Important Racial Justice Issues

At the “enhanced” level of our work, the Foundation will focus its resources on grassroots leadership development/community organizing and policy change to address three specific racial justice issues of critical importance in Boston and Chelsea today in order to increase the potential for impact on dismantling persistent, racialized economic disparities:

  • Disrupt the “School to Prison Pipeline”, Beginning with Decreasing the # of Youth of Color Suspended/Expelled/Excluded from Boston and Chelsea Public Schools 
  • Expand Fair Wages and Benefits, and Improve Working Conditions, for Low-Income Workers
  • Reform and Adopt Land Use and Institutional Policies to Advance Equitable Housing Access 
City Life/Vida Urbana
Members of City Life/Vida Urbana protest unfair eviction policies and advocate for a Just Cause Eviction ordinance in Boston (March 16, 2016) 

Dismantling persistent, racialized economic disparities requires changes in public policies and institutions. Lasting institutional and policy change occurs when the people most affected by issues/problems lead efforts to develop solutions, and when those solutions address the root causes of the disparities. The Foundation supports organizations, coalitions and networks that have a demonstrated commitment to affecting institutional and policy change; that have conducted analyses of the political landscape, including opportunities for change; and that have made a clear determination of which actionable policy lever of change will best lead to a problem’s resolution. The Foundation believes that public policy campaigns that are driven by constituents’ interests and voice are more responsive to community needs and more likely to be sustained over time.

What We Fund

The Foundation will select applicants for this level of funding base on the extent to which they:

1.      Have a very clear institutional or public policy change agenda, with a specific policy target(s), that is actionable and relevant within low-income communities of color and that addresses one but no more than two of the Foundation’s “important racial justice issues” and

  • Have a clear analysis of the underlying reasons for/causes of (i.e., at an institutional or systems level) the racial disparities being addressed
  • Can articulate how the proposed policy change(s) will result in solutions that will decrease “racialized economic disparities”
  • Have an understanding of what is needed to move a policy agenda forward, which includes items such as alliances with other organizations, visibility/credibility of the issue, a solution(s) to the issue, and stakeholder interest
  • Have an ability to monitor, assess and document the impact of the change(s) being sought as well as the strategies being used, and the progress being made, toward it/them

2.      Have meaningful and authentic grassroots leadership development and constituent engagement as a core part of their work OR can show strong working relationships or partnerships with organizations that do and  

  • Have staffs and board members that reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of their communities and are deeply knowledgeable about them

3.       If working with low-income youth, have experience engaging with youth and knowledge of sound youth development practices and approaches; ensure that youth lead or are deeply engaged in decision-making; and provide connections with caring adults.  (An applicant that does not engage with youth directly but is focused on an issue that affects them should partner with allies that can bring youth leadership, voice and perspective to bear on the work.)

4.       Evidence other aspects of solid, overall organizational capacity such as an active and effective board, solid financial and other internal management practices, etc

Highest priority for funding, and larger grants, at the enhanced level will be given to applicants that, in addition to the above, are working in strong, strategic alliances or coalitions with other organizations and allies where there are shared goals and policy targets and a shared analysis of the causes of and solutions to the racial disparities being addressed; communication among the participants is strong and decision-making processes are clear; and there is evidence of other qualities of effective collaboration.

Disrupt the School to Prison Pipeline

Disrupt the ‘School to Prison Pipeline’, Beginning with Decreasing the Number of Youth of Color Suspended/Expelled or Excluded from Boston and Chelsea Public Schools: 

Public education has long been considered the great equalizer and key to ensuring economic mobility and success. While educational attainment is highly correlated with workforce participation and lifetime earnings, as well as a host of other positive life outcomes (e.g. life expectancy, civic engagement, lower incarceration, etc.), there is a growing body of evidence that this public institution is producing very different results for youth of color. One such consequence is known as the “School to Prison Pipeline”, which “…refers to the policies and practices that push our nation's schoolchildren, especially our most at-risk children, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. This pipeline reflects the prioritization of incarceration over education.” 1    While some meaningful policy reforms have been adopted in Boston and Massachusetts, significant racial disparities persist in educational attainment, exclusion from the public schools and justice system involvement. The School to Prison Pipeline remains a reality for youth of color that bars them from reaping the full promise of public education and funnels them into the juvenile justice system, where they may encounter lifetime barriers to economic mobility and civic participation.

Within this important racial justice issue area, the Foundation will support organizing and advocacy efforts to end harmful, exclusionary policies and adopt positive alternatives, thereby disrupting the pipeline and advancing the Foundation’s broader goal of dismantling persistent, racialized economic disparities. The Foundation recognizes that young people of color face disproportionate push out, suspension and expulsion as do students with disabilities, LGBT youth, and expectant/parenting teens. The Foundation is particularly interested in supporting organizing and advocacy efforts that are led and driven by these young people.

 Eligible policy targets with examples for illustrative purposes:

  • Policy targets should fall within the continuum of preventative measures that reduce and directly address disproportionate push out and end suspension or expulsion to intervention levers that reverse the long-term effects of juvenile system engagement. Examples include, but are not limited to: efforts to end exclusionary school discipline policies; school policies and procedures that result in culturally proficient practices and mitigation of implicit bias; policies that support high risk students, including support for multiple educational options;progressive discipline policies focused on evidence-based alternatives to exclusion; limitations on referrals to police, courts and the juvenile justice system; and juvenile records expungement. 
  • Policy targets should be at the municipal, state, federal or cross-systems level. Larger institutional targets, such as public school districts, local police departments, etc. will be considered.  

 Activities ineligible for funding within the enhance issue are include: 

  • Efforts focused on change within a single organization or school  
  • Alternative education, positive discipline program implementation and other direct programming for youth
  • Curriculum development for teachers and/or administrators
  • Relational strategies to improve youth and law enforcement interactions without an explicit policy target
  • Annual budget advocacy to defend or increase specific allocations - while an important complement to a policy agenda, budget advocacy by itself will be insufficient to merit support absent a focus on a policy target with more lasting benefits

[1] American Civil Liberties Union. 2015. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/fact-sheet/what-school-prison-pipeline.

Expand Fair Wages and Benefits

Expand Fair Wages and Benefits, and Improve Working Conditions, for Low-Income Workers:  

Boston today has the third highest income gap between the rich and the poor of all U.S. cities. In addition, a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found that the median assets for a White household in the Greater Boston area were about $256,000 compared with median assets of $700 for a Black household. These widening economic gaps reflect the impact of historical and existing policies and practices that create persisting, racialized outcomes. In the labor arena, one cause was the exclusion of African Americans and other people of color from the early trade union movement. Additionally, the “Fair Labor Standards Act” (FLSA) of 1938 established a federal mandated minimum wage and bargaining rights for all workers, with the exception of those involved in agriculture and domestic work, two sectors in which workers were predominantly black and/or immigrant. Today, access to jobs and higher wages and benefits continue to lag greatly for workers and youth from immigrant and communities of color. 
 
Within this important racial justice issue area, the Foundation will support organizing and advocacy efforts to address growing economic disparities and injustices, especially along racial lines.  Of specific interest are those efforts that are led and driven by people who are impacted by the growing economic divide and that are directed at changing public and institutional policies that impact and benefit large segments of low-income communities of color, including youth and immigrant communities.  A recent example would be the 2014 passage of the Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.  This successful effort, led by several Hyams immigrant worker grantees, was the fourth and strongest state legislation of this type in the country. 

 Eligible policy targets with examples for illustrative purposes: 

  • Policy targets that fall within the continuum of preventative to proactive measures to: 1) directly address the theft of wages and/or the loss of benefits and/or standards that diminish/threaten economic well-being and exacerbate disparities (e.g. controlling subcontracting and outsourcing, worker protections); and 2) provide for increased wages and benefits (e.g. increases in minimum wages, municipal or state living wage ordinances/laws)
  • Policy targets directed at the district/municipal, state, federal or cross-systems levels (e.g. Boston Jobs Ordinance, CORI reform ordinances/legislation, local or regional tax reform, linkage policies)
  • Policy targets that address asset development/wealth creation, prevent asset-stripping, and promote worker- or community-owned assets or enterprises

Activities ineligible for funding within this enhanced issue area include:

  •  Discrete efforts aimed at single employers 
  • Workforce development and job training programs 
  • Legal advocacy work for individual clients 
  • Annual budget advocacy to defend or increase specific allocations - while an important complement to a policy agenda, budget advocacy by itself will be insufficient to merit support absent a focus on a policy target with more lasting benefit

Reform and Adopt Land Use and Institutional Policies

Reform and Adopt Land Use and Institutional Policies to Advance Equitable Housing Access:

 Housing is essential to the health and well-being of all and is linked to opportunity; its location is an important determinant of one’s ability to access quality education, employment and services.  Greater Boston continues to experience an affordable housing crisis.  Increasing housing costs across the region have made housing choice and access challenging and all but out of reach for low- and moderate-income families as wages have not kept pace in recent years.  Increasing gentrification pressures present particular challenges for residents of Boston and Chelsea’s neighborhoods where housing has traditionally been more affordable and rapid change is threatening displacement of current residents.  In addition, residential racial segregation within Boston and Chelsea and across the region continues to present critical challenges and obstacles to dismantling persistent, racialized economic disparities.  

Within this important racial justice issue area, the Foundation will support organizing and advocacy efforts to advance land use and regulatory policies and institutional change to increase equitable housing access. The Foundation is particularly interested in funding organizations, coalitions and networks that have a demonstrated commitment to advancing public policy levers that promote more inclusive communities and mitigate against the serious displacement effects of gentrification within local low-income communities of color.

Eligible policy targets with examples for illustrative purposes: 

  • Change policies and practices at the municipal, state, regional, federal and/or institutional levels; may include efforts to change policies and practices at large banks and other lending institutions 
  • Strengthen inclusionary zoning policies at state and municipal levels 
  • Increase community control over land use and development through changes to planning and zoning policies and practices 
  • Create new revenue sources for affordable housing that are not subject to annual budget appropriations processes 
  • Increase access to fair credit and mortgage financing 
  • Increase renter and homeowner protections to maintain and expand long-term access to affordable housing, including policies to preserve existing publicly subsidized housing 

Activities ineligible for funding within this enhance issue area include: 

  • Implementation of affordable housing production or preservation projects/strategies 
  • Strategies to improve affordable housing access for individual households without an explicit policy target (e.g. housing counseling, tenant organizing not linked to a larger change agenda) 
  • Efforts to make land use changes that only impact an individual project, unless such changes have broader policy implications 
  • Annual budget advocacy to defend or increase specific allocations – while an important complement to a policy agenda, budget advocacy by itself will be insufficient to merit support absent a focus on a policy target with more lasting benefits