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Justice, the Gospel, & Philanthropy: A Path to Authenticity

SER Equity


I come to the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF) as an electrical engineer turned Bible teacher and university chaplain. That is, after working to achieve two degrees in engineering and working as a process control engineer for several years, I received a call to ministry that propelled me forward to seminary and further into pastoral ministry on a college campus.

During those years, most people thought I was deranged. And, many days, I agreed with their assessments. Working full-time while attending school full-time necessitated an efficiency, self-reliance, and creativity that I had never imagined. While navigating the complex sector of coding and manufacturing facilities, I also waded through weighty theological concepts of God’s work and witness in the world. It was grueling work that stretched every element of my human faculties.

But somewhere along the matrix of my journey — through the push and pull of straddling technology and theology, in the middle of charting my way into many rooms where I was the only black woman, and learning to view my responsibility for justice as an appropriate response to my faith — these seemingly disparate worlds began to coalesce, and I found my voice. As a truth-teller. As a healer. As a force to be reckoned with wherever and whenever I showed up.

In many ways, I believe that my personal journey from crucible to rebirth parallels the paradigm shifts the philanthropy world is experiencing today. More specifically, WRF is working diligently to take up the mantle of new strategic direction, AR Equity 2025, while also wrestling with the very real questions of how a foundation answers the call to aid in dismantling oppression both authentically and transformatively. But paramount to showing up for this work is a commitment to a process that includes temporary failings and a willingness to mine our identity for potential faults and opportunities for allyship, all things I am excited to partner with WRF in doing.

My path to philanthropy has been a long and protracted one. Yet, here I am. Battle-tested, trained in diverse fields, and ready to test the waters found at the intersections of justice work and the philanthropic world. No matter where this role takes me, I remain grounded in who I’ve been, who I am becoming, and, always, where I am from:

I am from picking, washing, and cooking collard greens in sticky, Southern summer-time heat I am from hand-me-downs and reduced rate lunches since Momma couldn’t make ends meet I am from small-town church revivals and people catching the Spirit as we sang lined hymns

I am from a trinity of black women who live and move and have their being in the crucified Christ I am from Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Katie Cannon to name a few I am from James Baldwin, Du Bois, Angela Davis, and Ella Baker, too

I am going to write myself free so that I can free others too I am going to pray, preach, tell the truth, and tell the truth som’more I am going to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God I am going to cook up a piece of heaven and invite everyone to the table

I am because we are.
Created by
Rev. Shantell Hinton Hill
Equity Officer