Elevating Black Voices: It Matters and It’s Personal

Written by Teniqua Broughton, M.Ed., and Jeaiza Quiñones Ivory.

In the colorful patchwork of Southern Arizona, where cultures blend and stories intertwine, the call for fairness and opportunity for African Americans rings loud and clear.

Let’s talk about why it matters, why it’s personal.

Southern Arizona is a place of beauty and diversity, but it’s not without its challenges. This is why the African American Legacy Fund, held at the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, and The State of Black Arizona based in Phoenix partnered to launch the inaugural African American Leadership Institute for Southern Arizona (AALI) in 2021. In the three years since its launch, the Institute has supported 21 leaders across sectors in Tucson and surrounding areas in their personal and professional development.

For AALI participants and graduates, the Institute is much more than just a networking opportunity. It is a lifeline, a beacon of hope for Black individuals striving to make a difference in their communities. Each year, the African American Legacy Fund continues to rely on the surrounding community for fundraising support to keep the Institute going. Dollars given to the fund result in more robust programming, the ability to financially support participants, and the ability for participants to become directly involved in the Southern Arizona philanthropic sector.

The African American Leadership Institute steps in as a guiding light, offering tailored programs and unwavering support to nurture the next generation of Black leaders by offering opportunities to engage with Arizona’s foremost businesses and policy authorities in a dialogue about leadership and the African American community. Emerging leaders are developed for the purpose of increasing African American representation in key civic, political, and workforce leadership roles.

Representation matters. In a region as diverse as ours, it is critical that everyone’s voice is heard and valued. The African American Leadership Institute helps bridge that gap by empowering Black leaders to advocate for their communities, ensuring that concerns are heard and needs are met.

But it’s not just about representation; it’s about solidarity too. Through dialogue and collaboration, the AALI brings people together, breaking down barriers and fostering understanding across racial lines. It’s about celebrating diversity and recognizing the strength that comes from our differences. For participants, classes were more than just curriculum. Weekly sessions were an opportunity to sit in a space where they were seen and heard on a deeper level, where they could exist surrounded by shared experience instead of being the “only” within their organizations.

In 2020, many organizations made public commitments to addressing areas of inequity within their ranks. Three years later, many are learning the true depth that those commitments require. Diverse leadership isn’t just a nice idea; it’s essential for driving innovation and progress. By investing in programs like the African American Leadership Institute and supporting the African American Legacy Fund at the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, we’re not just doing the right thing morally; we’re setting ourselves up for a brighter, more prosperous future for all.

Recent events have underscored the urgency of this work. The challenges we face today demand bold, visionary leadership, and AALI is rising to the occasion. It’s about grassroots activism and community mobilization, about standing up for what’s right and making our voices heard.

As we look ahead, let’s remember the power of collective action. By supporting AALI and investing in the next generation of Black leaders, we’re not just changing lives; we’re shaping the future of our community. The African American Leadership Institute isn’t just an organization; it’s a movement—a movement for justice, equality, empowerment, and leadership. In a world that often feels divided, it’s a reminder that together, we can create positive change and build a better tomorrow for all.

Teniqua Broughton, M.Ed., is the Chief Executive Officer for The State of Black Arizona. Jeaiza Quiñones Ivory is the Director of Community Impact at the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona.