Oregon Leaders You Should Know: Michelle Yemaya Benton

Michelle Yemaya Benton is the executive director of Black Community of Portland, a Justice Oregon for Black Lives grantee partner. We caught up with her to talk about her new scope of work, how community organizing is in her DNA and what it means to be a revolutionary.

What’s one thing you did recently that brought you joy?

I just came back from my trip to Morocco. It was my first time leaving the country and traveling to Africa was a spiritual experience. The hospitality, the people, the culture, the sunsets — it was really beautiful. I felt like I had to battle my ancestors to come back.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?

I have two: the matriarch of my family, my great-grandmother Jonnie B. Clarkston and the Black women in Portland. My great-grandmother was my example of generational wealth, what it means to take care of your family and what it means to take care of your community.

It's hard for me to pinpoint one Black woman because there's so many Black women that really influenced my life. My friend Mikinya Jackson, a co-founder of the Melanated Sisterhood of Portland, is a big revolutionary influence; Joy Alise Davis at Imagine Black inspires how I go about my work; Laquida Lanford, the founder of Afro Village, uplifts and empowers me; Noni Causey who runs B.E.A.M is one of my mentors and I can call on her for anything. We support the missions, the movement and each other.

What are some words of wisdom you’d give your younger self?

When I was in high school, I wanted to go to a HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and be an attorney. I didn’t have the grades and I didn’t have the support, but I was organizing even then. I did soulful cookouts, helped start the step team, organized fundraisers — but the school-to-prison pipeline is real and even just having the stigma in your bloodline can affect some roads we walk and it can be intense. So I would tell my younger self, ‘If you want to study law and become an attorney, you need to do the things to get there. Find programs, find outside support. If that’s what you want to do, do it.’

How did you become the executive director of Black Community of Portland?

It was a prayer for purpose. One of my good friends, Mikinya, invited me to a community dinner at The Horn of Africa. There was a long table and lots of Black folks all wanting to empower and uplift the Black community. I sat down and never left. That day, I submitted my application to join the Black Riders Liberation Party, the new generation of Black Panthers for Portland chapter.

Part of our mission is leveling up our community: empowering our people, protecting our people by educating our people. I thought of my younger cousins and how much I needed advocacy growing up. My family is no stranger to the 'war on drugs,' or the New Jim Crow era. The buck stops here. I put that first and that’s how I got into this work.

What new venture is your organization embarking on?

We’re coming together with Imagine Black Futures and The Rosewood Initiative to create what we’re calling the Oregon Black Worker Center. Working while Black in Oregon is a topic not taken seriously or spoken on enough. This center is going to be a space of empowerment, a space for learning and sharing information, opportunities and resources. Our goal is to create a supportive community where Black workers receive fair treatment and respect in the workplace.

We’re all coming together to build a bigger movement of advocacy and accountability. Community voice is crucial. Right now, we’re reaching out to community members to better understand their needs for this space.

As a revolutionary, what does revolution look like to you and what does it look like in Oregon?

For me, revolution is the sheer audacity and ability to do what you will with your life and not allow the limiting beliefs of others to prevent you from moving forward. It’s being able to empower people. The revolution starts at home. It starts with you.

Revolution in Oregon is giving people the power and authority to live their lives how they see fit. It’s divestment — not just of the police — but of a budget that doesn’t represent the people who live in this state; it’s reparations for Black folks whose families have lived here for generations; it’s removing racist language from our constitution to restructure our policies.

What’s on your bucket list?

Seeing every single country in Africa, touching every single continent in the world and expanding my nonprofit to be a national organization.

Michelle Yemaya Benton, executive director of Black Community of Portland, stands in the Atlas Mountains in Mororcco

"It has been a long and winding road to get to where I am today." Atlas Mountains, Morocco.

News Category
By and About
News Menu Category

In East Multnomah County, a Focus on Healing

Four groups are organizing a multifaceted approach to healing in East Multnomah County. Unite Oregon, Keep Growing Seeds, Black Economic Collective and The BIPOC Rise Moor Healing Center are bringing together nearly 1,000 community members to assess the viability of a Black wellness center.

These organizations comprise one of 14 collectives funded in the latest round of grants by Justice Oregon for Black Lives, Meyer Memorial Trust’s $25 million initiative co-created in 2020 with Black communities working to advance racial justice and equity.

Seeking to counteract Oregon’s traumatic legacy of erasure, displacement and exploitation, this collective brings a diverse set of perspectives and missions to healing Black communities. With experience ranging from movement building to food sovereignty, members envision a Black wellness center focused on self-sufficiency, skill building, therapies and more.

If their plan comes to fruition, the center could become a beacon for residents in East County where the Black population is increasing, largely due to displacement from rising housing costs in Portland’s urban core. East County comparatively lacks basic infrastructure like sidewalks, parks and natural areas. The collective intends to invest in this neighborhood with much-needed resources.

“An abundance of meticulous and thoughtful consideration has been implemented to provide this Black wellness center to East County,” Durrell Javon Kinsey Bey, co-founder of The BIPOC Rise Moor Healing Center, says. “Not as a fad but as a mechanism of hope and prosperity toward sustainability and self-sufficiency for Black people.”

Healing as a Catalyst for Flourishing Black Communities

When Justice Oregon was established, a steering committee of Black community members identified addressing trauma and healing as a core goal of the initiative. Plans for the wellness center fall firmly within this priority area.

“We heard that we can't have things like economic justice or investments in education without a strong foundation for healing in the Black community,” says Allister Byrd, Justice Oregon for Black Lives program officer.

For Je Amaechi, Unite Oregon’s reimagining community safety manager, the center could be the next Greenwood District or even New Nanny Town (now Moore Town).

“Healing is not an endpoint,” says Amaechi, whose Jamaican heritage and abolitionist principles shape their values. “To really get at the root level, we have to work on healing ourselves and healing each other. Then we’re able to work toward advocacy and collective action.”

Cultivating Black Joy into the Planning Process

To determine if a wellness center of this kind would be impactful, the collective is asking communities directly for their input. But, true to their values, they are prioritizing Black joy and healing throughout the planning process. By offering participants support for immediate needs as well as access to Black therapists, educational opportunities and more, the collective hopes to create a space of safety and comfort.

“These gatherings won’t be traditional meetings,” Kristin Teigen, Unite Oregon’s grants associate, says. “Simply by participating in the needs assessment process, community members will be able to access multiple modes of healing.”

To further their reach, the collective is partnering with two additional organizations with deep ties to immigrant and refugee communities from across the Black and African diaspora, Emanuel Displaced Persons Association 2 (EDPA2) and African Holistic Health Family Organization.

“Not only is [this project] long overdue for East County but for people of African descent,” Kinsey Bey says. “This is well deserving to make strides in the path of karmic reconciliation, moral rejuvenation and above all social equity.”

Graphic image of Oregon with a focus on East Multnomah County

Graphic image of Oregon map

News Category
News Menu Category

Justice Oregon grants highlight innovation, exploration through partnership

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


News Category
By and About
News Menu Category

A Milestone for Justice Oregon: Reflections at the Halfway Point

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* 


Journeys Foundation* 

Joyce Finley Foundation* 

Kids For The Culture* 

Lane Community College Foundation* 

Lines for Life* 

Love is King* 

Love is Stronger GV* 


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

News Category
By and About
News Menu Category

An Ode to Black Joy

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.

News Category
By and About
News Menu Category

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

“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.



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


Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO)

NW Accelerator

POIC/Rosemary Anderson

Portland Business Alliance


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


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



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.

News Category
By and About
News Menu Category

Justice Oregon for Black Lives is Calling for Proposals

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.




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

News Menu Category

Justice Oregon for Black Lives

Building a movement for change, powered by community wisdom, collaboration and joy.

Our Commitment

Justice Oregon for Black Lives is the largest initiative in Meyer’s history, created in the wake of nearly two months of demonstrations protesting the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others that have awakened a national movement to end systemic and structural racism.

Meyer’s board of trustees approved the commitment in recognition of the urgent opportunity to transform institutions, systems and narratives in Oregon, a state founded on stolen lands and explicit in its constitutional exclusion of Black people. A long-term effort, the initiative is being co-created with Black communities working to advance racial justice and equity in Oregon.


  1. Investing in Education
  2. Reimagining Public Safety
  3. Shifting Black Narrative through Arts + Culture
  4. Addressing Trauma + Healing

Increase Black ownership (i.e. businesses, homes, investments).

Intended outcomes:

  • Support an additional 100 Black owned businesses to achieve revenue of $1 million+ across Oregon by 2025
  • Increase Black home ownership to 35% by 2025


Increase financial literacy / opportunities in Black communities.

Intended outcomes:

  • Identify Black and community financial institution partnerships to access capital and to provide financial literacy by 2023

Increase representation of Black educators, administrators across Oregon.

Intended outcomes:

  • Increase recruitment and retainment of Black teachers and administrators to 400 total by 2025 across Oregon in K-12.


Improve Black student academic, social and emotional outcomes throughout Oregon.

Intended outcomes:

  • Increase Black student academic performance, namely mathematics, writing and reading skills
  • Increase Black student access to programs that improve their social and emotional well-being

Create a shared vision of what public safety is within the Black community.

Intended outcomes:

  • Develop a shared geographical public safety plan(s) for Blacks across Oregon by 2023


Increase the percentage of Black policy makers and leaders across Oregon.

Intended outcomes:

  • Increase Black policy makers to 2% across OR and to 6% for Portland metro by 2025

Invest in More Space for Black Artists

Increase the number of spaces for Black artists (specifically women, LGBTQ+, and youth) to showcase their work and support Black artists already creating art spaces.

Intended Outcomes:

  • Support two to four Black art spaces (metro and non-metro) by 2025.
  • Provide resources to support Black artists (laptops, art equipment, etc.)

Increase cross-educational opportunities (including professional development) for Black Artists (specifically women, LGBTQ+, and youth) across generational backgrounds.

Intended Outcomes: 

  • Support non-metro and urban artists for 10-20 pop-up shops on annual basis through 2025.
  • Support the creation of a minimum of 10 educational curriculum pods annually for youth and established artists representing various artistic mediums (visual arts, performing arts, musical arts, etc.).

Increase the economic viability for Black artists (specifically women, LGBTQ+, and youth) through increasing public-private and business partnerships.

Intended Outcome:

  • Increase the accessibility of funding for 20-25 Black artists annually.

Support Research and Evidence-Based Practices

Intended Outcome: Fund community-based research opportunities to study, incubate, measure and/or advocate for healing strategies.

Invest in Black Healing & Black Joy

Intended Outcome: Increase support to organizations that empower Black communities and individuals to experience healing and joy.

De-stigmatize Trauma for Black Communities

Intended Outcome: De-stigmatize the concept of trauma and increase awareness of self-guided healing activities within Black communities.

Shift from Community Grief to Community Relief

Intended Outcome: Support organizations establishing rapid response system(s) to intervene with resources, services, and advocacy when trauma-inducing crises impact Black communities.

Applicant Resources

After Centuries of Extraction and Exclusion, It’s Time to Democratize Funding, Not Just Deploy It

The beginning of this month marked the 100th anniversary of the white supremacist rampage that destroyed the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. What would eventually be known as the Tulsa Race Massacre took place over the course of May 31 - June 1, 1921, decimating a thriving Black community and leaving hundreds dead at the hands of a white mob angered by the economic success of America’s “Black Wall Street” and triggered by a false accusation against a Black man for allegedly assaulting a white woman.

The Tulsa Race Massacre isn’t taught widely, if at all, in school curriculums about U.S. history. In the past couple years, though, the events have been depicted in pop culture television shows like Watchmen and Lovecraft Country. But I grew up knowing that history of violence.

While my family has lived in Oregon for six generations, I was actually born less than 50 miles outside of Tulsa in a little town called Nowata, Oklahoma. Nowata is where I spent my formative years and where I still return for family reunions. Because of this connection, I grew up learning about the massacre and paying homage to Greenwood, the legacy of those brutally murdered and the importance of the city to America’s Black community and history.

As we recognize 100 years since the massacre, I reflect on what it took away. Besides the lives, livelihoods and safety of so many, the Tulsa Race Massacre also stripped the Black community of the opportunity and future that it had worked so hard for. There is no telling what could have been without this loss of life and generational wealth. 

But Oregonians have another centennial to reckon with as well. A hundred years ago, in June 1921, as the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre were interned and forced to clean up the destruction of their businesses, homes and lives, the Ku Klux Klan began implementing its methodical—and wildly successful—plan to expand into Oregon. The Klan sent scouts from its headquarters in Georgia to recruit members in Portland, gaining thousands within a matter of months. Within just a few years, Oregon had the highest per capita Klan membership of any state in the country.

The rapid rise of the Klan in Oregon was not an anomaly. Our state has excluded Black people since its inception. The original state constitution prohibited Black people from living, working or owning property in Oregon. Our state was also deeply resistant to the U.S. Constitution’s 14th and 15th Amendments, adopted into the U.S. Constitution in 1868 and 1870 respectively. Oregon rescinded its initial ratification of the 14th Amendment and did not re-ratify until 1973, over a hundred years after its adoption, and was one of only six states that refused to ratify the 15th Amendment, not doing so until 1959. As Juneteenth approaches this year, this history must not only be remembered, but reckoned with and reconciled.

Exclusion is critical to white supremacy. But the flip side is more than merely inclusion. Participation and representation is needed to counterbalance the history of violent exclusion, racist laws, outright refusal to expand civil rights, ongoing systems of white supremacy and so much more.

Last July, Meyer Memorial Trust announced Justice Oregon for Black Lives, a five-year, $25 million initiative to make strategic investments in Black lives, our largest single initiative ever. Our goal with Justice Oregon is to deepen support for Black-centered organizations, uplift a just system of community well-being and invest in long-term lasting strategic change. This isn’t about just tinkering at the margins or funding implicit bias sessions for cops. It’s about investment in Black organizations, communities, leadership, families, wisdom and opportunity. Black success, indeed Black life—and everything that means from personal wellbeing to public safety, financial stability to building generational wealth, owning our narrative and telling our own stories—is precisely what most threatens white supremacy.

As we began to plan for this initiative, the primary question for us in philanthropy was how to honor the values that we set forth and how to hold ourselves accountable to the community and those values.

To that end, Meyer has embraced participatory grantmaking in our approach to Justice Oregon for Black Lives. To build Black participation and representation, we must do more than just deploy funds; we must democratize philanthropy. Sharing power is fundamental to finding a new model of philanthropy—one that repairs and restores based on a community’s needs and the principles of justice, not just what’s thought best by those who’ve long held the purse-strings. As Meyer’s President and CEO, Michelle J. DePass recently said, “Justice is about scaling up a corrective opportunity. It’s about making up for lost time.”

We are working with an advisory committee of Black community members, creating a space where they can authentically talk about their needs, the needs of Black Oregonians and ways philanthropy can be a transparent partner with them to support Black resilience and liberation. We recognize the importance of working hand-in-hand with the community to not only hold ourselves accountable, but to also create a space where partnership and collaboration can thrive. There is motivation and momentum right now, and we must not squander it by biding our time or smother it in red tape.

This summer, Meyer will continue to engage with the community, to be best informed when it comes to identifying outcomes, the process for grant applications and other factors for the successful rollout of Justice Oregon for Black Lives. We are listening. We are learning how to do this right and will continue to do the work—in community—with our eyes, ears and hearts open.

We’ll have so much more to report and celebrate come this Fall. And throughout this process, we will remain accountable to Oregon’s Black communities and to all aspects of Black life—the pain and trauma of both the past and present, yes, but also the resilience, the resistance, the joy and the strength that have, for centuries, allowed us to persevere and persist, to fight and flourish, in the face of exclusion, hatred and violence. Liberation is a process, not a moment in time.

We honor those who made it possible for us to be here today—from Greenwood in Tulsa to Albina in Portland, from the Strand District in Galveston to South Minneapolis—and remain dedicated to them, their struggle, their success and their justice.

N. Greenwood Ave. in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Also known as Black Wall Street

The intersection of N. Greenwood Ave. and Archer St. in Tulsa, Oklahoma, also known as Black Wall Street

News Menu Category

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.

News Menu Category
Subscribe to Justice Oregon for Black Lives