Black Lives Matter: A mindset and a vision

As I embark on this journey as director of Justice Oregon for Black Lives, I cannot lose sight of celebrating Black History Month. Growing up in Portland with family ties to Oklahoma, I was taught about Black wealth and the resiliency of our people. I learned about Black Wall Street and how an entire Black community in Tulsa worked to create a FUBU — for us by us — network and build structures to support community prosperity and economic success, all during a time when Black people couldn’t use the same drinking fountain as a white person. A similar history is woven between our Black community here in Oregon and the former city of Vanport.

Black people have lived through countless atrocities and survived historical injustices from the start of the transatlantic slave trade to the current criminalization of Black bodies. These inequities inform the way I approach grantmaking and how I will do my part to right historical wrongs in Oregon.

I love this state deeply, and with such strong adoration comes an equally high level of expectation for improving the lives of Black Oregonians. I often think about the events of the past month and how white nationalism has tested our nation’s belief in democracy, equity and justice. When I have felt anguish about racial injustice, I’ve found relief through the leadership of young Black activists and Black-led organizations and the positive impact they have within our nation — holding our passions and voices and taking responsibility to disrupt unjust systems that perpetuate hate and marginalize Black and Brown people everywhere.

In my first nonprofit job as a program manager at House of Umoja — an organization that combated gang violence in Portland while strengthening social ties in the Black community — I learned firsthand the crucial role that culturally specific organizations play in neighborhoods, schools and churches as well as with law enforcement and government. I carried these lessons with me and embedded them throughout a 15-year career at Casey Family Programs, learning how philanthropy can better serve the most vulnerable populations and those adversely impacted by systemic racism.

As I’ve settled into my role at Meyer, I’ve reflected on my plans for the initiative, ideas for co-creation of grantmaking in partnership with the Black community and ways to structure the foundation’s funding to meet the needs of all Black folks in Oregon’s 36 counties.

So far, I’ve learned during my time at Meyer that we envision a future in which Oregon becomes the antithesis of its original design as a white utopia in which Black people were not welcome. We envision a place where racism, particularly anti-Black racism, is acknowledged and long-term systemic racist policies are dismantled. A place where Black people feel they belong no matter where they travel and reside in the state. We envision a state where centering the work of Black liberation ultimately creates just conditions for all Oregonians.

Last summer, our board of trustees made it clear that racial justice was central to Meyer’s mission by publicly condemning anti-Black racism and prejudice and giving our president and CEO, Michelle J. DePass, license to outline the foundation’s strategy for the work of Justice Oregon and how it will affect Meyer’s grantmaking and culture and deepen the institution's commitment to serving Black communities.

To elevate the needs of Black Oregonians within philanthropic and business communities, my role as director calls me to build stronger relationships with Black communities across the state and create spaces and opportunities for Black people to steer the strategic direction of philanthropic dollars in Oregon. It is my responsibility to convene private and public partners to support Black Oregonians and foster innovative practices that drive outcomes related to Black resilience and liberation.

Defining my work and Justice Oregon at Meyer

Over the next six months, I plan to learn from and build relationships with Black Oregonians across the state. In February and March, I will be offering more specifics and focusing on our strategy for deepening Meyer’s commitment and connection to the Black community. I recognize that to get this thing right, we need input, direction and support from Black folks, so I will also be connecting with community members and private, public and business organizations through a series of virtual and in-person (when possible) meetings and events.

Justice Oregon will host virtual community information and connection sessions on Feb. 22 and March 4 to share our framework for the initiative and gather feedback and insights about where Meyer’s funding is needed. We will share the registration link online next week. Sign up for our Meyer Mail newsletter for more information and updates about the virtual events.

Grants, funding priorities and award timelines don’t exist yet because they will be set in collaboration and partnership with community. We do know that Justice Oregon will operate differently but in partnership with Meyer's existing portfolios so that organizations will not have to select between the initiative and applying for portfolio-specific funding through the Annual Funding Opportunity. As a result, Justice Oregon will not be apart of Meyer's AFO this year but we will actively seek opportunities to bolster the efforts of organizations that come through the annual funding opportunity process.

As we design the funding approach for this initiative, a primary focus for me will be maintaining flexibility in between funding cycles to fund innovative projects as they arise. I will also seek to partner with other philanthropic organizations, public entities and businesses to leverage our collective resources to provide multi-year funding opportunities to support strategic investments in the lives of Black Oregonians.

I know most philanthropic partners have adopted diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) vision statements and goals. It is not always clear how philanthropic organizations are funneling resources into Black communities to create sustainable change and to dismantle racism and anti-Blackness. I hope this initiative further encourages our partners within philanthropy and abroad to enter into this space as we learn how to do this better at Meyer.

Philanthropy is uniquely positioned to work across all systems to address institutional racism and anti-Blackness throughout our communities. I believe this initiative — centered on the idea that making strategic investments in Black lives in Oregon will better the lives of all Oregonians — will allow Meyer to be more fluid as we think about our funding cycles and processes to ensure that Black people and communities have what they need to thrive. I hope you will journey alongside me in this effort.

— D’Artagnan

The African Adinkra symbol Sankofa, emphasizing revival and wisdom.

The African Adinkra symbol Sankofa, emphasizing revival and wisdom.

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D’Artagnan Bernard Caliman joins Meyer as new Director of Justice Oregon for Black Lives

I'm ecstatic to announce that Meyer Memorial Trust has named D’Artagnan Bernard Caliman as the new director of Justice Oregon for Black Lives — Meyer’s five-year, $25 million investment in Black leadership, Black-serving organizations and systemic-level change.

D’Artagnan (Dar-Tan-Yan) brings deep experience building and leading programs, as well as co-creating innovation with communities here in Oregon, across the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere in the country. His roots in Portland – and his continued connection to community even from afar – affirm how driven he is to the mission of systems-level change through the centering of Black Oregonians.

D’Artagnan who most recently served as the executive director at Building Changes in Seattle, brings 24 years of experience and leadership across social work, human services, juvenile justice, gang prevention, homelessness, child welfare, philanthropy, advocacy, policy and racial equity at local, regional and national levels.

As a sixth-generation Oregonian, D’Artagnan’s personal story is interwoven with many moments and milestones in Oregon history that may ring familiar to people who were raised in historic Albina, a longtime home to Portland’s Black and Native communities. He earned a diploma from Catlin Gabel School, a sociology degree from Warner Pacific College and a master’s of social work from Portland State University. D’Artagnan’s first job was at Portland House of Umoja, where he created a culturally specific “Rites of Passage” program for young Black men. He also worked at Self Enhancement Inc. as a multi-systemic therapist working with youths who were involved in the juvenile justice system.

When D’Artagnan was 17, a close friend — Mujib Dudley — was killed in a gang shooting near NE 15th Avenue and Alberta Street. Looking out at the mourners at the funeral, he decided to take a path aimed to help to prevent such senseless violence.

Previously, D’Artagnan served as senior manager of the Child Welfare Information Gateway Digital and Web Services team, as well as a state/territory liaison providing capacity building services for public child welfare (DE, MD, NH, VA, WV and Washington, DC.) at ICF, a global consulting firm that works to improve public child welfare in partnership with the United States Children's Bureau. He has also served as the chief of staff for the Maryland Department of Human Services. He has worked as a child welfare consultant specializing in child welfare, child abuse and neglect, juvenile justice and social services. For 15 years, D’Artagnan worked in case management, community programs supervision and overseeing national partnerships in Oregon, California and Washington for the Seattle-based Casey Family Programs.

At Building Changes D’Artagnan led the strategy and implementation of effective partnerships and programs for a nonprofit working to improve the educational, health and housing outcomes for students, youths and families who experience homelessness. Through his leadership, Building Changes set a new five-year Strategic Plan to deepen the organization’s racial equity work and address disproportionality in BIPOC communities experiencing homelessness.

As the director of Justice Oregon for Black Lives, D’Artagnan will be responsible for overseeing an initiative dedicated to deepening support for Black-centered organizations and uplifting a just system of community well-being for Black-led and Black-serving organizations that intersect with other communities of color.

The Skanner quoted D’Artagnan last week in a news release about joining Meyer. He said, “I have dedicated my career to my friend’s memory and the uplifting of the Black community. With the civil unrest across the country and in our backyards across Oregon state, I am even more strongly motivated to partner with Black communities in the work of eliminating structural racism and moving toward Black liberation.”

D’Artagnan will begin work at Meyer on Jan. 6.

— Kaberi

Meet D’Artagnan Bernard Caliman, Meyer’s new Director of Justice Oregon for Black Lives.

Meet D’Artagnan Bernard Caliman, Meyer’s new Director of Justice Oregon for Black Lives.

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