LAFFing Parade, Winter 2021
Bonnie Jenkins, an expert on arms control, and a group she co-founded, Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS), have been selected as the 2020 Arms Control Persons of the Year by the Arms Control Association, an independent non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C.
She and her organization were cited for “catalyzing support and action from leaders and practitioners in the national security and foreign policy communities to increase diversity into their ranks and boards of directors and pursue concrete steps to ‘root out institutional racism’ in the governmental and non-governmental sectors in the field.”
In particular, the association noted that WCAPS, following protests last year against the killing of George Floyd “and other Black people…organized a solidarity statement endorsed by leaders and individuals from 150 organizations and launched working groups to develop concrete strategies and tools to attack the problem.”
Jenkins has been the Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation in the U.S. State Department. Before joining the government, in 2009, she had been a program officer at the Ford Foundation for United States foreign and security policy.
Don Chen, president of the Surdna Foundation, has been appointed co-chair of the Presidents’ Council on Impact Investing, a philanthropic leadership group that advocates “policies and standards that would help drive increased investment in communities and other areas of need”.
The Council, an arm of the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance, is comprised of the heads of 19 leading United States foundations “with a shared commitment to practicing and promoting impact investing”. Together, the foundations have more than $80 billion in assets.
Chen shares the leadership position with Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, who has been serving as the group’s other co-chair.
Prior to becoming head of Surdna, Chen worked at the Ford Foundation from 2008 to 2018 as director of Community and Resource Development and in the Metropolitan Opportunity, Equitable Opportunity and Cities and States programs.
Before Ford, he was the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Smart Growth America, where he led efforts to create the National Vacant Properties Campaign, since renamed the Center for Community Progress, and Transportation for America.
Cristobal J. Alex, who has been president of the Latino Victory Fund, is President Joseph Biden’s deputy cabinet secretary, coordinating White House strategies with the executive branch agencies.
He was one of the first people hired by the president for his campaign, serving since 2019 as a senior advisor. Previously he was deputy director of voter outreach for Hilary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, managing efforts to register, persuade and mobilize African Americans, Latinos, women, millennials and members of labor unions.
Alex had worked for the Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundations for five years before entering politics. At both foundations he led efforts to increase political participation in communities “historically excluded from the democratic process”.
Before entering the world of philanthropy, he had been a civil rights lawyer, serving most notably as director of the National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights, a coalition of more than 100 organizations that worked to “raise awareness of the civil rights rollback and develop strategies to win in the federal courts and the United Nations”.
Bird Runningwater is a co-executive producer of a proposed television series that has been given a put pilot commitment from NBC, which means the network has agreed to air it when it is ready to be shown. No date has been set for its completion.
The drama, titled Sovereign, has been developed by Bird and the film and television director Ava DuVernay, who as a director and writer has won several awards for her work in film and television, including being the first Black woman to direct a film, Selma, nominated for an Academy Award.
The drama, being made by DuVernay’s production company, ARRAY Filmworks, in association with Warner Bros. Television, is based on a story by DuVernay and is the first Native American family drama developed for network television.
The show, as described by its creators, “chronicles the lives, loves and loyalties of a sprawling indigenous family struggling to control the future of their tribe against outside forces and themselves.”
Runningwater, one of three co-executive producers of the show, has been a program director at the Sundance Institute where, since he left the Ford Foundation’s Media, Arts and Culture program in 1998, he has provided support and guidance for more than 140 Indigenous filmmakers. (An article he wrote for this newsletter, “Nurturing Native American Filmmakers”, appeared in the Winter 2018 issue.)
He is a member of the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache Tribal Nations, and grew up on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico.
Jon Funabiki has received the Distinguished Service to Journalism award from the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Funabiki, who worked in the Media, Arts and Culture and Human Rights and Social Justice programs at the Ford Foundation, was cited for his “dedication to collaboration, diversity, inclusion and equity in the media”. He was a reporter for 17 years at The San Diego Union-Tribune before joining Ford and then taught at San Francisco State University, where he founded the Center for Integration and Improvement in Journalism.
He also founded and directed Renaissance Journalism before his recent retirement.
Mark Baumgartner has been hired as the chief investment officer by the Carnegie Corporation of New York “to lead the foundation’s expansive portfolio and rebuild a hollowed-out investment team”.
He had been working as the chief investment officer for the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., following jobs at the Ford Foundation, where he led the asset allocation and risk initiative, and at Morgan Stanley Investment Management.
Mildred Warner, a professor of city and regional planning at Cornell University, has received the Margarita McCoy Faculty Award for the advancement of women in planning in higher education “through service, teaching and research”.
The award was presented by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning and is named for the pioneering urban planner and educator, Margarita McCoy.
Warner, who teaches in Cornell’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning, is also a professor of global development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, director of the Local Government Restructuring Lab and a faculty fellow at the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability.
Before she began teaching in 1998, Warner pursued work as a social policy planner, specializing in rural development through stints with the Peace Corps in Ecuador, the Ford Foundation’s Rural Poverty and Resources Program and the Cornell Community and Rural Development Institute.