July 12, 2018

Philanthropy’s Role in Holding Tension

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, Megan Armentrout, Program Associate at the Incarnate Word Foundation and St. Louis local, reflects on the possibilities of shifting philanthropy's focus to long-term change.


headshot-megan.jpgWhen I first started in philanthropy just two years ago my boss said, “Keep an eye out for Neighborhood Funders Group - they are your people”. I had just missed the 2016 convening in Oakland and learned I had to wait another two years before the next convening. To my surprise, the 2018 convening was being held in St. Louis and I was asked to serve on the Program Committee as a local partner. The decision to hold the convening in St. Louis, the city I call home with such a rich history and recent national spotlight, only made sense. 

Raise Up: Moving Money for Justice highlighted issues at the intersection of race, class, gender, and environment. Activists and funders held space for discussion around strategy (how do we actualize the deep change that must take place) and contemplation for healing (how do we encourage a movement rooted in radical self-care). Strategy and healing, an interwoven cycle, must be at the heart of our movements and philanthropy must do better to support those integral parts.

In his opening keynote, Rev. Starsky Wilson rooted people in place as he spoke of St. Louis. A city caught in the tension between what it thought it was and the wounding underbelly beneath. In 2014, a movement of the people did not allow for that underbelly to remain just under the surface. The Ferguson Uprising brought it out to the streets and forced the city (and the country) to take a long, hard look in the mirror and wrestle with its “soul-trauma” - and I can think of no better imagery of this than the mirror casket created by local activists and carried to the Ferguson police department during the uprising. 

This is a deep tension and Rev. Wilson urged us to “hold the tension long enough for people’s actions to change”. I’m left contemplating the role of philanthropy in holding this tension. In our fast-paced world, driven by the forces of instant-gratification and capitalism, philanthropy continues to shift priorities every 3-5 years. What would it actually look like for philanthropy to join the long-game with organizers who are in it for the long-haul? Are we well situated to use our power to hold the tension long enough for things to shift around us? What does that look like and how do we do this well?


I kept these questions close to my chest as I navigated through the rest of the conference. 

Organizers, funders, and neighborhood activists helped answer this question in pieces and it is up to us to work this out; to stay accountable to the movement before us for a more just and equitable society. Post-conference I’m still ruminating and a couple key points have stuck with me. Edgar Villanueva brought me back to hope rooted in forward progression in his session on Decolonizing Wealth. He spoke of this process as a path toward healing the trauma so many communities have faced so that their “possibilities are endless”. Philanthropy is a center of power and concentrated wealth existing at the core of capitalism and yet I believe philanthropy has the ability to create lasting change in the world around us and liberate itself from the strongholds of white supremacy and colonization. As we decolonize wealth, we can move toward the solidarity philanthropy Aaron Tanaka spoke of when he said, “if the money isn't ours to begin with, solidarity philanthropy would urge us to put money back into the communities that money was taken from”.  

Holding the tension requires a recognition of the root of the problem, holding fast with an unwavering stance until others begin to recognize the complex nature of justice issues plaguing our nation. In this way, I believe philanthropy does have the power to hold the tension, both in funders’ ability to shift and move conversation as well as long-term, continued support of folks on the ground doing the work day in and day out. 

I knew by the first program committee phone call that I had found “my people”. It was by the end of this convening that I knew I found “my home”. This beautiful, radical, intentional group of people, representing a multitude of institutions across the country, is a mirror of the philanthropy I want to see in the world. The philanthropy I now have hope in to hold the tension, to enter into brave space with others, and play an active role in the healing of systemic wounds. May it be so.

Connect with Megan on LinkedIn.

Follow the Incarnate Word Foundation at @IWFSTL.

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

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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.


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.”


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!

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