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 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.


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.

Meet Bread & Roses donor Lis Bass

Elisabeth Bass headshotWhy I give:

“Bread & Roses gives me a glimpse of the future we stand for.”

“I like that Bread & Roses breaks down the silos between organizations,” says Elisabeth Bass, a member of the 2017 Tribute to Change planning committee and longtime Bread & Roses supporter. “I think we need mass resistance, and I don’t see one group that functions as a mass organization for the left-progressive movement,” she says. “If we are going to make a leap in our society, we need organizations to come together.”

Bass is a professor at Camden County College, where she teaches English. She has taught in Camden for over 25 years. Bass sees education as social justice work because she supports her students while they face challenges outside the classroom linked to systemic racism, poverty, and the criminal justice system.

She chose to serve on the Tribute to Change planning committee again this year because it’s a way for her to feel connected and live her values: “At our events, when I share in the solidarity and excitement of the work that everyone in the room is involved in, that’s when I realize what we are fighting for — a world that is not the product of corporate capitalism, divisiveness, misogyny, racism, ecocide, dominance, and exploitation, but a world of unity.”

Bass believes giving to movements for racial and economic justice is an important way for her to participate. “I want to support the good work that people are doing to dismantle white supremacy and the current dangerous oligarchy that is crushing people and the planet beneath the heel of corporate capitalism,” she says.

Grantee Profile: Urban Creators

Urban Creators staff photo

Urban Creators staff members at Life Do Grow farm.
Photo credit: Austin Horton

“The current political moment calls for people of color and disenfranchised people to be at the head of work,” says Jeaninne Kayembe, co-executive director of Urban Creators, a Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantee.

Kayembe, Alex Epstein, and Devon Bailey founded Urban Creators in 2010 with a vision of empowering the community by providing resources and opportunities and helping young people develop leadership skills. Urban Creators’ organizing work reflects the legacy of artist activists like Arthur Hall and Lily Yeh of the Village of Arts and Humanities.

Urban Creators intentionally builds community through events like Hoodstock, an annual festival now in its fourth year that brings together local businesses, artists, and community members to celebrate art, activism, and farming in North Philly.

Kayembe notes that although the organization cultivates an intergenerational space, it also amplifies youth voices in its work. “There’s a lot of ageism in the nonprofit world,” says Kayembe. “We are showing the world what young people can do to change that world.”

Throughout the year, Urban Creators hosts youth leadership programs at Life Do Grow, the organization’s urban farm and community center. The youth apprentice program hires six young people from the immediate neighborhood to learn gardening and to engage in political education about food systems, gentrification, and institutional racism.

“We’re confronting the myth that urban agriculture in Philadelphia is white and male,” Kayembe says. “We work with marginalized folks, creating ideas and initiating work. We’re also challenging stereotypes around what women can do.”

In the future, Kayembe says, Urban Creators plans to train youth apprentice program alumni to run the program. “We’re a moving, breathing, living organism,” says Kayembe. “We’ll always be moving in a way that responds to community needs whatever the political climate is.”

Meet our new project manager, Nigel Charles

Nigel CharlesWe’d like to extend a warm welcome to Nigel Charles, who recently joined Bread & Roses as project manager. Nigel will be supporting the growth of our newest program, the Giving Project, which guides participants through a process of collective learning, fundraising, and grantmaking.

A Philadelphia native, Nigel has worked in education and workforce development organizations in Philadelphia and Camden. Most recently, he served as the community development assistant at Philadelphia Local Initiatives Support Corporation, supporting program staff in planning and implementing community initiatives in Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Nigel has a master’s degree in urban studies from Eastern University and is passionate about racial, social, and economic justice, addressing community violence, and community/police relations. Nigel lives in the East Falls neighborhood with his wife, Brittany, who is a school counselor in Northeast Philadelphia.

2017 Tribute to Change to honor leaders who nurture new leaders

people at the 2015 Tribute to Change“There are very few places you can go to school to learn how to be an activist,” says Kathy Black, a longtime member of the Bread & Roses Community Fund family who is currently serving on the Tribute to Change planning committee. “In social and economic justice movements, it’s inspiring leaders that draw people to the work,” she notes. “Those leaders need to be responsible, competent, and compelling, but they also need to be teachers in order to pass the work on.”

To commemorate Bread & Roses’ 40th anniversary, the Tribute to Change planning committee chose to focus this year’s awards on leaders who nurture new leaders. “A number of us thought about the throughput in leadership that we see in the hands and actions and campaigns and basebuilding from that 40-year beginning through today,” explains Hannah Sassaman, another planning committee member. “Every organizer and activist who’s active now benefited from the grace and vision, patience, and time of someone who wanted to invest in and develop their leadership.”

By acting as educators and mentors, these leaders look beyond their present moment to ensure that movements for change can thrive over generations. They meet people where they are and create spaces where new activists can learn, grow, and make mistakes. “I’m certainly grateful that I’ve had mentors and people who share with me their knowledge and their wisdom and their histories that I have been able to pass on to younger activists,” says planning committee member David Acosta. “It’s always a reciprocal relationship. It should never be one-sided or hierarchical. Older people can learn from younger people as well.”

People who nurture new leaders don’t always get acknowledged for performing this essential role in movement work. “Getting recognition or attending events, that’s a shot in the arm,” says Black. “You need those things to happen to keep up your motivation and your energy. You frequently have setbacks and terrible disappointments, so you have to build in celebrations and rewards to keep this momentum going, to keep you fired up and recharged.”

For 40 years Bread & Roses has invested in movements that invest in people. “Marking the progress of our organizing in Philly and recognizing our history in building power here, even though we have a long way to go, is extremely important in these times of crisis,” says Sassaman. “There’s nothing more important today than building thousands or millions of people who believe in their power to wrest a life of dignity from the jaws of oppression in late-stage capitalism.”