Solidarity Fund for COVID-19 Organizing final report shares impact of rapid-response community grantmaking

We are proud to share our final report on the Solidarity Fund for COVID-19 Organizing, which moved $810,000 to 83 grassroots community organizing groups in one year using a rapid-response community grantmaking process.

View the report below or download it as a pdf.

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$200,000 in grants announced from the Kensington Community Resilience Fund

We are proud to announce the first round of Kensington Community Resilience Fund grants. The Kensington Community Resilience Fund is a public-private-community partnership between the Kensington community, regional funders, Bread & Roses Community Fund, and the city of Philadelphia. The fund supports organizations in the Kensington, Harrowgate, and Fairhill neighborhoods that are working to build a community in which all residents can thrive.

Grantees, funders, Community Advisory Committee members, and the press—among others—gathered at Harrowgate Park on July 14th to commemorate the first round of Kensington Community Resilience Fund grants.

On July 14, the Community Advisory Committee for the fund announced that $10,000 grants were awarded to twenty grantees:

Community Center at Visitation provides a safe place to connect residents to resources and a central location for recreation, educational programs, and health services. A grant from this fund will support one year of hosting family-friendly monthly dinners and resource fairs. 

Good Host Plants is a native plant nursery promoting biodiversity in the region by growing open-pollinated, local-ecotype plants. A grant from this fund will help them convert five to ten empty lots into community pollinator gardens. 

Harrowgate Civic Association strives to help the Harrowgate community become a safe and beautiful community. This grant will go toward their plan to help residents with neighborhood cleaning by distributing trash cans and other cleaning supplies. 

Hart Lane Neighborhood Farm is a  group of neighbors and stakeholders dedicated to creating and tending to a healing, safe urban farm in the Kensington community. This grant will help them replace broken sidewalks in their garden and reconnect the space safely to the neighborhood with an ADA- compliant access point. 

Kensington Soccer Club provides high-quality soccer and youth development programming for everyone, regardless of ability to pay. This grant will support their core programming, which includes connecting families to legal assistance, health care, college financial aid, and leadership development.

Papermill Food Hub is an all-volunteer operation that provides weekly deliveries of food, diapers, and other supplies to Kensington, Fishtown, and Port Richmond families in need. This grant will support them in renting permanent space to store and prepare food for their weekly deliveries, launch a garden to grow produce for families, and hire a staff member to lead garden classes with neighborhood children. 

Photography Without Borders teaches young artists to tell their stories through photography to a wider audience. This grant will be used to expand their youth photography program to Kensington Health Sciences Academy in an after-school setting. 

Power Street Theatre is dedicated to connecting multicultural and intergenerational communities through the performing arts by sharing original stories that innovate and inspire. This grant will support their programs, including free bilingual performance and playwriting classes.

Providence Center provides children, teens, and adults a safe space to overcome trauma and grow to their full potential. This grant will be used to hire former Trauma Ambassadors in the recruitment and training of a new cohort. 

Ride Free provides Kensington- area youth with opportunities for creative self-expression, skill-building, and mentorship that help them envision a positive future and avoid or build pathways out of cycles of trauma, violence, and incarceration. This grant will complete their new studio’s fit-out with professional-grade instruments and equipment. 

Rock Ministries directly addresses many of the needs of the Kensington neighborhood: youth activities, addictions treatment assistance, homelessness, GED education, street cleaning, beautification, and more. This grant will fund a subscription to medical record software that tracks patient treatment and a mini-split heating/cooling system to operate their Wellness Center year-round. 

Sisters Returning Home help women returning from prison to re-establish connections to family and community and build and develop self-esteem, self-respect, self-confidence, and self-sufficiency. This grant will support ongoing programming and beds and bedding for clients transitioning into long-term housing. 

The Sisters of Saint Joseph Welcome Center offers immigrants and others opportunities to access education, support and free legal services, and programs leading to self-sufficiency. This grant will improve their ESOL and Citizenship Test Preparation Classes and expand their Outreach program that provides food and gift cards to students.

Taller Puertorriqueño is a community-based cultural organization whose primary purpose is to preserve, develop, and promote Puerto Rican arts and culture. This grant will support investments in staff, upgrading data entry technology capacity, general operations, and educational arts programming. 

Team NAS is a volunteer group of resident leaders that elevates neighborhood voices, connects residents to resources that promote wellness, and addresses inequities through advocacy and local action. This grant will support them in creating a cooperative neighborhood-wide block initiative through ongoing outreach, providing needed equipment, and cultivating platforms for neighborhood exchange and celebration. 

The Block Gives Back targets issues within the Philadelphia community and devises plans to recruit local volunteers, businesses, organizations, and community leaders to help in working toward a solution. This grant will be used to support ongoing programming such as affordable events and services to youth aged 5-24 in the Kensington neighborhood. 

The Salvation Army operates the New Day Drop-In Center, a safe, trauma-informed, welcoming, and non-judgmental space for sex workers and survivors of human trafficking. These funds will be used to maintain staff, cover transportation costs to appointments, purchase supplies for clients, secure increased security measures, and other operational costs. 

The Simple Way supports neighbors in building a neighborhood where everyone can belong and thrive and collaborates locally to increase neighborhood food security. This grant will be used to pay one of their current volunteers, digitize systems, and purchase inventory software. 

Urban Extreme Youth Development helps to rebuild communities by influencing the lives of youth and their families in addressing education, health, economic, and social needs. This grant will help them implement programming for mentoring, youth community engagement, and family engagement and support a third Bold and Beautiful Girls Conference to build power among female Kensington High School students. 

Youth United for Change develops young leaders in Philadelphia with a critical political, historical, and economic understanding of society and empowers them to improve the quality of their lives and communities. This grant will provide stipends for members to participate in community outreach efforts for their upcoming community campaign dealing with trash and litter. 

Grantee Profile: Asian Americans United

In the last year, 3,800 cases of anti-Asian violence were documented across the country—97 of them in Pennsylvania. Experts believe the numbers are much higher but that many incidents go unreported because of language barriers or fear of repercussions. Asian Americans United (AAU), an Equitable Public Space Fund and Solidarity Fund for COVID-19 Organizing grantee, is working to address the rise in anti-Asian violence and expand access to critical services by organizing vigils and online town halls in collaboration with other Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) groups to reach across languages and neighborhoods. 

“There is a long history of anti-Asian violence in this country. COVID is another reason for this violence,” says Wei Chen, AAU’s Civic Engagement Coordinator. “AAU has always been an ally to fight for racial equity and justice for all people of color, not just Asian Americans. We tie our struggle to Black Lives Matter because this fight against racial hate cannot be done without allies. We are seeing huge support at his moment from the Black community.”

“We tie our struggle to Black Lives Matter because this fight against racial hate cannot be done without allies.”

Wei Chen

AAU was founded in 1982 to build community power among people of Asian ancestry in order to challenge oppression and advocate for the needs of immigrants, refugees, and non-English speakers. Their Youth Leadership Development programs engage both Chinese immigrant youth and Asian American youth in community organizing for social justice. 

Early in the pandemic, AAU hosted online town halls with community leaders to discuss the growing violence. They brought together staff from Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, and the city’s Department of Behavioral Health to share resources. “It’s very important to talk about mental health resources that are available for people as they are dealing with fear and stress about anti-Asian violence and the pandemic,” Chen says. “It is still hard to access these services because of language issues and because our community is not used to going to therapy or talking about mental health, but we have to start talking about it.” 

Immediately following the March mass shooting that killed 8 people in Atlanta-area spas, 6 of whom were Asian, AAU organized a citywide vigil. “Our community feels tired and angry because this violence is not being recognized as a hate crime,” Chen says. “We wanted to honor the victims who lost their lives and to wake people up about what’s going on in our country.” 

In April, community members gathered at AAU’s vigil against anti-Asian violence following a mass shooting targeting Asian women at several locations in Atlanta, Georgia.

In April, AAU began a series of online teach-ins about the history of the Asian-American experience in Philadelphia. “It’s an opportunity for political education and to understand our struggle in this land. It’s been very inspiring for young people,” Chen says. 

AAU is producing a safety booklet to help the AAPI community respond to hate crimes, including how to protect themselves, report incidents, and access victim services and mental health support. AAU is working with other AAPI organizations, including VietLead and the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, to translate the guide into a number of languages. The guide will be available in Summer 2021.

Environmental Justice Fund moves $180,000 to movements fighting environmental racism

EMMA MEDINA-CASTREJON

In March 2021, Bread & Roses Community Fund’s Environmental Justice Fund made $180,000 in grants to 18 grassroots groups using community organizing to promote equitable access to clean and healthy environments for communities in the Philadelphia region most impacted by environmental racism and climate change. Money for the fund was raised and distributed through Bread & Roses’ Environmental Justice Giving Project.

 “When we think about environmental justice, we often think about the melting polar ice caps and changing weather, but where environmental injustice is felt most acutely is in Black and Brown neighborhoods,” says director of donor organizing Nigel Charles. A new study published in the journal Science Advances reports that across the United States, people of color breathe more hazardous air than white people and are exposed to disproportionately more environmental risks. A 2019 report by the Philadelphia Office of Sustainability found that the city’s poorest neighborhoods are as much as 22 degrees hotter because they have fewer green spaces and trees and more exposed asphalt.

Environmental Justice Fund grantees are working across the region to dismantle environmental racism by fighting health hazards, pushing for policy reform, promoting urban agriculture, and expanding access to fresh produce, clean water, and green spaces. Grantees Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living (CRCQL, pronounced “circle”) and Energy Justice Network are collaborating to shut down the Covanta trash incinerator in the city of Chester. The country’s largest and most polluting incinerator, it burns 3,500 tons of trash and industrial waste a day, releasing toxins into the air. Chester’s rate of child hospitalization for asthma is more than three times the state average, says CRCQL chairperson Zulene Mayfield. 

Currently, the two groups are pressuring Delaware County not to renew its contract with Covanta by meeting with public officials, testifying before municipalities, and holding rallies. Four Delaware County municipalities recently issued Zero Waste resolutions. More are being considered. “This is the first time we’ve had municipalities go on record saying they want the county to study alternatives to burning trash,” says Energy Justice Network executive director Mike Ewall. 

Philadelphia sends 42% of its trash to incinerators in Pennsylvania—the majority goes to Chester, Ewall says. The city’s waste contracts are up for renewal in summer 2023. Working with City Council’s Committee on the Environment, Ewall drafted a bill to ban the city from contracting to burn trash or recyclables. 

“Where [Covanta] once had us all thinking we were fighting these battles alone, now we have strength in numbers.” 

Zulene Mayfield, CRCQL chairperson

In Camden, Energy Justice Network and Environmental Justice Fund grantee Camden for Clear Air are gaining traction against the Covanta incinerator there. The two groups helped stop a plan to use the incinerator to power a proposed emergency microgrid for Camden’s sewage treatment plant. In March, the microgrid’s developer announced that it revised its design to run on solar, anaerobic digestion, and battery power. “It went from being the dirtiest way to power the grid to one of the cleanest,” Ewall says. Mayfield adds: “Where [Covanta] once had us all thinking we were fighting these battles alone, now we have strength in numbers.”

Read about all of our Environmental Justice Fund grantees.

Donor Profile: Oona Coy

Why I give:

“This is about how we share power,

not just resources, but power.

Partnering with Bread & Roses

was a way to do that.”

Oona Coy
Oona Coy

When the Merck Family Fund made a grant to support Bread & Roses’ recent Environmental Justice Giving Project, it was the first time the foundation experimented with a community-driven grantmaking process. For Oona Coy, then a Merck Trustee, it was the culmination of three years of research to locate the right partnership that excited her family and aligned with the foundation’s priorities.  

“I believe there should be a lot more decision makers around how money moves and where it moves,” Coy says. “People on the ground know what’s happening on the ground and can see where money is needed, where it will be most useful, and where it will go furthest.” 

“For years I was trying to figure out how to introduce participatory grantmaking to the foundation,” she says. In 2018, Coy and a program officer began meeting with Philadelphia-based grantees of the foundation’s Urban Agriculture program to explore ways to directly involve them in decision making. Several grantees had participated in a Bread & Roses Giving Project and they encouraged Coy to explore that process. “They spoke really highly of their experiences going through it. Following the lead of our grantees felt really important to me.”  

It took some convincing. “My family cares deeply about the planet so one point I really pushed them on is: I don’t think we’re going to solve climate change without looking at racial justice and economic justice and environmental justice.” 

“This is about how we share power, not just resources but power. Partnering with Bread & Roses was a way to do that.”  

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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