It’s been an agonizing last month — from the leaked Supreme Court opinion pointing to the end Roe v. Wade, to devastating mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, the latter by an avowed white supremacist. We’ve seen the lack of change from powerful institutions and a frightening right-wing backlash. But when I shift my gaze to the work of grassroots movements for social justice, I’m overwhelmed by all that’s been accomplished in recent years — from expanding mutual aid networks to community-led education spaces to new collectives led by Black and brown folks, disabled people, youth, and more. Yes, this is a daunting time that has tested progressive movements. And yet the ethic that called SJF to fund social justice organizing remains true: that genuine change will never come from powerful institutions, but from the margins. We are seeing it at work.
As difficult as this moment has been, we’ve gained knowledge and momentum that feels renewing and exciting. For SJF, there is a feeling of transformation in the air as we build on deep, challenging conversations towards a new strategic plan and a strengthened commitment to resourcing grassroots movements in the Northwest.
SJF kicked off 2022 by making the third and final round of grants for the Displaced Tenants Fund to nine organizations working toward just, affordable housing in Seattle. The Displaced Tenants for Accountability and Transparency (DTAT), an organizing collective of tenants turned housing justice activists, came together with institutional support from SJF staff and consultants to make grants ranging from $150,000 to $480,000.
One of those grantees is InterIm CDA (ICDA), a community-based organization with SJF roots reaching back to the 1980s and 90s. ICDA is using the DTAT grant to facilitate a participatory action research project led by low income tenants and other groups at risk of displacement in Seattle’s Chinatown International District, which will guide the design and development of two upcoming housing projects. Queer the Land, a QTBIPOC-led collective project that resists displacement and gentrification in Seattle, was another recipient of the 2022 DTAT grants, building on their legacy as an original grantee of the first round of 2015 DTAT grants. Their trajectory over that time shows the power of strategic funding to support transformative work at critical moments.
In May SJF also announced the 2022 Base Building awardees, organizations receiving our largest grants of $250,000 over 5 years. An amazing committee of past SJF grantees, activists, artists, educators, and organizers came together to determine the 2022 grantees. We believe that these grants have the potential to transform organizing in our region, providing long-term funding for collectives to focus on strategies that will grow their grassroots base, nurture new leaders, and build their power to engage in the struggles and victories ahead.
Such transformation is also what’s playing out within SJF. For us, 2022 has been a year of stabilization, healing, revitalization, and transformation.
Over the last 4 months, Social Justice Fund has gone deep in our latest strategic planning process. Spearheaded by our four current directors, the plan is taking shape and will be ready to roll out to our community in the fall!
In the meantime, we’ve begun tackling challenges that often afflict social justice organizations like SJF and which have been exacerbated by the pandemic, including exhaustion and burnout, isolation, grief, and health issues. At the end of 2021 we decided to give ourselves a full month of paid vacation to focus on rest. Then in March we announced an official shift to a 4-day work week. These changes have been ushered through by our wonderful Interim Executive Director Valériana Chikoti-Bandua Estes who quickly realized the need to center staff and community wellness upon arriving at SJF.
Finally, we’re in the midst of a full reboot of our organizational values, honing in on seven new, radical values that will ground our work in the years ahead!
Of course all of this internal work doesn’t mean that we’re letting up on the fundamental work of SJF: donor organizing and moving money to grassroots community organizations.We have three giving cycles for 2022: the 2022 Rural Community Organizing Grant focused on Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming; the 2022 Queer Justice Momentum Giving Project launching in the summer; and a Native-Led Organizing Grant Panel launching in the fall. These projects, along with our rolling Rapid Response and Seed grants, will help SJF move over $5 million in grants over the course of this year!<
As part of the spring campaign, our goal is to raise $100,000 in general operating funds which will allow us to focus on fundraising efforts to bolster grantmaking over the summer and into the fall.
We’re grateful for our members and supporters who allow this work to grow and flourish. Make your annual contribution to SJF now and renew your commitment to redistribution, community organizing, and transformation.
Burke Stansbury, SJF Development Director
PS: SJF will soon be announcing the details of our Fall Celebration on October 1. But here’s an insider preview: we’re planning an hybrid event – virtual as well as in-person at a beautiful space in Seattle. We hope that you’re able to join us!