Tag Archives: grantee profile

Grantee Profile: Amistad Law Project

Four people outside looking at camera

Amistad Law Project members (left to right) Sean West, Kempis “Ghani” Songster, Nikki Grant, and Kris Henderson provide legal services to people incarcerated in Pennsylvania.

“We absolutely have to improve conditions for people who are incarcerated now, but it’s also possible to have this world where we don’t put people in cages at all.”

— Kris Henderson

In 2014, friends Kris Henderson and Nikki Grant had been organizing against mass incarceration with Decarcerate PA for several years and had just graduated from law school. “We wanted to figure out how to make our organizing work a part of our jobs and our legal work,” says Henderson. They founded Amistad Law Project to provide legal services to incarcerated people and to push to abolish prisons.

Amistad Law Project received grants from three Bread & Roses funds this year — the Black-led, Black-centered Organizing Fund, the Phoebus Criminal Justice Initiative, and the Racial & Economic Justice Fund — for a total of $25,000, the maximum amount an organization can receive from Bread & Roses in one fiscal year.

“I really like the process of going to an interview at Bread & Roses and having a conversation with folks,” Henderson says. “We tell about the work, but also how we do the work, and who we are as people and our relationships with one another.”

Amistad Law Project’s lawyers visit clients and allies in prison to build relationships and develop movement strategy. “We have a bunch of cases that are aimed at getting people serving death by incarceration sentences home,” says Henderson. “We also have cases around health care that folks aren’t receiving in prison that they should be.” The organization is suing on behalf of a client who did not receive treatment and died from complications of hepatitis C.

“Prison abolition is not this thing we have as a sound bite,” Henderson notes. “It’s something we hold as a really deep value and belief, and it informs the work that we’re doing. We absolutely have to improve conditions for people who are incarcerated now, but it’s also possible to have this world where we don’t put people in cages at all.”

Grantee Profile: Women’s Medical Fund

People in a park holding up signs about crisis pregnancy centers

Women’s Medical Fund members raise awareness in October about manipulative tactics used by crisis pregnancy centers

“We strongly believe that taxpayer money should go towards actually benefiting our communities instead of just trying to control people’s bodies.”

— Tabitha Skervin

Women’s Medical Fund was started in 1985 to protect and increase abortion access for people with low incomes. “Last year, we expanded our work to include both direct service and community mobilizing,” says executive director Elicia Gonzales. “We applied for a grant from Bread & Roses to do that initial base-building work and create what is now called the Philadelphia Reproductive Freedom Collective.” The collective has been meeting every other week to learn community organizing skills and deepen their understanding of power and privilege. “Bread and Roses’ support really allowed that group to come to fruition, to cultivate their leadership,” Gonzales says.

The collective determined that their inaugural campaign would focus on crisis pregnancy centers. “We see crisis pregnancy centers as a barrier to abortion because they’re designed to intentionally deceive people, primarily poor people, [to prevent them] from having an abortion,” Gonzales says. “They have names that are very woman-centric and family-friendly, but when a person goes in, they are given misinformation, such as ‘abortion causes cancer.’ They even go so far as to lie about whether or not a person is pregnant.”

There are 18 crisis pregnancy centers in the city of Philadelphia but only six clinics where abortions are performed. “In Pennsylvania we give millions of dollars in taxpayer money to crisis pregnancy centers, specifically Temporary Assistance to Needy Families money,” notes Tabitha Skervin, community mobilization coordinator at Women’s Medical Fund. “We strongly believe that taxpayer money should go towards actually benefiting our communities instead of just trying to control people’s bodies.” Skervin adds that they aim for the city be free of any crisis pregnancy centers, and are building a base to raise awareness and support.

For Women’s Medical Fund, abortion access is a racial and economic justice issue. “Systemic oppression differently impacts communities,” Gonzales says. “The vast majority of people who get abortions in the country are white people, but the vast majority of people who call our helpline are people of color. We’re also continuing to grapple with ways to engage with our callers and really have people with lived experiences be part of the fabric of our work so that the work is not transactional but transformational.”

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.

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.”