Katrina Browne, Holly Fulton & Bill Peebles, Dain & Constance Perry, Juanita Brown, James Perry, and I (along with Traces of the Trade film and outreach staffers Sara Archambault, Michelle Materre, and Jennifer Carr, and film production team members Jude Ray and Catherine Benedict) spent the past two days at a gathering of thousands of people connected with one of the most influential segments of American society: philanthropic foundations (The Council on Foundations Philanthropy Summit; May 4-7)

Traces of the Trade was featured by Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media in a reception, screening, and panel discussion on Tuesday evening, May 6. More than 400 people attended the event at the newly opened Newseum in Washington, DC. After a long day at the conference (I attended an all-day mini-summit regarding the role of media in advancing the mission of philanthropy), I was impressed that most people stayed until the panel discussion ended at 10:30pm.

The panel discussion was moderated by Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, Founding and Executive Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, and Judy Woodruff, senior correspondent and 2008 political editor for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Panelists included Dr. J. Bryan Hehir, Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life at the Kennedy School at Harvard, James A. Joseph, former Ambassador to South Africa, and professor of the Practice of Public Policy Studies at the South Africa Center for Leadership and Public Values at Duke University, Goodwin Liu, assistant professor of Law at Boalt Hall (Berkeley Law, University of California), and Ruth Wooden, president of Public Agenda.

This distinguished panel discussed the major themes in Traces of the Trade and how they connect to the world of philanthropy. How can foundations effectively facilitate discussions on race, the legacy of slavery, and the need for healing? What are the challenges in facilitating such discussions? When government lacks capacity–or will–to lead the way in creating a more just world, how can we best encourage grass roots leadership in undoing racism and other forms of oppression. For one attendee’s perspective on the panel discussion, check out this post by Peter Deitz on the Social Actions Blog.

The panel discussion was filmed. My belief is that it will soon be available online for viewing. As soon as I can find a link to it I’ll make it available on my website. My hope is that many more people in the philanthropic community will watch it and find ways to support the work of creating “a more perfect union” by addressing directly the issue of race and how it continues to divide us in America.

On Wednesday morning Katrina and I were part of a panel facilitated by Alice Myatt, Managing Director of Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media. The title of the workshop was “Race, Class, and Privilege: An On-going Dialogue.” We were joined by Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., professor of Political Science at UCLA, and Paula Dressell, former director of Planning, Research, and Development with the Annie E. Casey Foundation who spoke of Casey’s Race Matters initiative. Check out the Race Matters Toolkit here, which is designed to help organizations address unequal opportunities by race and provides simple, results-oriented steps to help them succeed. I’m not certain if this session was taped, but if I find that it is I’ll provide a link to it as well.

I left the conference enthused about the possibilities if philanthropists take seriously their potential leadership role in undoing racism.