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Solidarity Fund for COVID-19 Organizing moves $743,000 to grassroots community organizing groups responding to the pandemic

Within weeks of the pandemic erupting, Bread & Roses Community Fund launched the Solidarity Fund for COVID-19 Organizing, a rapid-response emergency fund for community organizing. Since April 8, 2020, the fund has distributed $743,000 to 76 grassroots community organizing groups in the Philadelphia region; over 20 were first-time Bread & Roses grantees.

“As soon as we saw the scale of the pandemic and how its economic fallout was landing hardest on communities already targeted by systems of oppression, we knew we were going to need community organizing more than ever,” says executive director Casey Cook. While local and regional foundations responded quickly to the pandemic, most restricted emergency funds to existing grantees or established social service organizations. This left out small grassroots groups that were struggling to survive due to loss of revenue and suddenly had to adapt to remote organizing during lockdown.

To respond to this critical need, Bread & Roses immediately began raising money. It also made an unprecedented decision: for the first time ever, grants were distributed to unincorporated non-profit associations. “New movements were emerging in response to the pandemic,” Cook says. “We wanted to support this urgent work and pivoted quickly to meet the moment.” Money for the Solidarity Fund came from hundreds of individuals and a half dozen foundations. The fund raised more money than any other Bread & Roses program. For One Fair Wage (OFW), the grant supports organizing restaurant workers during the pandemic. Tipped workers face particular hardships because unemployment is based on their $2.83/hour base pay. OFW is a national coalition campaigning for fair wages for tipped and subminimum wage workers. Their new Pennsylvania chapter is educating Philadelphia workers and training them as activists. “We are amplifying the voices of tipped workers,” says OFW’s Pennsylvania organizer Tsehaitu Abye. “We’re building their power to be leaders in the movement.”

“New movements were emerging in response to the pandemic. We wanted to support this urgent work and pivoted quickly to meet the moment.”

Casey Cook, executive director

For Asian Americans United (AAU), the grant helped combat anti-Asian violence, which rose sharply because of COVID-19’s origins in China. AAU hosted online community forums with Asian leaders to discuss the growing violence and share resources. It met with public school teachers to inform curricula addressing racism and violence. AAU also distributed thousands of masks and gloves with Chinatown Dragonboat and worked with Asian Mosaic Fund on a COVID-19 community relief fund drive. “The grant helped sustain us as an organization because we couldn’t earn money on programs that usually support our work,” says AAU executive director Alix Webb.

For Power Street Theatre, the grant supports its work connecting grassroots organizing and the arts. In June, the collective of multicultural, multidisciplinary artists organized a Digital Rally for Philly Arts in response to massive cuts in City arts funding in the wake of COVID-19. Livestreamed for 24 hours, the rally drew 11,000 views. Building on that success, it hosted a second digital rally in February, focused on the 2021 City budget process. “This grant affirms the work of artists,” says co-founder and co-artistic director Gabi Sanchez. “Bread & Roses trusts that the stories we share will have a big impact on the city.”

Read about all of our Solidarity Fund grantees.

Grantee Profile: Soil Generation

“Black and Brown folks have been farming in Philadelphia for generations,” says Kirtrina Baxter, a community organizer with Soil Generation. The farmers transformed abandoned lots into community gardens and gathering spaces. Now, developers are buying the land out from under farmers to build condominiums, threatening food sources in neighborhoods that already lack grocery stores. People should be able to keep this land as a service to the community,” Baxter says. “Neighborhood farms and community gardens are so important, especially during COVID when people need healthy food in their community.”

Soil Generation, a coalition of Black and Brown farmers and advocates, is leading the fight to ensure that people of color regain community control of land for growing food. The coalition, an Equitable Public Space Fund grantee, formed in 2013 to advocate for urban growers in Philadelphia’s rapidly gentrifying environment.

In 2018, Soil Generation launched the Threatened Gardens Campaign, its most ambitious to date. The campaign kicked off with a protest at City Hall with hundreds of farmers and advocates. This show of community support led to Soil Generation winning the contract to write Philadelphia’s first-ever Urban Agriculture Strategic Plan with the planning firm Interface Studios. The plan will establish goals for how the city can support urban agriculture, including cutting through bureaucratic obstacles that impede Black and Brown farmers from purchasing land. “Over the next five years, we look forward to having more opportunities for collective ownership, which leads to community control of land,” Baxter says.

Soil Generation’s work is rooted in agroecology, a community-led process that values ancestral growing practices and aligns agricultural production with community organizing for land rights and food sovereignty. They are producing an agroecology manual, which will be available digitally in December 2020 and in print in spring 2021. Baxter hopes it can be used as an organizing tool for people working to reclaim land and as a guide for people starting community gardens.

For Soil Generation, there is power in gardening. Baxter emphasizes: “Gardening is a radical act of resistance. By growing food, you are taking control of your own community.”

Remembering Linda Richardson

Linda Richardson during the time she served as co-director of The People’s Fund. Photo: Harvey Finkle

We are sad to announce the passing of Linda Richardson, an amazing activist who helped shape Bread & Roses Community Fund for more than four decades. She passed suddenly on November 2.

“Linda was an inspiring leader, activist, and champion for justice,” says executive director Casey Cook. “Her passing is a huge loss for our whole community and she will be missed.”

In 1972, Linda was hired as a co-director of The People’s Fund (the predecessor organization to Bread & Roses) alongside Michael Seltzer. Seltzer recalls that Linda “brought a real commitment to grassroots communities and held relationships with them.” They worked together for several years as co-directors and both went on to serve on the board. “Her determination and passion for all of the Delaware Valley’s community organizing efforts were an inspiration to all who knew her,” Seltzer says. “Decades before the term ‘intersectionality’ took upon currency in today’s political discourse, she incorporated it into her own world view and practice.”

When Linda and Michael came on as co-directors, The People’s Fund was making $12,000 a year in grants to groups like the Black Panthers that were too radical to get funding from traditional philanthropy. They worked together to raise funds and distribute them to grassroots community organizing groups in the region. “She was truly the best colleague that I ever had the privilege to work with in my 50 year-long social justice career,” says Seltzer. “She may also have been the first woman of color in Philadelphia’s history to lead a grantmaking organization. Linda touched so many lives through her activism and leadership. We are all her legacy.”

Linda Richardson, at left, tabling for The People’s Fund in the mid 1970s. Photo: Harvey Finkle

Throughout the decades to come, Linda remained connected and committed to Bread & Roses as a political home. Denise Brown served as associate director of Bread & Roses from 1998 to 2005 and served on the board from 2007 to 2019. “I had the honor and privilege of working with three generations of Linda’s family,” Brown recounts. Bertha Waters, Linda’s mother, was involved as a volunteer, Linda was a donor and committee member, and Aissia Richardson, Linda’s daughter, served on the board and on the community funding board. “Their commitment was very much a living, breathing thing,” she says. “I personally always felt their support and mentorship.”

Christie Balka, who served as executive director of Bread & Roses from 1997 to 2006, remembers Linda as “an astute political observer and a font of information about the city.” Balka describes Linda’s continued contributions to Bread & Roses during her tenure as executive director: “She advised Bread and Roses staff, referred potential grantees to us, and of course continued to hold Bread and Roses accountable to the needs of the city’s Black community and other communities of color.”

Like Brown, Balka saw Linda as a mentor. “Linda was always available to me for any reason and taught me some enduring lessons about progressive philanthropy and working in coalition with other groups,” she says.

“She was a force,” says Brown. “Linda was strategic, fierce, committed, generous, and loving in the way that she loved her community, she loved Black people, she loved the work that she did. That came across.”

“Linda commanded respect because of her authenticity,” remembers Seltzer. “People followed her wisdom and trusted her.”

Most recently, in 2017, Linda served on the planning committee for Bread & Roses’ 40th anniversary Tribute to Change celebration.

Linda Richardson, center, celebrates the second decade of Bread & Roses at a Tribute to Change event in the early 1980s. Photo: Harvey Finkle

Outside of Bread & Roses, Linda was a prolific and tireless organizer. She founded the Black United Fund, Uptown Entertainment & Development Corporation, Uptown Cultural District, and led the fight to save and restore the Uptown Theater.

Elicia Gonzales, Bread & Roses board member and executive director of Women’s Medical Fund, shares a story about Linda’s legacy in today’s organizing. “The Women’s Medical Fund team had the privilege of meeting Linda last year and hearing about her fight for reproductive justice before it was a coined term,” she says. “In the 1970s, she and other Black women organized Triple Jeopardy (named that because they were poor, Black, women) and the fought for full healthcare access, including abortion. Her love of community, art, family, and justice will be her legacy for generations to come. May she rest in power.”

Linda’s family shared her obituary, which can be downloaded as a pdf here.

November 21: 74th Birthday Celebration and Memorial Service for Linda Richardson

Linda’s family has shared that they are holding a 74th birthday celebration and memorial service for Linda on Saturday, November 21 from 4pm to 6pm in front of the Uptown Theater at 2240 N. Broad Street. It will also be live-streamed on Facebook. 

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Uptown Entertainment & Development Corporation at 2227 N. Broad Street, 19132 or online at this link.

We invite you to share your remembrances of Linda’s life and legacy by writing a comment on this post.

Why we need community organizers in the time of COVID-19

Our executive director Casey Cook recently published an op-ed in WHYY describing the story behind the creation of our Solidarity Fund for COVID-19 Organizing. The Solidarity Fund was launched on April 8, 2020 to meet the urgent needs of grassroots community organizing groups that have either been impacted by COVID-19 or are organizing in response to the pandemic.

Casey writes:

“The work of grassroots community organizers is critical to ensuring a just and humane response from governments, corporations, and other institutions… This pandemic is a time of historic disruption and pain. If we’re not careful, it could also be a time of historic injustice. Philadelphia’s robust and dedicated network of community organizers will work hard to prevent that — but they need our help.”

Read the full article on WHYY’s website:

Why we need community organizers in the time of COVID-19

Equitable Public Space Giving Project makes $450,000 in grants to 20 grassroots groups in Philadelphia and Camden

At Bread & Roses Community Fund, we believe that grassroots organizing led by communities most affected by injustice is essential to overcoming systems of oppression. Our 2019-2020 Equitable Public Space Giving Project, a partnership with the William Penn Foundation, brought together 18 determined volunteers from across differences of race, class, gender, and age to engage in a transformative process of collective giving, fundraising, grantmaking, and community building.

Members of the 2019-2020 Equitable Public Space Giving Project

Over three months, Giving Project members raised $150,000 for grants from 366 donors! The money they raised was matched 2:1 by a generous grant from the William Penn Foundation, and in March 2020, Giving Project members made $450,000 in 2-year grants to 20 grassroots groups using community organizing to promote equitable public space.

WHYY’s Meir Rinde was in attendance for the Giving Project’s decision-making day and wrote about the process in a piece on March 12 titled “Why 18 strangers spent 6 months raising $150,000 for Philly public spaces.”

The 20 Equitable Public Space Fund grantees are organizing their communities to create equitable public spaces in parks, libraries, recreation centers, greenways, waterways, community gardens, community centers, plazas, and play areas in Philadelphia and Camden.

Soil Generation — $50,000 

Soil Generation is expanding their Threatened Gardens Campaign to push forward equitable policies that reduce barriers for people of color and low-income communities to access land and grow food. 

Urban Tree Connection — $30,000 

Urban Tree Connection is repurposing vacant lots in West Philadelphia’s Haddington neighborhood for communal growing and gathering, sustainable food production and affordable food distribution, and intergenerational health, wellness, and political education.  

VietLead — $30,000 

Vietlead is growing their intergenerational Resilient Roots Community Farm in Camden by cultivating neighborhood ownership and co-creation, making the farm more publicly accessible, incorporating art and cultural knowledge, and launching a campaign against gentrification. 

Asian Americans United — $20,000 

Asian Americans United is organizing around Chinatown’s changing public spaces, including protection of the Inch by Inch Garden, educational programming around public space equity, and publishing recommendations for equity in Chinatown. 

Black and Brown Workers Cooperative — $20,000 

Black and Brown Workers Cooperative is organizing to reclaim land, conducting teach-ins about community land trusts, and bringing art and disruption actions to public spaces. 

Coalition of African Communities — $20,000 

Coalition of African Communities is expanding access to public parks and libraries for African and Caribbean immigrants by hosting events and trainings in public spaces as well as conducting legislative advocacy campaigns to build more soccer infrastructure. 

Cooper Grant Neighborhood Association and Concerned Citizens of North Camden — $20,000 

Cooper Grant Neighborhood Association and Concerned Citizens of North Camden are working in coalition to expand access to public spaces controlled by Rutgers University Camden by organizing residents, distributing multilingual information, and creating guerilla marketing campaigns. 

Healing Communities USA — $20,000 

Healing Communities USA is using a restorative justice approach to expand access to public spaces for communities impacted by the criminal legal system. 

Holly Street Neighbors Community Garden, an initiative of UC Green — $20,000 

Holly Street Neighbors Community Garden, an initiative of UC Green, is amplifying its role in West and Southwest Philadelphia by serving as an accessible and therapeutic community space for events, education and arts. 

MOVES — $20,000 

MOVES is working to create access to community-controlled spaces in which Black and Brown LGBTQ people can create, critique, explore, enjoy, and perform art.  

Mt. Vernon Manor CDC — $20,000 

Mt. Vernon Manor CDC is partnering with the Friends of the Mantua Greenway and the Mantua Urban Peace Garden to organize community members, create a succession plan for the older generation of leaders, and steward local green spaces. 

National Institute for Healthy Human Spaces — $20,000 

National Institute for Healthy Human Spaces is working with the Camden NAACP and Friends of Cooper River Open Space Equity Group to push officials to remediate and open up public spaces that have remained polluted for over 20 years. In Philadelphia, they are working with Native American House Alliance to build awareness of local historic sites and promote open space and land justice.  

Norris Square Community Alliance — $20,000 

Norris Square Community Alliance is promoting equitable development through their Nuestro Barrio Project, which organizes to secure public ownership of vacant lots that have been used as public spaces for years and to steward these spaces to meet the needs and wants of their community.  

One Art Community Center — $20,000 

One Art Community Center is increasing community land ownership, expanding accessibility, cultivating educational programming, creating coworking spaces, and building a community kitchen and a library.  

Philadelphia Black Pride — $20,000 

Philadelphia Black Pride is organizing to make William Way LGBT Community Center more equitable and welcoming to Black LGBTQIA people by hosting events, developing leaders from the Black LGBTQIA community, and increasing the number of Black LGBTQIA people accessing resources and services at William Way. 

Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign — $20,000 

Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign is partnering with United Steelworkers (USW) Local 4889 to create a public “free store,” expand their community center hours, create a community farm, and build a labor history and activism library.  

Senior to Senior Community Outreach — $20,000 

Senior to Senior Community Outreach is expanding their campaign to address food insecurity in senior communities by developing a series of forums to discuss accessibility of public spaces such as community gardens and libraries for seniors. 

Spiral Q — $20,000 

Spiral Q is claiming public space using art activism in order to center and honor people working against oppression and discrimination and to connect people and movements for change. 

Urban Creators — $20,000 

Urban Creators is investing in amenities that enable their neighbors to use their 2-acre farm on their own time and terms and establishing a neighborhood marketplace that offers local businesses and entrepreneurs opportunities to generate revenue and develop their businesses.  

William Way LGBT Community Center — $20,000 

William Way LGBT Community Center is expanding their free and low-cost space-sharing program to specifically meet the needs of people of color, transgender, and gender-nonconforming people.


Interested in joining an upcoming Giving Project at Bread & Roses? Visit our Giving Project page to learn more.

Volunteer historians publish digitized version of “The People’s Philadelphia Cookbook” from 1976

A piece of Bread & Roses history resurfaced recently in an unlikely place — Twitter. It started when Stephanie McKellop, a historian and archivist, found a cookbook at a flea market in West Philadelphia. It was called “The People’s Philadelphia Cookbook” and it had been published in 1976 by The People’s Fund, the predecessor to Bread & Roses. The cookbooks had been sold for $5 each to raise funds that would go to grassroots organizing for racial, social, and economic justice.

McKellop and her partner, David Ryskalczyk, carefully deconstructed the book’s binding, scanned every page, and put it back together. McKellop released the digitized version on Twitter to an enthusiastic response.

Stephanie McKellop, center, and David Ryskalcyzk, right, deliver the cookbook to Bread & Roses’ director of communications & development, Caitlin Quigley, left.

Writer Reina Gattuso saw the post and was struck by how much the 44-year old cookbook was resonating with people today. Gattuso wrote a piece about the cookbook for Atlas Obscura. She says:

It’s a record of an optimistic era, when activists believed that the elimination of racism, homophobia, and capitalism was just around the corner. While the revolution would not be televised, it would certainly be well-fed.

You can explore the full cookbook below or at archive.org.

Reinvestment Fund grants Bread & Roses $15,000 for advancing social, racial, and economic justice

Bread & Roses will receive a $15,000 Community Champion Award from Reinvestment Fund in recognition of its work supporting grassroots organizing for change, and to fuel that work in the future.

“We deeply appreciate this award from our friends at Reinvestment Fund,” said Bread & Roses Executive Director Casey Cook. “We share their commitment to advancing equity and justice for all, and we know that supporting grassroots organizing is critical for delivering that vision. This award will help us reach our goal of moving more than half a million dollars to local movements for change in 2020. We need the support of institutions like Reinvestment Fund if we’re going to see real change within our lifetimes.”

The Community Champion Award is a small grants program that recognizes nonprofit organizations that are aligned with Reinvestment Fund’s own mission. Awardees are selected by an appointed staff committee that makes its selection from a pool of organizations nominated by staff. The selection is approved by Reinvestment Fund’s Community Advisory Board. In most instances, the organizations have volunteers that are Reinvestment Fund staff or another existing relationship. In this case, the history goes back decades. Reinvestment Fund was incubated at Bread & Roses before spinning off in 1985.

“It is such an honor for us to be able to give back to Bread & Roses,” said Don Hinkle-Brown, President and CEO of Reinvestment Fund. “Their support shaped Reinvestment Fund in many ways in our formative years and created the foundation for our growth into the national, mission-driven financial institution that we are today.”

Bread & Roses was nominated for the award by Reinvestment Fund’s Director and Philadelphia Market Leader, Elizabeth Frantz.

Person smiling wearing red sweater and necklace looking at camera

“Bread & Roses is a unique funder of community organizing in the Philadelphia region. Many of its grantees would not be able to undertake the great work that they do without Bread & Roses, and I wanted to support this movement building in Philadelphia.”

Elizabeth Frantz, nominator

Drug users organize to reduce harm and save lives

In 2018, more than 1,100 people died of drug overdoses in Philadelphia. People affected by this crisis of premature death are organizing to save their own lives, often taking a harm reduction approach. “Harm reduction is a movement led by drug users to keep people safe, give them agency, remove stigmatization and marginalization, give people platforms who might not have had one, and allow people to recognize their voice and learn how to use it,” says David Tomlinson, founding member of Philadelphia Drug Users’ Union, a Future Fund grantee. “It’s a social justice movement that’s based on equity, not equality.”

Project SAFE, a Gender Justice Fund and Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantee, works with people engaged in street economies. “We view harm reduction as a philosophical approach to a set of societal and legal problems,” says Gus Grannan, Project SAFE’s harm reduction coordinator. “It deals with people at the intersections of a lot of different stigmas and legal statuses that work to minimize the physical, psychological harm that people are exposed to.”

Harm reduction can occur on an individual level (administering Narcan to someone who is overdosing) or a policy level. “We see a lot of the harms that we help to address, both around sex work and around drug use, as caused by the legal structures around them rather than the activities themselves,” says Grannan. “One of our long-term goals is to work for decriminalization of sex work and decriminalization of all drug use. When we do work with other organizations and we make alliances, we recognize that that’s not going to happen next week, but that is our vision.”

Philadelphia Drug Users’ Union and Project SAFE collaborate with Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantee ACT UP Philadelphia, SOL Collective, and ally groups in other regions to demand overdose prevention sites where people can use drugs in a sanitary environment. In an April 25 Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed, Project SAFE members Aisha Mohammed and Amna Shaikh made the case for overdose prevention sites as tools for racial justice: “Overdose prevention sites address [the race-based harms of the war on drugs] by offering communities of color an alternative to public use, which exposes them to the risk of arrest and incarceration. … They help underserved communities access much-needed services for addiction to any drug—not just the type of drug that is more closely associated with use by white people.”

People organizing to open overdose prevention sites won a victory in October when a federal judge ruled that Safehouse, a proposed site in Philadelphia, does not violate federal law—the first win in a series of legal challenges.

Donor Profile: the Pien Family

Why we give:
“It makes us feel really interconnected with the destiny of Philadelphia.”

Andrea Pien
Howard Pien, at left, and his daughter Andrea

“Bread & Roses is able to connect seemingly very disparate populations in the Philadelphia area in a way that recognizes everyone’s humanity,” says Andrea Pien. “They facilitate cross-race, cross-class conversations that can be uncomfortable but enable learning and growth and enable us to fund more movements more successfully.”

Pien gives to Bread & Roses along with her parents, Howard and Diane, and her sister, Catarina. “I feel a lot of gratitude to the racial and economic justice movement that enabled my family to move to the United States from Taiwan,” says Pien. “All of these movements were grassroots movements that were planned and thought out and needed to be funded. I grew up in the United States with a fundamental understanding of my rights, knowing I can sit anywhere on the bus and drink from any water fountain that I want. But, we still have so much further to go.”

The Pien family made a special gift this year to support Bread & Roses’ infrastructure, which helped make the office move possible. “With technology we can do things virtually, but there’s nothing that compares with sitting down face to face and hearing somebody’s story, and infrastructure and space are the way to do that,” says Pien. “Important grassroots movements have to happen in a space. Space has been taken away; the history of gentrification is space being taken away. Allowing for sound space and infrastructure is a really crucial, if not glamorous, way to support grassroots movements.”