July 9, 2018

Facing and Recovering from Soul Trauma

In June 2018, Neighborhood Funders Group convened hundreds of local, regional, and national funders for the NFG 2018 National Convening, Raise Up: Moving Money for Justice. Here, Andrea Dobson, NFG Board Member and Chief Operating & Financial Officer of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, reflects on the realities of philanthropy's role in building community change.


 

“Soul trauma: when who you thought you were runs smack into the realities of your life.” I’ve experienced plenty of soul trauma as I’ve watched communities disintegrate and people polarize, as poverty has become less a symptom of limited wealth and more a criminal offense in people’s minds. How can that be? Why is the society I am a part of increasingly choosing violence over peace, oppression over inclusion, and greed over generosity. More importantly, what can I do about it?

I sit in a privileged place: a senior executive at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF), a highly respected philanthropic institution that has social justice in its DNA. In the opening plenary for Neighborhood Funders Group’s (NFG) biennial convening last month in St. Louis, Reverend Starsky Wilson, president and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation, introduced me to “soul trauma” as something he had been facing. When the Ferguson crisis exploded onto the national scene, he experienced soul trauma. This weighed heavily on my mind during the the three days in St. Louis. Through engaging conversations, plenary sessions, learning tours, and side bar conversations, I grappled with a few disturbing realities – a soul trauma of my own, if you will.

My foundation is undergoing strategic planning, and we are about to direct all of our time and energy to advance equity in Arkansas. Sounds great, until I dig into the reality of what we are about to embark upon. Are we – the funding community and WRF in particular – actually putting our money where are mouths are? Are we funding social justice organizations like we expect them to win? Or am I more concerned with preserving corpus and not disrupting the power structure? Which one is my reality? There it is, my soul trauma.

As an accountant by trade and longtime philanthropic practitioner, I have industry standards that help ensure any money WRF sends to a nonprofit is wisely spent. Things like an audit, for example, and nonprofit status. But, if my aim is to increase equity, am I intentionally applying criteria that red-line small, community-led changemakers? Forcing small groups to get an audit is costly. Asking all grant recipients to be 501(c)3 organizations makes my due diligence simpler, but is it really serving the communities I say I’m interested in serving? Soul trauma.

At NFG’s conference, I was challenged to dig deeper into corpus, to rethink the capitalistic model, and to actually believe we can change the world. Artist, activist, and community-change strategist Jayeesha Dutta challenged me: “What if you believe there is enough? If you believe there is abundance, we can shift how it appears in our lives. We can and will build a new and different economy.” Can my foundation be a part of this shift? I hope so.

Aaron Tanaka, Director of the Center for Economic Democracy and Echoing Green Fellow, introduced economic democracy into the conversation. Our economic system has brought tremendous wealth to a few, but it hasn’t worked well for everyone and has left far too many Arkansans behind. It has also left our public servants beholden to small groups of wealthy donors instead of community members. Shifting to municipal participatory budgeting processes and community control over police departments would enhance accountability. Redefining the role of a politician as the implementer of community decisions produced by thorough resident engagement gives voice to those most impacted by policy change. Restorative justice in lieu of our current punitive system is a participatory way to bring safety to our communities and address the harms we inflict on residents. Cooperative ownership structures and worker co-op creation, community land trusts, and local finance organizing offer hope for our communities to become safer and more prosperous places.

All of this is food for thought – deep thought – as I sit in my office pondering how best to deploy an endowment to relentlessly pursue equity for all Arkansans.

I was sobered and inspired by stories from Santa Ana, California, a place where the local officials have taken steps to be inclusive and welcoming in the face of anti-immigrant politics at the state and county levels. They’ve worked thoughtfully and carefully to address the systemic intersections of law enforcement, immigrant rights, and poverty in ways that enhance their community. Organizers and advocates have supported each other to help the police department stop criminalizing poverty and end divisive rhetoric.

Asmaa Ahmed, Council on American-Islamic Relations policy manager, encouraged me to move away from fragmented thinking and to embrace holistic approaches to building communities. Immigrant-rights issues, she said, are related to criminalization issues and community violence: there is no vacuum. We are not alone. The “othering” is happening to every marginalized community. While sitting in this session, my friend Mary Sobecki, Needmor Fund executive director, was watching an immigration raid play out in her community. Fifty children were being separated from their families in Ohio while we discussed sanctuary in St. Louis. Soul trauma.

Reverend Starsky Wilson is not alone, and he’s also not a pessimist. He truly believes change can happen. He gave us a clarion call: “What if philanthropic advocacy actually turned political piety into people’s power. Do we actually believe it can happen?” I do. And I’ve figured out what I can do: I can recover from soul trauma and help others do the same. Just as recovery from physical trauma changes us, often for the better, I can feel my spirit growing stronger, and I won’t be alone. Our collective recovery from soul trauma will bring us closer together – our recovery is what will give us the strength to build stronger communities and finally unlock all communities’ full potential.


Connect with Andrea on LinkedIn and Twitter at @andreawithWRF.

Follow the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation at @wrfound.

Find more posts about the NFG 2018 National Convening on the NFG blog.

Find More By:

News type: 
January 14, 2019

FFJ Advisor Discussion Series: Kris Hayashi

Photo of Kris sitting on brick steps, hands clasped.

Hear from Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center and FFJ Field Advisor, about the efforts to seek #JusticeforRoxsana and the horrific conditions trans migrants face, particularly in ICE custody. Click here to participate in a matching gift challenge.

#JusticeforRoxsana

Six months ago, our government murdered Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender woman and asylum-seeker from Honduras. Last month we put ICE on notice.

On November 26th, 2018 Transgender Law Center (TLC) and the Law Office of Andrew R. Free announced that we have filed a Notice of Wrongful Death Tort Claim in New Mexico, the first step in holding all parties responsible for Roxsana Hernandez’s death accountable. We were joined by Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project (BLMP) and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement (Familia), who have advocated for an end to detention for trans and queer migrants.

Transgender Law Center, Familia: TQLM, BLMP, and our co-counsel Andrew Free are joining in a national campaign calling for Justice for Roxsana and for all trans migrants.

It will be a long and difficult fight, but we must and we will get justice for Roxsana and for all trans migrants.

What Happened to Roxsana?

An independent autopsy report reveals that Roxsana was shackled for a long time and very tightly, enough to cause deep bruising on her wrists,said Lynly Egyes, TLC’s Director of Litigation. “She also had deep bruising and injuries consistent with physical abuse with a baton or asp while she was handcuffed, according to an examination of the tissue by an independent expert board-certified forensic pathologist. In the final days of her life, she was transferred from California to Washington to New Mexico, shackled for days on end. If she was lucky, she was given a bottle of water to drink. Her cause of death was dehydration and complications related to HIV. Her death was entirely preventable.”

Roxsana Hernandez was a Honduran transgender woman and an asylum seeker who arrived with a caravan organized by Diversidad Sin Fronteras. She arrived in Tijuana and sought asylum by presenting herself at the San Ysidro Port of Entry (SYPOE) in May. What followed was a hellish ordeal of being held in U.S. Customs & Border Protection custody in the notoriously cold holding areas, known as “hieleras,” growing increasingly ill as a result of the inhumane conditions. She was repeatedly denied access to medical care she begged for, only able to see a doctor after days of vomiting and diarrhea.

“We will continue to uplift Roxsana’s story and to continue to hold immigration enforcement accountable for her death,” said Jennicet Gutierrez, community organizer and advocate with Familia. “We will continue to organize to protect the lives of all trans and queer migrants because what our community needs is asylum not detention. Familia will continue to organize and demand for the abolishment of ICE, CBP, police, and all prisons.”

Currently there are dozens of LGBTQ migrants in Tijuana whose lives are being held hostage by a morally reprehensible and punitive presidential administration that would have them wait in a country that has openly shown violence and hostility towards migrants, and pointed cruelty towards LGBTQ people.

Horrific Conditions for Trans Migrants

“This last week, as many people across the country enjoyed a warm dinner with their family, the Trump Administration is considering basically signing execution orders for the LGBTQ migrants in Tijuana awaiting their opportunity to seek asylum, commented BLMP representatives Dora King and Jerome Jones in November 2018. “Among those waiting for their opportunity to ask for asylum are Black LGBTQ migrants who are particularly vulnerable to violence, including detention and deportation, while in immigration proceedings. The Trump administration’s immigration policy is purely racist.”

Advocates point to the conditions Udoka Nweke faced when he presented himself for asylum also at SYPOE in December 2016. He was detained for nearly two years before being released in September after being held in solitary confinement and attempting suicide. His testimony upon being released from Adelanto Detention Facility corroborated a scathing report by Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General that points towards a drastic overhaul necessary in Adelanto. The report listed as areas of concern:  Nooses in Detainee Cells; Improper and Overly Restrictive Segregation and Untimely and Inadequate Detainee Medical Care.

“Immigration prisons are teeming with human rights violations,” said civil rights attorney Andrew Free. “From forced labor to inadequate access to medical care, they are horrific places to lock people up. We have requested records from the relevant federal agencies regarding  the conditions Roxsana was kept in under the Freedom for Information Act. In the next few weeks, if they do not turn over those files we will be filing a suit against them. We will not rest until those responsible for Roxsana’s suffering are held to account, and until the systems of oppression that gave rise to her suffering are abolished.”

TLC, BLMP, Familia, and the Law Offices of Andrew Free have been working with Roxsana’s family in seeking justice. Roxsana’s sisters shared the following statement with TLC:

“Roxsana Hernandez was our sister and it was an injustice to have her die the way she did. They cut her life short and she was not able to fulfill her dreams. For us, her closest family, it’s been extremely painful to deal with. She left with dreams of opening a beauty salon and hopes of helping us out. She fled Honduras because here transgender people are discriminated against. She left with hopes of living a better life. It has not been easy for us to accept that she is gone, we were very close. It’s difficult to accept that she was taken from us because of negligence, because of not giving her support and medication that she needed, because they treated her like an animal. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that she fled Honduras looking for a better life and instead she was murdered. Now all we have left with is the hope that we can see justice for her. Justice for Roxsana.”

WATCH THE TLC PRESS CONFERENCE IN SAN DIEGO HERE.

Time to Take Action

We know this will be a long and hard fight. After the press conference in San Diego, INTO reported, “On Monday, ICE attempted to discredit the autopsy by emailing media outlets off-the-record tips that Dr. Sperry resigned from his position as Georgia’s chief medical examiner in disgrace. Sperry retired in 2015 after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a scathing report on Sperry’s time moonlighting as a paid forensic consultant. Sperry did not face legal action and has continued to practice in Georgia. INTO was among the outlets to receive the off-the-record tip from ICE on Sperry. INTO is taking the exceedingly rare step of not honoring the off-the-record because the information was sent without prior agreement between INTO and ICE, and the agency has refused to corroborate its assertions.”

As our government terrorizes asylum-seekers at the border, TLC remains committed to holding ICE accountable and defending our trans communities, including those seeking asylum within our borders. We're committed to ending the abusive and inhumane detention of transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) migrants, experienced by Roxsana who was cruelly beaten before she died, and Udoka Nweke, a Black gay migrant who recently won release from immigration detention after almost two years of torture. Despite the government's attempts to attack trans bodies or erase our existence, we're still here- and we're still suing- for our right to thrive, free from discrimination.

To ensure we win #JusticeforRoxsana, generous donors Liz and Elly Fong-Jones have pledged to a matching donation of $50,000. Together, if we can raise $50,000 for our work to bring justice for Roxsana, our generous donors will double your donation this new year. Make your gift to support the fight for justice here.

For more information or to get involved in the campaign please contact kris@transgenderlawcenter.org.

December 10, 2018

Welcome to the new NFG website!

Thank you for visiting Neighborhood Funders Group's new website! We've completely redesigned and improved how it works to make it easier than ever for our members to use as an online resource.

We're currently in soft launch mode before we publicly announce the new site in 2019, so thanks for taking an initial sneak peek! Please excuse our digital dust as we finish testing all of the features of our new website. You can find a temporary archive of our old site at old.nfg.org.

What new features can you find on the site?

  • Search the entire website for news, events, and resources using the search bar at the top of every page
  • See where all of the members of our national network are based, right on our member map 
  • Discover more related content, tagged by topic and format, at the bottom of every page
  • Look up NFG member organizations in our member directory
  • Log in to view individual contacts in the member directory and register for events in the future

If your organization is an NFG member, first check to see if your account has already been created for you. Click "Forgot Password" on the log in page and try entering your work email address to activate your account and set your password.

Let us know at support@nfg.org if you come across any issues logging in, or anywhere else on the site. Stay tuned for our official launch announcement, and thanks for visiting!

Find More By:

News type: