Tag Archives: grantee profile

Grantee Profile: Juntos

“There are new immigrants arriving every day and they’re being met with a city that does not have adequate resources to address their needs. They are essentially alone.”    

Navigating Philadelphia as a new immigrant can be daunting, says Erika Guadalupe Núñez, executive director of Juntos, a community-led, Latinx immigrant organization and Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantee. “Philadelphia is classified as a sanctuary city, but we still have community members who come in every day and say, I was in court, and I couldn’t get language interpretation, or the police hung up on me because I don’t speak English.”

Founded over 20 years ago in response to the growing wave of migrants arriving in Philadelphia, Juntos responds to the needs and issues that immigrants face, guided by the principle that everyone has the right to quality education and the freedom to live with dignity regardless of immigration status. Says Núñez, “There are new immigrants arriving every day and they’re being met with a city that does not have adequate resources to address their needs. They are essentially alone.”

As an organization, Juntos has seen significant growth in the last few years. They are currently developing a youth leadership development pipeline through Fuerza, Juntos’ youth leadership committee. “Fuerza members can apply to be ambassadors, which are 12-week paid positions where they learn organizing skills like public speaking, canvassing, and political education around campaigns,” says Núñez.

Juntos takes community leadership seriously. This January they ratified a membership model in which the governance of the organization has essentially been passed to its members. Members assemble monthly and vote on major organizational decisions. Says Núñez, “We have a growing membership, which shows that there’s a need in the community and that our work is necessary, and that we need to be the strongest organization that we can be to better respond to the challenges that we’re facing.”

Grantee Profile: Teamsters for a Democratic Union 

“They were afraid, but they learned that they have power and they can win.” –Liana Kallman

For the last decade, housekeepers at the University of Pennsylvania were trapped in a two-tier wage structure that kept half of them in a permanent bottom tier, earning $5 less per hour than coworkers performing the same work. In June, Philadelphia Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), a Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantee, helped the 500+ housekeepers defeat the two-tier system and win raises for all 550 members of Teamsters Local 115, which also includes groundskeepers and truck drivers.  

“The five-year contract puts every Teamster at UPenn on a progression to top pay,” says TDU staff organizer Liana Kallman. “This year, the first tier is making $25.12 and the second tier is at $20.90, but by the end of the contract every housekeeper will get $28.68.”   

TDU is a worker-led organization that mobilizes Teamsters to fight for higher wages, build power on the job, and win new leadership and new direction for their union.   

Longtime Teamster Local 115 members contacted TDU because they felt the two-tier system was destroying their union, Kallman says. TDU helped them organize the housekeepers, many of whom are East African immigrant women whose first language is not English. TDU created a bargaining survey, which was translated into Amharic and Spanish, and helped plan a rally outside the university president’s office that drew 70 workers, community members, and press.   

“Housekeepers had never rallied on campus,” Kallman says. “Some of the Ethiopian women were told, ‘You’re not allowed to rally, not in your uniform. You could get fired for this.’ They were afraid, but they learned that they have power and they can win.”   

TDU is currently organizing UPS workers, whose contract expires next year, staff organizer Paul Prescod says: “UPS Part timers, who are disproportionately workers of color, are in the union but it’s almost like another tier of workers—they’re paid very low, sometimes less than Amazon part timers. We want to create more full-time jobs and raise wages.”  

Grantee Profile: Why Not Prosper 

In Pennsylvania, women returning from prison often have to wait more than a month to access critical Medicaid benefits. For women with substance use disorder who were receiving medication-assisted treatment in prison, this disruption in care can be fatal, says Rev. Dr. Michelle Anne Simmons, chief executive officer of Why Not Prosper, a Racial & Economic Justice Fund and Phoebus Criminal Justice Initiative grantee that supports women’s re-entry journey from prison back to their communities.   

“When women are released, they’re supposed to get their benefits activated in five days, but it usually takes 32 days,” Rev. Simmons says. “If a woman comes home with opioid addiction and can’t get her medication-assisted treatment, she’ll use and she’ll die. We lose too many women this way.”   

Why Not Prosper is taking its fight to Harrisburg, educating legislators about the healthcare crisis women face inside and outside of prisons. “We want every woman to be released from jail with at least one month of their prescription,” Rev. Simmons says. “That way, if it does take that long to get their benefits, they’ve got a prescription to hold them for 30 days. We want that to be the state law. Women’s lives depend on it.”   

Why Not Prosper has made powerful allies, including PA Senator Art Haywood, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, and First Lady Frances Wolf. Mrs. Wolf recently visited Why Not Prosper’s Germantown office to meet with formerly incarcerated women and bring their stories to Governor Wolf.   

Rev. Simmons founded Why Not Prosper in 2001. As a formerly incarcerated woman who once experienced addiction, she brings the lessons she learned to help other women on their re-entry journey. Why Not Prosper offers a continuum of programs that include pre-release mentoring, residential services, job training, and help reuniting with family. “Formerly incarcerated people are human beings first,” she says. “They need to be approached with non-judgment, love, and support.”  

Grantee Profile: Galaei

Kelly Burkhardt

Galaei, a Gender Justice Organizing Fund grantee, was founded in 1989 to provide education and advocacy to the Queer Latinx community during the HIV/AIDS crisis. Last year, Galaei expanded its mission to serve all queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (QTBIPOC) communities.   

“Throughout our history, Galaei has evolved to meet the most pressing needs of the most marginalized in our community,” says executive director Ashley Coleman, who joined Galaei in February 2021 to lead its transformation. “We are evolving the organization to embrace all folks of color, staying rooted in our past while extending our arms into the future.”   

Galaei is dedicated to creating access, opportunities, sexual empowerment, and economic development for all QTBIPOC individuals. It continues to provide HIV testing, counseling and education, and linkages to queer- and trans-competent health care. TINGS (Trans, Intersex, Non-binary, and Gender non-conforming Services) provides peer coaching and life skills development and youth drop-in programs. Gender 101 through 301 trainings help participants navigate uncomfortable conversations at work, school, and home to combat patriarchal systems and implement change. Galaei partners with high schools to teach a comprehensive Gender and Sexuality Curriculum.  

New initiatives include a summer camp for QTBIPOC 8-12-year-olds and a winter swim camp for kids and adults. The CDC reports that Black children are 5.5 times more likely to drown in pools than white children. “This is about gate keeping. It’s not just about access to a pool but also access to swim lessons,” Coleman says. “We want to create a safe space for all different bodies.”  

Grantee Profile: We.REIGN

A photo of We.REIGN ambassador Amaiyah Monet speaking at a local back to school event held in August.
We.REIGN ambassador Amaiyah Monet opens up about how community violence has impacted her life at a local back-to-school event held in August. 

“We’re building a coalition of girls who can say, ‘I know what the problems are in my community or school, and I can come up with solutions.’”

Tawanna Jones, executive director of We.REIGN

“Black girl voices and Black women voices are often excluded from political agendas, decision-making tables, policy making in schools,” says Tawanna Jones, executive director of We.REIGN,Gender Justice Organizing Fund and Solidarity Fund for COVID-19 Organizing grantee. “We introduce Black girls to the idea of politics and policy and how to advocate for yourself. We’re building a coalition of girls who can say, ‘I know what the problems are in my community or school, and I can come up with solutions.’” 

Jones founded We.REIGN (Rooting, Empowering, Inspiring a Girls Nation) in 2016 to create a safe, nurturing space where Black girls can “unapologetically become,” she says. “We use political and civic education to help Black girls figure out who they are and where they want to fit into the world. We create a space where Black girls can figure out that identity development piece in a supportive network of other Black girls, older Black women, and high school girls.” We.REIGN’s signature We Speak workshops help girls develop skills to be change agents in their own lives and in their communities.  

This year, through a Gender Justice Organizing Fund grant, We.REIGN offered a six-month Gender Justice Internship for 12 high school girls. The internship kicked off with workshops about how gender injustice and systemic racism play out in school, work, families, and communities. Working in community pods, girls chose three gender justice issues—education funding, black maternal and infant mortality, and sexual violence. They interviewed peers and wrote policy papers outlining their demands to address the issues and shared their findings in Zoom town halls.  

“The grant allowed us to pay girls a stipend, so they didn’t have to choose between working a low-wage job or participating in the program,” Jones says. 

For We.REIGN, advocacy, activism, and organizing are key to girls’ futures. Jones says: “Understanding issues and being able to organize around them is critical and central to the life of Black Americans.” 

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.

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.”

Grantee Profile: Sappho and LaRoyce Foundation

In October, Sappho and LaRoyce Foundation held an event for families to explore intergenerational trauma and toxic masculinity through mindfulness practices and artmaking.

Like many grassroots groups, Sappho and LaRoyce Foundation emerged when people got together to share their stories and take action. “I started having conversations with other lesbian women,” says co-founder Sappho Fulton. “They were going through a lot of nonsense in their relationships and they didn’t understand why they stayed, and I said we’ve got to do something collectively to help ourselves.”

The group formed in May 2018 with a mission to “educate, elevate, and empower LGBTQ and women of color to sustain holistic healing,” says Fulton. Sappho and LaRoyce Foundation received a grant from the Future Fund followed by a grant from the Gender Justice Fund. One of their core activities is facilitating support groups. “It is really about community,” Fulton says. “I see it as creating and opening up space for everybody so we can grow together and learn from one another.”

In addition to establishing spaces for mutual support and caretaking, Sappho and LaRoyce Foundation is working on a campaign to pass an updated Violence Against Women Act, which would add protections for transgender people. Because this legislation has stagnated in the Senate since April, Sappho and LaRoyce Foundation is working to push it forward by writing letters, meeting with local representatives, and learning about other advocacy tools.

As the organization grows, Fulton foresees expanding their work to engage trans men and LGBTQ youth in dialogue about domestic abuse. Fulton reflects on the group’s evolving role: “It went from my own personal experience being the motivating factor to addressing community needs from a holistic lens, from a broader lens. So, we have grown up and grown out.”

Grantee Profile: Agape African Senior Center

The Agape African Senior Center, a Black-led, Black-centered Organizing Fund and Immigration Justice Fund grantee, was founded in 2000 by immigrants and refugees of African descent. Their mission, in the words of founder Rev. Dr. John Jallah, is to “organize to help aging refugees and immigrants cope with life.” In the beginning, Agape members met once a week to develop an understanding of how government worked in Philadelphia. A 2004 grant from Bread & Roses Community Fund was the Center’s first source of funding.

Elderly African and Caribbean immigrants and refugees living in Philadelphia face economic, cultural, social, and language barriers. The Agape African Senior Center’s English as a Second Language classes, residency and citizenship assistance, skills trainings, and peer support group aim to build a base to take collective action.

“The first win has been to get senior citizens out of their homes and to participate,” Jallah says. The Center’s programming enables community members to independently navigate the city, addressing the isolation often experienced by elderly immigrants and refugees. 

The Center’s inclusion campaign calls on the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging to re-direct funding to community-led organizations that meet the specific needs of aging African and Caribbean immigrants and refugees, who face discrimination accessing health care and other services available to seniors. The campaign hopes to ensure that the “10,000 aging African and Caribbean immigrants are treated like other aging Philadelphians,” says Jallah.

Members of the Agape African Senior Center advocate for their needs at the city level by serving on the newly formed African Caribbean Advisory Body as well as the Mayor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs. “Our community already has organizations,” says Jallah. “Our community should be empowered to serve our people and our refugees.” 

Grantee Profile: Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance

Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance members celebrate in April after the first City Council hearing on a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights

“I thank Bread & Roses for their generous support, which we will use to keep fighting for our rights to win respect, dignity, equality, and identity through our domestic workers’ bill of rights.”

Maria del Carmen Diaz, PWDA member

Domestic workers have been excluded from nearly all the landmark federal laws protecting workers’ rights. There is no minimum wage for domestic work, nor any guarantee of time-and-a-half pay for overtime. Housekeepers, nannies, and caregivers don’t have a right to unionize. But in recent decades, domestic workers across the country have organized to win victories that make their work safer and their lives richer. Now, a new organization, the Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance (PDWA), joins the national fight.

PDWA members at a press conference outside City Hall

“We represent the 16,000 domestic workers in Philadelphia,” says Maria del Carmen Diaz, a member of PDWA. The worker-led organization launched as a joint project of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice and the National Domestic Workers Alliance late last summer after a yearlong discernment process. They received a grant from Bread & Roses’ Immigration Justice Fund this spring.

Nicole Kligerman, director of PDWA, explains their strategy: “We’re bringing together women workers across language, race, and immigration status and fighting for a domestic workers’ bill of rights that will expand worker protections. We’re pushing a big campaign in city hall, but we’re also building community and developing leaders among domestic workers who are by nature of their work isolated.”

The majority of domestic workers are women of color, and many are immigrants. Diaz is one of 15 workers on the organizing committee. “On behalf of all of us, I thank Bread & Roses for their generous support, which we will use to keep fighting for our rights to win respect, dignity, equality, and identity through our domestic workers’ bill of rights.”