When I first heard about North Star, it was the late 1980’s and I was teaching in the New York City public schools. Teaching was a radicalizing experience for me; I saw how difficult the conditions were and how hard it was for kids to get a decent education, and how hard the workload was for teachers. I got involved with a small group within the teachers’ union that was trying to push for reform from within and we tried to get funding from North Star for our newsletter. I honestly don’t remember if we got the grant, but thankfully, that isn’t where the story ends.
A few years later, I was suddenly given a chunk of money after the passing of a relative. Without hesitation, I gave most of it to North Star. North Star was the place to go if you wanted to give money in a way that was working towards real change in the society. That was as true 15 years ago as it is today. They are one of the few places that recognizes that there are structural inequities in society, and that wants to confront the existing power relationships, not just work around them, not just take care of the victims of them.
North Star makes an impact where it matters most to me. I am deeply concerned about the growing inequality in our city and country. As I’ve watched Occupy Wall Street unfold, I am glad that North Star is there to support the organizations that have created and fuel this movement. The struggles of immigrants is also really important to me. When I taught high school—I eventually became a social worker—I taught English as a Second Language to new immigrants. And North Star funds a number of organizations making a real difference in the lives of immigrants in New York City. One example is the Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, which provides what they call “Survival English Classes” for their mainly low-income, working membership. These classes are designed to give their newest members, and recently arrived immigrants, a 101 training on their rights as workers in the United States, and how to protect themselves from exploitation and abuse.
But, even on the issues I haven’t worked on firsthand, I am moved by the organizations that North Star supports. When I read about the successful effort of the Women On The Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH) project to end the state-sanctioned practice of shackling incarcerated women during the birth of their children, for example, I don’t have to be an expert. I am a mother. I understand the basic unfairness of that and I’m glad these women were able to get support for fighting against something so wrong. And WORTH is just one of many North Star grantees with small budgets but big aspirations to rectify the injustices that continue to plague our city.
I give to North Star because I understand that just because I’ve been incredibly lucky doesn’t mean that I don’t have the responsibility to try to make things more equal in this world.