Spring 2012 Grants Announced
In our Spring 2012 cycle, we made grants in the Innovative Activism category, now in its second year of implementation, and continued our commitment to new and emerging groups through our Grassroots Action grants
This photo shows members and allies of El Centro del Inmigrante at a rally for immigration reform in front of Staten Island's borough hall.
Innovative Activism grants support the most exciting social justice work that creatively engages marginalized community members, builds their skills and advances social justice in New York City. Areas funded under this category include arts and action, cultural work, alternative institution building, resources for organizing and media justice. This new category builds on 35 years of North Star funding in this area.
Asian American Writers' Workshop (AAWW) $10,000
C. Edwin Baker Memorial Grantee
Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in New York City and yet according to the Asian American Federation, one-fifth live in poverty and three-quarters of low-wage workers in New York City's Asian American immigrant communities were laid off after 9/11. Often left out of mainstream media, Asian Americans lack opportunities to tell their stories and get their voices heard - an essential tool for social change.
The Asian American Writers' Workshop is a preeminent national arts organization dedicated to the belief that Asian American stories deserve to be told. AAWW's online magazine, Open City: Mapping Urban Asian America, will ensure that Asian American voices are framing their own narratives. By creating this new genre of online magazine, Open City will incubate the literary careers of emerging artists, collaborate with communities to voice their own issues and build a participatory journalistic forum. Open City will document how Asian American immigrants--as leaders, organizers, workers and innovators--are helping to shape New York City, and seek to catalyze social participation, empowerment and change.
The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) $10,000
Low-income people of color are most affected by environmental and economic justice issues and yet are most often left out of policymaking and regulatory decision-making. Without an understanding of the political and physical infrastructure, communities lack the ability to advocate for their own rights, from residents fighting for affordable housing, to formerly incarcerated individuals trying to reenter the job market.
The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) works with communities to create visual tools and documents, designed to educate people most impacted by discriminatory policies with an understanding of their rights. CUP's partnerships generate powerful materials to demystify a wide range of issues including the redistricting process, the complexity of New York's juvenile justice system and street vendor rights. Through their collaborative program, Making Policy Public, CUP created a poster, Barriers to Reentry, that clarified the rights of formerly incarcerated people, and proved to be a critical advocacy tool. Chai Feldblum, Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, held Barriers to Reentry in her hands when she announced the release of an updated and much improved guide for employers on the use of criminal background checks in hiring.
Falconworks Artists Group $10,000
Home to one of the largest housing projects in the country, Red Hook, Brooklyn remains a largely industrialized waterfront that is geographically isolated from the rest of New York City by an expressway. Gentrification has done little to help residents of public housing, who make up 70% of the Red Hook population. Less than half the adults in the Red Hook Houses have a high school diploma, the average per capita income is $8,000 a year, dropout rates and gang violence are high, and youth receive limited sexual health education.
For Falconworks Artists Group, empowerment of individuals and communities in Red Hook through theater is at the core of their mission. Using Popular Education and Theater of the Oppressed techniques, Falconworks provides the tools for community members to write and produce original theater that exposes critical issues, challenges their community and creates social change. Falconworks is now taking their creative activism beyond the theater to build strong social justice leadership in partnership with Occupy Red Hook. Priorities include reform of the New York Police Department's "Stop and Frisk" policy, improving availability of healthy food, and community-sponsored enterprises. They will also develop a major visioning project to enable community members to envision the Red Hook they want to see and identifying concrete changes necessary to achieve that vision.
Global Action Project (GAP) $10,000
In today's media-rich world, those behind the camera determine what stories are told and how they are framed. The corporate media still has a firm foothold in all media outlets. As a result, the stories of those most affected by injustice--youth, people of color from low-income neighborhoods, immigrant, refugee, and LGBTQ communities--are simplified, misrepresented, or not told at all.
Global Action Project works with young people from communities that have historically not had voices in the media landscape to build the knowledge, tools, and relationships needed to create media for community power, cultural expression and political change. GAP's Community Media in Action (CMIA) is an intensive training program that combines political education with media analysis to empower youth to identify the root causes of the issues that affect them. Participating youth learn how media frames and creates messages about these issues. GAP's youth also receive training on high-quality media production, strategy and outreach. By the end of the training, participants have the skills and tools they need to produce media, to build community power and educate and inspire broad audiences towards social change.The White House recognized Global Action Project for its effectiveness in developing creativity and fostering academic success by engaging young people in the arts and humanities.
Milk Not Jails $10,000
New York State's prison system disenfranchises Black and Latino urban communities and rural farming communities upstate. Politicians go for this cheap solution as a stand-in for environmentally thoughtful, sustainable economic development.
Over 90% of New York's prisons are located in rural areas and yet 75% of people in prison are from 7 neighborhoods in New York City. The prison system is not a sustainable solution due to the lack of economic opportunities, the shortage of job training and limited education of people in both rural communities and urban low-income communities of color.
Milk Not Jails is an economic alternative to the prison industry that links New York State's most economically distressed rural and urban communities. Operating as both a grassroots campaign and a dairy distribution cooperative, Milk Not Jails seeks to end dependency on the prison economy through reform of the discriminatory criminal justice system, revitalization of the agricultural economy, creation of jobs for formerly incarcerated people and the delivery of healthy milk to low-income urban communities. With ice cream socials as the foundation of their educational outreach, Milk Not Jails mobilizes prison families, farmers, people currently or formerly in prison and residents of neighborhoods with the highest incarceration rates, to work on policy issues and grow this worker-owned business to create healthy, economically stable communities.
New York State Civic Engagement Table $10,000
The current financial crisis is pushing New Yorkers who were already living on the edge into even more dire situations. At a time when economically at-risk communities most need to have their voices heard in the civic sphere, state decision makers are listening to only those who will keep them in office. Entire populations, usually poor and of color, who do not traditionally come out to vote are dismissed. While well-funded political organizations increasingly take advantage of new, sophisticated civic engagement tools and technologies, smaller grassroots organizations lack access to these important but expensive tools.
The New York State Civic Engagement Table is a coalition of over 25 grassroots groups that organize in communities that historically have been prevented or discouraged from voting. Combining their resources, the Table members acquired cutting-edge organizing and voter contact technology that will help member organizations engage voters and build a stronger base. The Table creates a space for these organizations to deepen collaborations and learn from each other as they build high-impact civic engagement campaigns. In one example of how this cutting-edge data collection technology is being put to use, Table member MinKwon Center for Community Action, was able to analyze the results of their grassroots mobilization efforts in Flushing and Bayside, Queens. Minkwon Center determined that 54% of the Korean Americans they reached out to turned out to vote, as opposed to a 29% turnout rate for Korean voters in these neighborhoods they did not reach.
Rise Magazine $10,000
Parents who get enmeshed in New York City's child welfare system suffer from a combination of invisibility and public disapproval that makes it difficult for them to get appropriate family support services. Primarily poor, single women of color, parents in the child welfare system are routinely silenced at both the case and policy level. When these parents are being investigated by the child welfare system, it is a time of crisis and their voices are not being heard.
Parents in the welfare system need a platform to raise the collective voice and consciousness of their constituency. Rise Magazine does this by combating pervasive negative stereotypes of child welfare-affected families. With a parent-led editorial board, Rise Magazine trains parents to share their experiences and stories within the system. In the process, individual parents and their collective experience are humanized and a vitally needed light is shined on the shortcomings of the child welfare system. These powerful narratives serve to inform child welfare agencies and policy makers. With a readership of 15,000 parents and child welfare practitioners nationwide, Rise Magazine is a catalyst in the movement to reform child welfare through parent advocacy and empowerment.
Sakhi for South Asian Women $10,000
In the wake of 9/11, pervasive Islamophobia and bias, along with economic instability, have put Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities in serious crisis. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, studies show a direct link between economically unstable male partners and domestic violence. As a result, domestic violence survivors struggle with a complexity of concerns from a lack of legal immigration status and fear of deportation, to dependence on batterers as breadwinners or immigration sponsors, and fear of loss of children. As a community that is marginalized from mainstream anti-violence initiatives, South Asians have not had a voice in shaping services to combat domestic violence.
Sakhi for South Asian Women exists to end violence against women. An essential resource, last year they provided 463 women with critical services and emotional support. Sakhi learned that the survivors they work with need more than criminal justice solutions, so they are piloting an innovative new program that will combine internal growth, a community-centered healing process, and restorative justice solutions. It will engage the survivor, her community, and perhaps the batterer, to end violence in the home. Through this collaborative process, and a practice known as "healing circles," Sakhi will improve community responses to violence, increase support for survivors and hold batterers accountable. Such innovative projects, which rely on internal resources to solve communities' problems, rarely get funded. North Star Fund is filling an important and groundbreaking niche in supporting Sakhi's cutting-edge work.
Grassroots Action Grants
These $5,000 and $10,000 grants focus on new, emerging groups that are reaching out through the tools of community organizing to engage more people as leaders and grassroots activists in New York City's most marginalized communities. North Star Fund directs these grants to groups with annual budgets less than $250,000.
Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) $5,000
Recently arrived, low-income immigrants in Manhattan's Chinatown and Lower East Side face a range of challenges in today's increasingly anti-immigrant environment, and local youth in particular struggle with numerous educational challenges. At the large city public schools they attend, immigrant youth encounter a lack of language support, tensions with American-born students, and administrators who are unresponsive to these problems.
Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) provides cross-generational leadership development and political education to raise the living and working standards of New York City's Chinese Community. Through a youth-led oral history project, CPA is collecting and documenting stories of immigrants in their community to publicize how they are impacted by the economic downturn and policies that weaken their rights. CPA youth are using these stories and media training to educate and organize others in their schools, neighborhood, and city.
Da Urban Butterflies (D.U.B.) $5,000
Gender violence and sexual harassment have become normalized and disproportionately affect women, adolescent girls and the LGBTQ community - inside their homes and out on the street. Harassment and violence discourage women from asserting themselves, from finding their voices and from contributing fully to their communities. In the process, women suffer lower self-esteem, and are at higher risk for depression. Gender violence and harassment also reinforce in the minds of men the stereotype of women as sex objects.
To counter the negative effects of sexism, harassment and gender violence, young women of color in Washington Heights created Da Urban Butterflies Youth Leadership Development Project (D.U.B.). The Project seeks to recast the way women see themselves and transforms their communities through leadership development, art projects and policy campaigns. Love2Live Campaign is D.U.B.'s affirmation of the rights of all women to live empowered lives. This campaign sheds light on cultural validations of misogyny and engages community members in a creative process that allows them to voice their experiences and challenge sexism and its impact on women.
El Centro del Inmigrante $10,000
Betty Millard Memorial Grantee
The growing Mexican immigrant community in Staten Island faces a lack of living wage jobs, health care, and housing. Many immigrants work as day laborers and domestic workers, where they are hired on a daily or short-term basis with no guarantee of continued work or safe working conditions. Rising anti-immigrant sentiment and ethnic tensions in Staten Island have resulted in numerous recent hate crimes perpetrated against day laborers.
El Centro del Inmigrante, an immigrant worker center in Port Richmond, Staten Island, trains over 2,000 workers and their families to fight for their rights. El Centro provides workers with skills to help them advance economically, protect themselves from workplace abuse, gain access to health care and advocate for services for their families. In coalition with other organizations that represent Egyptian, Filipino and West African immigrants in Staten Island, El Centro also works to influence policymakers on immigration reform policies at the city, state, and federal levels.
Flushing Workers Center $10,000
In Flushing, Queens, 70% of the population is comprised of low-income immigrants. Many of these immigrants are undocumented, non-English speaking, and barely make a living above the poverty line. Not only do they experience harassment, exclusion from the political process and a lack of social services, they are also vulnerable to exploitation by employers. As one member of the Flushing Worker Center (FWC) put it, "Flushing is heaven for bosses. They think they can get away with anything because we are undocumented and don't speak English."
FWC's constituency is comprised primarily of low-income Chinese, Latino and Korean immigrants hardest hit by worsening work conditions and regressive immigration policies. Through leadership development, organizing and education of members on labor law, workplace safety, and policy, FWC cultivates progressive change and forges common ground among groups frequently pitted against one another. Together they work to create an inclusive agenda for all working people and collaborate to bring critical resources to the community.
Indo-Caribbean Alliance (ICA) $10,000
In 2011, in pursuit of a multibillion-dollar project, Genting New York, subsidiary of one the world's largest gambling conglomerates, acquired the lease for Aqueduct Racetrack and evicted over 500 vendors of the Racetrack Flea Market without notice, to make way for New York City's first casino. This action displaced nearly 1,500 workers, who are primarily low-income immigrants. The vendors were given no relocation assistance or retraining, and their livelihoods were put at serious risk. The Aqueduct Flea Market served the neighborhoods of South Queens and the city as a whole for over 25 years. As one shopper commented, "We come here to get things that we can't afford to get in a store."
Indo-Caribbean Alliance's (ICA) mission is to advance Indo-Caribbean and South Asian interests in South Queens. Through collaborative actions and advocacy to government agencies, elected officials and partnerships with other organizations, ICA works to create specialized educational, social service and economic development programs. In response to the Aqueduct vendors' crisis, ICA helped raise awareness of the merchant's plight through media, local rallies, petitions and a short film. ICA also acted as a liaison between the casino, elected officials, community boards and the vendors. Although they weren't able to broker an agreement for the vendors to stay on site, ICA successfully provided relocation assistance that helped them join alternative flea markets in Southern Queens and Coney Island.
Justice Committee $5,000
According to WNYC radio, the New York Police Department stopped and frisked more than 120,000 Black and Latino youth between 14 and 18 years of age across New York City in 2011. With the total population of Black and Latino youth in that age estimated to be 177,000, these numbers have exposed the reality of a pattern of discrimination and that the NYPD's practice of "Stop, Question, Frisk," is overly aggressive, discriminatory, and ineffective.
The Justice Committee (JC) is a Latina- and Latino-led organization building a movement against police violence and systemic racism in New York City. JC works to create systems of accountability and direct community supervision of the police through their Cop Watch program and Know Your Rights workshops. JC prioritizes developing leadership among youth and elders and empowering communities to fight for legislative changes. JC is also leading the grassroots component of a citywide campaign with Communities United for Police Reform, to End "Stop and Frisk", and reform the NYPD.
La Unión $10,000
Low-income Mexican immigrant residents of Sunset Park, Brooklyn struggle against inhumane immigration laws, lack of basic protections and lack of access to green space and healthy, affordable food. They are often shut out of civic life, including participation in the public school system where language barriers make it difficult for parents to play a role and their children to achieve academic success.
La Unión develops the leadership and organizing skills of over 600 members living in Sunset Park so they can become agents of change pursuing broad social and economic reform. La Unión was selected as the coordinator of Brooklyn's Immigrant Family Resource Center (FRC) -an initiative for which La Unión had long advocated. The FRC will offer programs designed to remove barriers and strengthen parent engagement in their children's education, along with college preparedness. Building on another long-time advocacy initiative of La Unión, the FRC will offer Consulate IDs that are approved by the Department of Education and NYPD to allow immigrant parents to access to their children's schools and institutions across the city.
Metropolitan Council on Housing $10,000
New York City is home to a chronic affordable housing crisis. This crisis is causing more and more low-income people to become homeless, endure overcrowded living conditions, become displaced from their communities, or severely rent-burdened. The problem is not simply a matter of people not earning enough money to afford rent; shrinking housing opportunities for low-income New Yorkers stem from housing policies that were enacted to serve the interests of the city's powerful real estate lobby. Every year approximately 30,000 affordable apartments in New York City are converted to luxury units due to loopholes in the rent laws.
Metropolitan Council on Housing, New York City's oldest tenants' union, is working to solve this housing crisis through education and organizing efforts to combat displacement and bring tenants together in citywide campaigns. In the spring of 2011, Metropolitan Council drafted Intro 477 - the Tenants' Bill of Rights Law, which is pending in the New York City Council. The law would require private building owners to display a description of tenants' rights and to distribute copies with their leases. With 33 City Council members secured as co-sponsors, it is one vote shy of a Mayoral veto-proof majority. The Council is organizing tenants to build momentum for its passage, and hope this will spark more ambitious legislative campaigns to follow.
New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC $5,000
In 2011 alone, the U.S. deported 396,906 people. The deportation system is fraught with inhumane policies, overburdened courts that often violate due process, and mandatory detentions. Ravi Ragbir, a father, husband, community activist and green card holder of 15 years, could have been among those deported - all due to a decade-old conviction. An organizer for the New Sanctuary Coalition, Mr. Ragbir has experienced the inhumanity of the nation's security apparatus firsthand, with several years of house arrest, federal prison and immigration custody for two years, which was beyond the constitutionally permissible six months. He is now required to check in at the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regularly, and lives with the constant fear of being detained again.
The New Sanctuary Coalition is an interfaith network that stands in solidarity with immigrant families and communities resisting detention and deportation. New Sanctuary Coalition provides logistical support and also accompanies immigrants on their check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to show that citizens are monitoring ICE's actions. Ravi Ragbir's recent Stay of Removal is among their latest successes. Due to strong pressure from hundreds of similar groups and stories like Mr. Ragbir's, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Obama administration instructed ICE and DHS to use their discretion in dropping deportation charges against people who have no violent criminal history. Much work remains to be done to ensure the rights of all long- time residents of the US and their families, regardless of their past histories.
New York State Youth Leadership Council $10,000
For many young people, the end of high school is a time to dream, make plans for college, travel and imagine their careers. Yet each year, 65,000 undocumented high school seniors graduate to face a severely limited future. Because of increasingly stringent immigration laws, youth who came to the U.S. as young children and grew up here face extremely limited opportunities to pursue higher education or attain legal status. They can't do what other aspiring students take for granted: apply for scholarships, consider attending college in other parts of the state or the country, and work to support themselves as they pursue higher education.
New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC) is the first immigrant youth-led organization in New York City working on a local and national agenda to create access not only to higher education for undocumented youth, but also legalization for themselves and their families. To further this mission, NYS Youth Leadership Council developed a successful mentorship program that pairs undocumented college students as mentors with undocumented high school students. The mentors use their own experience navigating the college admissions process to help their high school peers to choose colleges, fill out applications and research scholarships.
NYSYLC is also leading efforts to pass the "New York Dream Act," which would give college-bound immigrant students access to state-funded scholarships and tuition assistance programs. Their goal is to make New York a model state and push the federal government to pass the DREAM Act at the national level. This would provide students a pathway to lawful residency status and eventual citizenship as they pursue higher education.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union $5,000
The economic crisis has hit poor and working-class New Yorkers the hardest. Part-time and per diem workers, as well as new hires, are even more vulnerable during this turbulent economy. Teamster Union members, even those who work for the most lucrative multinational corporations, like Sotheby's, have found their company management seeking to reduce wages, cut pensions and replace unionized staff with part-time and low-wage temporary workers.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) is a grassroots organization of Teamster members who are fighting for workplace justice. They provide leadership and educational development, organize public actions and collaborate on campaigns. TDU trains and empowers workers to stand up for their rights as a group so employers can't undermine their efforts and pit one worker against another. TDU helped Teamster art handlers at Sotheby's auction house build their campaign into a flashpoint as part of the Occupy movement. According to a Sotheby's shop steward, "We joined up with TDU to learn how to win stronger contracts and take back our union. But the fight against corporate greed is bigger than any one union and TDU has shown us how to link up other social justice movements and work together to get what we deserve."