It has been a tough month. The pain and frustration caused by the ongoing pandemic and persistent racial injustices have been felt within our community and across the country. But there have also been feelings of hope and possibility. There is no doubt that this is a transformational moment, and that the voices of those who have been most impacted by the harms and injustices of our society are the ones we need to listen to.
Continue reading to learn more about our newest grantees that are playing leadership roles throughout Maine in the Movement for Black Lives, racial justice action alerts, some internal program updates, and more.
The Maine Initiatives Team
Remembering Alain Nahimana
A couple of weeks ago, we said a painful goodbye to our colleague and friend Alain Nahimana. Though our hearts are heavy, we know that Alain’s legacy will continue to have ripple effects on our community for years to come. To honor Alain and his powerful commitment to justice, donations are being directed to the Alain Jean Claude Nahimana Memorial. We also encourage you to consider supporting the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center during this challenging time.
Rest in Power, Alain. We miss you.
Black Lives Matter
It is more important than ever to support racial justice work. This month, we made a statement to express our solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives. But more importantly, we made commitments: we are honored to give a total of $25,000 to BLM Portland, Racial Equity and Justice, The For Us, By Us Fund, The Maine Black Caucus, and Maine Youth Justice. We encourage you to support and follow their work as well. You can read our full statement and commitments: HERE.
COVID-19 Issue Spotlights Re-Cap
Last week, we were excited to pick back up our COVID-19 Issue Spotlights, highlighting the important connection between COVID-19 and the Movement for Black Lives. If you missed it, you can read about our newest grantees in this issue spotlight HERE.
You’ll also find at the bottom a “What You Can Do” section to take action and support Black leadership in Maine.
Grants for Change Update
Normally, during June we are celebrating the kick-off of Grants for Change, our participatory grantmaking program focused on advancing racial justice in Maine. But these are not normal times. And we recognize that this program requires a significant investment of time and effort by both the applicant organizations and our community volunteers. So, we’ve decided to make a shift. We will not be accepting new Grants for Change applications this year. That said, we will still be making grants on our normal schedule: $250,000 to organizations working to advance racial justice in our state. And we will continue to find new and creative ways to highlight the work of our grantee partners and bring our community together.
Now more than ever, it is important to support the frontline organizations working to achieve racial justice in our state. So stay tuned! More to come…l still be making grants on our normal schedule: $250,000 to organizations working to advance racial justice in our state. And we will continue to find new and creative ways to highlight the work of our grantee partners and bring our community together.
Racial Justice Action Alerts
Things are rapidly changing! We’ve been trying to stay up to date on the many organizing and advocacy efforts happening across Maine in support of racial justice, and wanted to share with you a couple of highlights and action alerts:
Police Officers in Portland Schools
On June 16th, Portland’s City School Board held a virtual meeting to discuss the potential removal of police officers from Portland Public Schools. These school resource officers (SROs) are currently staffed at Portland and Deering High Schools. In the fall of 2019, University of Southern Maine’s Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy released the first-ever report on Maine’s school-based policing. The report findings indicated that “there is currently limited evidence that school policing by itself significantly reduces school violence or improves school safety.”
Teachers, students, parents, and community members weighed in on the call, largely voicing concerns over the negative impact that SRO’s have on Black and Brown students. Maine Initiatives Director of Communications and Engagement, Andrea Berry was quoted in an article by the Bangor Daily News stating, “The feeling of safety and actual safety resulting from an SRO is directly connected to a student’s race, and we need to ask the questions of whose safety is being prioritized, and at what cost, and at whose cost.” The Portland City School Board will take a final vote on whether or not to cut ties with the Portland Police Department on June 30th.
The Permanent Commission on Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Maine Tribal Populations
In 2019, a bill sponsored by Representative Rachel Talbot Ross was signed into law to create “The Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations” in order to advise the governor and state legislature on issues of systemic racial disparities in Maine. On June 18th, The Commission sent their first recommendations to Governor Mills to reduce racial inequality in the short and long term response to this pandemic. Their recommendations are as follows:
- Provide emergency CARES Act funding and technical assistance to Black, Indigenous and People of Color.
- Support LD 2094 – An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act.
- Empower this Commission with the resources needed to be most effective.
Maine’s racial disparities among COVID-19 cases are one of the worst in the nation, where Black Mainers are 20 times more likely to contract the virus than white Mainers. This affirms the need for The Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Maine Tribal Populations to bring a critical eye to the systems and structures that have created such stark racial disparities. You can read more about the letter HERE.