I got involved in ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power right after I moved to New York from Texas. Ronald Reagan was in office and we had to be out there protesting, marching, demonstrating. We were very effective—both at getting large numbers of people to participate, and at forging new types of creative and bold activism.
Before that, I didn’t see myself as an activist. I was a concerned citizen who read, talked, and cared about the issues—but wasn’t necessarily going to be on the front lines. But then a friend took me to an ACT-UP meeting. Then I started going on my own and I began taking part in demonstrations. I realized this was something I could do, and that it was important that I do it. I had a number of friends and friends of friends who had been diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. AIDS was devastating at its onset, and is still devastating many communities. Working with ACT-UP spurred my interest in nonprofit work, as well as advocacy and policy issues.
I learned about North Star Fund through working at the Funding Exchange, which is a national network of social justice foundations&—North Star is one of the 16 member funds. I had a great opportunity to meet several of the staff members and some of the board members and learn about the great work that North Star is doing. I started giving to North Star Fund because it’s a foundation that is digging at the root cause of major social injustices. We are living in a country that is being significantly divided between the haves and have-nots and I think we’re going to continue to see a huge difference between those with power, privilege, wealth, and those who are being pushed to the margins. I am particularly concerned about the ongoing high unemployment rate. It’s just mindboggling that it continues to get worse. New research shows that the poverty rate has increased to 15%. In some communities of color, you find even more staggering rates of poverty, especially with children. Over 20% of children live in poverty. That figure climbs to over 25% for children under the age of six.
North Star Fund looks at inequity and injustice and tries to figure out how to support grassroots groups that are actively mobilizing to fight poverty and other essential issues. That’s the most exciting thing about North Star Fund—that they are aware of the most innovative, creative, and effective grassroots’ groups. I wish I had the time—but I don’t—to research, vet and meet with staff members from the many grassroots groups in New York City fighting on multiple fronts that matter to me. I feel that by giving to North Star, and being involved with North Star as a volunteer, I have a greater reach than if I just gave to one or two nonprofits in New York City.