stand up for what’s right and just.
Q: Is humanity headed in the right or wrong direction, and why?
RF: If we turn on the news every day and look at American politics and the level of hate that is very pronounced in the world today, I think we’d say that humanity is headed in the wrong direction. But I tend to believe in the capacity for human compassion and the belief that humans, despite their many deficiencies, do want what’s right in the world, and that this will hopefully one day be a moment we reflect on and learn from, and that we’ll become better citizens as a result. I choose to believe we can and will grow – we have no choice but to grow – from this current place that is a very unjust and inhumane place for many people and communities.
DEI (Don’t Exclude Indians) is happening Wednesday, November 13 from 4:30 – 5:30 pm.