Justice Oregon grants highlight innovation, exploration through partnership Taryn Sauer

This post has been updated to reflect the total funding amount for the planning phase of these collaborative grants: $2.6 million.

To achieve Black liberation, we must build power within Black communities; calling on one another to form interdependent networks of nourishment and celebration. We’ve heard this often from our conversations with folks on the frontlines: our impact could be so much larger if we had the time and resources to collaborate with one another. Some groups have found innovative ways to make this happen, but many still need dedicated space, staff and funding to fully realize goals.

In our latest round of funding for Justice Oregon for Black Lives, we’ve reimagined our approach, asking organizations to form collaboratives that will sustain thriving Black ecosystems in Oregon. By removing barriers to maintain long-term partnerships, collaborative funding enables groups to bring their breadth of expertise to tackle systemic issues. These partnerships will allow organizations to learn from one another, share data and strategize, building upon the momentum set forth by those who came before us.

We believe in the strength of the collective. Social justice movements of the past and present knew this to be true as well.

The “Big Five” civil rights groups worked together to bring tens of thousands to the March on Washington, advocating for desegregation and voting rights. The Chicago Black Panther Party joined ranks with the Young Lords and Young Patriots, forming the cross-cultural group, Rainbow Coalition, to combat police brutality and substandard housing. Today, the Black Lives Matter movement utilizes a “leaderful” model where grassroots organizations and those at the forefront of injustice collectively lead this ongoing pursuit.

I believe that if there can be some form of reparative action for the Black community here, then it can happen across the United States. And that can benefit all communities, not just ours. If we can start here.

Since 2020, 133 groups across the state have been funded through Justice Oregon for Black Lives, totaling $21.4 million. Now, we seek to deepen our impact by creating space for organizations — that are already doing vital work — to dream big and create lasting, systemic change together.

We are excited to announce the following 14 collaboratives that will receive a total of $2.6 million for the planning phase of these transformational projects.

HOLLA School joins Oregon Alliance of Black School Educators and Warner Pacific University to create a Black teacher recruitment and retainment pipeline.

Building Blocks 2 Success alongside McDaniel High School, Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), Oregon State University and National Society of Black Engineers Portland Chapter will establish a comprehensive and impactful STEM education ecosystem in Portland with a focus on Black students.

Black Educational Achievement Movement (BEAM)The Blueprint Foundation, Play Grow Learn and other community partners will form an integrated network of community-based organizing to support Black youth in East Multnomah County.

KairosPDX is partnering with Black Parent Initiative, Albina Vision Trust and BEAM to transform the former Portland Public School property in Albina into a Center for Black Student Excellence by forming a youth council to garner input from impacted students on the Center’s function and processes.

A Black Art Ecology of Portland will collaborate with community partners to identify and prepare for a range of long term activities that support the creation and preservation of Black art in all mediums throughout Portland and beyond.

Ori Gallery joins Black & Beyond the Binary Collective, Liberation Medicine School and West Coast Black Circus to create a safety network for Black Trans folks in the Pacific Northwest.

Equitable Giving Circle, The Numberz.fm and AfroVillage will map out the feasibility of building a network of buildings owned by Black-serving nonprofits.

Imagine Black Futures is partnering with The Rosewood Initiative and Black Community of Portland to establish a Black worker center in East Multnomah County.

Leaders Become Legends alongside Constructing Hope and NWXcelerator will establish a green technology pathway center in Gresham.

Feed'em Freedom Foundation joins Black Food Fund, Black Food Sovereignty Coalition/Black Futures Farm and Black Oregon Land Trust to establish a collective thriving of Black food systems.

Unite Oregon is partnering with Black Economic Collective, Keep Growing Seeds and The BIPOC Rise Moor Healing Center to create a Black wellness center in East Portland.

Black Parent Initiative alongside Black Men's Wellness and Be the Healing will plan a 2025 healing symposium on Black trauma and wellness.

African American Alliance for Homeownership (AAAH), Taking Ownership and Constructing Hope will expand access and increase efficiency for clients, support a burgeoning Black workforce in the green technology industry and build awareness around the opportunities for homeowners and contractors.

POIC+RAHS will collaborate with Be the Healing and Journeys Oregon to develop a community safety worker (CSW) model to combat violence in the Black community.

Graphic illustration of silhouettes with various textures and patterns for Justice Oregon for Black Lives collaboratives

istock

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Tracking our Progress Helen Shum

At Meyer, we talk often about our accountability to communities. That commitment is shown most plainly in how we distribute our grantmaking dollars each year, especially to work that supports those who are furthest away from opportunity.

I am proud to report that our last fiscal year of grantmaking, we have continued to make good on our promises, with nearly $23 million dollars awarded to organizations advancing racial, social and economic justice in Oregon. (An additional $22 million was distributed through grant renewals and other prior commitments.) Overall:

81% of Meyer’s 283 grant awards were dedicated to BIPOC-led or serving organizations.

93% of Meyer’s total grantmaking dollars went to BIPOC-serving organizations.

As we celebrate Pride this month, I also want to share that $3.7 million or 16% of our total grantmaking dollars went to organizations led by or serving the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.

We are also completing our transition to a new grants management system this year, which will improve our ability to understand our community-specific awards data in increasingly nuanced ways.

General Operating, First Time Awardees

In addition to dollars we track for culturally specific areas of work, it’s important that we continue to evolve our grantmaking to better meet the needs of our grantees. Last fiscal year, 36% of our funding or $8.2 million was dedicated to general operating support so that organizations have the freedom and agency to do their best work. As we move forward, I anticipate that Meyer will continue to increase our funding for general operating support.

Meyer has also worked to catalyze new and innovative efforts with funding to 70 first-time awardees. Many of those were funded through the highly participatory, community-informed approach of our Justice Oregon for Black Lives initiative. I expect to share more about how their work is impacting Oregonians in the months ahead.

Taking our Own Test

As part of our continuing work to align our internal and external commitment to equity, I recently took the time to assess Meyer on its own Diversity Equity and Inclusion Spectrum Tool. Created in 2019 by Meyer staff, the tool has been used by thousands of Meyer grantees and other organizations across the country to assess organizational progress on DEI-related policies and practices.

I was surprised and humbled to find that my own assessment of Meyer’s progress put us somewhere between “Launched” and “Well on the Way.”

I asked the staff to take the same assessment, hoping I had been unduly harsh. The result was essentially the same. As we have told other organizations many times, the path towards equity is not always a linear one and the expectation is progress, not perfection.

“Exemplary,” as the tool describes organizations who have fully integrated their internal and external DEI policies and practices, is still a goal for us.

In addition to continuing our efforts in this area, we are also working to develop additional ways to ensure we are applying an antiracist and feminist lens to our grantmaking. We are learning from colleagues in the philanthropic space to inform this effort and I have particularly appreciated the thought leadership provided by Justice Funders, specifically the Just Transitions Framework which inspires and aligns with so much of the change we want to see in regenerative philanthropic practice in Oregon.

As we continue to grow and evolve into the organization we dream of being, I am heartened and inspired to know that our staff, grantees, friends and partners will continue to hold us accountable. I am excited to be a part of our shared progress towards justice.

— Toya

 

A row of three seedlings at various stages of growth

Three seedlings in various stages of growth. Stock image.

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A Milestone for Justice Oregon: Reflections at the Halfway Point Helen Shum

Justice Oregon for Black Lives has reached a milestone moment. The initiative, launched in 2020, has just passed the halfway mark on its original five-year timeline, with more than $15.9 million awarded to 105 Black-led and Black-serving organizations in Oregon. In addition to announcing the latest round of awards, we thought now would be a good time to check in with Program Officers Allister Byrd and Nancy Haque on the challenges and lessons learned so far. Here are highlights of our conversation, edited for length and clarity:

With all of the local, national and international momentum leading up to the launch of Justice Oregon for Black Lives, what were some of your hopes coming into this initiative?

Allister: My original hope was that we could do some really radical, broad-thinking, innovative stuff. I heard in those initial community conversations [that Meyer held with Black community members and leaders] that although $5 million a year felt like a drop in the bucket for some folks, others felt that nothing like this at this scale had been done before in Oregon. We really had an opportunity to show that if there can be some form of reparative action for the Black community here, then it can happen across the United States. And that can benefit all communities, not just ours. So that was my hope, and that's still my hope for the initiative.

Understanding that $25 million is a significant investment, but that the need and ambition extends far beyond that — how do you measure success and can you speak to some of the challenges?

Allister: First, we’ve got to meet people where they're at right now in order to get to that bigger state. We’ve been fortunate to have the resources to help catalyze a lot of important and exciting work.

I really love this idea that we're not just filling in the hole, but we're actually tilling the soil. We understand that organizations who are actively hiring staff will want to keep growing their capacity, but they can't do that if the funding is not always going to be there. One of the ways we’ll know we're successful is if the things that we do through this initiative live beyond its time frame.

Nancy: How can we make sure that people and organizations have what they need so they can imagine that bigger, better future? One of the reasons I joined Meyer is because this initiative made me believe there's a commitment to racial justice. It's really indicative of what our values are, how we set up this program for success. So the depth of that commitment is reflected in the grantmaking budget. But it’s also about the operating budget, the staffing and other resourcing for the initiative, all of those details as well.

Allister: To be in this role of program officer is challenging. We have to consider what's the level of political education about each of [Justice Oregon’s priority] areas that you have to have in order to actually make informed decisions about funding. That's something that we just have never really had enough time to deal with because we're trying to get the money out. So I think balancing that urgency with what it really takes to support a community-informed process is the tension that we're always navigating. I hold all that, right? Of loving the work, but also not having enough time or capacity to do everything.

Also, launching a tremendously ambitious, community-informed effort at this size and scale is already a tall order. Doing it in the middle of a pandemic brought in a whole other set of challenges. Like so many other organizations, our leadership changed and we had to adjust to that loss and keep on going. (D’Artagnan Caliman, Justice Oregon’s first director, left Meyer in February to join the 1803 fund as vice president of partnerships.)

Tell me more about the importance of community in Justice Oregon.

Allister: We talk with people all day. Not just about their organizations, but about, ‘What are you dreaming about? What else could we do? Who else are you connecting with?’ That is the heartbeat of what we're trying to do here.

The community conversations that we had in May 2021 were also the first time that a lot of Black folks doing work in Oregon, not just Portland, had the opportunity to be in virtual space together. [The opportunity for a grantee] to say, ‘I just started this nonprofit a few years ago and I'm sitting here with Sharon Gary-Smith of the NAACP, and we've never met before, but this is an opportunity for us to convene.’

Just seeing the byproducts that happened as a result of getting folks together in this space has been really, really amazing. That doesn't mean that everybody agrees all the time and the initiative is not perfect by any means, but I see that sort of connective tissue really forming through this and that's been really amazing to watch.

What advice would you give to organizations who want to do this type of work?

Nancy: Decide at the get go what your goals are. Living your racial justice values is setting up that program for success, which means giving it enough capacity and not siloing the work. Yes, there can be this program that can be for this particular community, but you have to think about it in a holistic way. You have to think about how this kind of racial justice initiative fits into the organization and how the whole organization is supporting it.

Allister: I would say, do all of that and then talk to another organization. Do a lot of funder organizing around this so there is an ecosystem supporting it.

Thoughts on the future?

Allister: I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to get to meet amazing Black folks all over the state who are doing really incredible work for their communities. You know, seeing all of the movement that's happening.

Ultimately, I’m trying to help grow the kind of place that I want to live, which is a place where Black people are happy and resourced and where there are cross-racial justice efforts happening. I love that part of this work. I love the people in this work.

Justice Oregon has been known for its high number of first time grantees. In this latest round of awards, what is one organization you are particularly excited about?

Allister: We are so excited to award $6.94 million (including multi-year grants) to 62 organizations in this third round. They are all doing incredible, important work, but if I had to choose one organization, it would be PRISMID Sanctuary. It’s a communal gathering and healing space for Black and Indigenous artists in North Portland, thoroughly curated by musician and composer Esperanza Spalding.

I’d also like to highlight the Gordly Burch Center for Black Leadership and Civic Engagement. They’re celebrating the history of Black leadership in Oregon with a mission to train and support the next generation of Black leaders and to increase the number of Black policy makers, community and civic Leaders across Oregon.

Nancy: I would choose Love is King. I had never heard of this group before the process and I am so inspired by the work they are doing. They bring small groups of Black Oregonians to the Arctic every summer to meet with Indigenous leaders and to see some of the lands and people that are being threatened by climate change. The folks who go on the trips are then paired with a conservation organization and a dozen went to Washington D.C. this year to testify in Congress.

 

Listed below are all of the Justice Oregon for Black Lives Awardees (Spring 2023)

 

African American Alliance for Home Ownership* 

African Heritage Education and Empowerment Community* 

African Women's Coalition* 

Allen Performing Arts Inc.* 

Be-BLAC Foundation* 

Black Circus* 

Black Community of Portland 

Black Oregon Land Trust* 

Black United Fund of Oregon 

Boys and Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area* 

Camp ELSO 

Clackamas Education Service District* 

Colostrum Coalition* 

Community Violence Prevention Alliance* 

Equity Splash* 

Ethiopian and Eritrean Cultural and Resource Center* 

Friends of IFCC*

Friends of the Children - Portland 

Get Schooled Foundation* 

Gordly Burch Center for Black Leadership and Civic Engagement* 

HOLLA School 

Jackson County Community Services Consortium* 

JOIN* 

Journeys Foundation* 

Joyce Finley Foundation* 

Kids For The Culture* 

Lane Community College Foundation* 

Lines for Life* 

Love is King* 

Love is Stronger GV* 

NAMC-Oregon 

NE STEAM Coalition 

None Left Behind* 

Open School* 

Oregon Bravo Youth Orchestras* 

Oregon Expungement Relief Project* 

Oregon Pediatric Society* 

Oregon Pediatric Society* 

Ori Gallery* 

PassinArt: A Theatre Company* 

PBDG Foundation 

Portland Community College Foundation* 

Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives 

Portland Housing Center* 

Portland State University Foundation*

Prismid Inc* 

Q Center* 

RACE TALKS: Uniting to Break the Chains of Racism 

Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre* 

Sabin Community Development Corporation* 

Somali American Council of Oregon (SACOO)* 

Soul District Business Association 

The Fathers Group 

Triple Threat Mentoring 

Unite Oregon 

University of Oregon Foundation* 

Urban League of Portland 

Wild Diversity *

Wildcat Boxing Inc* 

Williams & Russell CDC* 

WomenFirst Transition & Referral Center* 

Youth Empowerment Project Pacific Northwest* 

Youth Organized and United to Help 

 

*First time awardees

Program Officer Elisa and staff talking at the Justice Oregon Info Session in Aug. 2022

Program Officer Elisa Harrigan speaking with a guest at Justice Oregon's info session in August 2022. Credit: Fred Joe Photo

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An Ode to Black Joy becca.connors

Justice Oregon for Black Lives was born from the depths of overwhelming heartbreak — a response to the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and multiple other overlapping traumas that fueled a growing movement to end systemic and structural racism. The initiative also recognized the urgency and opportunity we had to transform institutions, systems and narratives in Oregon, a state founded on stolen lands and explicit in its constitutional exclusion of Black people.

As we began developing a set of funding priorities in conversation with community advisors across the state, issues of public safety, education and economic justice were clearly top-of-mind. We also heard about two other important priorities that Meyer had less experience in funding — efforts to promote healing and to increase Black joy. 

In February, we announced our first round of awards from the inaugural Call for Proposals that addressed the first three priorities — Reimagining Public safety, Investing in Education and Economic Justice.

Now, it gives me great pleasure to share the names of the organizations that will be doing the equally important work of Addressing Trauma and Healing and Shifting Black Narrative through Arts and Culture.

I want to emphasize equally important because it truly is. We cannot rise out of the depths of a collective trauma without also committing to the work needed to restore and reclaim our souls and our stories. 

Our team has been heartened by all the different ways that grantees have addressed these outcomes in their applications and we cannot wait to see the lift in hearts and spirits that this work will inspire. We also want to express our gratitude for the patience of these organizations, some of whom have waited a year for funding as we balanced our desire for urgency with our responsibility to design a community-informed, fair and clear process. 

A few highlights of the awards:

Black Art/ists Gathering will realize their vision of increasing Black joy as they host an intergenerational convening of Black artists.

Bridge-Pamoja will have resources to promote healing practice to mend cultural rifts between African and African-American communities in Oregon.

The Community Doula Alliance will support Black doulas in practicing their cultural and traditional birth and postpartum models of care. 

What could be more joyful than a brand new baby coming into this world, surrounded by love and caring? It’s our hope and our future. 

In all, nearly $1.9 million will go to 17 organizations, including eight first-time awardees and four organizations that work outside of the Portland Metro area. We are excited to partner with so many new organizations — to connect with you and to connect you with one another, for an even more powerful and enduring impact on our incredible community.

A full list of awardees is below.

All Ages Music Portland — Black Art/ists Gathering — 1st time awardee

All Ages Music Portland

Bridge-Pamoja1st time awardee

Columbia Slough Watershed CouncilPeople of Color Outdoors

Communities United for People —  Freedom to Thrive

Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center

Portland Art Museum

The Numberz1st time awardee

Allen Temple CME Church1st time awardee

Cerimon (Alberta) House1st time awardee

Community Doula Alliance1st time awardee

North by Northeast Community Health Center

Oregon Black Pioneers Corporation

Portland Community Media-Open Signal + Lion Speaks

Portland Institute for Contemporary Art- Black Artist Ecology Project — 1st time awardee

T & A Grand Theater1st time awardee

World Stage Theatre

Though August has been designated Black Philanthropy Month, we recognize that this work is ongoing and requires sustained commitment to thrive. 

In that spirit, I want to note that our 2022 Call for Proposals is now live. One key thing to know is that we are accepting applications for all five community-identified priorities in this round. In response to feedback from our community, we have also extended the window for submitting an application from four to six weeks and will continue to accept applications prepared for other funders, as well as video applications as an alternative to written narratives. More information and resources can be found here

Intentionally funding Black joy is just one step on a long road to true liberation. As we move forward together, let’s make this path a well-worn one. 

With gratitude, 

— Allister

Violinists play at a Portland vigil in 2020 honoring the life of Elijah McClain.

Violinists play at a Portland vigil in 2020 honoring the life of Elijah McClain.

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The Black-led and Black-serving Organizations Shaping Oregon’s Future Helen Shum

“If we want a beloved community,” the late bell hooks once wrote, “we must stand for justice.”

In 2020, amid a once-in-a-century pandemic and the largest popular uprising for racial justice seen in this country in generations, Meyer established the Justice Oregon for Black Lives initiative. It was immediately our biggest single project ever, funded at twice the amount originally suggested, and imbued with goals and guiding principles that we have adapted over time, but never abandoned.

We are thrilled to announce that, in our second round of funding to date, Justice Oregon is granting $4.8 million to 49 state-based and local organizations, including 14 organizations that will receive multi-year funding.

In her recent message on Meyer's new mission statement and the work ahead, outgoing CEO Michelle J. DePass, whose vision and voice brought Justice Oregon to life, wrote, "Justice goes beyond building a flourishing and equitable Oregon. It is a commitment to correction. Our commitment to repair and restore."

Recognizing institutional philanthropy’s role in perpetuating current systems of power, we’re determined to transform this dynamic and ensure our grantmaking honors the values that we’ve set forth. That means holding ourselves accountable to our community and our values, and it informed the participatory grantmaking approach that got us to the vibrant group of organizations we’re supporting through Justice Oregon.

Over the past year, we have engaged in conversations with dozens of community members all over the state, representing every sector from agriculture to the arts. Supported by Meyer staff, our mighty team of two held 10 bi-weekly community conversations with Black facilitators to come to consensus on how to make incremental progress toward Black liberation through five priority funding areas. The list of grantees below represents the first three priority funding areas: economic justice, investing in education, and reimagining public safety. And we're excited that tomorrow we open our invitation-only process for the remaining two funding areas: changing the Black narrative through arts and culture; and, addressing trauma and healing in the Black community.

These conversations reinforced our personal understanding that Black people across Oregon are not a monolith — our needs and vision for the state are informed by the lived experience of our many intersecting identities. What we are all committed to, however, is a vision of thriving Black communities free from the constraints of white supremacy.

As Black History Month comes to a close and Women’s History Month begins, Meyer’s Justice Oregon team is celebrating Black hope and optimism by announcing this inaugural round of grants made with deep input from Black communities and in support of leaders and movements helping to shape Oregon’s future. We are honored that many of this grantee cohort are organizations led by Black women and Black-led and serving organizations of all sizes in our communities.

Throughout the grantmaking process, we’ve worked with a rotating grant review committee of 10 Black leaders — both from the world of philanthropy as well as other sectors — who’ve candidly shared their visions of justice, the needs of Black Oregonians and ways that philanthropy can help right systemic wrongs and be a transparent partner to them in support of a liberated Black future. Their input was integral in determining our 49 Justice Oregon grantees.

—Allister

 

Multi-year funding recipients

African Youth and Community Organization

Albina Vision Trust

Black and Beyond the Binary

Black Parent Initiative

Building Blocks 2 Success

Brown Hope

Imagine Black

KairosPDX

Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO)

NW Accelerator

POIC/Rosemary Anderson

Portland Business Alliance

REAP

Self Enhancement, Inc.

Single-year funding recipients

Black Educational Achievement Movement (BEAM) Village

Beaverton Black Parent's Union

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church

Black Community of Portland

Black Farm Bureau

Built Oregon

Camp ELSO

Center for African Immigrants & Refugees of Oregon (CAIRO)

Center for Intercultural Organizing

Elevate Oregon

Equitable Giving Circle

Friends of the Children - Portland

Going Home II

HOLLA

I AM MORE

IRCO-Africa House

iUrban Teen

Lewis & Clark Black Pardon Project

Multnomah Educational Services District (MESD)

NE Steam Coalition

North by Northeast Business

Oregon Alliance of Black School Educators (ORABSE)

Play Grow and Learn

Professional Business Development Group (PBDG)

Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives (PCRI)

RACE TALKS: Uniting to Break the Chains of Racism

Skanner Foundation

Taking Ownership LLC

The Father's Group

The Highland Haven

The Love Coalition

Triple Threat Mentoring

Urban League

World Stage Theatre

Youth Organized and United to Help

 

JOBL award announcement image

Justice Oregon announces funding to 49 organizations, including 14 that will receive multi-year support.

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Staying Focused on Community

Over the summer of 2021, Meyer's equity journey reached a new milestone with the unanimous board approval to use an anti-racist, feminist lens to build an Oregon that works for all. In pursuit of that goal, we are reimagining how we work alongside and support our partners, by desilo-ing our work to support communities, change systems and strengthen movements.

Changing the way Meyer will work has been an exercise in listening and learning . As we move away from our previous model of grantmaking (the Annual Funding Opportunity) to an exciting new direction, we're taking lessons from all we’ve learned in partnership with community through our equity-focused grantmaking and our pivot five years ago, to ensure Meyer grantees continue to be supported throughout this process.

We recognize that the needs of our communities and grantees are ever present and that time and transparency is essential to our work. As such, we have unconditionally extended many of our recent grants beyond their current scope in order to provide funding to our grantees while Meyer develops new models and processes for the future. We know the work of our grantees doesn’t stop and we are committed to supporting our partners, even as we work to find more trust filled ways to partner more deeply into the future. 

Earlier this month, Meyer approved $16 million in grants to 208 organizations across the state of Oregon. Nearly two-thirds of that funding is for operating support, because that is where we heard the need was.

Thanks to the wisdom and insight of our grantees, we are also significantly easing reporting requirements. Details may vary, but on the whole, grantees will be relieved of most, if not all, of the reporting requirements that they've had to meet in the past. Meyer will be following up with individual grantee organizations with more specific guidance.

Looking ahead, we will be creating new ways of working this year, by closely partnering and listening to our communities as we collaborate to develop new funding opportunities which will launch in the second half of the year. We will continue to share information as plans emerge, including on this frequently asked questions page. 

We deeply appreciate the incredible people and organizations that make up the Meyer grantee community. This new year promises many new opportunities and we are excited to continue working together for a more just Oregon.

— Kaberi

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Meyer will provide $16M in transition grants as it shifts towards a more trust-based model of grantmaking in 2022.

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Meyer’s Grantmaking, Now and Into the Future

As I think back to the start of this year, I remember the promise 2021 seemed to hold — that a vaccine would come so we would emerge from the pandemic, and we would use what we learned to build an Oregon that works for all instead of returning to one that only worked for a few. Instead, we lived through another year of the pandemic, first with the Delta variant and now, the looming spectre of Omicron. And though I was thrilled when my two kiddos finally became eligible for the vaccine in November, that joy was tempered by the knowledge of what COVID has underscored: so many — especially BIPOC children and families — continue to be underserved in ways that are vital for their continued health, safety and future success.

Throughout this continually challenging year, Meyer has been working to meet the moment by being responsive and flexible so our grantee partners can continue to do their important work. We have simplified our processes, removed reporting requirements and moved to larger, general operating multi-year commitments. In addition, our staff and board have been working on a strategy process that has allowed us to listen, learn and think deeply about our collective future.

Through this endeavor, we’ve come to recognize that Meyer’s own system of grantmaking must evolve to better meet the needs of Oregonians. While our Annual Funding Opportunity (AFO) has served as Meyer’s open call for proposals since 2015, the 2021 AFO is our last.

Beginning in 2022, Meyer will be working closely with our communities to design a funding process that is more integrated and fundamentally community-centered. It will be a process that better aligns with our new strategic framework: to use an anti-racist feminist lens to strengthen movements, change systems and support communities to build an Oregon that works for all.

From Barriers to Bridges

For those who have been following Meyer’s work over the last few years, this change likely comes as no surprise. As Meyer’s focus on racial justice has grown, so has the recognition that the challenges facing BIPOC Oregonians are not singular or distinct in nature. As our communities named, and Audre Lorde reminds us, “there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” In moving towards a new way of organizing ourselves and our approach to this work, we acknowledge that our identities, our challenges and our institutions are complex and intersectional.

In truth, Meyer’s portfolios have already been funding work that strengthens movements, changes systems and supports communities. Here are a just a few examples from this past year’s grant awards:

Strengthening Movements

$200,000/2 year operating support grant to Forward Together, which focuses on uniting communities to win rights, recognition, and resources for all families. They bring a strong intersectional lens to their work building power among BIPOC Oregonians through political education, advocacy, cross-sector alliances and raising the visibility of BIPOC leadership.

Changing Systems

$185,000 to The Klamath Tribes, for support of legal work and advocacy to advance the Klamath Tribes’ efforts to protect the endangered C'waam and Koptu fish through better management of the Upper Klamath Lake ecosystem. This work is vitally important, and all the more urgent due to the severe drought this year that led to the lowest water flows that have ever been recorded in the Klamath Basin.

Supporting Communities

$77,000 to Downtown Languages and Huerto de la Familia to merge with Centro Latino Americano and collectively create a Latinx wellness hub in Lane County that is focused on education and leadership development. They are also participating in civic engagement and small business development. With the proper support, including a recent general operations grant of $200,000, the expanded Centro Latino Americano is bringing together a deeply segregated and marginalized community to have a central home and space of wellness.

Increasing Collaboration and Trust

We are also looking to partner more with our communities, through deeper trust-based practices and more participatory grantmaking. Efforts like the Community Rebuilding Fund and the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Collaborative are examples of areas in which we have found that working in coordination with peer funders and other partners allows us to leverage resources and streamline processes to more rapidly and efficiently respond to emerging crises.

Our Justice Oregon for Black Lives initiative also continues to serve as a way for us to learn and build a community-informed grantmaking process that incorporates more trust-based practices into Meyer’s grantmaking process. We’ve been inspired by and continue to draw from the wisdom and power of the Black community in designing a funding process that addresses the needs of Black Oregonians, as expressed by Black Oregonians.

As we close out this year and look to the future

In total, our 2021 AFO has distributed more than $19 million in funding through 124 grants, a significant portion of the 216 grants and $27 million awarded so far this year. A full list of all our grant awards is available here.

As we transition, we make this promise: Meyer grantmaking will continue throughout 2022. We are not pausing or stopping funding next year. We will be connecting, listening, co-creating and sharing with our staff, partners, grantees and larger community as we build towards the future.

Despite the many struggles facing our communities and challenges facing our collective well being, I am excited and energized by our shared trajectory. I want to share my deep gratitude to our internal staff and board, to Public Equity Group and to those in our broader community who have already helped us to get to this point. I hope to deepen our conversation and kinship as we chart this new course together.

Looking forward,

— Kaberi

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Meyer is adapting to better serve Oregonians, with a sharper focus on communities, systems and movements

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Welcoming Afghan Refugees to Oregon

The decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August and the stunningly quick fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban have led to the evacuation of more than 124,000 Afghan men, women and children from the country.

Though they are often collectively referred to as refugees, the actual legal status of these evacuees varies. About 5,500 are U.S. citizens. Those who worked directly for or with the U.S. government were eligible for Special Immigrant Visas, which offers an established pathway for permanent residency and citizenship in the United States. The Biden administration has also granted a special humanitarian parole created by the Immigration and Nationality Act to express the departure of those whose lives were especially at risk under Taliban rule, including women and girls, human rights workers and journalists.

A majority of Americans across party lines support bringing Afghan refugees into the United States. But years of Trump era anti-immigrant rhetoric and anti-immigration policies have eroded the structural systems needed to handle the administrative, legal and other complexities for those seeking asylum.

Oregon is one of 20 states that have offered to assist with the resettlement of the evacuees. But what does it mean to truly welcome and support these new arrivals? What role can Meyer — and philanthropy more broadly — play in ensuring that Oregon’s newest residents are not only allowed to exist in their adoptive home, but are truly included and integrated as valued members of our community?

While humanitarian parole allows individuals to enter and stay in the United States without a visa, it does not connect them to the established welcoming and integration services associated with official refugee status. Without this status, many of those entering the United States are ineligible for financial, food and health care benefits, employment assistance or access to English language classes.

Meyer’s Response

While the Biden administration, Congress and other advocates are working on remedies, Meyer and its funder partners in the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Collaborative (OIRFC) are working quickly to respond to the immediate need for assistance. Meyer, through the OIRFC has designated $300,000 in grants to the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO).

The following two grants will support efforts to grow legal capacity and resources for incoming Afghan arrivals. One agency offers cultural, religious and linguistic competency as well as a promising recently launched immigration legal department. The other has a fully established legal team ready to handle these complex and urgent cases. These agencies will partner to efficiently and effectively meet the human and legal needs of Afghan arrivals to Oregon.

Immigrant and Refugee Community of Oregon (IRCO)

 

Grant of $200,000 to prepare to provide services for an influx of refugees from Afghanistan following the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban.

Established in 1978, IRCO works to promote the integration of refugees, immigrants, and the community at large into a self- sufficient, healthy and inclusive multiethnic society. IRCO’s 500-plus staff is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse workforces in Oregon, collectively speaking 98 languages and representing 73 ethnicities, with 72% identifying as immigrants or refugees.

Since the Immigrant Legal Services (ILS) program at IRCO was launched two years ago, it has provided legal services to thousands of immigrants and refugees. It is the only nonprofit legal service provider founded and led by immigrant and refugee community members that can provide services in more than 90 languages. ILS has provided refugee/asylee status adjustment, naturalization, disability waivers, work permits, green card renewals and certificates of citizenship. It has supported clients in deportation proceedings, including asylum and cancellation of removal applications; and has linked newcomers to basic needs and other social services.

As the only immigration law office in a community-based organization, IRCO ILS is particularly suited to provide culturally and linguistically specific services to the many refugees from a vast number of immigrant communities that will be making Oregon their home. It has applied to the Office of Refugee Resettlement and is expected to become a designated refugee resettlement agency by January 2022.

Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO)

 

Grant for $100,000 in preparation to provide culturally and linguistically specific services for an influx of refugees from Afghanistan.

With a mission of bringing together Oregon's diverse faith community to work for the common good, EMO offers direct service programs, educational dialogue and public policy advocacy to both address the immediate needs of Oregon's most vulnerable communities and to provide a values-based platform for the creation of a more just, compassionate, socially aware and engaged society.

EMO’s legal immigration department, SOAR Legal, has served Oregon’s low- and no-income immigrant population since 1992. Every year, it provides culturally competent and trauma-informed immigration related legal representation and education to over 2,700 refugees and immigrants. SOAR Legal plans to create a large-scale training campaign for the broader attorney population to increase their ability to serve clients.

The OIRFC will be meeting with the other resettlement agencies in Oregon — Lutheran Community Services Northwest and Catholic Charities — to discuss anticipated needs as we get more word about Afghan immigrant arrivals. We have been told to expect approximately 180 Afghans over the next few months, with possibly more to come. I am hopeful that Oregonians will do what we can to truly welcome and support each and every one.

— Sally

Demonstrators at a January march at Portland International Airport holding a scarf saying "Refugees Welcome" Photo credit: John Rudoff

During a January 2017 march at Portland International Airport, a woman holds aloft a banner saying "Refugees Welcome." Photo credit: John Rudoff

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Justice Oregon for Black Lives is Calling for Proposals Helen Shum

On this day 230 years ago, an uprising in Santo Domingo (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) played a pivotal role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Today marks the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. It is in the spirit of that remembrance — and the recognition of the ongoing anti-Black racism and injustice that continues to exist — that Meyer Memorial Trust is honored to launch its first ever Call For Proposals (CFP) for the Justice Oregon for Black Lives initiative.

The police killing of George Floyd in 2020 reenergized a national movement for structural justice, an end to systemic racism and a reckoning with the intersecting legacies of white supremacy. At Meyer, we envision a future where Oregon transforms into the antithesis of its original design as a white utopia, spurred from ambivalence towards racial justice and a culture of anti-Blackness. We’re investing in those communities, leaders and organizations that are building an Oregon where racism, particularly anti-Black racism and its creation at the behest of white supremacy, is acknowledged and long-term, systemic racist policies are dismantled.

Justice Oregon for Black Lives is a critical part of that ongoing effort, created to deepen Meyer’s commitment to Black-led and Black-serving organizations, support public safety and community well-being and foster long-term strategic change. Our funding priorities for this round will focus on three strategic priority areas identified as highest priorities by our community:

  • Investing in Education
  • Economic Justice
  • Reimagining Public Safety

We are currently working on the goals and outcomes for two additional community-identified focus areas: Shifting Black Narrative through the Arts and Culture and Addressing Healing and Trauma for Black Communities.

Today we not only remember the pain and trauma of the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition, but also the resilience, resistance, joy and strength that have allowed us to persevere and persist. With this CFP, we recommit ourselves to harnessing the momentum toward racial justice.

For more information and applicant resources, please see our newly updated webpage. We also hope to meet potential grantees at one of two upcoming information sessions. Please register through the links below.

Wednesday, August 25, 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Monday, September 13, 11 a.m.-noon

We are excited about what Justice Oregon has in store and the partnership we are building. Onward.

 

D’Artagnan

justice_oregon_cfp

Justice Oregon for Black Lives Call for Proposals Opens August 23.

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Results from our Justice-Involved RFP darion

As we at Meyer look toward the future of what is needed for community safety and justice for all, we know that we cannot forget about thousands of Oregonians and families that have been harmed by incarceration or jail.

We also know housing can be a powerful catalyst for individuals involved in the criminal justice system to transition out of the cycle of incarceration and back into the community or workforce, and it reduces the likelihood of an individual returning to jail or prison.

In July 2020, Meyer’s Housing Opportunities portfolio released an open request for proposals focused on interventions and supports that address housing stability gaps for people returning from state and federal prisons, local jails and juvenile facilities and those with past justice involvement and their families.

The goal of this strategy was not only to improve the living situations of 500 individuals but also to provide lessons and learnings to share with the broader housing field philanthropic sector around three crucial questions:

  1. What are the unique challenges and needs of Black, Indigenous and people of color who have been involved with the justice system and face community re-entry and reintegration?
  2. What ways can corrections and housing systems align to support individuals who have been justice-involved so they can reintegrate into communities successfully?
  3. What systems and policies need to be changed to improve rental housing access for people with conviction histories, especially for Black, Indigenous and people of color?

In service to these goals, organizations were invited to respond with proposals for a grant period up to two years with funding requests up to $150,000 for existing projects and expansion of existing re-entry programs. All projects were sought to directly support low-income Oregonians with conviction histories and to reduce barriers to housing access in the private market. In line with Meyer’s equity lens, there was a priority to fund projects with focused strategies to increase housing access for people of color and Indigenous people. We received 19 proposals and are excited to announce eight new grants totaling more than $1.1 million over the next two years to:

Cascade AIDS Project will receive $140,000 (Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties) for a two-year project to build CAP’s capacity to serve Black and Latinx people who have a past conviction, have extremely low incomes, live with HIV, are unstably housed or homeless, and identify as BIPOC. CAP will serve 100 people and place 40 people in private-market housing.

Central City Concern will receive $150,000 (Multnomah County) for a two-year project for CCC to expand the Flip The Script program by specifically serving Black participants to secure housing in private-market rental units. For this project, CCC will serve 20 people and place 20 people in private-market housing.

Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency will receive $149,000 (Marion County) for a two-year project for MWVCAA to expand its re-entry program to specially serve Latinx individuals exiting incarceration by opening a satellite office in Woodburn and offering housing navigation services in Spanish. MWVCAA will serve 100 people and place 80 people in private-market housing.

Portland Leadership Foundation; dba The Contingent will receive $150,000 (Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties) for a two-year initiative for The Contingent to support the stabilization of justice-involved BIPOC parents with children in foster care through community-based crews offering peer mentorship and access to long-term private-market housing. The Contingent will serve 70 people and place 55 people in private-market housing.

Urban League of Portland will receive $150,000 (Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties) for a two-year initiative for ULPDX to provide intensive services to justice-involved Black individuals through a peer cohort model focusing on long-term housing success. ULPDX will create a peer cohort of 35 people who have recently exited incarceration and are experiencing homelessness or are unstably housed to secure and maintain private-market housing.

WomenFirst Transition & Referral Center will receive $132,101 (Clackamas and Multnomah counties) for a two-year project to increase WomenFirst’s capacity to support justice-involved Black women in a holistic and culturally specific approach to achieve long-term housing stability. WomenFirst will serve 8-10 people and place 4-8 people in private-market housing.

Umpqua Community DevelopmentCorporation; dba NeighborWorks Umpqua will receive $130,601 (Southern Oregon) for two years to develop a southern Oregon regional approach to build community capacity to permanently house justice-involved individuals through collaboration with local Tribes, rental tenant education and financial stabilization. NeighborWorks will serve at least 65 people by helping them to secure private-market housing.

Yamhill Community Action Partnership will receive $130,500 (Yamhill County) for two years to support YCAP to increase its capacity to support justice-involved Latinx individuals experiencing homelessness to access and maintain private-market housing. YCAP will serve 90 people and place 68 people in private-market housing.

— Elisa

Justice Involved RFP
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