Last Monday, The Denver Foundation had the opportunity and honor to host Edgar Villanueva, author of the book, “Decolonizing Wealth,” and Vice President of Programs and Advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education.
Villanueva spent the morning in conversation with Foundation staff, trustees, and donors, discussing reactions to his book, which he says is “for those who direct the flow of money.” Villanueva calls for an ideological revolution in philanthropy rooted in the concept of “decolonization.” The book is deeply informed by his background and upbringing as a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, in one of the country’s poorest counties, and his experiences as a person of color navigating a career in philanthropy.
Villanueva was welcomed by an informed audience eager to engage the topic. Prior to Villanueva’s visit, Foundation Trustee Harold Fields and fundholder Kathryn White found the book so thought-provoking that they combined their resources to purchase copies for each member of the Foundation’s governing body. In tandem, the Foundation’s Internal Inclusiveness and Equity Committee made copies of the book available to staff.
A resonant theme from our time with Villanueva and a key lesson from his book is that “money can be used as medicine.” Sharing control and management of philanthropic wealth invites communities in pain to design their own healing, “What if we could be unencumbered by ‘the way it’s done’ and liberated to design ourselves from scratch? What if we could liberate money to be used as a tool of love?”