Verses And Verzuz

By April 29, 2021Field News

It began with texts. Who’s watching Swizz Beatz vs Timbaland? Erykah Badu vs Jill Scott? Verzuz TV right now. D’Angelo. Earth, Wind & Fire vs. The Isley Brothers. Who’s listening?  

For those who aren’t in my group texts and have no idea what I am talking about – it’s a global phenomenon and artistic export of the pandemic called Verzuz TV. It started on Instagram in March 2020 as lock downs were happening across the world. Created by producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, it’s framed as a virtual battle but is really a musical mashup between creative minds; be they musicians or DJs. Two ten-song rounds. Three hours. Live streamed then preserved for posterity.

The thrill comes from the chemistry of the partners, the intent to create something bigger than either, the connectivity of a larger community all grooving to what is sparking from the mixing of these elements. And every comment of the audience becomes part of the moving wallpaper on the screen. Watching your name and comment rise along with others – some famous, some friends- adds to the feeling that while apart physically for these moments we are all absolutely connected and creating something wild, unpredictable, meaningful and most of all DEEPLY needed.

This Verzuz spirit is fervent inside the Field Foundation. Think of us as willing musicians seeking out partners to jam with us. Eager producers looking to amplify others. Excited audience members ready to throw up black hearts and brown hand emojis.

Our work in the areas of Art, Justice, Media & Storytelling and Leadership Investment allows us to deploy that Verzuz spirit across sectors and keep our pulse—and our grant making—on the most urgent issues of our time.

As the nation grapples with policing that is far too often deadly to Black and Brown bodies, we are also managing a horrific spike in shooting deaths of civilians, including children, by Chicago Police. Just a few hours after heaving a collective sigh of relief over Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict for murdering George Floyd, Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old girl with an easy smile who liked to make Tik Tok hair videos, was shot dead by a police officer in Columbus, Ohio. Since testimony began in Chauvin’s trial on March 29, more than three people a day have died at the hands of law enforcement, according to the New York Times.

In Chicago, Black and Brown death, trauma and grief continue to lead the news, as we’ve been subjected to a steady stream of deadly police body cam videos showing the last moments of the lives of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez.

Our grantee partners have been at the forefront of organizing, doing the difficult work of resistance, shouting truth to power. Dismantling. Rebuilding anew. There is so much work to be done.

Part of that work has been shifting narratives and planning around COVID-19. Building on our heatmaps we created in 2017 to study how race and need align in Chicago we are honored to present the Mapping COVID-19 Recovery project, working with nearly 30 foundation, nonprofit and research entities. Rather than trying to solve for COVID-19, we’ve created an interactive mapping project that illuminates how lack of investment and inequitable policies created a tinderbox. COVID-19 is only the current match. Our dream is that we all use these maps to plan our way thoughtfully toward recovery where we dismantle the tinderbox permanently by focusing on investing in and supporting locally sourced power. We believe if enough of us, in different sectors, understand  the racialized history and inequitable policies of the past, we can align resources differently.  We can change the game. Because the game must change for each of us to recover.

Our fate is linked. Like Verzuz, we are an ensemble.

We have a lot to share, so keep reading for a deeper dive into the projects and partners in the mix and, as always, hit us up to send feedback, to collaborate, to jam with us. And I’ll be looking for you on May 8th when SWV battles Xscape on Verzuz, or in our zooms, our collaborations, at the grocery store, on walks by the lake, in our one-on-ones or when we get to be shoulder-to-shoulder on the daily again.

In the meantime, black heart and brown hand emojis floating out to you all,




Mapping COVID-19 Recovery: Understanding our Past to Create an Equitable Future



The devastating impact of COVID-19 in the Black and Latinx communities in Chicago has highlighted inequitable policies and historic divestment on the South and West sides. Community recovery will require collective and rapid action to rectify history rather than repeat it. Last summer, a groundbreaking collaborative of philanthropic stakeholders and researchers representing 25 organizations agreed to share data about shifting investments in response to the pandemic, and examine what more could be done.

The result is the Mapping COVID-19 Recovery project, which standardizes data through a series of maps illustrating where public, private and philanthropic sector investments are going in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the goal of strategic reinvestment and recovery to close historic funding gaps and rebuild stronger communities. The maps are downloadable, accessible to the public and meant to be widely shared.

Among the early findings: The year before the pandemic, foundations funded more downtown Chicago organizations than predominantly BIPOC communities on the south and west sides. Since the pandemic began, more dollars have been invested in BIPOC communities and with BIPOC-led organizations.

On April 22nd, in collaboration with the National Association of Black Journalists-Chicago Chapter, the project and the website were presented to the public in a Facebook Live event. Award-winning Chicago Sun-Times reporter and columnist Maudlyne Ihejerika, NABJ-Chicago Chapter President, moderated the event, which featured a panel discussion with Angelique Power, Healthy Communities Foundation President Maria Pesqueira and Dan Cooper, director of research at Metropolitan Planning Council.

Our thanks to WBEZ for the story How Maps Show the Need for Racial Equity in Chicago’s Road to COVID-19 Recovery.

We encourage everyone to access the website, but especially organizers, policymakers and investors from the public, private and philanthropic sectors as you move forward with long-term investment planning.


Local Foundation Trustees Call to Action: The Time is Now 


Inspired by ABFE’s Investment Manager Diversity Pledge, 31 trustees from 12 major, Chicago-area philanthropies penned an open letter urging foundation peers to step up racial equity efforts by amplifying endowment investments. A 2017 study commissioned by the Knight Foundation revealed that despite no statistically significant difference in performance between diverse firms and their white industry peers, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) and women-owned firms represented only 1.1 percent of the industry’s total $71.4 trillion in assets under management.

The letter appeared in Crain’s Chicago Business and reads in part:

“As foundation trustees, we call on philanthropy to put its money where its anti-racism statements are. It is not enough to simply commit funding to communities for post-COVID recovery and social justice.

To be sure, amplified grant-making is an essential first step in redressing historic inequity and creating accountability. But foundations must look beyond grant-making to advance racial equity; most immediately they must commit to diversifying endowment investments…”

Read the full letter here: Job One for Local Philanthropies: Diversify Endowment Investments.


Cicero Independiente is a bilingual, independent news outlet founded in 2019 for Cicero residents. It is a treasured grantee partner in Field’s Media & Storytelling portfolio.

Please watch this video to learn more about their groundbreaking work in Cicero, and how they are changing the media landscape in Chicagoland. This interview with co-founders April Alonso and Irene Romulo was conducted and edited by Field Communications Fellow Sofia Gabriel del Callejo.


Reminder: The Letter of Inquiry portal for Fall grant consideration in the areas of Art, Justice and Media & Storytelling is now open! The deadline for submission is Monday, May 17, 2021. For more information on how to apply, please visit our website.

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