An open letter from our Founder and President, Shawn Robinson 

June 22, 2020

Supporters and Funding Community:

We have a diversity and inclusion problem in America that contributes to, and perpetuates, systematic racial injustice. I founded the nonprofit Orange Arrow Players Association (OA) in 2013, and in 2015 began to address this problem by:

  • Intentionally weaving diversity and inclusion into our organization’s fabric, as demonstrated by our diversity in color, gender, geography, perspective, economic status and age at every level of our organization, which includes our board, staff, volunteers and youth that the organization serves; and,
  • Designing a program experience that prepares student-athletes to become leaders and contributors in their communities, and purposefully creating safe spaces for the authentic opportunity to build cross-cultural relationships and break down barriers between races.

However, often leaders in the funding community choose to give their financial contributions to organizations that solely support “underserved” — code-word for poor and black — people. This is necessary; however, it is imperative that organizations like Orange Arrow are included in funding strategies so that diversity and inclusion efforts are viable.

Of particular note, as a black man leading a diverse non-profit:

  • I was told by a black-led foundation that if we became too diverse, they could no longer support us.
  • I was told by a white-led foundation that they could not support us because our sole focus was not underserved youth.
  • The grant requirements for most foundations ask for non-profits to prove they are serving “at-risk” or “underserved” youth.
  • The language corporations have used in the recent announcements of millions of dollars of funding outlines that the funding is for “the Black community” or “the underserved.”

Who and what do these leaders picture when they envision efforts to address systemic racism? Who do they view as the recipients of these grants? 

From my experience, they either see black-led organizations solely helping black children or white-led organizations solely helping black children (e.g., Save the Whales). Where are the leaders who are intentionally supporting building cross-cultural relationships and not just viewing underserved communities as the problem? I am absolutely not saying that organizations who focus on working with black children are an issue; rather, this is a call to action that a multi-faceted approach is necessary to solve the huge issues of racial disparities and injustice.

We at Orange Arrow purposefully bring together “under-served” and “regularly-served” and “over-served” youth and adults so that the barriers between those groups are broken, real relationships are formed, and real change occurs. When these OA-involved power brokers learn and live diversity and inclusion, they lead significant change in their families, schools, communities and our world.

If corporations and foundations continue to solely invest in programs that inadvertently keep us segregated and overlook organizations that have a track record of breaking down these barriers, we will not solve our diversity and inclusion problem in America.

How are we going to have significant change if funding only goes towards the continuation of segregation? 

That can no longer be the only approach.

With Love,

Shawn Robinson

Founder & President of Orange Arrow Players Association


Thank you to the donors and sponsors who have contributed to our efforts.