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Announcing the 2017 Grants for Change Grantees

Each of these 20 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.

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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