GEO Statement on the Violence at the U.S. Capitol: Threats to Democracy Demand an Emphatic Philanthropic Response

  • By Marcus Walton, January 7, 2021

This week, American democracy came under siege in full public view leaving no room for misinterpretation or indifference, demanding the question centered on how philanthropic leaders – as stewards of humanity – will choose to respond next.

The violence, intimidation, and destruction we witnessed at the U.S. Capitol were intended to jeopardize the peaceful transition of U.S. democratic power. In response, the GEO community affirms the salience of racial equity grantmaking competencies and joins other members of the philanthropic and nonprofit community who stand opposed to egregious acts of domestic terrorism in all of its forms. Additionally, we redouble our commitment to promoting meaningful civic engagement and supporting the on-the-ground organizers who continually push our democracy to embody the ideals we profess.

It has felt particularly irresponsible and painful to conflate the experience and motives of disaffected insurrectionists from the majority of our population with the routine mistreatment of Black-led racial justice protestors. As an organization based in Washington, D.C., GEO appreciates the critical value that nuance offers to understanding the plights of various groups who share fates, yet experience the world in dramatically different ways. We are simultaneously angered and saddened for the local community here that bears the impact of these threats.

For the philanthropic sector, 2021 may prove an inflection point – a moment upon which we will look in hindsight one day to determine the extent to which we were truly on the “right side of history.” It is far past time to make sure we are putting our values into action and working to build an equitable future where we all can thrive. In recognition of our linked fates, we owe it to ourselves and the legacy of leaders who have come before us to dare and try. Our experience is that being on the “right side of history” demands this from us all, today and going forward. To this end, we urge our members and other grantmakers to assess your power to affect change, recognize your critical role in this societal moment, and reach out now to support the nonprofits, movements, organizers, and communities who are working to ensure that America delivers on its promise, for all people.

Marcus Walton

President & CEO

Marcus F. Walton joins GEO with over a decade of practice in both nonprofit management and the ontological learning model. He specializes in operationalizing conceptual frameworks; racial equity facilitation and training; leadership and management strategy; stakeholder engagement; program development and navigating philanthropy.

In his previous role as Director of Racial Equity Initiatives for Borealis Philanthropy, Marcus lead the Racial Equity Initiatives team and worked in partnership with 18 nationally-networked, philanthropy-serving grantee organizations to move past the “transactional” nature of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to a unified movement which prioritizes strategies that close gaps in access to opportunity, resources and well-being (across all categories of gender, identity, sexual orientation, class and ability).

Before that, Marcus served as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE), where he oversaw its operations, HR and staff development functions, including the overall strategy, conceptualization and administration of racial equity programming. Prior to ABFE, he combined his organizing experience and passion for public service in the role of Program Officer of Community Responsive Grantmaking with the Cleveland Foundation and Sr. Program Officer with Neighborhood Progress, Inc.

Marcus is a Newfield Network-trained ontological coach, with additional training in the Action Learning systems coaching model. He promotes coaching as a tool for personal mastery, racial equity & systems change, social sector excellence and transformation within marginalized communities.

Marcus received a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Bowling Green State University and has continued graduate studies in public administration at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Public Policy as well as Rutgers University’s School of Public Affairs and Administration.