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Grantee Profile: Spiral Q

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.

Spiral Q’s iconic mailboxes, created with youth voting organization VoteThatJawn, dance down the streets of Philadelphia.

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.”

Jennifer Turnbull

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.

Connecting While Remote

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.

Want to support our work? Donate today at breadrosesfund.org/donate or contact Poe Browne for other ways to give.

Black Liberation Now Fund

Source: Flickr via Joe Piette

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.

See our full list of grantees here.

Check out this October 13 Philadelphia Inquirer article covering the Black Liberation Now Fund by Samantha Melamed!

“Community organizing is what creates sustainable change. Our goal is creating a just society and movements are going to get us there. Those movements need money to make it happen.”

Casey Cook, executive director

The Bread & Roses team welcomes Poe Browne!

Poe became involved with Bread & Roses through the Fall 2018 Immigration Justice Giving Project, which opened the door to her exploration of Philadelphia. We now welcome Poe to the Bread & Roses team as our development manager!

Prior to starting this role, Poe worked with a nonprofit legal aid organization writing and reporting on grants, overseeing compliance aspects of several grants, interacting with funders, and managing various databases. Poe also has a background in student affairs at the undergraduate level supporting first-year students in residential life communities.

Poe believes deeply in the power of youth, community, and resistance in the form of joy. She finds her joy in knitting, puzzling, and caring for her growing collection of plants.