Grants for Change Grantees

Each of these 30 organizations embody a unique approach to racial justice and racial equity issues in Maine. Chosen through a radically participatory community-based process, Maine Initiatives hopes these cohorts will offer inspiration and opportunities to advance justice and equity. We encourage you to explore each organization’s web-presence to learn about their work, and to get involved as a volunteer, donor, and advocate for racial justice and racial equity in Maine.

2018 Cohort

Abbe Museum: The mission of the Abbe Museum, Maine’s first and only Smithsonian Affiliate is to inspire new learning about the Wabanaki Nations with every visit. With two locations – in downtown Bar Harbor and inside Acadia National Park at Sieur de Monts Spring – the Abbe works closely with the Wabanaki people to share their stories, history, and culture with a broader audience. With a collection of over 70,000 archaeological, historic, and contemporary objects, the Museum’s collections conservation program is recognized nationally as a model for museums. The Abbe also holds the world’s largest and best-documented collection of Maine Native American basketry.

Abyssinian Meeting House: Founded in 1828 by six black men, the Abyssinian Meeting House was the historical, religious, educational and cultural center of Portland’s 19th century African American population. It is the third oldest standing African American meeting house in The United States The Abyssinian Meeting House was closely associated with the Underground Railroad, with Portland being one of the northernmost hubs and last stop before legal freedom outside the country.

Capital Area New Mainers Project: The Capital Area New Mainers Project is a cross-cultural organization that welcomes immigrants and works to create a thriving, integrated, multicultural community in central Maine. Based in Augusta, CANMP embraces immigrants as “New Mainers” who bring much-needed diversity, energy, and vitality to our area. At a time when fearful rhetoric dominates the news, CANMP aims to cultivate personal relationships, meet immigrants’ needs, and educate the broader community about diverse cultures and immigration issues.

Maine Access Immigrant Network: Maine Access Immigrant Network (MAIN) serves as a bridge and cultural broker between mainstream health care and social services and the refugee and immigrant communities living in Maine. Through case management for adults, resource and referral services, and educational health prevention workshops that meet culturally/linguistically appropriate standards, MAIN ensures equal access to quality health and social services. Since its inception as Somali Culture and Development Association in 2002, MAIN has, and continues to be, an organization of, by, and for the refugee and immigrant communities we serve.

Maine Center for Electronic Music: Maine Center for Electronic Music (MCEM) aims to release dance music culture from the grips of addiction, dead end production and stigma by creating opportunities for development and presentation. MCEM was designed as a way to support artists from economically, geographically and culturally marginalized communities. The space MCEM provides allows for collaboration across cultures and groups, and allows a broad range of people to create art.

Maine Citizens for Clean Elections / League of Women Voters of Maine: Maine Citizens for Clean Elections and the League of Women Voters of Maine use their collective power to work for racial equity in our democracy in a uniquely nonpartisan and sustainable joint effort. These organizations have built strong brands, stellar reputations and complementary strengths. As a unit, they believe that to truly make long lasting improvements in our democracy is through the power of the people themselves, and therefore work for a government of, by, and for the people. and

Maine Community Integration: Maine Community Integration (MCI) helps to support the integration of African immigrants into American society while respecting the integrity of diverse cultural values, identities, traditions and ways. More broadly, they serve the interests of the immigrant communities and the host community by bridging gaps in understanding, knowledge, experience, and skills in order to celebrate an inclusive, integrated Lewiston-Auburn. MCI works to sustain the social vitality and cultural vibrancy of the New-Mainers heritage by strengthening family life, uplifting human services, binding together the historical traditions by supporting families, providing and assisting clients with needed social services, and organizing meaningful traditional and cultural events.

New Mainers Public Health Initiative: Started by the initiatives of a handful of college and university students wanting to give back to their communities, New Mainers Public Health Initiatives (NMPHI) works to promote healthy habits and change attitudes, beliefs and behavior. NMPHI brings awareness about the importance of good health to the immigrant and refugee members of the community in Lewiston/Auburn, empowering people to take control of their healthcare through an understanding of medical diagnoses and treatment plans, and by becoming informed about primary and secondary prevention.

Sunlight Media Collective: The Sunlight Media Collective is an organization of indigenous and non-indigenous media makers and activists, including Wabanaki tribal members, working to document and present stories affecting Wabanaki people and highlighting Wabanaki perspectives, with a particular emphasis on the intersection between environmental issues and tribal rights. They have found that current media representations often offer problematic narratives, rife with mistruths, prejudice, fear mongering and misunderstanding. This lack of understanding is a detriment to the Wabanaki Tribes’ environmental health, cultural survival and sovereignty, and to Tribal-State relations. The goal of Sunlight’s work is to facilitate understanding, analysis and historical context, and to create and organize educational opportunities and events for alliance building and social change.

Sustainable Livelihoods Relief Organization: Sustainable Livelihoods Relief Organization aims to develop the capacity of New Mainers to become productive members of society and integrate successfully into the labor market as both employees and business owners in order to raise the standard of living, strengthen the people’s resilience to adversity, and create a supportive environment for improved community well-being. Many leaders of the New Mainers community earned their livelihood through farming in their home countries and are interested in not only starting careers in agriculture in Maine, but in staying connected with the land. SLRO focuses entirely on sustainable career building, youth leadership in the food system, business cooperative development, and agricultural sciences. SLRO seeks to address oppression, inequity, and injustice by advocating and creating economic opportunity for New Mainers community.

2017 Cohort

Black Artists ForumThe Black Artist Forum of Maine (BAF) is a coalition dedicated to contributing to the growth of individual creators and the community of black artists in Maine. Through supportive environments and conditions that strengthen Maine’s artistic community, we create visibility for artistic diversity while making cultural resources and opportunities accessible for the black arts community.

Four Directions Development CorporationIn 2001, a small but inspired group of Penobscot tribal members set out upon a path that would lead to the creation of Four Directions Development Corporation (FDDC), one of the nation’s most successful Native American Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI). Structured as a nonprofit revolving loan pool and service provider, FDDC responds to the particular credit and information needs of tribal members, who often face systemic barriers to asset building. Collateral restrictions, strict underwriting standards, and other factors often prohibit tribal members from securing affordable financial capital. FDDC provides, either directly, or in partnership with other Maine agencies, specially designed programs to ensure that tribal members of all four Maine tribes – the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac and Maliseet – are able to access and use capital resources effectively and efficiently.

GedakinaGedakina is a multigenerational endeavor to strengthen and revitalize the cultural knowledge and identity of Native American youth, women and families from across New England, and to conserve our traditional homelands and places of historical, ecological, and spiritual significance.

Homeless Voices for JusticeHomeless Voices for Justice is a state-wide social change movement, organized and led by people who have struggled with homelessness.  It is a grassroots effort based on the belief that true change occurs only when those affected by an unjust system are directly involved in addressing the injustices and in which disenfranchised people become empowered and gain leadership skills to organize and advocate for institutional change.

Kesho WashoKesho Wazo, or “Tomorrow’s Ideas” in Swahili, was founded on the principles of breaking stereotypes and empowering the creative social abilities of young people. They want to provide opportunities for kids that usually wouldn’t get them and are kept from building their futures. Portland has a large immigrant youth population, despite Maine being the second whitest state.  Kesho Wazo’s goal is to build creative, educational, and athletic platforms where people of color have the chance to write their own narrative. In many predominantly white areas of Maine, the media and stereotypes are the main sources of information on the future and history of people of color. Kesho Wazo seeks to break this paradigm and tell the story of Maine’s melanated people through self-curated performances, clothing, and community events.

Maine Prisoner Advocacy CoalitionMPAC, a statewide grassroots social action and change group builds coalition partnerships with incarcerated citizens in Maine’s prisons and jails and throughout Maine to revise policies and practices affecting those most in need of a power rebalance and equitable justice: Prisoners and former prisoners, their families, and victims of crime. Because of the disproportionate number of incarcerated People of Color in Maine, comparative to overall population, much of MPAC’s work focuses on Prisoners of Color in the prisons and county jails, including Youth of Color at Long Creek Youth Center.  Additionally, MPAC works closely with former Adult and Youth Prisoners of Color, training leaders for advocacy and activist programs statewide.

Operation Breaking StereotypesOperation Breaking Stereotypes (OBS) is a non-profit, service-based organization working with schools in Maine, Boston, and New York City to help students address ethnic, socio-economic, gender, and racial stereotypes through writing, reading, music, photography, and personal connections. Since our founding in 2002, OBS has worked with more than 2500 Maine, Boston, and New York City middle and high school students, facilitating exchanges between diverse groups of learners.

Portland OutrightOutright supports underserved members of the LGBTQ+ youth population through weekly drop-in hours, ongoing mentorship, social events, and trainings, as well as intentional support to youth navigating systems — such as the juvenile justice system, foster care, homelessness and mental health services. They are a community of people who are invested in each other, building deep connections, sharing both our struggle and joy, while fighting for each other’s dignity and survival.

Southern Maine Workers’ CenterSMWC is a grassroots, member-led organization building a movement for economic and racial justice in Maine. Their Work With Dignity and Health Care is a Human Right programs seek to provide immediate support and win concrete victories for Mainers who struggle to meet their basic needs, while developing grassroots leaders prepared to uncover and address the roots causes of injustice. Through a process of outreach, follow- up, and leadership development, we bring people together to change the unjust conditions they face– from the workplace to the statehouse.

Survivor SpeakSurvivor Speak USA assists survivors of all forms of sexual exploitation including human sex trafficking. Though the needs for a survivor just coming out of an exploitative situation are basic; they are difficult to access and more importantly these needs are long term. Undoing the trauma of having been victimized, can be a long lonely journey. Survivor Speak connects new survivors to recovered survivors.   Survivor Advocacy Leadership Training (SALT), a curriculum rooted in our mission, provides survivors with a structured path to recovery; including empowering each participant to gain individual and group leadership skill to be an organized collective cohesive voice of today’s survivor.


2016 Cohort

In Her Presence: Organized and led by immigrant women living in Maine, we strive to bring together immigrant women from across communities and generations to ensure that Maine’s economic agenda includes the aspirations and needs of immigrant women. We create spaces that support women’s empowerment and personal ambitions without losing our unique identity and connect immigrant women and girls for collective empowerment in their communities to address common challenges and issues. 

Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition: The Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition strives to improve the legal, social and economic conditions experienced by Maine’s Immigrants – enhancing their lives and strengthening Maine – through advocacy, information sharing, and fostering collaboration among member organizations.

This mission is important and specific in Maine as the coalition is the umbrella for the immigrants’ rights movement in Maine. With 52 member organizations, MIRC is one of the most diverse coalition in Maine. From immigrant groups, advocacy organizations to service providers and faith congregations, the coalition encompasses most of the constituencies that care about immigrants’ rights and immigrant integration.

Maine Inside Out: Maine Inside Out initiates dialogue, develops leadership, and builds community across boundaries with collaborative original theater, inside and outside correctional facilities. We are committed to dismantling all forms of oppression and building a movement for transformative justice in our communities.

Maine Inside Out seeks to end youth incarceration and build a movement for transformative justice in Maine by initiating dialogue, developing and supporting youth leadership, and modeling and reinforcing collaborative community-based approaches to conflict resolution and repairing harm.

Maine Inside Out believes that Maine can lead the country in eliminating youth incarceration and instead, support meaningful community based efforts to address the needs of young people who have caused harm and been harmed themselves.

Maine-Wabanaki REACH: REACH believes Wabanaki and Maine people want to change that narrative and be in right relationship with each other and the earth and we have confidence in the transformative power of processes of truth, healing and change. We know that shining a light on the past and within ourselves, families and communities is a critical step in moving Maine toward true racial justice and equity.

Mano en Mano: Mano en Mano builds a stronger and more inclusive Downeast Maine by working with diverse populations to provide educational and affordable housing opportunities, remove barriers to health and social services, and advocate for social justice.

Mano en Mano helps farmworkers and New Mainers thrive in Downeast Maine. For us, that means not only meeting the needs of community members today, such as healthcare, social services, housing, employment assistance, and education; but also challenging the reasons why those needs exist in the first place.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Fellows: The Martin Luther King Jr. Fellows (King Fellows) advance racial equity and social justice through a multidimensional enrichment and leadership program for youth of color dedicated to systems reform.

Racial justice and equity is our mission. It is all that we seek to achieve; it is at the center of all that we do and all that we envision as we know that by addressing this exclusively, we will positively help to dismantle others forms of systemic inequality and injustice.

King Fellows fosters greater racial justice and equity through youth engagement, public dialogue, community service, creative arts projects and direct action. King Fellows have intentional discussion with policy makers and are dedicated to creating a strong youth of color voice at tables where key decisions are made.

New Mainers Tenants’ Association: The New Mainers Tenants’ Association (NMTA) creates housing justice through empowerment-based education, outreach, leadership development, organizing, and advocacy on behalf of the new Mainers communities.

Raise-Op Housing Cooperative: Raise­-Op provides housing where Social and Financial Equity can be developed and sustained for all current and future members. The four principles that support this mission are: Respect for other people and cooperative property; Accountability to the cooperative and to each other; Integration across different social groups; Solidarity with individual members who face various social and economic challenges, and Solidarity with the movement for safe and affordable housing.

Somali Bantu Mutual Assistance Association of Lewiston/Auburn: The Somali Bantu Mutual Assistance Association of Lewiston/Auburn (SBCMALA) assists members of the refugee community at large on housing, employment, literacy and education, health, and safety matters. This includes empowering children and families to achieve lifelong success through personal and social change, by providing them with information about how to connect to a new life in the United States.

Tree Street Youth: Tree Street Youth Center supports the youth of Lewiston-Auburn through academics, the arts and athletics while providing a safe space that encourages healthy physical, social, emotional, and academic development while building unity across lines of difference.

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