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Global Philanthropist Ivy McGregor On What Corporate Social Responsibility Looks Like Today

"It's just really a great honor to fulfill my life's destiny in what people would call my 9-to-5 and my 6-to-12."

BOSS UP

When people think of philanthropy, they usually think of millionaires and billionaires who find ways to use their fortunes to give back after they've gotten rich. And, if we're being real, a lot of people think of white men like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

But Ivy McGregor has flipped that script. She's a Black woman building her entire career and business around helping people and businesses make a difference while they make a profit.

McGregor has led Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, run scholarship programs, and facilitated water initiatives in Flint, Michigan, and Burundi Africa. As head of her own consulting agency, IVY Inc., she supports organizations in implementing social impact strategies, and as the Director of Social responsibility at Parkwood Entertainment's philanthropic umbrella, BeyGOOD, she's worked to support women entrepreneurs and eradicate homelessness, poverty and economic inequality.

2019 Global Citizen Festival: Power The Movement � Onstage

Photo courtesy of Ivy McGregor

Her resume as a philanthropist is stacked, and she loves every minute of it.

"To be devoted in this space as a philanthropist for the leading artist in the country and on a consulting basis around the country for my own company…It's just really a great honor to fulfill my life's destiny in what people would call my 9-to-5 and my 6-to-12," McGregor said.

McGregor found her passion for philanthropy even before she knew she could make a career of it. While she held several well-paying jobs in her first few years of the workforce, she found the most satisfaction in the charitable work she did in her spare time. "I may have had a job that I was doing well at, but I didn't feel the passion like I did on evenings and weekends when I was volunteering or when I was at a senior nursing home or when I was sitting with young kids and challenging them to come up with creative ideas. That is when I felt my heart pitter patter," she explained.

She has used that passion for giving back to become a trailblazer for Black philanthropy. Receiving awards like the International Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award, she's been key to raising the profile of Black women in the space.

But McGregor doesn't do it alone. She's proud to say that she has a team of people behind her and on her staff who contribute to her philanthropic efforts. She encourages other founders and business owners who want to focus on social impact to consider the passions, interests, and pain points of the people on their teams too.

"That is what corporate social responsibility looks like. Engaging people, listening, and then taking that information and implementing it in the organization and sharing it with the company," McGregor advised.

She also invites founders to lead with love. It's advice she learned from her mother, and she believes that including love at the foundation of her business strategy is one of the things that has allowed her to be so successful as a philanthropist.

"We start with a zero-judgment zone," McGregor said. "We start with a pure heart so that we are not discriminating against the people we help."

Photo courtesy of Ivy McGregor

Because the mission with philanthropy is not to earn praise or accolades, but to make the people on the receiving end feel genuinely helped, McGregor noted that service isn't just a must-have for profits, but it makes a big difference in social impact as well.

"There are corporations that people are wondering, 'How are they still around?' Because they have understood that service is sustainability. They have understood it is not so much what you say, it's how you make people feel. If people feel empowered, if people feel inspired, if people feel helped, that is so critical," McGregor said.

McGregor has continued to lead by example in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. She jumped into action, raising hundreds of dollars and donating meals to healthcare workers at New York's Mount Sinai and Jacobi Hospitals. In April alone, she and her Global Learners Program, a collective of creatives and professionals eager to serve through social impact, donated grocery gift cards to 100 families and meals to 100 seniors at NYC senior centers.

While we may not all be able to give back at such a grand scale, McGregor reminded business owners and individuals that giving back takes many forms.

"Because we realize this is a pandemic of epic proportions, it requires every one of us to get innovative to help provide relief," McGregor said. "We are experiencing unprecedented times. But it is in these moments that I challenge you to take a positive thought and move it into action…Look at the multiplicity of ways to give back."

For more of Ivy, follow her on Instagram.

Featured image courtesy of Ivy McGregor

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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