Consumer Health Foundation Welcomes Hanh Le as its VP of Strategic Partnerships

January 8, 2021

Spanish version here.

On February 1, Hanh Le will join the Consumer Health Foundation (CHF) as vice president of strategic partnerships after serving as the executive director of the Weissberg Foundation for the past four years. During her tenure at Weissberg, Hanh led efforts to prioritize and effectively advocate for funding to Black, Indigenous and people of color-led organizations working to advance systems change for racial justice; develop more equitable co-creation and decision-making by the board, staff, and grant review teams; and operationalize trust-based philanthropy.

“As I was writing the job description for the new VP of strategic partnerships, Hanh Le was the person I had in mind, but she already had a job,” said CHF’s president and CEO Yanique Redwood. “Just a few days after I developed the role, Hanh called to let me know that she was stepping down. I could not believe the synchronicity.”

CHF is launching a new 10-year strategic plan in 2021 with a goal of increasing its strategic partnerships to drive new resources for racial justice and to build a foundation that centers and is led by BIPOC communities. CHF is one of very few private foundations in the country whose board of trustees has been historically led by Black people and other people of color. In 2019, CHF went a step further and recruited four new trustees of color with lived experience of housing instability and homelessness, low-wage work, unemployment and underemployment. “Our goal was to interrupt the inherent power philanthropy has over communities and instead develop a practice of sharing power with those living at the sharpest intersection of systems of oppression,” said CHF’s board chair Wendy Chun-Hoon.

“As a philanthropic peer, a resident of the DC region, a woman of color and a CHF grantee, I have directly benefited from, proudly partnered in and long been inspired by the foundation’s transformative approach to racial justice. I am pinching myself that I will now be a part of the CHF team, especially in this moment as it gears up to launch a bold, new strategic plan,” said Hanh.

Yanique and Hanh sat down for a conversation about the decision to join CHF. An excerpt from that conversation is below.

Yanique: We had our conversation before the insurrection last Wednesday and we both couldn’t imagine publishing this interview without addressing head on the violence, hypocrisy and white supremacy that was on full display on Wednesday. Many of us are still in shock but not surprised. I have said that if we don’t deal with the scab that is racism, we will continue to ooze. First, how are you? How is heart? What are you sitting with right now?

Hanh: “Shocked but not surprised” resonates with how I’m feeling, as well as angry, sad, exhausted and unsafe. The doe-eyed narrative that what happened last week “is not who America is” represents such deep denial and complicity in the truth that American democracy was founded in the belief that every person is not created equal and on the intention that not all voices should or would be heard.

As we work to dismantle this white supremacist system and see our democracy — from who’s organizing and voting to who’s being elected and appointed — becoming more inclusive and representative of Black, Indigenous, and people of color that makes a lot of people feel threatened. What we saw last Wednesday and what we have seen throughout the course of American history is white people using various forms of violence to uphold their belief in the hierarchy of human value with whiteness on top of that hierarchy. And then we saw their privilege and fragility protected by our deeply racist systems.

That is the reality of where we are, and that is fuel for the work of dismantling structural racism so we can build a multi-racial democracy that truly values BIPOC people.

Yanique: CHF has a new 10-year strategic plan. It centers Black people. It names reparations as a strategy. It is designed to build community power and change anti-Black narratives. I’ve named a few things that speak to me. What speaks to you in the plan? What are you most excited about?

Hanh: CHF’s new strategic plan should be required reading for everyone working in philanthropy – I can’t wait for us to roll it out widely in the upcoming months!

In the introduction to the plan, CHF writes, “There is no health without justice. Communities will not be healthy until we repair harms and root out anti-blackness in ourselves and our institutions. This is long-term work, yet we will do it with urgency.”

The clarity in the reality of where we are, the vision of where we want to be, the values that undergird the work and the strategic goal areas for how we will get there — culture; healing; reparations and economic justice; community power; and institutions and structures — speak to me so powerfully because of how honest, ambitious and holistic they are.

But what gets me most excited about the plan is how it both scares and excites me through its assertion that we can and must build the world that we need and deserve. And we will do it with fight, joy and each other.

Yanique: I will never forget the moment that you said yes to coming on board. I knew you were weighing exciting options, so I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Why did you say yes?

Hanh: When I made the decision to transition out of my previous role, I didn’t know what I’d do next – I just felt so fueled by the intense need to step up to bigger and more audacious efforts to advance racial justice. I also felt some sadness because I wasn’t sure there would be a home and position for me to do that work in philanthropy in the DMV, so I was exploring options to work in other sectors.

You describe the simultaneous development of CHF’s vice president of strategic partnerships position and my transition from my previous role as synchronicity, and it really was. When you offered me the position, I said yes because after deep consideration, I found absolutely no reason to say no. There were no cons to this opportunity to work for and with you—you have been such a positive force in my philanthropic and racial justice journey; with Temi, Kendra, Ria, Nia, and Nivo, all of whom I already know, deeply respect, and really like; with the boundary-pushing CHF board; and with the awesome partners in CHF’s work.

Yanique: You and I have worked together in the past, co-chairing the Racial Equity Working Group of WRAG and working as part of the new funder’s collaborative Resourcing Radical Justice to develop a retreat for Black people and other people of color in DMV philanthropy. It has been an honor to partner with you. What is your view on philanthropic partnerships? Why are they important and what is the secret sauce for successful partnership?

Hanh: It’s amazing to reflect on the many ways we have partnered in the past several years!

Institutionally, philanthropic entities are in a really unique position in that we don’t need to compete against our peers for resources for our survival. Ideally, no organization in the social sector should need to do that, but philanthropy has created what Vu Le of Nonprofit AF refers to as the “nonprofit hunger games.” This is just one system we need to change. Changing philanthropy and other oppressive systems requires partnership. These big, messy systems have been built to perpetuate white supremacy, and no philanthropic institution on its own will be able to make the change needed to dismantle structural racism.

The secret sauce for successful partnership includes a strong base of trust, a mindset of abundance and a reframing of risk. So often in philanthropy, when we think about risk, we center our own institutions. How about we center instead the people, organizations and communities that will suffer most because we don’t collaborate to make the pace and scale of change needed?

Also, as people of color in philanthropy, I think that partnering with peers is crucial to our personal and collective survive and thrive strategy.

Yanique: One of the most thrilling aspects of you coming on board is that you know this community. You have been working in the DC region for the past five years. You also know philanthropy, having been in the sector for the last 12 years. What have you learned or observed in the sector and in your most recent role that compels you to keep fighting for racial justice within philanthropy?

Hanh: As part of our collaboration through Resourcing Radical Justice, we fielded a survey last summer of Black people and other people of color in DMV philanthropy to collect stories about their experiences of interpersonal, institutional and structural racism in the sector. Themes that emerged from the responses included the rewarding and protecting of white mediocrity; the underpayment, overworking, exclusion from advancement opportunities and tokenism of BIPOC people; the centrality, collective trauma, and incessantness of anti-Blackness for Black people; and the secondary trauma that anti-Blackness inflicts on Indigenous and other people of color.

Having experienced and/or witnessed all of these things in my time in philanthropy, these themes were not surprising or unfamiliar, but the pain that respondents carried from their experiences was searing, heartbreaking and enraging. And that this is happening in philanthropy, a sector supposedly rooted in “a love of humanity,” is unconscionable. It’s just not okay.

The core values that drive me are justice, integrity and accountability. As I continue working in philanthropy to advance systems change for racial justice, I need to do that work internally as well – in myself, in any institution in which I’m working and in the broader sector. I can’t imagine a better home from which to do that work than CHF.

6 responses to “Consumer Health Foundation Welcomes Hanh Le as its VP of Strategic Partnerships”

  1. This announcement and conversation leave me enormously inspired and energized with a shared passion for racial justice in the national capital region. Kudos to Consumer Health Foundation!

  2. Congratulations on Ms. Le joining the Consumer Health Foundation team! Ms. Le’s commitment to racial equity and her enthusiasm towards execution of the 10-year strategic plan in support of the racial equity for the DMV made for an enjoyable read.

  3. Ricshawn Adkins Roane says:

    From CHF’s newest strategic plan centering Black people, naming reparations as a strategy, building community power and changing anti-Black narratives to the secret sauce of philanthropic partnership including a strong base of trust, a mindset of abundance and a reframing of risk – this is a must read for those of us grappling with these issues in the philanthropic sector. Inviting you two to transform this interview into a dialogue series for philanthropic communities around the country? What do you think?

  4. Betty Lam says:

    Ms. Le, I’m so proud of the work you have done and will continue to do for humanity. Best of luck in your new position. The transition team will not be the same without you.

  5. Hanh Le says:

    Ricshawn – I am just seeing your comment now. What a very interesting proposal…let’s talk more!

  6. Hanh Le says:

    Brigette – thank you for being such a fierce leader and generous partner in the work to advance racial justice in the DMV. Doing the work with you is joyful.

    Toyia – so appreciate your support!

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