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Honoring Juneteenth with Irvine Program Associate Brittney Jackson

The Irvine Foundation is fortunate to have talented staff with diverse backgrounds and life experiences, and we want to introduce some of our colleagues to you. We spoke with Brittney Jackson, Irvine’s Program Associate, about the significance of Juneteenth, what led her to philanthropy, and philanthropy’s role in helping dismantle systemic barriers. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Tell us about yourself.  

My name is Brittney Jackson, and I am proud to have been born and raised in the vibrant city of Oakland. Growing up, I was fortunate to have a close-knit family — an older brother and three younger sisters who have always been my biggest motivation. I strive every day to be the best role model for them. Although my parents were not married, I feel incredibly lucky to have a close relationship with both of them. My mom has dedicated over 30 years of her life working for Alameda County, and my father has a long history of working in the warehouse industry. Neither of them had the opportunity to finish college, which is why they have always emphasized how important education is. I am proud to say that I graduated from UC Santa Cruz — Go Slugs! — and then obtained my MPA from the University of San Francisco in 2021. My family has always encouraged me to pursue higher education, and I am grateful for their unwavering support.

How did you get into philanthropy? 

Philanthropy was initially not a path I saw for myself. Growing up, I always knew I wanted a career where I could serve others, which is why I started working in nonprofits focused on community service. I particularly loved fundraising and developing strategies to help secure financial resources for nonprofits. After graduate school, my background in nonprofit fundraising led me to philanthropy. I saw the power and potential in allocating resources to communities and working towards systemic change from a different perspective.

What does Juneteenth mean to you? 

Juneteenth holds immense significance for the Black community. It represents the end of centuries of pain, suffering, and forced hardship endured by Black people in this country. Unfortunately, Juneteenth wasn’t a day that was talked about or celebrated during my school years.

My hope is that today serves as an opportunity to educate Black individuals of all generations about our history and share insights with others. It reminds us that there is still much work to do in the ongoing fight for Black liberation. This day should also be a reminder of the hardships our ancestors fought through and the continued fight for freedom and equality.

What is Irvine’s role in advancing equity? 

Irvine, like philanthropy in general, plays a unique role in advancing equity. The power to allocate resources to communities is an immense privilege. I believe it’s philanthropy’s duty to work alongside organizations that have equity agendas, providing not only monetary resources but also other forms of support. This includes putting their work in front of other funders, offering support to help amplify their stories, and allowing their voices to take center stage. The events of 2020, with heightened police brutality and racial injustices, saw increased investments in Black-led organizations and I hope that Irvine and other philanthropic institutions can authentically and respectfully show up for communities that are often left behind or overlooked, putting their resources toward these commitments.

As we celebrate this day, it is important to reflect on the progress we have made while acknowledging the work still ahead. Irvine and philanthropy have a vital role in advancing equity by providing resources and support to organizations working tirelessly to dismantle systemic barriers. Let us seize this opportunity to educate, uplift, and advocate for lasting change as we strive towards a more equitable and just society.