It’s Not About Choice, It’s About JusticeRoy Kaufmann Fri, 06/24/2022 - 14:30

We, the trustees and staff of Meyer Memorial Trust, are devastated and infuriated by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Even as we knew this travesty was coming, it is still shocking and the anger we are feeling needs to be named. This will have serious life-threatening implications on the collective well-being of people in Oregon and around the country. This decision is clearly rooted in a long history of white supremacy, misogyny and patriarchy.

In Oregon, many of us are fortunate enough to have access to needed abortion and reproductive health services — but access should not be a privilege or matter of chance based on where you live, your race, economic position, gender identity or sexual orientation. But even in Oregon, and even with Roe, unfettered access to abortion has only been the right of the few. In 2017, some 78% of Oregon counties had no clinics that provided abortions. What’s more, nearly all of Oregon’s abortion clinics are along I-5 in the western part of the state, and many people in Eastern Oregon rely on clinics in Idaho to access reproductive health services. With Roe overturned, Eastern Oregonians could see a 35% reduction in abortion access -- a reality that will undoubtedly have an outsize impact on Black and Brown Oregonians, Native American communities and people who cannot afford to travel hundreds of miles to the nearest provider.

As terrifying as a loss of abortion rights is, we also need to be clear that this is not just about choice, it’s about justice. This is about controlling the bodies and realities of those who are most vulnerable and will not stop with a focus on people who can become pregnant, but affect many other bodies, including trans bodies. As one reads the majority opinion, it is clear that the conservative majority believe abortion is only one of a number of rights that should not be protected. What is next? The right to interracial marriage? The right not to undergo forced sterilization? The right to contraception?

Since our founding in 1982, Meyer has granted a combined total of $2.8 million to Planned Parenthood of the Columbia-Willamette and Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon, more than $700,000 to NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon Foundation (now, Pro-Choice Oregon) and funded many other organizations that support health equity and justice. As we embrace an explicitly anti-racist, feminist approach to our work, we recognize that the Oregon we are trying to create requires a further commitment to dismantling oppressive systems and utilizing an intersectional justice lens. We continue to explore how we can be a strong partner on gender and reproductive justice issues by investing in organizations and movements working at the intersection of gender, race and class.

As Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor have written in their dissenting opinion, "'people' did not ratify the Fourteenth Amendment. Men did. So it is perhaps not so surprising that the ratifiers were not perfectly attuned to the importance of reproductive rights for women’s liberty, or for their capacity to participate as equal members of our Nation.”

We join Justices Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor in their dissent. A fundamental, constitutional human right has ended with today's decision. But tomorrow is another day. We have more work to do and we — along with our partners, friends and allies — are committed to doing it.

Demonstrators at a pro-choice rally in Washington D.C.

Demonstrators at a pro-choice rally in Washington D.C.

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“Bring truth to your passion.” Educators of Color find Solidarity, Wisdom in CommunityHelen Shum Tue, 04/19/2022 - 10:39

In February, the newly renamed Oregon Collective Summit was attended by more than 125 educators and pre-service teachers from around the state. With COVID safety in mind, educators came together in a virtual space for the second year in a row. This was in contrast to the experience of many who have been working in school buildings since fall under extremely stressful conditions, including a surge in the Omicron variant that exacerbated an already severe shortage of teaching and support staff.

Understanding that context meant that the OCS educator-led planning committee prioritized healing as a primary theme of this year’s event, bringing Dr. Dena Simmons to share her experience and wisdom with attendees. Simmons is the founder of LiberatED, a collective focused on developing school-based resources at the intersection of social and emotional learning, racial justice and healing. With an understanding of the isolation experienced by many of Oregon’s teachers of color, in her remarks, Simmons emphasized, “You are not alone.”

Perhaps the most powerful evidence of that reassurance came in the form of a panel discussion with current and past Oregon teachers of the year. BIPOC educators Ethelyn Tumalad (2022) , Nicole Butler-Hooten (2021) , Mercedes Muñoz (2020) , Keri Pilgrim (2019) and Gloria Pereyra-Robertson (2017) shared their experiences and honest reflections in a conversation moderated by Gerardo Muñoz, Colorado’s 2021 teacher of the year.

As one teacher confessed to feeling she had, “no mentors, no pathways” to help her navigate through her experience as one of the only teachers of color at her school, others offered hope and perspective.

“We are seeing a social justice shift…[but] I recall not knowing how much of my Indigenous self to bring to the classroom. This work can be lonely,” one educator empathized.

Another shared how exhausted they felt from endlessly “code switching” through multiple contextual environments, “from classroom to parent meeting to department, staff and district [professional development].”

When the panel was asked what advice they had to offer their younger selves, the wisdom shared was both reflective and practical. Early career and pre-service teachers were listening closely, as those with more experience nodded in agreement.

“Teaching is a journey. Pace yourself. I am a totally different person and educator than when I started. Do not feel you need to do it all today.”

“Find the shoes that are comfortable for you.”

“We serve out of our identity. [DEI-related work at schools] is largely unpaid labor. It’s ok to say no.”

“Remember to make time for your family.”

“Eat your lunch. Go to the restroom. Drink your water.”

“Bring truth to your passion.”

As one attendee shared, "The community coming together was just so powerful. To hear the voices of BIPOC educators was incredibly inspiring.”

In all, the event featured 24 speakers and six breakout sessions that covered a range of content — from elevating student voice and leadership, to teaching climate change in the context of Indigenous history. Educators also learned about ongoing efforts to build and strengthen a statewide coalition for educators of color in Oregon.

Diarese George, a founder and executive director of the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance shared the journey that he and others have taken to leverage the connection and support for and by educators of color into a movement that influences educational policy and decision making.

George notes that nationally, “We are losing more teachers of color than we are gaining.” This, he said, means that “Retention is our biggest opportunity.”

Speaker and director of Oregon’s Educator Advancement Council (EAC), Kimberly Matier shared that the majority of the Regional Educator Networks funded by the EAC are focused on retaining the diversity within our education workforce. These efforts, in conjunction with the grow your own (GYO) teacher pathway programs also funded through the EAC, are creating a new eco-system of support for diverse educators. Meyer has joined these efforts and granted over $1 million to increase and retain diverse educators in Oregon. In addition, our Justice Oregon for Black Lives initiative includes education as one of its five community-identified priorities, with specific goals to increase the number of Black educators and administrators by 2025 and to improve Black student academic, social and emotional outcomes.

Meyer is so honored to help connect and support educators of color as we collectively work to advance equitable education efforts and outcomes. As a foundation whose mission centers racial and social justice, Meyer believes the importance of diverse educators reflecting Oregon’s diverse student populations cannot be overstated.

— Bekah

 

Oregon Collective Summit Agenda 2022 (654.06 KB)

To see speaker bios, click here and select the ‘speaker’ tab.

A word cloud created by attendees of Oregon Collective Summit 2022

A word cloud created by attendees of the 2022 Oregon Collective Summit

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Why We believe Portland Clean Energy Fund’s Work Should ContinueHelen Shum Fri, 04/15/2022 - 11:11

We’ve noticed that recent news coverage on the Portland Clean Energy Fund (PCEF) has led to a few public calls for a pause in its work. Some of those calls have cited accountability and oversight issues raised in a recent city audit of the program released in March.

As a longtime funder of many of the organizations that came together to create PCEF, we want to share our perspective on why we feel that’s the wrong call.

For years, Meyer Memorial Trust has been investing in the community based organizations that came together to create PCEF, which 65% of Portland voters approved in 2018. Meyer has also supported the majority of PCEF grantees to date. Why? Because these organizations have a track record of designing and implementing effective solutions by and for their communities to address myriad challenges on issues like housing, energy, transportation, pollution reduction and more. These are the leaders we need to follow in the face of the climate crisis.

They believe, as we do, that the climate emergency we face requires bold and rapid action that is grounded in the wisdom and expertise of communities on the frontlines. Those who are experiencing the greatest impacts from climate change — including wildfire, drought, heat waves, hurricanes and floods — are best positioned to create appropriate solutions. An understanding of the interwoven nature of our climate challenges with issues like access to safe and affordable housing, quality food and living-wage jobs is a particularly strong aspect of an innovative program like PCEF.

In designing the fund, organizations like Coalition of Communities of Color, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Verde, Native American Youth and Family Center, OPAL Environmental Justice and the NAACP Portland Branch wanted to do more than simply fund energy efficiency, clean energy retrofits and green infrastructure. They also wanted to invest in the capacity of frontline communities to lead and execute solutions. The innovations baked into PCEF are designed to create new possibilities for those who have historically benefited the least from government programs, in particular those from communities of color and low-wealth communities.

While we know this makes intuitive sense to most, we fear that a limited understanding of accountability will also limit our collective ability to achieve broader, deeper and more lasting impact — on climate and many other important issues.

In the case of PCEF, a fuller understanding of accountability must acknowledge and correct how our own governance systems have their own biases. Those biases have resulted in disparate benefits to white communities at the expense of communities of color. The recent city audit of PCEF highlighted the ways in which it is walking the fine line between the risks required of those on the cutting edge of change and the scrutiny that comes with the use of public funding. In our view, that is the very work that is needed.

Audits are meant to identify actions for correction and improvement. It’s no surprise that in standing up a new and innovative program like PCEF, this first audit has identified areas for improvement. However, the last thing that we should do in the face of the climate emergency is pause this program. Further, with large amounts of federal funding being allocated toward rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine ways of investing not only in infrastructure, but in the resiliency of our communities themselves. With a strong PCEF in place, Portland’s frontline communities will be positioned to bring their leadership, vision and capacity to leverage this tremendous investment.

The intertwined crises of climate change and injustice require rapid and intentional adaptation. PCEF is a model for how to do just that. Portlanders overwhelmingly saw the promise of PCEF, trusting the wisdom of communities most impacted by the climate crisis, when they voted for it. Pausing now would be yet another breach of trust with communities who’ve endured a legacy of broken promises. It would stall important progress on one of the most ambitious and innovative community-led efforts to address our climate emergency in Oregon and the nation.

Mary Rose & Jill

Logos of community based organizations that collaborated to create the Portland Clean Energy Fund

A coalition of community based organizations that have come together to build PCEF.

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The Black-led and Black-serving Organizations Shaping Oregon’s FutureHelen Shum Mon, 02/28/2022 - 18:07

“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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We Must End the Epidemic of Violence Against Indigenous Women Helen Shum Mon, 11/22/2021 - 14:25

As Thanksgiving approaches, many Oregonians are looking forward to gathering in celebration with their loved ones. But for many Indigenous people, the holiday is a painful reminder of the slaughter and oppression of their ancestors and the lasting legacy of colonialism and white supremacy in the United States. In particular, my heart and thoughts are with the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People (MMIWP) and their families in Oregon and beyond.

With the recent disappearances of Rena Mendenhall, Kennedie Hernandez and Lyssabelle Balinger, it’s clear we need to do more to act on this long standing epidemic and acknowledge the colonial roots that perpetuate it. While Oregon is one of only nine states that has brought legislative attention to this issue, progress has been slow and the work remains underfunded.

In 2019, Rep. Tawna Sanchez (Shoshone-Bannock/Ute/Carrizo) wrote and was instrumental in passing House Bill 2625 which called for a study to identify the scope of the MMIWP crisis in Oregon. The bill passed unanimously and the Oregon State Police (OSP) committed to leading a task force focused on the issue, albeit with no additional funding. That same year, the U.S. Department of Justice launched the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative and Cedar Wilke Gillette (Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara; Turtle Mountain Chippewa descendant) was appointed Oregon’s first Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Coordinator. This was followed by a statewide listening tour and the release of OSP’s Report on Missing and Murdered Native American Women, detailing some of the barriers to reporting and investigating missing Native American women and people, and providing recommendations for continuing action.

These are vitally important first steps for Oregon, but they’re just the beginning of the deeper work we must do to address MMIWP in our state. The pandemic limitations on gatherings shortened the Listening and Understanding Tour and a lack of additional funding limited the OSP report’s methodology. Oregon can and must do more.

In her report on the issue, Portland State University graduate Michaela Madrid (Lower Brule Sioux Tribe) made a number of recommendations which call for greater inclusion of Indigenous MMIWP survivors, family members, scholars and community leaders to address this epidemic. She calls for the hiring of Native American researchers and the addition of a Tribal relations director within the Oregon State Police department. Meyer believes implementing these recommendations would provide a more meaningful resource for decision-makers, funders and Oregon’s Inidigenous communities.

Here at Meyer, we are committed to advocating for not only greater awareness, but more crucially action, including additional funding and increased consultation and engagement of Oregon’s Indigenous communities most impacted by the MMIWP crisis. Our current efforts are focused on directly supporting individuals and families in need of immediate support during their time of crisis, including those involved in searches for missing relatives, after care for loved ones found and, unfortunately, funeral expenses when needed. Earlier this month, Meyer provided a grant to the Na’ah Illahee Fund (NIF), an Indigenous women-led organization dedicated to the ongoing regeneration of Indigenous communities. Following the recommendations of their community advisory council, NIF will distribute grants to those most impacted by the MMIWP crisis.

The MMIWP crisis is only one example of the destructive living legacies of racism, slavery and colonization. Public agencies and private funders must work together, following the lead of our tribal and urban Native communities to address historic and current harms. A flourishing and equitable future for all Oregonians is intrinsically tied to the well-being and prosperity of our state’s Indigenous communities.

The following are the names of MMIWP in Oregon. I hope you will keep them and their families in your hearts as you reconnect with yours this holiday season.

Lisa Pearl Briseno, Mavis Kirk-Greeley, Mavis Josephine McKay, Heather Leann Cameron, Avery Chester Charles, Jerome Clements Charles, Shaydin Jones-Hoisington, Leona Sharon Kinsey, Roger Jacob LeMieux, Sennia Pacheco, Zachary Silatqutaq Bashir Porter, Tryone Beau Robinson, Tina Vel Spino, Gunner Bailey, Jonathan Thomas Gilbert, Gregory Scott Peters, Leslie Shippentower, Selena Shippentower, Sophia Rosenda Strong, Lynette Watchman, Melissa Wilson, Rena Mendenhall, Kennedie Hernandez, Lyssabelle Ballinger and those still unknown and unnamed.

Rena Mendenhall Missing Teen from Roseburg, OR

A flyer with details on Rena Mendenhall, a missing teen from Roseburg, Oregon. missingkids.org

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Justice Oregon for Black Lives is Calling for ProposalsHelen Shum Fri, 08/20/2021 - 14:47

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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Toward a New 'Gospel' of PhilanthropyHelen Shum Tue, 08/17/2021 - 14:59

I recently received an invitation for the 30-year anniversary of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, a nonprofit where I served as the founding executive director early in my career. This was long before sitting where I am, now, at the helm of one of the largest foundations in Oregon. I am incredibly proud of the work that the Environmental Justice Alliance has continued and will always remember the blood, sweat and tears that it took to move environment and climate justice forward on the front lines of that movement.

This anniversary has me reflecting on the number of roles I’ve played fighting for a more just world. I’ll admit to some cognitive dissonance here. Now, I am more removed from the day to day frontlines of community work than I have been at any point in my career. And yet, I hold more ability to direct resources toward the solutions that could change our realities in a region — through climate, education, housing and community-building movements — than I have at any other point. This power imbalance is a fundamental truth about philanthropy, one that has long been a part of the relationship between funders and organizations doing the work. And it’s a dynamic I have come to disagree with.

How did we get here, as a field, that our own systems of accountability replicate the very power imbalances and inequities of the systems we’re seeking to change? It’s important to understand that philanthropy is rooted in capitalism, and was founded on the idea that wealth indicates ability. Early U.S. philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie were clear about this belief. Carnegie outlined this philosophy in an essay entitled, “Wealth,” published in the North American Review over 130 years ago, in June 1889. In this essay, later widely known as “The Gospel of Wealth,” Carnegie writes that the wealthiest in our society should make decisions on behalf of the poorest, for the benefit of those without means. “The millionaire will be but a trustee for the poor,” who stewards vast sums of money “for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself."

If we pull at this thread, it’s clear that Carnegie’s philanthropic gospel has influenced much of the ways we approach grantmaking today as a field. Foundations make decisions about what communities need and direct resources and power to that end. Thirty years ago, when I sat in my office at the Environmental Justice Alliance, I didn’t have time or energy to unpack the ways that funders were gatekeeping important community work, but I knew that when I received an urgent request for a press release from a funder, I was irked.

Modern American philanthropy, to a large degree, is built on Carnegie’s notion that wealthy people are somehow uniquely equipped to solve the wicked problems we face as a society. That wealth is to be administered to the masses in controlled doses, reinforcing the underlying assumption that people who are poor would simply not be able to make sound decisions with the means they need. The Carnegie gospel says it’s someone else's responsibility — namely, the richest among us — to manage solving societal ailments and that the communities most harmed by scarcity, discrimination and divestment are not to be trusted to make their own decisions about what’s best for them and their families.

I am committed to changing this dynamic. It is crucial that those of us working in philanthropy commit ourselves to interrogating the roots of our sector and charting a new and equitable path forward. We in the philanthropic sector must forge a new way of thinking and put that into action.

The simple fact is, there is no one more knowledgeable or better equipped to build a more just world than those who have lived their lives closest to injustice. People with lived experience and communities who outsmart oppression in order to survive and thrive have the keenest and most valuable insights about solutions that remove systemic inequities and dismantle barriers that hold people back. We need to face the truth that it isn't that communities don't have solutions, they are not given the opportunity or resources to put these solutions into play.

With this belief fixed in our minds, Meyer is trying something different.

We are striving to be more intentional in our grantmaking, to do our work in such a way that Black, brown and Indigenous communities, and those who have lived through the problems we’re grappling with have power to direct Meyer’s resources, internally and externally. This means that our partnerships with these communities will ever-deepen, and our focus will remain on the strengths that women and people of color bring to navigating the unjust and antiquated systems that we can together reimagine.

Last Summer, we established Justice Oregon for Black Lives, a multiyear, multi-million dollar initiative dedicated not only to funding Black-led and serving Black organizations, but to - as Program Director D’Artagnan Caliman recently wrote - Black wisdom, resistance, resilience and joy. We are listening to community voices and taking their lead. This is all a part of Meyer’s new gospel. A gospel not only of wealth, but of health and equity, listening and liberation. A gospel of trust in the communities we are committed to serving, not as saviors but as partners. I am beyond excited to announce that our first call for proposals for Justice Oregon grantees will be posted here next Monday, August 23.

We also know that change is not only necessary in what funding goes out our doors, but also the work environment we establish behind them. For the past three years, the staff, leadership and Board of Meyer have embarked on an institutional introspection and culture-shifting journey focused on listening, learning and building the competencies we need to halt and heal the harm of a status quo past. We have a story to tell here, and a promise to the field to show our work so that others may learn from our journey and our lessons learned. We will share more about this process in the coming weeks as well.

I am hopeful that other leaders, philanthropists and foundations will take up the charge by intentionally investing in community power, and structuring work so that people with lived experience are central to defining and creating the solutions their communities need, and given the resources and trust to bring those solutions to life. I know that we can reimagine and rebuild the ways that philanthropy works, hand-in-hand with frontline communities. We can write new verses to this gospel together.

 

— Michelle

A beautiful sunrise

A beautiful sunrise in Oregon

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Moving the Needle: A Reflection on Five Years of Investment in Oregon’s Affordable Housing LandscapeHelen Shum Fri, 07/16/2021 - 10:45

What did five years and $16 million in investment in affordable housing mean for Meyer Memorial Trust and its partners active in affordable housing efforts across Oregon?

In our report, Moving the Needle: A Reflection on Five Years of Investment in Oregon’s Affordable Housing Landscape, Meyer staff reflects back on the challenges, setbacks, clear “wins” and lessons learned from designing and implementing a strategic philanthropic initiative.  In addition to robust and lively discussions among the team about what we take forward from this work, we reached out to dozens of key partners in nonprofits, other funders and government to get more perspective on how the Affordable Housing Initiative was received.  

We hope you’ll find this summary of the biggest takeaways useful and relevant.  We see this as a contribution to the rich ongoing dialogue about impact and strategy in philanthropy, and welcome comments, questions and dialogue to promote more shared learning and insight.

 

—  Michael

 

Drone view of Argyle Gardens housing

Argyle Gardens, a sustainable apartment community in the Kenton neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Transition Projects.

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Turning Point or Point of No Return? Oregon’s Big DecisionHelen Shum Wed, 07/07/2021 - 10:26

Last week, Oregonians across the state experienced an unwelcome taste of how unchecked climate change might impact our lives in the future. A record-breaking heat wave in the Pacific Northwest killed hundreds, including more than 100 people in Oregon. The scorching heat helped fuel what is expected to be an early and active wildfire season, pushing the Governor to declare a state of emergency in an attempt to speed firefighting response and resources to a state that is almost entirely in extreme drought.

In addition to our rural neighbors who are most proximate to the areas at highest wildfire risk, many of those who died last week were older people who lived alone without fans or air conditioning. Summer programming and free meal distributions at schools were halted in some areas—supports that many families and children depend on. With temperatures as high as 117 degrees, even traditional respites like community pools were closed because it was simply too hot for people to safely work or recreate in such extreme temperatures.

My heart breaks for the family of Francisco Perez, a 38-year-old farm worker from Guatemala, whose death in the fields of a tree farm in St. Paul highlights the shameful fact that many in our agricultural community do not yet have critical health and safety protections at work. An executive order, developed in part to mitigate the effects of climate change, directed state agencies to create rules that would have required that those who work outdoors have access to shade, water, and rest breaks during extreme heat. Those rules have come too late for Mr. Perez.

Now, we find ourselves at another crossroads. Will the events of the last week serve as a turning point or a point of no return for Oregonians? Do we understand that what’s at stake is not just our immediate future, but the health and value of this Earth for generations to come?

What might a path towards a more just climate future look like?

In recognizing the undeniable fact of climate change, it’s clear we must defossilize our energy and economic sectors. While the Pacific Northwest has been a focal point for new fossil fuel infrastructure development projects, tribal and community-led efforts have been working arm in arm to fight proposals like the Pacific Connector fracked gas pipeline in Southern Oregon. This coalition of the Klamath and other tribes, landowners, businesses, climate and conservations groups, and residents understand that moving away from our reliance on fossil fuels is not easy, but the transition costs to business pales in comparison to the societal impacts of dragging our collective feet. 

I am grateful to public health and social justice coalitions, such as the Oregon Just Transition Alliance, who are working to center the voices of historically marginalized people who are the most impacted by climate change. Thanks largely to their efforts, Oregon will transition its electricity to 100% clean energy by 2040, while centering benefits for communities of color and rural, coastal, and low-income communities and workers. Oregon will also invest $10 million in a new Healthy Homes Repair Fund at the Oregon Health Authority to support low-income Oregonians with energy efficiency retrofits. The Energy Affordability Act will help low-income families afford their energy bills.

In reaching these important milestones, what we are collectively saying is “no more excuses.” The best time to transition was 10 years ago. The next best time is now.

Our own natural resources can help solve this problem. The forests of western Oregon have a higher carbon density than almost any other forest type in the world, which means they play an unique role in storing carbon. Allowing these trees to grow bigger and older is a critical climate strategy. Additionally, more conservation, restoration and improved land management actions increase carbon storage across other lands—agricultural, grasslands and deserts. This also makes our landscapes and communities more resilient in the face of climate change driven wildfires.

Rogue Forest Partners unites nonprofits and government agencies to restore resilience to dry, fire-prone forests and to the nearby communities facing high wildfire risk in the Rogue Basin. With leadership from initiative-partner, Lomakatsi, the project is also developing job and contracting opportunities for tribal members and immigrant forest workers and the businesses they own, as well as building their capacity to play leadership roles in the governance of the Initiative.

We need to combine this with innovation from the private sector as we did with electric cars, renewable energy and carbon removal. Let innovation drive a just transition and see the jobs that follow. We must also make sure that investments into the innovative breakthroughs of tomorrow, as well as their outcomes are equitably distributed. This is how we guarantee our collective resiliency in the face of climate change. It is quite literally, the opportunity of our lifetimes.

Oregonians are pragmatic. So let’s be honest with ourselves. We caused this mess for future generations to deal with. It is our responsibility to clean it up. 

Crises don’t solve themselves. People solve them. The first step in doing this is to say we will. We will and must reach a turning point where we quit pointing fingers at other countries or other states and quibbling about what they are or aren’t doing. This doesn’t require another commission or a task force. Leaders like Huy Ong of OPAL, and Vivian Satterfield of Verde have been planning a just transition that brings everyone along for years. We need to back them and others leading the charge in our state, and find ways to speed up their work, not make it harder. 

Taking no action is choosing the point of no return. Let’s decide to protect Oregon’s way of life. Let’s take this turn together. 

 

—Michelle

Turning point

An Oregon road winding through trees.

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Liberation Isn’t a Date, It’s a Destiny

Well, it’s been a year. A year of remote work and remote education for so many; of forced precarity and impossible choices for so many more. A year of distance from loved ones. A year of the most widespread Black-organized and Black-led uprisings for racial justice the nation has seen in decades, here in Portland and around the world. A year of fear and of care like no other.

As Spring turns to Summer, I’m thinking about transitions and transformations. What it means to emerge from the invisible to the undeniable, the margins to the mainstream, from suffering to solidarity. From enslavement to emancipation.

What it means to truly be free.

All of Meyer Memorial Trust will be marking Juneteenth this year. Juneteenth has been celebrated for many decades by Black families as a date when the last enslaved people in the nation finally learned they were free. This year, the Oregon State Senate voted unanimously to officially recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday beginning in 2022. The U.S. Senate followed suit and unanimously passed a bill to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday. While overdue, it is still worthwhile as it is essential to have momentous dates of liberation on our shared national calendar.

Juneteenth, much like the Fourth of July, is both a celebration and a warning. It is a promise of what could be but has never yet been; a challenge against complacency and a call for constant vigilance.

This past year gave me a shot in the arm. Yes, the one that helped me see my aging parents in person again and lets me work from the beautiful, new Meyer headquarters in historic Albina. But also another one: the shot in the arm that inoculated me against the illusion that progress is secure, that justice is inevitable. The work will never be done, so I need to be clear on what it will take this year, next year and in the years to come to bring us closer to correcting the wrongs of history and bringing us closer to justice.

On Juneteenth, we can remember, reflect and recognize that liberation is achievable. But it won’t come only from marking a date in the past, it will come when we make liberation our destiny.

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