The Skillman Foundation CEO and President, Angelique Power.
Photo courtesy of The Skillman Foundation
In the six decades since its inception, The Skillman Foundation has made it its mission to uplift, inspire, educate and assist children in the city of Detroit.
Described as a “fierce Champion of Detroit Children,” the non-profit organization doesn’t shirk from its sometimes-gargantuan challenges of helping young people have a safe place to land, especially when stark disparities exist within this most vulnerable population in a primarily Black city.
“Our children are born behind, playing catch-up from the beginning,” Marcia Fudge, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said at the Detroit Branch NAACP Dinner last October.
Power to the People
Angelique Power, The Skillman Foundation president and CEO, wants to continue to level that inequitable playing field for youth, and as the leader for the past several months of Detroit’s longstanding youth-based organization, she’s making waves to address the needs of young people who have a lot to say.
As a voice for children since 1960, The Skillman Foundation is a private philanthropy that “works to ensure Detroit youth achieve their highest aspirations by strengthening K-12 public education, afterschool learning opportunities and college and career pathways,” according to its website.
Power, who hails from Chicago and previously served as President of the Field Foundation has deep roots in the racial equity and social justice space and lets these ideologies be her North Star as she leads the way by offering boundless opportunities to Detroit youth.
Power told the Michigan Chronicle previously that she feels that she joined Detroit’s “visionaries” when coming onboard last year. As one herself, though she might be too humble to say, Power has quickly found her stride in leading the organization and as the accomplished champion for racial justice knows Detroit’s and Michigan’s challenge with racial inequities and COVID-19 is just the tip of the iceberg of addressing issues that can impact young people.
Power, who has an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan, is taking her expertise, background and passions into 2022. She’s turning the wheels forward for The Skillman Foundation by challenging good-intended processes and then turning them on its head in a new way with young people at the forefront, leading.
“[We are] going through [a] process right now,” she said of “behind the scenes” work that involves advancing the organization in tangible ways.
Equity for All
“Now I’m four months into the role and we’re two years into this pandemic and in many ways … there is a lot of fatigue, and also standing in the eye of the storm we’re seeing [COVID-19] numbers that are higher [than] even at the very beginning when this was new,” she said, adding that The Skillman Foundation is “requiring a reserve” after having been “running on fumes” for so long.
From reserves to racial equity, Power said that overused terms like “racial justice” and “systemic change” haven’t produced fruitful results as intended, and the Foundation is hoping to change that by connecting the dots to what is actually being done.
Through a seven-step plan in effect now through 2023, the Foundation will learn lessons from the pandemic and build on its “good work” and conduct a self-audit starting first with a racial equity audit by looking at “every single penny” that moves through the Foundation. From there, the dollars will be analyzed by race.
“Where is it going from [the] operations budget to endowment to our grants so we know not only how we are investing but in whom,” she said, adding that the information about where the organization is and what they plan to do to deepen their work “or pivot” where need be will be shared publicly.
“We think that is important in a Black city to say this is where our money is going,” she said, adding that what’s next includes studying racial justice and understanding what it looks like to build movements so people on the front lines can say “this is what they need … to make radical systems of change.”
They will also be looking at systems change in the education sphere at the federal, state and local level.
“What impacts children when they walk into the classroom has to do with the school but in many ways [we must also] deal with health and wellness and [the] criminal justice system,” she said, adding that there are many “systems at play.”
Another step that the non-profit organization is to study and implement will be centered around “youth power.”
Last December, the non-profit organization’s youth council led the charge to distribute more than $100,000 to over a dozen non-profit organizations in need.
“If we are in service to Detroit children and youth [then] they are our bosses — how do they hold us accountable for everything I’m talking about?” Power said of the aforementioned goals and plans. “They are the ones who have power over our decision.”
Power added that young people, a large portion of them, were born under the Obama administration, and they normalized the idea of a Black president and want more say so.
“And their political consciousness was formed under [the] last administration,” she said adding that they don’t want “incrementalism” and just have a seat at the table with nothing being done when they walk away. “Young people are ready, and they don’t want to just be in the driver’s seat without context. They want access to information and access to ownership,” she said.
Digital Anchor Andre Ash contributed to this report.
For more information visit https://www.skillman.org/.