I’m not going to lie: these last few years have been difficult for Social Justice Fund, as well as for many of our grantees and
partners. It’s been a challenging time politically, with the right continuing to distort, sabotage, and manipulate power; the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent every day; and an unrelenting pandemic has left many of us feeling isolated and exacerbated already tough economic conditions, especially for those already struggling.
And there have been additional challenges for SJF at the organizational level: internal conflict and harm, staff transitions leading to stress and lower capacity, grappling with anti-Blackness, and the effects of remote work and the inability to convene in-person.
If you follow our work closely you’ve probably heard us talk about our “transition process” and maybe you’ve even wondered how that’s going. The truth is, we haven’t shared as much as we’d like in part because we’re still in the thick of it, still learning the lessons and preparing to share more in 2022.
At the same time, there are new and exciting things happening at SJF. Earlier this year we concluded three hugely successful Giving Projects:
|A Grantee Story from Mady Sandoval of the Foundation for Youth Resiliency and Engagement in (FYRE) in Omak, WA
“We said, ‘What would it look like to start a youth center that’s run by brown people and serves young people and it does everything?’ Because we have some resources here, but they’re white-led and they do not connect or understand cultural responsiveness — those programs don’t work for our young people. Thanks to the seed grant from Social Justice Fund NW and two other very small grants, we were able to open our doors with $15,000 in our account and just a dream.
“We connected young people to larger conversations and demanded a sport at the table in local, regional, and statewide conversations. [Now] we work with over 300 young people from across the county and we do anything and everything. We tell community members ‘If you see that your kid is having a hard time and you can’t identify what it is and they can’t identify what it is, send them here anyway because we want to build that relationship and get to know them and have them feel supported.’ We’re nearing our one year anniversary, and it’s been incredible.
“We’re so thankful for the people who took a chance on us. I was like, ‘I have a plan and I grew up here. I promise I’ll make it come to fruition, but I just need you to believe me.’ SJF was one of those. We’re so happy to be here, so happy for our young people and ourselves and this collective healing and generational healing that we’re working on together.”
Thank you to Mady and FYRE for the beautiful testimonial! You can support FYRE’s work here.
We’ve also been doing more political education and creating spaces for SJF members to connect by hosting workshops and trainings. Just this fall we organized:
We see these workshops as a way to bring a radical analysis around philanthropy and giving to a broader audience, changing the way people show up as donors and bolstering the broader ecosystem of funding for movement building organizations.
We’re also preparing to take a month-long organization pause in December and January, helping us gear up for an in-depth strategic planning process in early 2022 that will bring new directions, structures, and programs to SJF.
And there’s another exciting recent development at SJF: the hiring of our new Interim Executive Director, Valériana Chikoti-Bandua Estes! As she wrote in her welcome letter about our ongoing work to address anti-Blackness: “My hope is that during my time as an Interim ED I can be supportive to the SJF team and examine more deeply how SJF can actively interrupt white supremacist tendencies…and examine internal structures that we need to enhance, scale back or potentially do away with, all while making rooms for an abundance of Black liberation based actions, practices, and movements.
Aside from Valériana joining the team, the highlight of SJF’s fall was our Annual Celebration that consisted of two events in late September and early October: our Movement Solidarity Grantee Panel and our Solidarity Toward Liberation evening celebration. At the Grantee Panel, we basked in the wisdom of Black Liberation Collective, ID in Boise, ShelterJH in Jackson Hole, Lavender Rights Project in Seattle, Momentum Alliance in Portland, and the Foundation for Youth Resiliency and Engagement (FYRE) in Omak, WA. You can watch the full panel recording here.
As we near the end of the another challenging pandemic year, SJF staff are feeling grateful for the incredible commitment of our community toward our work and the broader movement. Many of you first came to SJF as participants or donors to a Giving Project; you were asked to make a gift that was personally meaningful to you and you came through in a way that bolstered grassroots community organizing in our region. You’ve told us that, for you, giving to SJF is more than checking a box — it’s a political act. We can’t thank you enough for your belief in us and the movements we serve.
Stepping up to donate to our annual fund now continues that meaningful commitment. If you haven’t yet made a donation to SJF in 2021, please consider doing so before the end of the year.
Burke Stansbury, Development Director
PS: In the spirit of SJF’s social justice giving principles, I also want to encourage you to donate directly to our grantees; fellow NW justice funders like Potlatch Fund, Seeding Justice, Pride Foundation, Na’ah Illahee Fund, and the Black United Fund of Oregon; and one of the many mutual aid funds that have emerged over the last few years.