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.”

Meet donor LaTrista Webb

Why I give:
“There’s a lot right and wrong in this country, and I might not touch all the areas, but my financial contribution may touch areas that I can’t.”

Photo: Erika Guadalupe Nuñez

“I think Bread & Roses is unique because it has a real community feel. It’s very inclusive, very culturally aware,” says LaTrista Webb, a member of the spring 2017 Giving Project.

Webb is the executive director of the Elevation Project, a Phoebus Criminal Justice Initiative grantee that supports people who are currently or formerly incarcerated. She sees this work as a piece of a larger movement for social justice. “I recognize that I’m not working on the only issue in our country,” she says, “but if I give to Bread & Roses, they in turn give the money to someone who works in an area that I don’t work in.”

The cross-race, cross-class nature of the Giving Project, Webb says, offered her an opportunity to see things from a different perspective. During the Giving Project race and class training, Webb was moved to hear people speak so candidly about their class backgrounds: “It opened my eyes that everyone wealthy is not bad.”

For Webb, the biggest lesson the Giving Project provided was recognizing a broader sense of community. “I don’t have to stay in my little circle to get the work done,” she says. “There are all sorts of people who want to see social justice happen.”