Exploring Intersectionality: A Series of Conversations

Author: Nicholas Randell

On November 20, 2023, the Tower Foundation hosted an online conversation about the intersection of incarceration and substance use.  Panelists from several of our grant partners were invited to discuss the ways in which their work with recently incarcerated youth is affected by substance use disorders within this population.  Rates of substance use disorder are significantly higher among incarcerated youth and that has real implications for the people and agencies working to reduce recidivism and help formerly incarcerated youth successfully reintegrate in their communities.  You can watch the recording of this webinar here: https://vimeo.com/888779090

This webinar is the first in a series of conversations about the intersectional forces and identities that we are working to better understand.

For several years at the Tower Foundation, we’ve thought about how multiple identities and individual circumstances complicate our understanding of the people and communities that we work with.  The notion of “dual diagnosis” led us to recognize that many young people with intellectual disabilities also face mental health challenges, or that young people living with mental health conditions are prone to turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with those challenges.  But the recent, intensified national conversation about structural racism is pushing us to look at more intersectional realities.  Racism and other “isms” used to divide and marginalize groups and individuals also intersect with our primary funding areas (intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, mental illness, and substance use disorders). 

Past blogs have introduced the Tower Foundation’s Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Goals and we shared a report on 2022’s progress towards becoming a more equitable funder.  We’ve got a lot to learn and look forward to a continuing dialogue (in both this space and through our intersectionality webinar series).  

Two years ago, when we first began to explore intersectionality more deeply,  Foundation staff developed an internal white paper that takes a more in-depth look at intersectionality.  The intent of this piece was to shine a light on some of the ways that racial disparities magnify the challenges of mental illness, addiction, or neurodivergence.  Intersectionality focused on race is one of many potential intersectional conversations about our work, but, we feel, a particularly important one. 

Read the full piece.

Photo by Deb Dowd on Unsplash.