Posted on January 19, 2018
Advancing racial equity through advocacy, organizing, and civic engagement
Last September, the Weissberg Foundation issued a request for proposals for the inaugural round of our Reframing <Washington> Empowerment Fund grants. Since that time, the urgency we’ve felt to support organizations working to advance racial equity in the region has only grown. On a daily basis, we learn of racial injustices negatively impacting not just the day-to-day existence but the long-term prospects—educational, employment, economic, housing, health—of people of color.
At the same time, through this RFP process and ongoing learning, we have deepened our knowledge about and developed relationships with organizations and individuals working aggressively to advance racial equity in the region. This has led us to grow increasingly hopeful about how economic, social, and political power and opportunity can be built and redistributed in our region to ensure that all can thrive, regardless of race.
It is therefore with both great urgency and unrelenting hope that we announce these 2018 Empowerment Fund grantees:
- Critical Exposure teaches youth of color in D.C. how to fight for educational justice through organizing and visual storytelling.
- Diverse City Fund nurtures community leaders and grassroots projects that are acting to transform DC into a more just, vibrant place to live.
- Empower DC enhances, improves, and promotes the self-advocacy of low and moderate-income DC residents and builds their collective power in order to bring about sustained improvements in quality of life.
- Identity’s Padres Latinos Conectados program expands Latino civic engagement through the creation of a formal, culturally, and linguistically competent parent leadership-training program.
- Justice For Muslims Collective combats institutional and structural Islamophobia in the DC metro area.
- Many Languages One Voice (MLOV) organizes DC’s immigrant youth and adults to fight for systemic changes that can positively impact their lives, particularly in the areas of education, labor and language access.
- National Korean American Service & Education Consortium – Virginia (NAKASEC-VA) organizes Korean and Asian Americans to achieve social, economic, and racial justice; project a progressive voice; and promote the full participation of Korean and Asian Americans within the larger society.
- ONE DC exercises political strength to create and preserve racial and economic equity in Shaw and the District.
- Progressive Maryland provides statewide leadership and coordination in a range of national, state, and regional campaigns, leading the fight for progressive change in Maryland.
- Young Women’s Project builds the leadership and power of young people so they can transform DC institutions to expand rights and opportunities for DC youth.
Though each of these organizations takes its own unique approach to advancing racial equity, all share a deep commitment to changing policies, practices, and attitudes so that a person’s race does not determine their outcomes. By centering their work on the communities they seek to advance and intentionally employing advocacy, organizing, and/or civic engagement strategies, we believe they are well positioned to advance the systems-level changes needed to achieve racial equity.
We are grateful to these grantees for the work they do, the time they took to apply for a grant, and how generously they share their expertise and insights with us and others. We are equally grateful to the many organizations who applied for but did not receive grants from us. Though we were unable to fund everyone, we believe all who applied are doing meaningful work to strengthen our communities and advance equity. We hope to continue to build relationships with all these organizations, as well as those we’ve yet to meet.
We also deeply appreciate the three phenomenal community members who served as guest grant reviewers–Felicia Eaves, who has worked extensively to advance social justice in Washington, DC and nationally; Cat Frost, community engagement manager at Forum Theatre in Silver Spring, MD; and Saul Reyes, executive director of BU-GATA in Arlington, VA. Though the Weissberg Foundation board is committed to growing more representative of our community, we’ve still got a way to go. Inviting community members to join our board and staff in grant review processes brings different perspectives, expertise, and experience to our discussions; it ultimately leads to better grantmaking decisions.
Since the foundation is committed to advancing equity not just by funding organizations, but also by amplifying voices we believe need to be heard, over the course of this grant year, we will share updates about this inaugural year of the Empowerment Fund. Next month, foundation program associate Corinne Goudreault will share some of our learnings from the grant RFP process, including the many two-way feedback calls we’ve had with those applicants we did not fund. And this spring, we’ll start sharing stories from our grantees as a way to inform and inspire more action to advance racial equity in our region.
Are there other efforts we should know about? Let us know!
Hanh Le is the executive director of the Weissberg Foundation, where she oversees strategy development, stakeholder engagement, grantmaking, and operations. Prior to joining the foundation, she was the chief program officer at Exponent Philanthropy, where she led educational programming, content development, and internal learning efforts. Hanh has directed training, grant, and technical assistance programs for KaBOOM!, Community Technology Centers’ Network, and the Peace Corps.