Movements for gender justice find power in inclusivity

Women marching

Photo by Harvey Finkle

Following closely on the heels of the inauguration, the January 2017 Women’s March galvanized throngs of people into the streets to demonstrate power, rage, and commitment. The year that followed held dire threats to longstanding civil rights coupled with unprecedented moments of accountability, such as the explosion of the #MeToo movement.

“I think people are aware of gender justice on a level that they had not been before, a level of attention that has been given to #MeToo and to even more subtle and complex issues of power and relationships between men and women,” says Farrah Parkes, director of education, technology, and job readiness at ‎Lutheran Settlement House.

But today’s movements for gender justice are not our grandmothers’ movements, and they are gaining strength from understanding the interconnectedness of different forms of oppression.

“On a mass scale, more people are being encouraged, pushed, and challenged to have more of an intersectional analysis,” says Sara Zia Ebrahimi, program director at Leeway Foundation. That analysis addresses how people experience multiple forms of oppression — such as racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia — simultaneously.

“Ten years ago, Leeway made the transition to fund not just women artists but women, trans, and gender-nonconforming artists, because feminism is about self-determination and trying to address people who are marginalized because of their gender, and so we’re looking beyond he or she and to a wider spectrum,” Ebrahimi says.

Nora Lichtash, executive director of Women’s Community Revitalization Project, works at the intersection of gender justice and economic justice. “It feels like now people can see a reality that has been so present for so many of us for a long time,” Lichtash says. “Sometimes people do see it but feel scared to say it. I think people are speaking out in the context of class, which is very important because as poor women, the vulnerability as far as the horrors of sexism and violence is unbelievable.”

Social change happens when communities organize together, and the spring 2018 Giving Project will raise money for a specialized Gender Justice Fund. “I’m looking forward to the gender justice project as a way to engage a lot of people on this issue,” says Parkes, a Giving Project alum. She notes that every person who contributes to a Giving Project, at any amount, is a part of sustaining change and building movements.

“The time is always right to do what’s right,” Parkes says, “but it’s the right moment because people are energized, people are waking up, people want to do something.”

Bread & Roses profiled on CityWide Stories

Bread & Roses Community Fund: Striving for Racial Equity and Economic Justice
Excerpted from CityWide Stories article published on February 19, 2018

Seven people outdoors smiling

Bread & Roses staff in December 2017

Casey Cook, Executive Director, has been at Bread & Roses Community Fund for over ten years. She told me she feels privileged to be a part of that history and to work with an amazing team of staff, volunteers, and organizers who work every day to create real change in the Philadelphia region and beyond. “The work we do together is shifting the balance of power in our region, lifting up the voices of those who have been silenced, and creating equity for all of our communities. We do that through collective action, driven by a sense of mutual accountability. We are in the midst of creating a world that has yet to be imagined,” said Cook.

In 2016, Bread & Roses launched the Giving Project, an innovative model for building leadership and moving money for real change in the Philadelphia region.

Read more at citywidestories.com.

In memoriam: Libby Harman

Person with glasses smiling, looking at camera

Credit: Jacques-Jean Tiziou

Libby Harman, a member of the spring 2017 Giving Project and longtime supporter of Bread & Roses, passed away Feb. 22 in hospice care at home.

“Libby was a vibrant person with a real zest for life, and I was lucky to know her,” says executive director Casey Cook. “When she believed in something, she gave it her all. She brought her whole heart to the Giving Project because she wanted to make racial and economic justice a reality.”

Libby was a skilled and compassionate women’s health nurse practitioner who worked for 38 years at Womencare OB/GYN in Abington. She was a dedicated member of congregation Mishkan Shalom, an avid dancer, and a talented quilter and fabric artist. Libby is survived by her spouse, Sharon Coulson Downes; her daughter, Grace; her sister, Janet; her brother-in-law, Cesar; her nephews Danilo and Emilio; and her mother, Liz.

Giving Project member Julie Zeglen writes about young people, generosity, and activism

Millennials are mad as hell and they’re not afraid to do something about it
Excerpted from Philadelphia Inquirer article published on February 9, 2018

The Center City-based Bread & Roses Community Fund is one of about seven social justice-focused funding organizations in the county that runs Giving Projects, a fund-raising initiative that asks a cross-race, cross-class, intergenerational cohort of citizens to fund-raise from their peers (and donate themselves) to a collective pool, which the cohort then grants out to local activist groups working for racial and economic justice. This past winter’s cohort of 17 — which, full disclosure, included me — raised $154,801.

Executive director Casey Cook said that interest in the project surged after the 2016 election — and that overwhelmingly, it was young people who responded to the call over their older peers. This matched Giving Project trends around the country.

“In Philly, we’ve had to make an effort to create an intergenerational environment,” Cook said. “We are overwhelmed with applications from young people, and that’s actually why we’re increasing the number of Giving Projects we’re running every year, in order to accommodate that need. And from my colleagues around the country, I am hearing similar things — that applications from young people are the largest in number.”

Read more at Philly.com.

Director of programs Aarati Kasturirangan wins social innovation award

Four smiling people look at the camera

From left to right, Bread & Roses staff members Casey Cook, Aarati Kasturirangan, Nigel Charles, and Lexi McMenamin at the Philadelphia Social Innovation Awards on January 24

Aarati Kasturirangan, director of programs at Bread & Roses Community Fund, was awarded first place in the Foundation category of the Greater Philadelphia 2018 Social Innovation Awards at a ceremony on January 24.

This award recognized Dr. Kasturirangan’s work launching and growing Bread & Roses’ Women of Equity program, a peer-led support group for women of color working in the nonprofit sector who are addressing diversity and inclusion efforts. “We are all thrilled for Aarati to be honored for her leadership in organizing communities of changemakers at Bread & Roses and beyond,” says executive director Casey Cook.

Aarati Kasturirangan poses with other honorees at social innovation awards ceremony

Aarati Kasturirangan (in blue) at the awards ceremony on January 24

Join us in recognizing Aarati as a steadfast champion of racial and economic justice by leaving a comment below or sharing this post on social media.

Grantee UrbEd in the news

Student-run advocacy nonprofit UrbEd is ‘reclaiming our school system’
Excerpted from Generocity.org article by Ebonee Johnson

UrbEd was founded in 2016 when Harper joined forces with former SLA student and now-UrbEd’s deputy executive director and program director, Luke Risher, to envision an organization devoted to the improvement of urban education. The pair began reaching out to other organizations for funding and support, and in June of 2017, was given a $6,000 grant by Bread & Roses Community Fund.

Bread & Roses’ Future Fund, designed to assist agencies “working on emerging issues or developing new approaches to social justice activism,” provided UrbEd the boost it needed to focus on branding and development.

“They took a chance,” Harper recalled.

Read more at Generocity.org.

Grantee Profile: Youth Art and Self-empowerment Project (YASP)

Group photo in a park

YASP leadership team members gather at their annual cookout in September

“We created an organization to get those resources and empower ourselves and our communities to make change.”

— Joshua Glenn

Youth Art & Self-empowerment Project (YASP) was founded in 2004 by young people who wanted to build a movement to end the practice of automatically charging young people as adults and incarcerating them in adult facilities. Through weekly art, music, and empowerment workshops, YASP makes space for young people to express themselves creatively and develop as leaders within and beyond prison walls.

“Young people get out, they’re homeless, they lost contact with their families while in jail. That was my situation,” says YASP cofounder Joshua Glenn. “I was let out right back into the community I was arrested in. So, we created an organization to get those resources and empower ourselves and our communities to make change.”

The first grant YASP ever received was from Bread & Roses. “We had no money. It was just an idea,” Glenn recalls. “Bread & Roses fueled that whole fight. That was the money that helped us even have time to figure things out and shape our organization.”

Recently YASP has been building a statewide campaign to end the practice of youth being tried as adults and educate people about the school-to-prison pipeline and structural violence. “We try to equip people with education on how to rise up against the system and how to be activists and organizers,” explains Glenn. YASP members produced a short documentary, Stolen Dreams II: Breaking the Cycle of Youth Trauma, Violence, & Imprisonment, that they screen at community meetings throughout Pennsylvania.

“We’ve received funding from other organizations, but Bread & Roses is one of the best. They’re willing to listen,” Glenn says. “Bread & Roses is built to enrich the community. There’s not any ulterior motives behind the fund — they don’t try to guide what you do with the money. That’s the best thing you could possibly have when you’re doing this type of work.

Meet donor Patrice Green

Person smiling outdoors in front of a wall

Why I give:
“I fully believe in the concept of tithing your time, your talent, and your treasure.”

“Working in social service, I felt like people were given things, but not what they needed to be sustainable to take hold of their own power,” says Patrice Green, a Bread & Roses donor. “As I was finishing graduate school, I began interning at Bread & Roses. The slogan of ‘change, not charity’ was so significant.”

The structure and vision of Bread & Roses seemed unique to Green: “Being able to support movements at a grassroots level — from organizations in their infancy to organizations that have been around longer than Bread & Roses — and being able to do that as the tides change … Bread & Roses is so responsive to the needs of communities.”

Green now works for the federal government, helping drive money and resources to local community initiatives. She served as a planning committee member for this year’s Tribute to Change. “The Tribute is the most celebratory space I’ve ever seen,” Green says. “In the struggle of movements, it’s hard to break away and celebrate one another, but the Tribute provides that space.”

“Supporting Bread & Roses is a way to stay connected to what’s happening on the ground in various movements regardless of if they affect me personally,” Green explains. “Giving means sowing back into movements that have created the opportunity for me to have access, to get the education that I’ve got, and to have the opportunity to navigate systems that traditionally folks who look like me don’t get.”

Three-year racial justice giving commitment moves $92,000 to movements for change

Group of people marching outdoors

Organization for Black Struggle members march in St. Louis in July to mark the East St. Louis Massacre’s 100th anniversary

The 2014 murder of Michael Brown and the failure to indict his killer sent waves of heartbreak and anger across the nation. In Philadelphia, Resource Generation decided to respond.

“It felt like the best way to use our power was to raise money for what was happening in Ferguson,” says Resource Generation member Sarah Burgess. “But it also felt really important to recognize that this event highlighted ongoing trends — not just what was happening in Ferguson, but all over and in Philadelphia as well.”

Resource Generation Philly members partnered with Bread & Roses to create the Resources for Racial Justice in Ferguson and Philly Initiative, a three-year giving commitment that ended in November. Over three years, the initiative raised $92,000, which was split between the Organization for Black Struggle (OBS) in St. Louis and the Racial & Economic Justice Fund at Bread & Roses.

Adults and children celebrating Kwanzaa

OBS members celebrate Kwanzaa in December

During the past three years, OBS has conducted deep canvassing, with members going door to door and having substantial conversations with community members. Aaron Burnett, a community organizer with OBS, describes it as “more than a transactional connection,” and says the tactic has helped to change hearts and minds: “Through story-sharing we are attempting to build relationships and gain a better understanding of their values and feelings.”

The initiative had a profound impact at Bread & Roses. “This really did provide this way to come back together and keep making connections beyond a single incident,” reflects Burgess. “It helped us think about systems and history and not just individual anomalies of pain and violence.”

One-time Black-led, Black-centered Organizing Fund to make $10,000 grants this spring

20 people pose on a rooftop in Philadelphia

Fall 2017 Giving Project members

Attacks on Black communities are intensifying, but across the country and in the Philadelphia area, organizers are responding with strength and power. To respond to this reality, Bread & Roses Community Fund’s fall 2017 Giving Project is raising money to make grants to support Black-led, Black-centered organizing in our region through the one-time Black-led, Black-centered Organizing Fund.

“We see the growing leadership of Black-led organizations in movements,” says director of programs Aarati Kasturirangan. “We also see sources of funding for this work shrinking, so we’re responding by moving more money.”

A small group of Giving Project membersAnti-black racism drives many forms of injustice in our region, such as mass incarceration, police brutality, the school-to-prison pipeline, gentrification and displacement, environmental racism, transphobia, and the exploitation of workers. But every day organized communities are resisting and pushing back against these and other manifestations of racism.

“We support groups whose leaders come from communities facing a wide variety of issues. Anti-black racism lies at the heart of many of these issues,” explains Kasturirangan. “We are moving resources to Black-led, Black-centered groups and stepping aside so they can continue to build power.”

More than a dozen people sit in a circle in a large room

Members of the Fall 2017 Giving Project gather for a training on understanding race and class

Seneca Joyner, a Latin American historian and activist with Women’s Medical Fund, joined the fall 2017 Giving Project because she thought it sounded meaningful. “I felt sort of burnt out and disinterested with philanthropy,” she says. “I want to do better, and do more, with different people who also want that. I wanted to blend more skills with respect to fundraising and challenge myself to do it in a way that would be useful to not just me.”

The majority of people participating in the fall 2017 Giving Project are Black-identified. “The groups applying can have confidence that it’s not a system that is dominated by others — it’s mostly Black people,” notes Nigel Charles, project manager.

A small group of Giving Project members share a light moment“I haven’t been this excited about participating in a group activity in a while,” says Joyner. “I am new to Philadelphia, and because of my poverty and the care work I do, I often feel like I am excluded from the communities that are supposed to be ‘saving me. I care about the community, I picked the Giving Project, and I want to be of use to it and the community in a really specific way.”

The recipients of the Black-led, Black-centered Organizing Fund’s $10,000 grants will be announced in March 2018. The Racial & Economic Justice Fund and Future Fund grant cycles will happen in the spring as usual.

Learn more about The Giving Project.