For Sara Giraldo, a 2021 Gender Justice Giving Project alum, giving to Bread & Roses is rooted in her passion for racial and gender justice: “As an immigrant and a person of color, I see how immigrants struggle. Because I had the opportunity to live in different cities in the U.S., I know there are not as many resources for the Latinx community in Philadelphia as in other places, like California. And because I’m fortunate to speak English, I feel called to get more involved in connecting people to resources.”
Sara works with Comadre Luna, a Bread & Roses grantee and feminist collective that organizes to build a network of support for Latinx women in Philadelphia. Through her work with the collective, she learned about the Giving Project.
“The Gender Justice Giving Project was a transforming experience for me. As a person of color, I think of myself as someone who is not so privileged, but in terms of gender, as a heterosexual, cis-gender woman, I am a privileged person. Working so closely with trans and non-binary people in the Giving Project and seeing their struggles was eye opening for me. I really appreciated all the conversations we had around ‘what is my privilege’ and ‘what is your privilege’ and ‘how do we come together and work this out to create a more just world?’”
“I love the work of Bread & Roses! They fund grassroots projects by regular people, like you and me. Building from the ground up like this totally changes the power dynamics.”
For Melissa Melby, a 2021 Gender Justice Giving Project member, giving to Bread & Roses is about shifting the balance of power. Last year, after the stock market made record gains, Melby’s uncle gave each of his nieces a generous cash gift. “I felt so uncomfortable getting this gift when so many people were struggling because of the pandemic that I immediately started looking for places to give it away,” Melby says. When she learned about Bread & Roses’ focus on community-driven participatory grantmaking, she joined a Giving Project. “I am inspired by Bread & Roses’ vision and process of moving money from communities of donors to communities of people who need it.”
Her parents were her first “ask” and it led to some pivotal conversations: “My dad had reservations about giving money when the recipients had not already been decided—it was like giving up control over where their money was going. We talked about how people in positions of privilege should not have the power to decide where the money goes. Communities should decide how best to spend the money.” Her parents were so impressed by this community-based approach that they made a gift that was two and half times larger than they planned. Melby went on to raise more money for the Giving Project than she ever expected.
“Being in a group of people with so many different experiences and perspectives, all working toward the same goal, was a transformative experience. It showed me that together we can achieve so much more than any one individual can achieve.”
For Veronica Rex, a 2021 Gender Justice Giving Project alum, donating to Bread & Roses is about giving back. Veronica was incarcerated in 2018 and the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, a Bread & Roses grantee, brought her home through their Mama’s Day Bailout. “As soon as I came home, I started [volunteering] as a core organizer for the bail fund. I had the opportunity to sit in with Bread & Roses for two grants the bail fund received, and it got me curious about where the money comes from. Who has money to just give to help underserved individuals?”
Then she learned about the Giving Project: “When my group dared to raise $150,000, I was thinking ‘How are we going to do that?’ But once I learned how to ask, I realized that everyone giving a little made the pot grow.” Veronica figured out how much she could give if she budgeted it over a few months and then asked friends and coworkers to donate. “At first, I was afraid of being turned down. I expected to hear no but instead heard yes! The first two people I asked each gave $100!”
“The Giving Project showed me that people from all walks of life can come together for a common goal. There were people that come from money and there were folks like me that come from poverty, but we were in it together.”
“It was a great feeling to be raising funds that would help bring people home from incarceration and fight injustice. Part of my journey is giving back.”
For Christine and Jackie Pappas, giving to Bread & Roses has opened a new chapter in their mother-daughter relationship. Christine grew up in Florida and came to Philadelphia in 2017 for a social work graduate program. When she joined the 2019 Gender Justice Giving Project, she wanted to reach a wider network, so she asked her mom to be her fundraising partner.
“One of the groups we ended up funding was the Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance,’ Christine says. “I’m a domestic worker, a nanny, and a house cleaner. My mom is also a care worker, with elders. It was so powerful knowing that the groups we were raising money for understood care work to be not separate from gender justice, racial justice, and economic justice. Having the opportunity to fund those kinds of projects was really exciting to us.”
Christine and Jackie collaborated again for the 2020 and 2021 Future Funds: “It’s become part of our rhythm—moving and redistributing the resources we have to support this work.”
“This has been a transformational experience for us. It’s one thing to have conversations with people who identify as being part of social justice movements. My mom didn’t think of herself that way, but through the work she’s been able to claim that identity and has pushed herself in amazing ways.”
“There’s so much brilliance here in Philly. People have great ideas about how to solve all kinds of interconnected, multi-faceted problems. Bread & Roses gives them the room and resources to do that. I feel grateful to be part of it.”
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.”
“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.”
For Ha Pham, a 2018 Gender Justice Giving Project member, giving to Bread & Roses is rooted in relationships: “I give to support my community: the work they do and the environment they create. But on a more personal level, I am motivated by my mother and my grandmother — by thinking about the things they endured in life and being aware of the system they lived within. They laid plans that grew through so many seeds. They brought me here as one of those seeds, and now I feel the need to carry their work on. I try to understand how they did so much for me by putting myself in their place and doing it for others.”
Participating in a Giving Project was a transformative experience for Pham: “It changed a lot of things for me. The Giving Project felt like everything was coming together. Being a part of that community made me feel whole — the sense of community moved me. When I hear the word ‘movement,’ I think about moving forward, determination. Like the movement that drives a protest. But the Giving Project moved me in a different way. It wasn’t movement to a destination, but more like movement into daily life.”
After the Giving Project, Pham continued her involvement by joining the 2019 Tribute to Change planning committee. She is organizing the members of her Giving Project to be a collective sponsor of the Tribute to Change.
Why I give:
“I give because for me it would feel unconscionable not to work towards redistributing unearned wealth now that I have a sense in my gut — as well as a privileged white person can — of what it means to be a marginalized person who suffers from generations of oppression.”
Kara Tennis became a donor after finding out about Bread & Roses from a neighbor, then wanted to get more involved. “I knew I really wanted to do a Giving Project just to challenge myself and to do that work in a group of people. My focus has always been about racial justice, but I did the gender justice one because it was the first one available, and I was so keen to do it,” she says. “As it went on, I realized it was the same work all along.”
“The Giving Project gave me a chance to practice my job as a privileged person, which is to keep listening, listening, listening, and learning from the experiences of marginalized people, rather than believing my own opinions and default reactions, centering my responses, or thinking I know what is needed or what should work,” she says.
Tennis recently began selling her mixed-media wearable art under the name Justice Jewelry. She donates all proceeds to anti-racist organizations including Bread & Roses. In October Tennis signed up to be a monthly donor to Bread & Roses. “I understand that it’s really helpful for the organization, knowing what it can count on,” she says. “I’ve been really behind supporting operating costs, because it’s harder for the organization to get those less sexy parts of funding done.”
Why I give:
“I trust that Bread & Roses is giving money to people who know what they’re talking about, are doing the work, and are not being funded by a lot of other organizations because they’re pushing against the status quo.”
After spending a year interning at Bread & Roses, Jordyn Myers decided to join the Fall 2017 Giving Project, which raised money and made grants in the Black-led, Black-centered Organizing Fund. “I wanted to be in a space where I could think about how fundraising could be done in an anti-capitalist, anti-racist way,” she says.
Black-identified members of the Giving Project led the process. “The facilitators and the people in it worked really hard for it to be a space where marginalized people were believed,” Myers says. “Once you start believing marginalized people, there’s this priority on the power of their ideas, the power of what we had to say. That was probably the first time I had been in a space like that.”
Prioritizing the voices of people of color made the process more efficient. “It was a space that was so much easier for me to share freely,” Myers says. “I never felt like, ‘I have to say this, because if I don’t say this nobody else would say it.’ It felt like the people of color caucus had each other’s backs. We were prepared for that, because we were just believed. We did a lot less defending ourselves.”
Through their personal donations and fundraising, Myers and her fellow Giving Project members raised enough money to make $130,000 in grants for Black-led, Black-centered organizing this spring.
“Because Bread & Roses centers and trusts the people that are most impacted by systems.”
Polly Pillen moved to Philadelphia in October 2016 and joined a Giving Project at Bread & Roses just two months later. “It was a really special way to enter into my time in Philadelphia and hear about organizations on the ground that I would never have known about,” Pillen says. “Also, I was very recently learning about my owning class background and what I could move and starting that process. It felt like a serendipitous moment to think about what my role was in movement building.”
Pillen is a therapist at Women Organized Against Rape, a local rape and sexual assault crisis center. “My work is doing individual healing,” she says. “In my personal life, my community is doing work around movement building and thinking critically about our class and race privilege and trying to use those in ways that are important.”
For Pillen, participating in the Giving Project was one of the first steps, and she says it was transformative to hear the experiences and perspectives of people of color from different class backgrounds. “Being part of a democratic process where we got to learn about all of the work that was on the ground and mull over the decisions about how to give was really important and powerful and made me think more critically about giving,” she says. “The community aspect and being around other people doing that work really pushed me through some walls I had built up around giving. The Giving Project supports cross-race, cross-class community building, and I want to support that.”