For Drick Boyd, a longtime Bread & Roses sustaining donor, giving to Bread & Roses is not just a way to support grassroots movements for justice, but to learn about them as well. Drick first found Bread & Roses when researching social justice organizations.
“I was interested in giving money to social justice organizations, but my funds were limited. I was looking at several organizations, but when I found Bread & Roses, I looked at the work the organization was doing, and it seemed to be a good fit, an organization with a clear social justice focus and a long history of grassroots funding.”
Drick realized that Bread & Roses was unique in how it funds and encourages new grassroots groups. “Through Bread & Roses I’m not only able to contribute to an organization with strong values, but I’m also able to learn about organizations I would not have found otherwise.”
“I have worked pretty much my whole life in the nonprofit world and have known a lot of groups over the course of my time here in Philly that are doing amazing work but were not as well-known and didn’t have the capacity to go out and have someone be a full-time fundraiser. Bread & Roses not only gives to long-established organizations, but also to organizations you might not otherwise hear about, unless you were involved with them, or you lived in a neighborhood where they are based. It is impressive that Bread & Roses organizes organizers that are just getting started.”
Last year, 562 people were murdered in Philadelphia—the highest number on record—506 died in shootings. Gun violence takes its heaviest toll in communities of color. The majority of shooting victims and people charged with violent crimes in Philadelphia are young Black and Brown men. Grassroots movements are organizing to reduce violence by addressing its root causes.
“There’s an illusion that suddenly there’s a spike in violence, but there’s been decades of disinvestment and starving communities of resources, so now we’re at a crisis point,” says Kris Henderson, Executive Director of Amistad Law Project, a grantee since 2018. “What we need are a lot more resources for things like libraries, recreation centers, afterschool programs, and jobs programs for young people.”
“Poverty, lack of access to education and healthcare, and the hopelessness that comes from those things has rendered young people powerless in so many aspects of life to where the only currency they have left is violence,” says Felix Rosado, Program Coordinator of Healing Futures at Youth Art & Self-empowerment Program (YASP), a grantee since 2011.
“Young people don’t feel safe walking the street, not even going to school, so they feel like they have to carry a gun just for protection,” says Don Ike Jones, Re-entry Coordinator for Youth Sentencing and Re-entry Program (YSRP), a grantee since 2015.
Movement leaders say more police and prisons are not the answer. “There is a wide body of research showing that other factors reduce violent crime just as much, if not more, than increased policing and incarceration,” Henderson says. That includes increased income, decreased unemployment, and community-based efforts addressing violence, addiction, mental illness, housing, and education, Henderson says.
“We have a system that, instead of asking the question ‘Why doesn’t this young person feel safe?’ and ‘How do we support them in creating safety?’ puts them in cages and separates them from their community supports and then expects them to do something different when they come out,” says YASP Director Sarah Morris.
“I would argue that prison is a cause of violence,” Rosado says. “Prison itself is violent but it also produces the kind of anger, frustration, and trauma that continues the cycle of violence.”
YASP’s Healing Futures program works to interrupt the cycle of violence by diverting young people and survivors away from the criminal justice system and into a community-based restorative justice process where youth take responsibility for their actions and work toward community healing.
YASP and YSRP are leaders of the Care Not Control campaign, which seeks to end youth incarceration in Pennsylvania and reallocate resources from the carceral system to schools and health care. In May, YASP helped introduce a landmark bill into the Pennsylvania Senate that would eliminate the practice of prosecuting youth as adults.
“True safety can’t come from outside—from police who occupy our neighborhoods or judges who send people to prisons hours away,” Henderson says. “The thing that’s going to keep us safe is each other.”
Currently, Pennsylvanians must provide proof of their legal status in the United States to apply for a driver’s license or learner’s permit. For the estimated 200,000 undocumented immigrants living in Pennsylvania, not having a driver’s license makes picking up children from school, shopping for groceries, or getting to work a daily risk. “A minor traffic stop can easily lead to deportation,” says Luis Larin, Statewide Coordinator for Driving PA Forward, a Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantee that is leading the fight to expand access to driver’s licenses to all Pennsylvanians, regardless of immigration status.
“Our community has been called ‘essential workers,’” Larin says. “We keep the agriculture industry going. We put food on the table across the country during Covid, and yet we can’t get driver’s licenses. This is not just about the ‘privilege to drive,’ it’s literally denying that we exist, that we have a name, that we are human beings.”
Driver’s licenses also provide critical identification people need to pick up medicine at the pharmacy or cash checks, Larin says, adding: “You are very limited in where you can rent and the kind of job you can get without some form of identification.”
Driving PA Forward is an immigrant-led coalition of community and faith-based organizations, businesses, farmers, and labor groups that began working together to change Pennsylvania law in 2013 and became a formal coalition in 2019. Working with state legislators, the coalition recently introduced a bill that would extend the right to a driver’s license to all Pennsylvanians regardless of residency status while also ensuring strong privacy and data protections for all licensed drivers.
To push the bill forward, the coalition is organizing across the state—educating legislators about the issues, holding rallies, circulating petitions, and going door-to-door in key legislative districts to garner support. “We are grateful to Bread & Roses for their support in helping us to keep our community and our families together.”
As Philadelphia counted mail-in ballots that helped turn the tide of the 2020 presidential election and a Count Every Vote rally-turned-dance-party kept vigil outside the Convention Center, three dancing mailboxes became social media celebrities. Photos of the mailboxes dancing in the streets were seen around the world. The cardboard mailboxes are the brainchild of Spiral Q, an Equitable Public Space Fund and Solidarity Fund for COVID-19 Organizing grantee that uses puppets and pageantry to amplify the messages of social justice movements.
Founded in 1996 amidst the HIV/AIDS crisis, Spiral Q works with grassroots organizers and artists to create giant puppets and banners that communicate complex ideas like gentrification and violence against people of color. Rooted in the tradition of street theater, Spiral Q infuses its work with an infectious joy and participatory spirit.“
The puppet at the party is only the tip of the iceberg,” says Spiral Q co-director Jennifer Turnbull.
“We are centering community voices and stories and creating space for collaborative ideation and artistic production that is accessible to everyone.”
The mailboxes were created with youth voting organization VoteThatJawn for community education events and voter registration drives. When the City slashed arts funding in the fallout of COVID-19, Spiral Q collaborated with the Artist Coalition for a Just Philadelphia on an Emergency Art Action for Black Futures in June. Every year, the group partners with 100 community groups. “We work with everyone who is fighting for a more just and equitable Philadelphia,” says Spiral Q co-director Liza Goodell. “The support of Bread & Roses allows us to respond to the moment.”
Through an Equitable Public Space Fund grant, Spiral Q is mounting Rise and Reconcile performances in public spaces around the city to reclaim erased histories of Black communities. The sunrise events enlist community members in choreographed movements to commemorate the people who once congregated there. “This is a way to take up public space and lift up the history of the Black community,” Turnbull says.
The Bread & Roses staff is still hard at work! While our offices are closed due to the pandemic, we are working remotely to keep moving money to grassroots organizing in Philadelphia. Like many of you, we have had to adjust the way we connect as a staff. One way we do this is through daily staff meetings we call “circle ups.” How is your organization staying connected? Let us know by leaving a reply.
The roots of our organization are in lifting up and providing financial support to radical leadership for Black liberation. In the decades since our founding, we have never wavered from our primary mission of funding grassroots community organizing, especially Black organizers and other organizers of color.
The Black Liberation Now Fund is a special initiative at Bread & Roses Community Fund that made one-time $10,000 grants to 50 Black-led grassroots community organizing groups in the Philadelphia region.