Ohio native speaks on being first woman, African American to serve as Winston-Salem Foundation president

North Carolina news

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — The Winston-Salem Foundation started in 1919 with a $1,000 donation. It has provided millions of dollars in scholarships and community grants in the 102 years since. White men have led the foundation for its entire history. Until now.

LaTida Smith is the first woman and the first African-American to serve as Winston-Salem Foundation president.

“For some time, I think the foundation has been thinking about how it expands the community’s understanding of who can be a philanthropist,” Smith said.

The Cleveland, Ohio, native has led new philanthropic efforts in her hometown and in Pennsylvania. The work she’ll do here is different.

“I had the opportunity of coming to a foundation with over 100 years of goodwill built. That makes a big difference,” she said.

The foundation awarded more than $120 million in grants last year.

“What we have said is we want to live in a thriving community,” Committee Chair Randall Tuttle said. “And you can’t live in a thriving community unless everyone has the opportunity to thrive, which touches on equity and historical inequities.”

Tuttle says a few years ago the board paused to take a look at how they were doing business. After talking to community leaders, the committee decided on two focus areas: an inclusive economy and equity in education. They decided to approach both with an explicit focus on racial equity.

“We decided as an organization that if we’re going to talk the talk we better walk the walk internally first,” he said. “And it’s been not easy, but very productive and a great growth opportunity for the foundation to really — as you say — these are tough conversations and tough issues. and to learn about equity and imbed equity concepts inside the organizations.”

“So it’s really important to me that I have a full understanding of both the challenges this community faces as well as the opportunities,” Smith added.

Housing is one of those challenges. The foundation led the effort to bring an exhibit to the Forsyth County Central Library called “Undesign the Redline.” It shows the impact of the practice of redlining. That’s where city maps were color-coded. Neighborhoods with large minority populations were deemed risky investments and colored red.

“Even though decades have passed and those laws have changed, the history of those systemic indifferences remains,” Smith said. “So you can look at those same communities today and see how generations of disinvestment in certain neighborhoods helped to create the health care disparities that we see now, the disparities in access to quality and healthy foods, the disparities in education outcomes for families.”

She’s embracing the foundation’s commitment to put a dent in those inequities with a “we’re all in this together approach.”

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