Announcing the Inaugural DMV Power Cohort

Posted on January 13, 2020 | Leni Dworkis, Weissberg Foundation

A new year is often a time of transformation as we re-evaluate ourselves, critically examine our place in the world, and imagine a better future. This year promises to bring many changes, especially for our region. With organizations continuing to bolster racial equity initiatives and lift up policy and advocacy agendas that center the experiences of people of color, I am hopeful that with 2020 will come an important culture shift – one that more openly acknowledges history, examines systems and institutions, and makes room for more intersectional voices in addressing the long-standing impacts of racism and promoting sustainable and equitable efforts to build and share power.

At the 2019 Washington Regional Association of Grant Makers (WRAG) annual meeting, we heard a discouraging statistic that was shared in this year’s Our Region, Our Giving report: “collectively, less than 3% of overall giving in the region was reported going to organizations led by leaders of color.” Power building by and of people of color is central the Weissberg Foundation’s Disrupt, Move, Voice Power Fund (DMV Power), and with our updated mission to “actively dismantle structural racism by continuously building access, opportunity, and power so that all can thrive,” we are excited to announce our 2020-2024 DMV Power grantee cohort.

The ten incredible organizations that make up the inaugural DMV Power cohort not only have people of color in their chief executive roles but are also meaningfully and majority staffed and governed by people of color. While each grantee partner takes a unique approach to how they disrupt, move, and voice power, all are making transformational progress in advancing racial equity and building power in communities of color through intentional advocacy, organizing, and/or civic engagement strategies that will have a profound impact on 2020 and beyond.

2020-2024 DMV Power Fund Grantee Partners

  • Black Swan Academy (DC) creates a pipeline of Black civic youth leaders – by giving them a comprehensive set of tools needed to succeed in life and become active social catalysts in their communities – that are committed to improving self, as well as their communities, by promoting racial equity and engaging in youth-led advocacy.
  • Bread for the City (DC) seeks justice through community organizing and public advocacy for DC residents with low-income and, through addressing racism as a major cause of poverty, empowers them to determine the future of their own communities.
  • CASA de Maryland (VA) works to create a more just society by building power and improving the quality of life in working class and immigrant communities in the hopes of achieving a future where people stand in their own power, families live free from discrimination and fear, and diverse communities thrive as they work with their partners to achieve full human rights for all.
  • Diverse City Fund (DC) envisions a just DC in which communities of color explicitly benefit and flourish, systems are equitable and sustainable, and those most impacted by injustice determine solutions and instigate change.
  • Identity, Inc. (MD) creates opportunities for Latino youth and their families to reach their highest potential and envisions a just and equitable society that nurtures all youth and is enriched by their contributions.
  • Justice for Muslims Collective (DC) is building a world where radical inclusion leads to collective liberation for Muslim communities and beyond through dismantling institutional and structural Islamophobia through raising political consciousness and shifting narratives, community empowerment, organizing and healing, and building alliances across movements.
  • NAKASEC-VA (VA) organizes Korean and Asian Americans to achieve social, economic, and racial justice in pursuit of a future in which low- and middle-income immigrants, people of color, and marginalized communities are working together as change-makers.
  • New Virginia Majority Education Fund, Tenants and Workers United, and Virginia Student Power Network (VA) utilize large-scale civic engagement, issue advocacy, community organizing, and strategic communication to create powerful multi-issue, multi-racial movement to transform Virginia.
  • ONE DC (DC) exercises political strength to create and preserve racial and economic equity in Shaw and the District and envision the nation’s capital as a place where low-income, poor, and immigrant communities are organized, educated, and trained to take action toward social and economic equity.
  • Progressive Maryland Education Fund (MD) shapes a society and economy that works for all Marylanders, with an emphasis on traditionally marginalized groups – low- and moderate-income residents, people of color, women, LGBTQ+, and all oppressed and exploited people – through grassroots organizing, public education, and legislative advocacy.

For DMV Power, we sought grantee partners that:

  • Actively center the voices and lived experiences of people of color in ways that build power and advance racial equity though intentionally creating leadership opportunities and other avenues for engagement.
  • Strategically use advocacy, organizing, and civic engagement to build power and promote equity, visibility, and inclusion for people of color while also advancing system-level reforms that reject racism, disrupt white supremacist narratives, and move toward the ultimate goal of liberation for people of color.
  • Have deep knowledge of their target population(s) and expansive understanding of issue area(s) through highlighting the multitudes of lived experience as expertise and highlighting the importance of history and culture in communities of color.
  • Advance a societal infrastructure that works to shift hearts and minds to advance racial equity in systems and institutions by centering community and shifting narratives in advancing reform.
  • Successfully achieve their goals through a broad sphere of influence among community and decision makers, accomplishing short-term initiatives which advance a long-term strategy, and demonstrating meaningful impact in advancing racial equity.

We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to build strong partnerships with these ten organizations, but also want to acknowledge the hard work and incredible efforts of the many organizations who took time to submit letters of intent for DMV Power. We also thank our colleagues in philanthropy for their guidance as we worked to shape this initiative, and our amazing community reviewers – Sarah Flores Shannon, field coordinator for Virginia LAN at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; Taneasha White, program manager at Progress VA; and Tony Burns, advancing advocacy efforts at Miriam’s Kitchen, GW University, Whiteman Walker Health and board member of the Consumer Health Foundation – who helped us make more informed decisions.

Leni Dworkis is the program manager at the Weissberg Foundation, where she provides robust programmatic support to Grantee partners seeking to advance social, racial, and criminal justice. Prior to joining the foundation in 2019, she served in research and programmatic capacities at the Vera Institute of Justice where she contributed to strategic development initiatives, measurement and evaluation efforts, and exploratory investigation around reaching and serving under-resourced and marginalized crime victims. Her long-standing passion for working with and giving voice to underserved populations has fueled her interests in breaking down oppressive barriers and rebuilding social structures to better meet the needs of all individuals.

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