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24 posts categorized "Immigration"

5 Questions for...Cecilia Clarke, President and CEO, Brooklyn Community Foundation

December 01, 2016

As grassroots movements like Black Lives Matter have emerged in recent years, the issue of racial equity has come into sharper focus.

In 2014, the Brooklyn Community Foundation launched an effort to engage more than a thousand Brooklyn residents and leaders in envisioning the foundation's role in realizing "a fair and just Brooklyn" — an effort that in 2015 earned BCF the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Impact Award for its community-led approach. Earlier this month, the foundation announced that, in alignment with its commitment to advancing racial equity across all aspects of its work, it would divest from industries that disproportionately harm people of color.

PND spoke with Cecilia Clarke, the foundation's president and CEO, about BCF's focus on racial justice, its decision to divest its portfolio of industries that disproportionately harm people of color, and the post-election role of philanthropy in advancing racial equity.

Cecilia_clarke_for_PhilanTopicPhilanthropy News Digest: Before joining BCF, you founded and led the Sadie Nash Leadership Project. Tell us a little about the project and what it sought to accomplish.

Cecilia Clarke: Sadie Nash Leadership Project is a feminist social justice organization for low-income young women in all five boroughs of New York City and Newark, New Jersey. I founded it in 2001 in my dining room here in Brooklyn, and today it's a nonprofit with a $2 million annual budget serving over two thousand young women annually. One of the organization's working assumptions is that young women are ready to be leaders in their communities right now, and Sadie Nash is there to help shape that leadership through what it calls its "sisterhood model" — providing a safe space, active leadership opportunities, education, and hands-on mentorship and role modeling by leaders who look like the young women themselves.

At Sadie Nash, young women serve on staff and on the board as real voting members, and — in addition to the organization's flagship summer institute program — participate in afterschool programs, fellowships, and internships. And in everything they do for and through the organization, they are paid for their leadership, because it underscores the concept that they are leaders today. Sadie Nash is not training these young women for some hoped-for future; it's important that, given their identity and their experience, we all understand that they can be a force for social change in their communities right now.

PND: In announcing its intention to divest from industries that disproportionately harm people of color, BCF specifically mentioned private prisons, gun manufacturers, and predatory lenders. What kind of impact have these industries had on communities of color and low-income communities in Brooklyn and beyond? And how do you see the divestment process playing out?

CC: To back up a bit, when I first came to BCF, it was a foundation that had only recently transitioned from being a private bank foundation to a community foundation, and it hadn't done a lot of community engagement work. Sadie Nash was very committed to engaging its constituency, and I brought that experience with me to the foundation. So, pretty early on we launched a community engagement initiative called Brooklyn Insights through which we spoke with more than a thousand Brooklynites. And what came out of that process was that there were very clear racially biased policies and practices and traditions in the community that the people who spoke with us believed had helped create and reinforce many of the other issues we were discussing, particularly around young people and criminal justice. As a community foundation, we felt we had to be responsive to what we were hearing and to look at the issues that oppress communities of color — which make up 70 percent of Brooklyn's population.

To that end, we created a Racial Justice Lens as an overarching focus for every aspect of the foundation's work and management, not just our programming or grantmaking. And that meant we needed to look at our investments. We decided on the three areas of divestment you mentioned after multiple conversations, but I want to make clear that we are at the beginning of the process, not at the end. We chose those three areas to begin with because they were very closely related to our program areas and our mission, especially our focus on young people and racial justice. Given our commitment to youth justice, the private prison industry was an obvious area of divestment. Gun violence is still an enormous problem in Brooklyn, with a huge number of guns being trafficked into the borough, so we felt very strongly about gun manufacturers. And looking at the significant economic inequity and lack of opportunity in our neighborhoods, we saw that check cashing and other predatory financial services were making a profit off of inequity. All three of these industries profit from racial injustice and racial inequity, and we felt very strongly that we cannot be a foundation that stands for racial justice and allow these industries to remain in our financial portfolio.

The foundation doesn't invest in individual stocks, so it isn't as if we remove private prisons and replace it with X. Our investments are managed by Goldman Sachs, and Goldman chooses different fund managers with various portfolios of stocks and different investments. So what our divestment means is that we've signaled to our fund managers that these three industries cannot be included in our portfolio, and our finance committee is working very closely with the team over there to make sure that happens. The restrictions we've communicated to them work like proactive insurance to ensure that, going forward, our portfolio will be "clean" of these investments. In a way, the stars sort of lined up for us, because Goldman is getting more and more requests for socially responsible investment choices and has created a new department to do just that. So that's an instrument we can take advantage of while further promoting conversations about aligning our investments with our mission.

PND: Since joining BCF in 2013, you've led efforts to engage local residents through the Brooklyn Insights initiative, you've spearheaded the adoption of a Racial Justice Lens, and you've overseen the launch of initiatives focused on low-income communities and communities of color, including the Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project, a Racial Equity Fund, and the Brooklyn Girls of Color Fund. Are you beginning to see results from those projects and initiatives?

CC: We've certainly seen the impact of the Racial Justice Lens, in that racial justice is now very much at the center and core of our work. We've held ongoing trainings for staff and board members, we've become much better educated about the issue involved, and we've created a Racial Justice Advisory Council comprised of local and national leaders who have been very helpful in helping us define racial justice, think about racial justice advocacy, and shape the process.

The Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project also has been successful. BCF was a catalyst in getting the city's Department of Education to roll out restorative justice programs, which have been shown to be successful in reducing suspensions and disparities in suspensions for students of color and students with special needs. We have four nonprofit grantees working in three high schools and one middle school, and we've already seen a positive impact, not only on the lives of individual students but also in terms of the leadership at these schools and in their communities. We're working with Professor Anne Gregory at Rutgers University-Newark on a four-year evaluation that will gauge the program's efficacy in real time and generate best practices for models of restorative justice. She can already point to reductions in the number of suspensions, but there also are more nuanced results around how people are starting to think about restorative justice that isn't just incident- or reduction-based. For example, lessons learned from the implementation process include the importance of a comprehensive vision of restorative justice that recognizes the humanity and individuality of students and educators; "all in" support from every segment of the school community; prioritizing community-building aspects of the programming; and investment in capacity building and long-term sustainability. At the same time, the DOE, the schools, and our grantees are in constant communication and learning from one another about what works best.

The other two initiatives are brand new. The Racial Equity Fund was launched as a way to engage and educate donors, with the hope of building a significant resource in the form of a permanent or perpetual fund, as opposed to an endowment. And the Brooklyn Girls of Color Fund is still in the research and planning stage. Our thinking before the election was to address the increase in the rate of young women who are incarcerated or confined in alternative or community facilities, although it's now possible that we'll explore other areas of support. We hope to have a plan by mid-2017.

PND: Advancing equity has become a major grantmaking focus for a number of large private foundations, including the Ford, Kellogg, and Weingart foundations. As a community foundation, do you have to take a different approach to that kind of work than a large national foundation?

CC: As a community foundation, we're placed-based by definition, and so we have more flexibility in that we can directly engage and educate donors and do more around advocacy. At the same time, having been created from the legacy of a private foundation, we're not a typical community foundation that's focused on donor services, and because we're young, we're not as tied to a long list of grantees, which gives us a lot of  flexibility. That said, we see ourselves very much aligned with a growing movement among community foundations to rethink what they can be for their communities and to refocus on strategic work, including by engaging local residents directly. Community foundations offer a valuable perspective because they really are the experts on their local communities, and they can bring the voices and points of view of the people who are most in need to the table as the foundation works to develop solutions to various problems. I was inspired by what I learned about the concept of community leadership when I first came to BCF, and that led directly to Brooklyn Insights, which has led to further work with community engagement through our neighborhood strength programs and by directly engaging with our grantees.

We believe deeply in a bottom-up approach. At Sadie Nash, having the young women serve in the leadership of the organization itself taught me that the first-hand experience and expertise on the part of the constituencies you serve is what can and should guide an organization if it hopes to be effective. So when I got to BCF, I said, "Let's open our doors and speak to people in the community and gain expertise that way."

PND: How do you think the 2016 election changes the role of philanthropy in terms of advancing racial justice and equity?

CC: We just had our quarterly board meeting, and there certainly was a marked increase in the sense of urgency and in the board's support for advocacy. We were already planning to create a strategy around advocacy in 2017, and after the election results came in we knew we had to work even harder and invest even more. We already were looking at immigration as an area of focus — Brooklyn's population is 40 percent foreign-born, and it was very much aligned with our racial equity lens — so the board and staff worked together to launch an Immigration Rights Fund right away. The nice thing about community foundations is that they can galvanize the power of the collective. Donors are really looking for ways to be generous and take action in the face of what might happen under a Trump administration, and we can be a resource for them, engaging with and learning from them, and vice versa.

Since the election, we've been gratified to see an increase in support for many community organizations in Brooklyn. It also happens to coincide with our annual appeal, and we've updated our appeal letter because everyone kept asking, "What can I do?" We've also seen a surge in inquiries about volunteering, and we encourage people to look at our list of grantees, all of whom have been vetted through a pretty rigorous system here. We've also begun thinking about special grants in addition to our regular grantmaking; we've already put two in for board approval — one to an immigrant rights organization that works with Muslim communities, and one to an anti-violence organization that is getting many, many calls from Muslims who are being harassed. So we plan to increase our grantmaking to immigrant rights organizations both on an emergency basis and over the long term.

Across the philanthropic sector more broadly, I think we're going to see increased attention to advocacy and policy. Advocacy is work that philanthropy hasn't always been very comfortable with — it's a long-term game, and the results aren't always clear — but I think we're going to see a shift toward increased support for advocacy work. I also think there will be a lot of thinking around immigration and racial justice. One of the very first things BCF is going to do is to gather immigrant rights leaders who are immigrants themselves to learn from them, with the assumption that those who are on the ground and closest to the issue will be able to help us not only to identify problems but also solutions.

Kyoko Uchida

Weekend Link Roundup (June 25-26, 2016)

June 26, 2016

BREXITOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Civil Society

The Huffington Post's Eleanor Goldberg shares this tidbit: During the last presidential election cycle in 2012, more Americans gave to charity (59.7 percent)  than voted (53.6 percent). What's more, the U.S. lags most of its OECD peers when it comes to voter turnout. According to Patrick M. Rooney, associate dean for academic affairs and research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, that's because giving is seen as "more direct, more tangible,” whereas "there are lots of gaps between what any one politician promises and what he or she can deliver." 

Digital Divide

A study commissioned by the Wireless Broadband Alliance to mark World Wi-Fi Day (June 20) finds that nearly a quarter (23 percent) of the people in North America, which boasts the world's highest average monthly income, do not have a broadband connection.

Environment

On his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, Marc Gunther talks with Linda Greer, a senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council, about how NGOs can pressure companies to change, why environmental nonprofits should not take money from corporations, and how NRDC is working Ma Jun, China’s best-known environmental leader, to bring about change on the environmental front in that country.

Immigration

"The Brexit vote," writes Dara Lind in Vox, "has proven that anti-immigrant anxiety is an incredibly powerful force: powerful enough to, in certain circumstances, ensure an electoral victory. But the thing about running on people's anxieties is that once you get into office, you have...to alleviate them." Otherwise, you're just another failed politician "who couldn’t keep [his/her] promises."

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (August 2014)

September 02, 2014

Don't know what it's like where you are, but here in NYC someone forgot to tell Mother Nature that summer is over. Which is okay, because before it ends we want to make sure everyone has a chance to catch up with all the sizzling content we posted on PhilanTopic in August. Enjoy!

What have you read/watched/listened to lately that made you think, surprised you, or caused you to scratch your head? Share your finds in the comments section below....

How Philanthropy Can Help Unaccompanied Child Refugees Now

August 13, 2014

Headshot_daranee_petsodTen-year-old Lucinda sits alone in a courtroom awaiting her fate. In front of her is a judge who will decide whether she is deported to her native Honduras. At the opposite table sits an experienced attorney advocating for her deportation. Her case will be argued in English, a language she does not speak. No one sits beside her.

Lucinda does not have an attorney. She does not have anyone to testify to the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her caregiver in Honduras, or to the psychological impact of that trauma and the ordeal she endured during her perilous journey to the United States. She has no expert witness to describe the non-existent child protection system or the rampant violence against women and girls in her home country. The burden of proof for her asylum claim rests entirely on her ten-year-old shoulders.

Driven by violence in Central America and Mexico, an increasing number of children like Lucinda are seeking refuge in the United States. Between 80,000 and 120,000 children are expected to arrive in 2014 alone, up from 6,000 in 2011. A growing number of these new arrivals are children fleeing some of the world’s most dangerous countries — the murder rates in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador rank among the highest in the world; these are countries where it is not uncommon for gang violence to claim even the youngest lives. Many of these children have endured unspeakable forms of trauma on their journey north, and in immigration courts across the country, thousands of them — some as young as four and five — are appearing without legal representation.

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Weekend Link Roundup (July 19-20, 2014)

July 20, 2014

Headshot_stritch_garnerOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....

Education

In The Atlantic, Meredith Broussard, an assistant professor at Temple University, notes that asking poor school districts to give standardized tests inextricably tied to specific sets of books they can't afford to purchase is unfair to teachers, administrators, and students.

host of NPR's "Here & Now" program, Melinda Gates admitted that implementation of the Common Core, the national education guidelines in math and reading which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have strongly supported is the "tricky" part. "Let's be honest," Gates told Hobson.

The implementation of this is going to take some time. It has to be done carefully, it has to be done with teachers on board and they need to get some time before they can actually teach appropriately in the classroom. So you've got to make sure that the assessments and the consequences for teachers and students don’t happen immediately at the same time. And I think we got those two pieces overlapped and that’s why you got so much controversy....

Food Insecurity

A troubling article by Tracie McMillan in National Geographic finds that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2006 decision to track "food insecurity" instead of "hunger" -- "shifting the focus from whether people [are] literally starving to whether staying fed [is] a problem" -- has led to a startling new picture of America in which 1 in 6 Americans -- some 49 million people -- "can't count on not being hungry."

Giving

Is the primary role of charity to fight poverty? That's the question raised by Meredith Jones, president and CEO of the Maine Community Foundation, in a thought-provoking post on the MaineCF blog.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the "America Gives More Act" (H.R. 4719). As The Nonprofit Times reports, the package of five measures is designed to increase charitable giving by boosting the deductible limit of food donations from 10 percent to 15 percent and guaranteeing fair market value regardless of demand; allowing individuals age 70.5 or older to make gifts from their IRAs without incurring withdrawal penalties; allowing a deduction to be taken for a conservation land easement; allowing gifts made until the individual tax filing deadline (April 15) to be deducted from the prior year's taxes; and reducing the excise tax on the investments of large private foundations from a rate of 2 percent to 1 percent; the latter provision is not scheduled to take effect until 2015. No word as yet as to when the Senate plans to take up the bill.

Forbes reports that Warren Buffett had broken his personal giving record -- set last year -- with gifts of Berkshire Hathaway class B stock totaling $2.8 billion. The recipients of Buffett's generosity include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (16.59 million shares worth $2.1 billion), the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation (shares worth $215 million), and the Howard G. Buffett, Sherwood, and NoVo foundations — run by his children Howard, Susan and Peter, respectively — each of which received shares of BH stock worth $150 million.

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'Under Construction': SEARAC - Washington, D.C.

May 20, 2014

Under Construction is a multimedia online exhibit showcasing some of the best and brightest organizations working with males of color. The UC team of filmmakers, photographers, writers, and nonprofit experts worked directly with each of these organizations for several weeks. The collaborations yielded comprehensive portraits of the services men of color receive. Each profile features a short video, a photography exhibit, a visual program model, and a narrative essay detailing the efforts of these organizations.

Under Construction is a project of Frontline Solutions and was made possible through the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. For more profiles, click here.

He'd stayed calm as a cop dumped the contents of his backpack onto the sidewalk.

Scenes like this had already played out with most of his friends. Today he was riding his skateboard to school and running late, and now it was his turn to be the law's concern. He was told to take his shirt off so they could take photos of his tattoos. All the while he stood quietly, insisting that he wasn't in a gang, saying softly, "I don't belong to nobody," over and over. But when he saw the cop get angry and toss his skateboard into the street, he ran after it, picked it up, and came right back to the questions. At 14, that plank of wood and those wheels were the only place he felt good.

"What gang are you in?" the officer asked Anthony Hem, a son of Cambodian immigrants. How many times would he have to say it? "I don’t belong to nobody." Finally the officer went to his car, came out with a list of area gangs, and picked one near the top. "He just came up to me and said, 'Now you're on gang file. You're from this gang now, the Asian Boyz'," Hem says. The Asian Boyz are affiliated with the Crips. From now on, that's how the law would see him.

Under-construction-searac-2In a country where conversations about racial equality are focused heavily on African Americans and Latinos, the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center in Washington, D.C., serves a different population. SEARAC supports grassroots organizations that are looking out for kids like Hem, children of refugees who face many of the same issues other minority groups face, like poverty, violence, prejudice, racial profiling, and despair.

The national organization focuses intently on state and national policies and helps organizations like Khmer Girls and Boys in Action in Long Beach, California, and the One Love Movement in San Diego, relentlessly push lawmakers to reconsider policies like the one that put Hem in a gang file with no notification of his parents and no due process for having his name removed. The policy knowledge that SEARAC shares serves as a tool that smaller organizations integrate into their mentoring and cultural education activities. The collaboration helps foster young leaders who can speak for a refugee community still reeling from the effects of genocide and war.

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Mapping DACA: New Tool Tracks Philanthropy’s Investments in Program for Immigrant Youth

March 25, 2014

(Felecia Bartow is associate director at Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees.)

Headshot_Felecia_BartowIn June 2012, the Obama administration announced a new policy directive that provided the opportunity for nearly two million immigrant youth and young adults across the country to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This temporary form of relief offers eligible immigrants a possible reprieve from the threat of deportation and has the potential to encourage immigrant students to continue and/or complete their education and enter the formal economy.

As word of this historic opportunity spread, foundations from California to New York and Oregon to North Carolina responded. Despite differences in grantmaking and geographic priorities, these funders seized the opportunity to meet the pressing needs of DACA-eligible immigrants in communities across the country by supporting a wide range of implementation activities, including expanding outreach efforts and eligibility screenings, and helping applicants meet educational requirements and cover the cost of the $465 application fee.

The Foundation Center and Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees are pleased to announce the launch of the DACA Grants Map, which provides the first-ever comprehensive overview of related investments. This tool offers information on the geographic areas served by DACA-related grants and grant details such as dollar amount, duration, date issued, strategies
supported, and investment type.

Collectively, these investments have had a direct and measureable impact on the lives of the more than half a million immigrant youth and young adults living, working, and contributing in communities across the country. With support from the philanthropic sector, the vast majority of these young people applied for DACA successfully.

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[Video] 'Apple Forecast: Immigration Reform'

December 28, 2013

Kathryn Pyle, one of our favorite PhilanTopic contributors, also is an acomplished documentary filmmaker. Her latest effort, a very short documentary titled Apple Forecast: Immigration Reform, "gives voice," in Kathryn's words, to small farmers who say our immigration system is hurting their business.

You can watch the film in its entirety below. It's also being hosted on the Web by the Francisan Action Network, where you can read a statements about the film by Kathryn and FAN executive director Patrick Carolan.

(Running time: 4:97)

To read more of Kathryn's posts for PhilanTopic, click here.

Have a thought or opinion about the doc or our immigration system? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Scaling Social Innovation

May 29, 2013

(Paul L. Carttar is a partner at the Bridgespan Group and former director of the Social Innovation Fund, a federal initiative that enlists private intermediaries to help expand innovative programs proven to promote economic opportunity, healthy lives, and youth development.)

Headshot_paul_cartarrIn much the same way a parent feels extraordinary awe and wonder in watching his or her child grow up and succeed, I recently experienced a powerful sense of pride at a conference in Washington, D.C., devoted to the subject of bringing to scale innovative nonprofit programs, particularly those serving low-income communities.

The conference was sponsored by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the country's largest community development organization, and focused on LISC's successful scaling of Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs) -- an initiative to help low-income people take control of their family finances. Working off a model developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in just three years LISC has expanded the program from four centers in Chicago to seventy-one locations in thirty cities across the country. Much of the funding for this growth came from an innovative federal program called the Social Innovation Fund when I was the fund's director. As I said, I couldn't be prouder.

The FOC approach is simple but sound. It recognizes that getting a job is just the first step toward achieving long-term financial stability. So FOCs focus on improving the actual net cash a family has each month, taking account of what a family spends as well as what it earns, and helping low-income and unemployed individuals by providing an integrated set of services that are typically siloed. These services include not only job training and help getting and keeping a job, but also hands-on financial coaching related to budgeting and building credit, as well as assistance in identifying and applying for public benefits.

While we still have much to learn about the full impact of FOCs, there are clear indications the approach works. Over the past two years, nearly 75 percent of FOC clients improved their monthly cash flow and net income, while 43 percent raised their credit scores. In addition to improved cash flow and credit scores, clients receiving this integrated set of services showed dramatic gains in employment and net assets compared to those who received such help piecemeal.

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No Second-Class Families

May 09, 2013

(Ben Jealous is president/CEO of the NAACP.)

Headshot_ben_jealousAfrican Americans have spent much of our history fighting for equal treatment. Just two generations ago, our parents and our grandparents were banned from eating at certain restaurants, attending certain schools, and working in certain professions.

So it's not difficult to empathize with the struggle of immigrants in our country. Like our ancestors who migrated from the former slave states of the Deep South, millions of undocumented immigrants move to the United States each year to find work and a decent education for their children. When they arrive, however, they are confronted with blatant discrimination, racial profiling, and hardly any legal recourse.

As people of color, we have a responsibility to stand up for social justice whenever it is violated. That is why the NAACP has joined other civil rights and human rights organizations, including the Rights Working Group and the Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights, to support comprehensive immigration reform.

Across the country, an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants live with permanent second-class status. Many immigrants come to the U.S. to find a better life but find themselves living in the shadows, in constant fear of arrest and deportation. This has a cost.

Undocumented workers are exploited on a regular basis. Many business owners pay low wages and provide dangerous working conditions for their undocumented workers, with little fear of retaliation. They know that their employees have too much at stake to risk contacting the proper authorities.

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U.S. Should Follow California's Lead on Immigration

April 12, 2013

(Ira S. Hirschfield is president of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. Robert K. Ross, MD, is president and chief executive officer of the California Endowment. And Timothy P. Silard is president of the Rosenberg Foundation.)

Statue_of_libertyEquality of opportunity is a fundamentally American value. Throughout our history, we have taken important steps to make our country more equal and to bring opportunity to groups that were denied it in the past.

Today, with national leaders debating plans to reform America's broken immigration system, we may soon be taking the next step in this continuing journey. Getting reform right means keeping our core values front and center, and Californians are showing the way forward.

First, more about the problem. More than 11 million immigrants in this country (including nearly three million in California alone) are living in the shadows. Their invisibility and fear of deportation makes them vulnerable to exploitation at work, reluctant to report crimes or to participate in their communities, and hesitant to get health care when they and their families need it.

This situation is not good for anyone. The American economy and our society are better and stronger when everyone has an opportunity to participate. Having a permanent underclass of aspiring Americans who do not have the same rights as everyone else, and who cannot speak up for their interests without putting themselves and their families at risk, demeans our democracy and diminishes our values.

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How Foundations and Immigrant Organizations Can Respond to Supreme Court SB 1070 Ruling

June 28, 2012

(Walter Barrientos is a program officer at the New York City-based North Star Fund.)

Walter_BarrientosOn Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the most chilling provision of the Arizona law known as SB 1070, a provision that allows police to stop anyone they believe to be undocumented and check their immigration status.

For most immigrants, including me and my family, the message from the Supreme Court is clear: the police have been appointed de-facto immigration agents. This means that any time an immigrant is the victim of a crime, he will have to ask himself, Is what just happened to me worse than being questioned about my immigration status, being detained, and possibly deported by the police?

I had to face this question myself when I was assaulted three years ago by gang members on the streets of Queens. At the time, I decided to call the police and report the crime. But when I was summoned to testify in court against the individuals who assaulted me, my knees grew weak. I knew that if my undocumented status were revealed in the course of testimony, I could find myself in deportation proceedings.

Because I had years of experience organizing immigrant communities, I was able to call an attorney friend who worked with community leaders to teach immigrants like me about our rights. From her, I learned that there's a visa for victims of violent crimes like the one I had been a victim of, and today I have that visa. But few immigrants have a trusted contact, as I did, to provide critical information.

My experience shows why it so important for us to build a robust network of immigrant organizations and leaders who can organize immigrants to protect and advocate for their rights. Thanks to the Supreme Court decision, local police departments in Arizona and at least four other states are no longer an institution immigrants can trust. Instead, immigrants must rely on their own community organizations and leaders as the first line of support and advice in critical situations, as well as to assert larger immigrant rights issues in public and policy forums.

From my vantage point as both a funder and a community organizer, there are several steps that community-based organizations and leaders need to take to build their strength and expertise in order to respond to the changing immigration landscape. Here are a few of them:

1. Community organizations need to build their capacity to reach deeper into and build stronger ties with members of immigrant communities. And they need to bolster their efforts to reach even the most marginalized members of those communities to ensure that everyone has basic information about immigration laws and that they trust the organization to be there for them in times of need.

2. Immigrant organizations need to build their capacity to respond to immigrant members who find themselves in dire situations, such as when an undocumented immigrant without a license is stopped by the police after he has gotten off work at 2:00 a.m., or when an undocumented immigrant has witnessed a crime and is afraid to report it. They need to expand their staff and train staff members to be liaisons between community members and police or immigration authorities. Staff also need to be trained and accredited by the Department of Homeland Security to represent individuals in detention. Organizations should encourage all their constituents, regardless of immigration status or citizenship, to complete the G-28 form, which allows accredited representatives to represent them in any immigration detention or matter.

3. Members of immigrant communities need to be taught how they can cooperate with the police without putting themselves at risk of deportation. This is a complex proposition but is critically important.

4. Legal groups, advocacy groups, and others need to develop and push for legislation like the California TRUST Act, which aims to rebuild much needed trust between police and California's immigrant communities. This legislation could offer a smarter alternative to punitive laws like Arizona SB 1070.

The foundation community has an opportunity in the wake of the Supreme Court decision to build on the best of our immigrant traditions by reaching out to our immigrant neighbors and the organizations that represent them and by supporting greater respect for immigrant cultures, immigrant rights, and immigrants’ sizeable contributions to our economic, social, and political life. Immigrants who pooled resources to support families back home were among the earliest American philanthropists. It's time to show them our gratitude.

-- Walter Barrientos

'Freedom Riders': Lessons for a New Generation

January 10, 2012

(Kathryn Pyle is a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. In October, she spoke with Orlando Bagwell, director of the Ford Foundation's recently launched JustFilms initiative. She first blogged about Freedom Riders in February of 2010.)

FreedomRidersposter_72Writing from the 2010 Sundance Film Festival about the civil rights movement as captured in documentary films, I highlighted Freedom Riders, a documentary directed by Stanley Nelson that premiered at the festival. The film tells the story of the hundreds of courageous people, most of them young, who participated in the 1961 "freedom rides" that helped end segregation in the South.

Freedom Riders aired on PBS this past May; the film went on to earn three Emmy Awards and the New York Times, calling it "beautifully constructed," selected it as one of the ten best programs of the year. The broadcast was preceded by a ten-day reenactment of the original 1961 campaign that was organized by American Experience, the PBS program which had commissioned and broadcast the film. "Get on the Bus" brought together forty college students from around the country to reenact the rides -- from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans -- and interact along the way with some of the original freedom riders, various historians of the period, and community activists. As they made their way south, the kids shared their experience via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media tools.

"The re-creation campaign had high visibility and great partnerships with state humanities councils, colleges and universities, and museums around the country," says Sonya Childress, community engagement specialist at Firelight Media, the nonprofit partner of Firelight Films, Nelson's for-profit production company. The former organizes audience outreach programs -- a letter-writing campaign for Nelson's film The Murder of Emmett Till helped reopen a criminal investigation into that 1955 case -- and supports emerging documentarians through a producers' lab.

" 'Get on the Bus' was very successful," Childress adds, "but we at Firelight wanted to do something different. We saw our job as bringing the film to a different audience -- particularly youth, and including African-Americans, but people who weren't necessarily connected to the civil rights movement. In targeting youth groups, we immediately thought of the Dream Act, because the story of Freedom Riders is a story about multi-ethnic organizing. We wanted to reach people working on immigration reform who do not see the civil rights movement as part of their history or as relevant to their activism. And we wanted to help them use the film in their own campaigns."

Atlantic Philanthropies, the Open Society Foundations (through its Campaign for Black Male Achievement), and the National Black Programming Consortium were approached and ultimately funded the Firelight Media project.

"Many funders could have said the freedom ride reenactment was sufficient as an audience engagement component," notes Childress. "But these three organizations saw value in bringing the history to a new community. They understood that Firelight Films makes historical documentaries, but that we want to show that the lessons of the past can be dissected and discussed and applied to today. Also, the funders recognized that, being an independent entity, Firelight Media had the latitude to work with a wider variety of community groups than had been involved in 'Get on the Bus', and that was seen as a complement to the American Experience project."

Engaging foundations that are not "media" funders is a new strategy for many documentary filmmakers; the challenge is in helping private and corporate foundations see that film can further their grantmaking priorities, and that there are many points of entry for support beyond a film's production phase.

At the same time, as foundations become more engaged in distribution there is more concern around evaluation of the project's goals. In Social Justice Documentary: Designing for Impact, a new Ford Foundation-supported publication from the Center for Social Media, Jessica Clark and Barbara Abrash put it this way:

In an environment of information overload and polarized sparring, social issue documentaries provide quality content that can be used to engage members of the public as citizens rather than merely media consumers. As a result, they have gained in visibility, influence and number over the past decade.

But despite the box-office and critical success of high-profile examples such as An Inconvenient Truth or Supersize Me, the social impacts of such expensive, long- range projects have been hit-or-miss. As a result, investors and filmmakers are asking tough questions about how best to plan for and assess the impact of such films and related engagement strategies, and to create models and standards for a dynamic field....

The report proposes a systemic approach based on early and continuous community participation that combines quantitative and qualitative indicators and continuous feedback into the evaluation design. The best indicators measure "evidence of [the film's] quality, increased public awareness, meaningful partnerships, increased public engagement, and collective action."

Firelight Media's plan for Freedom Riders incorporated many of those elements, though as noted by the Center for Social Media report, each documentary project is distinct.

Firelight began by convening a small group of civic organizations to help develop ideas for a year-long project; by the time Freedom Riders was broadcast, the project was ready to go. (An agreement with American Experience required that the Firelight project not overlap with "Get on the Bus," which took place immediately before the film aired.)

Sixteen community-based organizations and student groups -- some national and some local -- were selected as formal partners. Seven of the smallest groups received stipends to carry out their activities. All agreed to screen the film and use an online guide, United in Courage (available on the Firelight Media site), to help plan events and facilitate discussions. Their experiences are being disseminated via an e-news broadcast to other partners, funders and filmmakers, and through Firelight Media’s newsletter; in effect, the partners provide ongoing feedback as a way to strengthen the project.

The groups include established organizations like the NAACP, which is bringing some of the original freedom riders to college campuses in the South for screenings and conversations. Puente Arizona has invited some of the freedom riders to discuss immigration reform strategies with members of the migrant communities with which it works. At a workshop on audience engagement earlier this fall in San Francisco, another partner, Bay Area-based Youth Speaks, described using the film at its annual Brave New Voices event, which brings young poets and youth development organizations together: five hundred spoken-word artists attended the screening and a subsequent conversation, later broadcast on Pacifica Radio, with two freedom riders. And New York City-based Brotherhood/Sister Sol showed the film in New York and Ghana and trained youth facilitators to lead post-screening talks. (A complete list of partners and their plans can be found on the "United in Courage" site.)

Recognizing that short films can be useful for community organizing and in educational settings, especially those involving children, Firelight Media produced a twenty-minute version of the film (available only to project partners) and also commissioned three ten-minute films on key issues in the current immigration policy debate. Immigration: Beyond the Headlines was supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and can be viewed on the Firelight Media site. Though apprehensive at first that the films would be seen as standalone media, Firelight staff now consider them to be useful vehicles for driving interested viewers to the longer and more comprehensive film.

Today, halfway through the year-long audience engagement effort, Firelight's independent evaluator is tracking how the full-length documentary is being used and the kind of impact it is having through pre- and post-screening interviews with various partners. The partners also submit formal reports on how they are using the film to enhance their work, in the process creating a repository of "best practices."

"Community organizations have varying levels of comfort with documentary films that are not 'advocacy' films, that are not prescriptive in terms of what to do about a particular issue," says Childress. "Freedom Riders is not a 'call to action'; it's an occasion for reflection. We're interested in knowing how community groups navigate that, how they challenge themselves and how they incorporate films into their programs. We want to know how this particular story resonates, especially within the immigrant rights movement that's looking for stories and trying to build relationships with other movements. The big question for us is: Can historical documentaries move the meter; can this content help people understand the current world?"

The anecdotal evidence is encouraging. Last month, as reported by the Montgomery Advertiser, "Two Freedom Riders who risked their lives to integrate Montgomery's bus station 50 years ago are back in the Capital City with a new cause: repealing Alabama's immigration law. The Rev. C.T. Vivian and Catherine Burks-Brooks joined a rally on the Capitol steps and a children’s march to the governor's mansion."

Some of the Firelight project's results to date are posted on its Web site in the form of testimony from the partners. We'll check back at the end of the year to see what lessons were learned and how they can inform the marriage between documentary film and community activism.

-- Kathryn Pyle

'First-Person Stories'

April 25, 2011

(Bruce Trachtenberg is executive director of the Communications Network, a nonprofit that works to provide resources, guidance, and leadership to advance the strategic practice of communications in philanthropy. Bruce is also an occasional contributor to and frequent commenter here at PhilanTopic. This post was published earlier today on the Network's blog.)

What a story the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund has to tell about "First-Person Stories."

Among the the things to know about the storytelling project making its debut on the foundation's Web site are these:

  • All the stories being published online are oral histories told by the people themselves -- immigrants, gays and lesbians, young students, and others -- who are the focus the Haas, Jr. mission to help build a “more just and caring society.”
  • The effort is receiving guidance and hands-on support from a Pulitzer-Prize nominated author.
  • People who want to tell their own stories can submit their ideas to the foundation via its Web site.
  • Overall, says Denis Chicola, senior communications officer, the Haas, Jr. project is designed "to give a voice to people who might otherwise not have one, yet who have something important to say about the issues at the heart of the foundation's work." Chicola adds that by actively promoting the series, the foundation also Is "giving people whose stories need to be heard access to an audience that also wouldn't be within their reach."

First-Person Stories draws its inspiration -- and technical assistance -- from a nonprofit called the Voice of Witness that was started by author Dave Eggers Voiceto depict "human rights crises around the world through the stories of the men and women who experience them."

Like Voice of Witness, Haas, Jr. is using oral histories as a way to "humanize difficult and complex subjects," says Chicola. More so, Eggers is lending his expertise to the Haas, Jr. effort by editing the first-person stories submitted to and subsequently posted to the foundation's Web site.

From his work with the Voice of Witness, Eggers has already seen firsthand the power of first-person storytelling:

Again and again we see narrators who feel empowered and self-possessed after telling their stories. It's actually a process of reclaiming the narrative of your life. When we published our book about exonerated prisoners in the U.S., the narrators wrote to us saying that it was the first time their story had been told accurately and in full. That's a big deal, especially to someone who's felt wrongly accused or misunderstood. To finally have their narrative reclaimed -- it's very powerful. Even life-changing.

The first to tell his story on the Haas, Jr. Web site is Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico in the 1980s. In his early years, he worked as a migrant farm worker, and -- against all odds -- made his way to Berkeley and Harvard Medical School before becoming a renowned brain surgeon. Says Chicola, "In his own words, 'Dr. Q', reflects on his remarkable journey and on what America means to him."

The fund intends to add a new story to the First-Person section of its Web site on a regular basis.

 While largely a communications department-managed project, program staff plays an important role by helping Chicola identify the themes that best embody or reflect the nature of the foundation's grantmaking. For instance, Dr. Q's story is about the challenge of being an immigrant in the UDE.S. Other stories might portray other aspects of immigrant life, such as what it's like to be a native-born child whose parents are undocumented.

The foundation's Web site invites people to submit their ideas for stories that can help broaden awareness and increase more engagement around issues such as gay and lesbian rights, immigrant rights, and education opportunities, and community initiatives. If the story seems right for telling, the foundation will follow up and request that the person write it up and send it in.

Chicola says the foundation is open to the possibility of some day letting people post their stories directly on the Haas, Jr. Web site as a way to "promote an even deeper level of understanding and engagement." He adds, "As a funder, we have access to so many amazing stories."

There are a number of ways to view First-Person Stories. We can label this a smartly designed communications project. Or we can describe it as a productive collaboration between communications and program colleagues. But, in this case, it could be considered something more than even those two things combined. It's an example of how a foundation is trying to make our society more just and the cultural life of communities more vibrant -- and not just by relying on its own resources, but by giving voice to people we rarely hear from and are better off when we do.

-- Bruce Trachtenberg

This Week in PubHub: Immigrants and Their Children

October 28, 2010

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she looked at four reports that explored the essential role of arts and culture.)

With immigration policy one of the hotly debated issues in the run-up to the November 2 midterm elections, this week PubHub is highlighting reports that examine the integration of immigrant families, with a focus on their children, native- and foreign-born.

According to The Integration of Immigrants and Their Families in Maryland: A Look at Children of Immigrants and Their Families in Maryland, prepared by the Urban Institute for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in 2006 almost one in five children in the state had at least one foreign-born parent. While the poverty rate among children of immigrants is comparatively low, roughly 27 percent live in near-poverty (i.e., family income below 200 percent of the poverty line). The report also found that the number of limited-English-proficient students in public schools statewide doubled between 2000 and 2007, and that there were wide racial/ethnic discrepancies in school readiness and performance. To help close the gap, the authors recommend a three-prong strategy: providing adult education, language, and job skills training to parents; improving access to child care and preschool programs; and strengthening targeted programs for English-language learners and at-risk students.

English-language learners are the focus of Reparable Harm: Fulfilling the Unkept Promise of Educational Opportunity for Long Term English Learners, a report from Californians Together. The study argues that the state's one-size-fits-all education reforms have resulted in a generation of secondary school students who, after years of either having little or no access to effective language development programs and/or being socially and linguistically segregated, are neither proficient in English nor on track to graduate on time. The report lays out basic principles for addressing the needs of long-term English-learners and recommends a comprehensive secondary school program that includes specialized courses, clustered placement in heterogeneous and rigorous grade-level content classes, explicit language and literacy development across the curriculum, and systems for monitoring progress and triggering support.

English language acquisition isn't the only obstacle children of immigrants, some of whom arrive as refugees, have to overcome. Partnering With Parents and Families to Support Immigrant and Refugee Children at School, a 2009 issue brief from the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, explores the impact of refugee and immigrant experiences on children — from trauma that results in post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and behavioral problems to the pressures of serving as their families' interpreters and negotiators — and their unmet mental health needs. Among other things, the report outlines a number of considerations for working with students' families and school staff in offering school-based mental health programs, including breaking down cultural stigmas and learning to recognize the signs of trauma and stress.

One traumatic experience many children of immigrants must live through is the deportation of an undocumented parent. The Urban Institute's Facing Our Future: Children in the Aftermath of Immigration Enforcement analyzes the impact of family separation due to arrest, detention, and/or deportation on children’s physical as well as mental well-being, including safety, food security, housing stability, and behavioral issues. The authors recommend changes to immigration laws, enforcement strategies, and the responses of community groups and public agencies in order to mitigate the hardships children suffer in the process.

Given that 25 percent of foreign-born children and 16 percent of native-born children of immigrants do not graduate from high school, addressing the educational and mental well-being of immigrant children is an urgent matter if America is live up to its promise in the twenty-first century. What role can philanthropy play in strengthening existing services for immigrant children? And which strategies and programs, if any, have already proved to be effective? Use the comments box below to share your thoughts.

And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse more than seventy immigration-related reports.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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