September 1, 2016

For the Surdna Foundation, Communities Should Define Their Futures

Will Cordery, Program Officer of Surdna Foundation’s Strong Local Economies program, writes about racial justice and inclusive economic development.

This post originally appeared in NCRP’s quarterly journal, which you can find here.

When people have asked me what compelled me to join the team at the Surdna Foundation more than a year ago, I’ve often shared that I saw a philanthropic organization that is not only guided by principles of social justice, and working to address real societal problems, but one that is committed to investing in new ways of building economies, environments and communities that place those directly impacted by inequity at the center of making decisions on the best solutions. 

In essence, I saw Surdna as a foundation that was driven to invest in a better, more just world with people at the center. And this was important to me as a former fundraiser and organizer for Project South, an organization whose work for racial and economic justice was guided by principles of investing in people, place and regional identity across Southern states. Few national foundations support marginalized communities in building local leadership and long-term infrastructure that not only works to address current challenges, but also prepares them for future challenges and supports their leadership.

As a family philanthropy, Surdna and the Andrus family have been practicing responsive philanthropy for nearly 100 years. Much of those years were devoted to direct service and programs for children. In 1989, the third and fourth generations of the Andrus family established Surdna Foundation’s programs in environment and community revitalization, which came with a decision to expand the professional staff to broaden the foundation’s effectiveness. By 1994, programs in effective citizenry and the arts were added. Guided by the principles of social justice, the foundation today seeks to foster sustainable environments, strong local economies and thriving cultures in marginalized communities in the United States.

Surdna Foundation is a national philanthropic leader working across both the public and private sectors to actualize smart and inclusive economic growth. I am especially excited by what our Strong Local Economies program has so far accomplished and the work that continues. The line of work, which I lead, is committed to improving the lives and economic opportunities for low-income communities, people of color, women and immigrants by investing in communities to win good economic policies, building and growing locally owned businesses, creating quality jobs and improving jobs that millions of low-wage workers hold by bringing up the labor market. 

I am inspired by the vision of a country where communities that have been systematically locked out of economic mobility can realize true economic opportunities and security. 

Minority Business Investment

One of the areas of work under the Strong Local Economies program is Business Development and Acceleration (BDA), which aims to create jobs and wealth in communities through thriving, diverse, sustainable local businesses increasingly owned by people of color, women and immigrants. 

This past year we continued to focus our efforts on harnessing the power of the private sector to broadly promote quality job growth in local communities. Our work with minority-, women- and immigrant-owned businesses remain one of our larger areas of investment. Our program is able to provide grant dollars to business accelerators – private or nonprofit entities that provide early capital and technical assistance to start-ups and small businesses to assist with their growth. Many minority-owned businesses struggle to secure the capital needed due to their size, location and leadership. 

The business accelerators we are supporting provide an array of services to a diverse business audience. One of them is Chicago United. As part of Chicago United’s Five Forward 20/20 Initiative, each company commits to working with five local minority-owned firms over five years, better positioning local minority-owned firms to compete for corporate contracts. To date, Chicago United has produced partnerships with 21 area companies that reported spending an aggregate of more than $350 million in 2014. Among these businesses, a select number of minority-owned enterprises created more than 4,700 jobs. 

Some of the most compelling work happening in the BDA portfolio is the investment in converting small businesses into worker-owned cooperatives. In a recent report, Ours to Share: How Worker Ownership Can Change the American Economy,  Surdna explored the opportunities of worker-owned firms to fundamentally change local economies and to build wealth for historically low-income communities. 

With the pending retirement of tens of thousands of baby boomers that were successful in entrepreneurship, there is going to be a huge transfer of wealth in this country. That wealth could be transferred to a larger corporation in a buyout, to a developer for repurposing of their land or to the workers who’ve worked for those small businesses for years who would now have an opportunity to own a business and help drive the local economy. Transferring ownership of a business from just one person or group to the business’ workers creates opportunities for workers to build wealth, to own their work and products in an entirely new way and to increase economic activity in communities that have suffered from years of stagnation and inequity. 

Although this model of local economic drivers redistributing wealth is relatively small, there are immense opportunities to scale and make this a practice of wealth redistribution that is good for workers, retired business owners and local economies. 

Economic Development for and by the People

Historically, economic development projects do not benefit all populations and oftentimes exclude the communities we serve – low-income, people of color and immigrants. We believe that economic development can be done in a different way – a way that reaches beyond city centers and produces positive impacts on local communities, placing its residents at the decision-making tables and creating opportunities for economic mobility. 

The attention being paid to growing income inequality and an uneven economic recovery this past year has created an opportunity to redefine economic development guidelines and practices to include equity and to engage people directly affected by development at the most local level. Surdna is working with a host of economic development, policy research and nonprofit and philanthropic partners to further advance an equitable economic development framework. 

This summer, the Surdna Foundation, in partnership with the National League of Cities, PolicyLink, the Urban Land Institute and Open Society Foundations, launched the first-ever Equitable Economic Development Fellowship. This is a two-year, $1 million effort to promote equity, transparency and sustainability as driving forces in local economic development efforts. It also will provide participants with leadership development, technical assistance and peer learning. Leaders were chosen from six cities for the inaugural class: Boston, Charlotte, Houston, Memphis, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. We and our partners are hopeful that advancing an equity frame in these respective communities at this time will place local leaders in positions of influence at the cusp of impending economic development boom in these cities. 

Workers and the Economy

Through our Job Quality & Career Pathways (JQCP) line of work, we strive to improve the quality of jobs and conditions of work in low-wage sectors in this country as well as expand access to higher-paying jobs, identify and develop promising career paths in emerging industries and seek the overall improvement of economic mobility. 

Over the past few years, advocates have fought for and celebrated tremendous policy wins that improve conditions of work for millions in this country – from increasing the minimum wage to securing paid sick and family leave, fair scheduling and other labor standards improvements that have the potential to transform the lives of working families. As a result, there are renewed efforts around the country to engage key stakeholders in the enforcement of job quality measures. Many cities have dedicated staff focused on policy implementation, but some cities still lag behind with insufficient staff, accountability measures or true commitments to achieve intended results. 

Surdna is working to better understand the capacity needs and current challenges of government in addition to community-based interventions to realize the benefits of new policies to improve the quality of jobs. This past July, in partnership with the National Employment Law Project and Rutgers University Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, we convened leaders from worker organizations, government agencies and small business advocacy groups from across the country to share some of the challenges and opportunities they’re facing, the importance of worker power, business compliance and revenue sources separate from local and state budget negotiations to fund enforcement of labor policies. 

Over the coming year, we will explore how best to invest in efforts to safeguard all of the significant strides we’ve made in creating good economic policies as well as how best to respond to preemptive attacks that attempt to halt progress. 

The Importance of People and Place

As we approach our centennial, the Surdna Foundation understands just how important people and place are to a community’s ability to flourish. History has taught us that trickle-down economics do not work. In order to create the ecosystem needed for local communities to thrive economically, socially and culturally, we have to invest in their success at the local level. 

Over the summer, the foundation staff conducted an exercise during a staff retreat that challenged us to summarize Surdna’s mission-driven work in eight words. One of my favorite statements was “Communities define their futures. We support their goals.” 

As a social justice foundation, we are not alone in this sentiment. Although our collective resources are somewhat finite, if all of philanthropy was responsive in a way that put the resources into the hands of those most affected, we could lead a renaissance that would drastically reshape how communities and economies are driven.

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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.

#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
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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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