Our Evolution to Building DMV Power

Posted on September 4, 2019 | Leni Dworkis, Weissberg Foundation

With political gaps widening across parties, economic gaps deepening within communities, and social gaps solidifying among individuals, we are at a critical time in examining race and racism in the United States. Our current climate yields polarizing notions of race and ethnicity, which directly combat the pursuit of equity in this country; heighten tensions around identity, experience, and socio-cultural positioning; and highlight the pervasive and chronic effects of historical oppression. Despite this, the fight for racial equity is strong, unapologetic, and unwavering – people are on the ground working to disrupt power by challenging and fighting against structural inequities, move power through strategic engagement and mobilization of community, and voice power in building truthful and inclusive narratives about people of color and their lived experiences.

In recognizing the impact of these efforts and with a deep commitment to supporting work that helps build the pillars of social justice in America, the Weissberg Foundation is pleased to introduce our new program area: Disrupt, Move, Voice Power (DMV Power).

Setting the Stage

Two years ago, the Foundation acknowledged the urgent need to explicitly and intentionally unveil the structural racism plaguing our region and our residents, as well as the work being done to dismantle it. Thus, in 2017, we launched our Reframing <Washington> program to explore and invest in how power, opportunity, and potential were being built and distributed in the greater Washington region. The program’s Empowerment Fund has supported ten organizations in the DC region tackling racism head-on through advocacy, organizing, and civic engagement to build the economic, political, and social power of those most negatively impacted by racism.

As the exploratory Empowerment Fund winds down, we see a need to evolve the initial Reframing <Washington> program into one that will:

    1. More boldly and explicitly invest in the strengthening of an infrastructure and culture of power building to advance racial equity.
    2. Expand beyond the greater Washington region to include the entire commonwealth of Virginia, where state-wide and state-level advocacy, organizing, and civic engagement are critical to local change.
    3. Provide larger grants across a longer time period to support grantees in more sustainably building capacity internally and effecting change externally.

Disrupting, Moving, and Voicing Power

Our new DMV Power program is grounded in our learning from the Reframing <Washington> Empowerment Fund and sharpens our focus explicitly on building the power of those who have historically been under-resourced in and underserved by social, economic, and political institutions. In particular, the Fund will explore the reclamation of power for those most directly impacted by racism and challenge structures that continually oppress people of color.

Power-building is the central tenant of change when it comes to racial justice in the US, and with building power comes the essential centering of communities of color in conversations about and movements for equity.

Therefore, the Weissberg Foundation will fund, amplify, build the capacity of, and support collaboration among organizations and efforts building power of people of color in the District, suburban Maryland, and Virginia who are multiply impacted by political, economic, and social systems in order to advance racial equity.

It is our hope that through DMV Power, by supporting those who work to dismantle the systems and institutions that uphold structural racism, we contribute to building a strong and sustainable culture and infrastructure of community power to advance racial equity.

What We Stand For

DMV Power is dedicated to:

  • Combatting systemic oppression, in which racism is perpetuated by social systems and institutions that are structurally inequitable;
  • Recognizing the lived experience of community members experiencing racism by allowing them to speak first-hand about the ways in which their lives intersect with racial injustices;
  • Highlighting that racism is not one-dimensional, but instead that people of color live multi-issue lives in which inequity exists across overlapping and compounded issues such as housing equity, food scarcity, educational in opportunity, involvement in the criminal justice system, and a lack of/under-employment, among others;
  • Understanding that identities are intersectional in nature and that taken together components of identity reflect a spectrum of power and privilege along social strata such as race, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, religion, etc.;
  • Underscoring the weight of historical oppression experienced by communities of color which speaks to the normalized and chronic exclusion and inequity that is intergenerational; and
  • Promoting an anti-racist stance that intentionally opposes racism and pushes for racial equity through actions and belief systems.

DMV Power Fund Grant Opportunity

We see active, inclusive, and representative advocacy, organizing, and civic engagement as key strategies for building power. As such, the Weissberg Foundation expects to make 8 new grant awards to organizations doing state-wide and/or state level work across the commonwealth of Virginia or local and/or regional work in the District. Each award will amount to $35,000 each year for four years, spanning January 2020-January 2024. In addition to these new awards, the Foundation will sustain two Maryland legacy grants from our original Reframing <Washington> Empowerment FundIdentity and Progressive Maryland.

Learn More

In addition to checking out our new DMV Power page, where you can find our request for proposals and frequently asked questions about the fund, we welcome you to join us on September 10, 2019 for an informational webinar about this grant opportunity. This webinar will orient prospective grantees to the program, application process, and review process; and interested applicants will have an opportunity to pose questions about DMV Power to Weissberg Foundation staff.

Help Us Spread the Word

If the DMV Power Fund sounds like a fit for your efforts, we encourage you to learn more about our application process. We would also appreciate your help in spreading the word about DMV Power with others you think might be a good fit! Find and tag us on Twitter @WeissbergFdn and #DMV_Power.

We welcome any questions potential applicants may have. Please reach out to our program manager Leni Dworkis at ldworkis@weissbergfoundation.org with any additional questions.


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.