Moving Forward: Philanthropist, activist Edgar Villanueva says U.S. should ‘look back’ to move forward

Moving Forward

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — People all over the world are fighting for what they believe is right.

The effort to understand that fight — and figure out what comes after — inspired a new series at
CBS 17 called Moving Forward.

CBS 17’s Marius Payton continues the conversation with Edgar Villanueva. He runs the Decolonizing Wealth Project, an organization that helps fund black and indigenous lead groups across the country.

“If there’s one thing life guarantees, it’s change. Lately, we’re seeing a lot of it,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva is also a member of Robeson County’s Lumbee Tribe. We started the conversation by asking how his tribe has been affected by the pandemic. And then we listened.

“Native communities have been devastated by this pandemic,” said Villanueva. “You have to think
about the conditions we were in prior to a crisis so we already have very high rates of unemployment. We have cycles of poverty over generations that really exacerbate our conditions and we have high rates of health disparities.”

We also asked Villanueva about the money raised for the Lumbee Tribe of Robeson County — a tribe
that he is a member.

“So we were able to deploy one million dollars around the country to different native individuals who were out of work or struggling to pay rent or provide food for their families and a part of that work was an opportunity to support my tribe — the Lumbee Tribe — with a half-million dollars in support to aid their recovery effort,” he said.

Villanueva tells CBS 17 that as he travels around the country speaking to people about the struggles of his people and other minority groups there are certain things most people don’t understand. But he is willing to educate.

“When we see the uprising in the street and the demand for racial justice. When you see
indigenous communities asking for what we want and need this is the result of problems that have
been festering under the surface of our communities for a long, long time,” Villanueva said.

He said, “poverty is the product of very intentional policies that have made throughout the years that have caused certain groups to benefit from those policies and other groups have been oppressed by those policies.”

Another hot button topic he finds himself addressing, sports teams using racial slurs as mascots.

“Redskins’ is a racial slur when you look back at the history and the origin of that name. And so to
dehumanize a group of people to a slur or to a mascot really perpetuates these ideologies that allow
us to continue to harm people over and over again,” Villanueva said.

In light of everything, how do we as a nation move forward?

“In order to move forward, I strongly believe that we have to start by looking back,” Villanueva said. “We must understand the true history of this country. “

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