Posted on November 8, 2019 | Farah Fosse and Tia Watkins, Diverse City Fund
Every few weeks, the Weissberg Foundation features a story from one of our Reframing <Washington> Empowerment Fund grantee partners to shine a light on their critical work. Learn more about these powerful organizations by visiting their websites.
Diverse City Fund (DC Fund) nurtures community leaders and grassroots projects that are acting to transform D.C. into a more just, vibrant place to live. Through small grants to grassroots social justice projects led by people of color and a community-led grantmaking process, DC Fund works toward a vision for a D.C. that is as rich in its present diversity as in its history, grounded in respect for the work that has brought so many neighborhood institutions into being, and with a readiness to support a new generation of community leaders.
Founded in 2010, DC Fund is a grantmaking organization dedicated to racial justice that invests financial and social capital for social justice. We fund and support efforts in D.C., led by and rooted in communities of color to realize liberation, spark solutions, organize against oppression of all kinds, and create systemic change. Through our grantmaking we fund projects that have less access to traditional funding sources. Since our inception, we have recognized that smaller community initiatives — often volunteer-powered — have few options for funding, but it is often these very projects that work to build institutions by and for communities with the least access to resources.
Projects, organizations, coalitions, and alliances are selected for funding by a grantmaking team made up entirely of people of color who are activists, advocates, and champions for their communities and rooted in D.C. In late October, the Grantmaking Team met and reviewed the latest batch of applications. This year, between the spring and fall grant rounds, 148 applications were thoughtfully reviewed and 44 grants totaling $200,000 were awarded. Of those 44 grant awards, 27 represented brand new grantees, groups, or projects that had never before received funding from DC Fund. These projects have a focus on at least one, but more often multiple, of our priority areas: advocacy and organizing, mobilization, healing, and cultural work that promotes liberation. The grantees are doing grassroots, community change work that centers the most impacted people – returning citizens, immigrants, queer and transgender people of color, and Black communities. Many of DC Fund’s grantees are working in communities impacted by state violence, repression, and disinvestment to create a vision of the world they want to see and building the power to put that vision into action.
One of these grantees is the ONE DC Black Workers Center Chorus. The Black Workers Center Chorus voices the concerns of D.C. tenants, workers, and their families through music. The group of dynamic and inspirational performers draw attention to the need for living wage jobs and safe affordable housing for local residents who are being threatened with poor health and safety conditions, as well as unemployment and homelessness. Funding from DC Fund will support the Black Workers Center Chorus in their goal of expanding this healing and liberatory work by encouraging more affected people to share their stories, songs, and poems at their Open Mics at Housing Sites, a series of programs at public housing and rental housing complexes where the residents are threatened with displacement. Not only is DC Fund honored to support this group, but we were honored to have them perform at our most recent grantee celebration as well!
This past grant round was incredibly significant for us because it marked $1 million in total grantmaking for Diverse City Fund! From our first grant round of $45,000 in the fall of 2011 to now, we are astonished by the continued growth of the Fund over the past 16 grant rounds. But, we also know that there is so much more to do in order to ensure that D.C. is the vibrant, just city we all envision. In an effort to provide increased and deepened support to community organizations, the DC Fund has also made significant progress over the last year on our own organizational development. DC Fund has gone from an organization led solely by a volunteer Board of Instigators (BOI) to one with a full-time staff member. In May, we hired an operations manager, Tia Watkins, meeting a significant benchmark in our first strategic goal. Tia has already played a pivotal role in connecting with grantees, coordinating the Grantmaking Team, supporting committee work, and serving as a hub between the BOI, its work groups, and grantees. Additionally, during the next year, we expect to further increase our support to grantees by developing a capacity building program that will support grantees in reaching their goals and developing their full potential.
Visit our website to read more about all the grantees: www.diversecityfund.org/grants/grantees/.
Farah Fosse is a member of the DC Fund’s Board of Instigators. Farah’s work focuses on supporting community organizing to preserve affordable housing and protect tenant rights in the District.
Tia Watkins serves as Diverse City Fund’s first operations manager. Tia is a D.C. native, who studied on the West Coast and returned home to work in education and community engagement.