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Newsletter September 2016

Q&A with Lateefah Simon: Oakland is Beautiful
By: Renee Geesler, Digital Engagement

Lateefah Simon stepped into her role as Akonadi Foundation's newly appointed President in mid-August. Lateefah succeeds Quinn Delaney, Founder of Akonadi Foundation, who will continue to serve as the Board Chair for the Foundation. A nationally recognized advocate for civil rights, Lateefah brings over 20 years of executive experience advancing racial and social justice causes in the Bay Area, most recently as Program Director for the Rosenberg Foundation. We sat down with Lateefah to ask her about challenges in the field of philanthropy and what she is excited for in her role as President of the Foundation.

"... I take seriously this responsibility of carrying this torch, and making sure that our legacy is not just about our grant making, but also about how much we push our sector to think critically about what ‘justice’ really means, and the ways that we can create real systemic change." 
What attracted you to Akonadi Foundation?
Akonadi Foundation has always been a partner in the work that I have done, from working with young women on the streets when I was at the Center for Young Women’s Development to my tenure at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. I knew Akonadi had a strong track record of hiring and supporting women of color to be in philanthropy, supporting racial justice grassroots organizing, and arts and culture through their grantmaking. These are all elements that I understand deeply are a part of real social change. I knew that I wanted to be a part of that movement. So I jumped at the chance and feel lucky to be here. 

I was talking to Quinn and Wayne recently about this idea of the ‘living legacy’. Every grant we make, and every conversation that we have in the community that represents the foundation is tied to the living legacy of this family. Akonadi is a great example of a private family foundation that has prioritized making resources available for racial justice to become a reality in communities. So I take seriously this responsibility of carrying this torch, and making sure that our legacy is not just about our grant making, but also about how much we push our sector to think critically about what ‘justice’ really means, and the ways that we can create real systemic change. The groups that we fund continue to be very strategic and thoughtful about how power is developed within our communities, and I am hopeful that building community power in communities of color will continue to be one of the greatest contributions that we can lend to this family’s legacy. 

Talk about your own background in Philanthropy, most recently as Program Director at Rosenberg Foundation. What brings you joy in the work? 

I got my first introduction to philanthropy in 2004. I was hired by the Annenberg Foundation in Los Angeles to help them develop their urban portfolio. I didn’t know at the time that philanthropy could be a strong engine for social change, but as a fundraiser, I knew that it was important to understand philanthropy from both an insider and outsider perspective. After Annenberg, I served on the board of the Women’s Foundation of California. The Women’s Foundation, like Akonadi, had been extremely supportive of a lot of the work that I was involved in, and also shared similar political values around lifting up women’s voices and people of color being at the head of their own movements. I served on the board of the foundation for four years, and then joined Rosenberg Foundation as Program Director. I essentially found out that there is so much we can do in philanthropy, from convening to strategize for change, to giving leaders and individual community members space to walk through doors that weren’t necessarily available to them before, whether it in government or other philanthropic institutions. What I actually saw then is what I see today: It’s an opportunity to continue organizing and having the voices of communities of color heard on many different levels and in many sectors. For me, as someone who wants to continue working for social justice forever, philanthropy is my lane. It’s a place where I feel like we can equitably distribute resources, and we are lucky enough here at Akonadi to have amazing founders, who are committed to creating a racially just society. I can’t wait to start doing more organizing in philanthropy to push forward the framework that we can’t have justice unless we have racial and economic justice. 

As a woman of color in philanthropy, what have been some of the challenges that you have seen? 

I read this morning that there are over 50,000 private foundations in the country, and my suspicion is that very few women of color are occupying leadership positions in these foundations. There has been a national trend in larger foundations and some smaller foundations where there are leaders of color stepping into positions of power, but they represent a very small percentage. So in terms of being challenged, I am challenged with the responsibility of bringing in women and people of color, people with disabilities, formerly incarcerated folks into this social justice sector that has been elite for so long. The challenge is to push our peer funders to begin to walk the talk about how we support staff of color, how we support social justice, racial justice, and economic justice within our organizations in general. 

What do you envision Akonadi Foundation’s role in the racial justice landscape of Oakland to be?

This foundation is about supporting institutions to advance racial justice, this includes asking government to step up for racial justice. To understand not only how to support communities who have been disenfranchised because of racialized injustice, whether it be redlining, the inadequate funding of schools, or the over funding of jails and prisons. This foundation is about looking at the problems of society systemically and the conditions that racialized policies have created, and trusting groups in their leadership and power to help undo structural racism and inequity. We know that the way to undo bad policies is to bring all the players to the table, whether it be governmental actors, public safety actors, community organizers, researchers. We are a small foundation, but what we have and what our founder, Quinn Delaney, has really put into play is a deep, deep respect of real voices most impacted by structural racism, from the voices from folks on East 14th, to the voices at City Hall. They are all critical voices to making real change, and this change is longitudinal. Here at the foundation, we want to build the institutional power of grassroots groups, hold grasstops groups and government accountable, and bring all of them to the table together. By doing that, we are aiming to get get closer to achieving racial justice. That’s what our eco-system grantmaking strategy is about; it’s about respecting that everyone needs to be at the table,  and that everyone needs resources to be able to move.

What are you excited about moving forward this next year in the Foundation?

It’s beautiful to be in Oakland, and to work in a city where I am raising my children. Like any other urban city in the country, we have lost too many young people, our communities are over policed, and there is a deep distrust for law enforcement. At the same time, the center of culture and resistance in Oakland is beautiful. The community is moving, and they are moving swiftly. I sometimes say that the movement is moving at the speed of twitter, and philanthropy sometimes is really slow. We are working really hard at the foundation to be responsive to the needs of the community, through our rapid response fund, our focus on arts and culture as a weapon against racialized oppression, and our deep and long term work around supporting anchored groups in Oakland. In this way, Akonadi Foundation is helping to keep Oakland healthy and strong. My goal is to continue to support the good work that is happening, and to amplify our vision for deeper impact. So if folks haven’t heard about us or the work of our grantees, we want to help them to understand the work. If they don’t know about our really amazing and righteous staff, we want you to get to know them. Our responsibility is to move with groups and to understand how they are seeing the world. And this foundation is just a small part of the equation, and I am excited about listening and learning, because I feel that the brilliant ideas are already in effect. 
Renee Geesler interviews Lateefah Simon

AMANDLA! Claiming Our People Power
By: Sheena Johnson, Program Officer

Despite the violence and heartbreak this summer has brought, we remain hopeful and committed to the fight for racial justice. MLK once wrote, “...justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”  When we speak of justice this is what we mean. Our call is to face these injustices head on, have the difficult conversations, and lead with love. As we continue to demand systemic change we must be reminded of our personal and collective power to imagine something different and to heal ourselves and each other. As we move into the Fall we want to highlight some of our amazing grantees that remind us of the vital importance of self-determination and people power in our fight for racial justice in Oakland and beyond.
*(A South African Zulu and Xhosa word meaning “Power”) 

#SoLoveCanWin Grantee: Alan Blueford Center for Justice’s Community Event HELPING HEARTS TO HEAL

Akonadi Foundation launched the #SoLoveCanWin Rapid Response Fund to spark imagination and support racial justice projects that reimagine, as well as lift up, ongoing work centered on advancing healing and safety for communities of color in Oakland. 

#SoLoveCanWin grantee, The Alan Blueford Center, serves as a space for community healing located in Downtown Oakland. The center was founded by Jeralynn Brown-Blueford who lost her son, Alan Blueford, to police violence in 2012. Through her experience she has been able to deeply connect with other black mothers and families who have lost loved ones to police violence and the judicial system in order to build a community of healing. The #SoLoveCanWin grant of $2,500 will support a community event on Oct 22nd called “Helping Hearts to Heal” aimed at offering resource and support to black family members impacted by police violence and brutality. The event will include numerous community panel discussions that offer job resources for youth, know your rights information, advice on dealing with the mental and emotional impact of confrontations with police, and how to support families after police violence. The day will include an interactive activity that supports attendees to envision a different future by asking the question: “ What does a healed community look like?”

BCF Grantee Spotlight: Dimension’s Dance Theatre Presents PROJECT PANTHER

Through our Beloved Community Fund we support events and projects in Oakland that use art and culture as tool to build power and create sacred space for our communities to dream and heal.

Dimension Dance Theater’s new work, PROJECT PANTHER, is supported by the Beloved Community Fund. The project seeks to bring healing and understanding around the history and goals of The Black Panther Party (BPP). This year the BPP celebrates it's 50th year anniversary as vanguards of a movement and agents of change. PROJECT PANTHER will feature contemporary dance infused with traditional African forms, music, storytelling and poetry. The work will celebrate a collective memory of history and activism, reminding citizens of BPP's noble and honorable intentions, accomplishments and the worldwide influence of the Party. The performances will connect today’s issues of police terrorism and gentrification to the past, and encourage communities to strengthen their voices and self-determination to create a better Oakland.  

This new work will premiere at THE MALONGA CASQUELOURD CENTER FOR THE ARTS on Saturday OCTOBER 15, 2016: Get Tickets Here. There will also be free performances of PROJECT PANTHER throughout the Fall, supported by the Beloved Community Fund, at the Life is Living Festival (10/8), Eastside Arts Alliance (10/30), and 81st Street Public Library (11/12). See a complete list of projects supported by our Beloved Community Fund here.

**Reminder there are only two BCF deadlines left this year, Sept 16th and Oct 21st.


Arc Toward Justice Grantees Attend Akonadi Foundation Luncheon

Last week, we were happy to host a luncheon for our Arc Toward Justice (ATJ) grantees to meet our new president, Lateefah. Many of our grantees came through and shared their hopes and challenges as they move their racial justice work forward. The Arc Toward Justice Fund focuses on long-term efforts to foster equity for youth and young adults of color in Oakland. Through the fund, Akonadi Foundation seeks to stop the criminalization of youth and young adults of color, end the school-to-prison pipeline, and build responses to harm that nurture wellness and well-being. Our current ATJ grantees include: Black Organizing Project, Californians For Justice, Communities United For Restorative Youth Justice, East Side Arts Alliance, Ella Baker Center, Public Counsel, and Urban Peace Movement.  

Akonadi Staff host a meet and greet for ATJ Grantees to meet Lateefah Simon 
We're Hiring an Executive Assistant! Deadline is Thursday, September 22

Akonadi Foundation is growing! We are looking for an Executive Assistant to join our dynamic team. This position will provide administrative support to the President and staff. They will also assist with office management and reception. Details here:

Akonadi Staff: Sheena Johnson, Iris Garcia, Gina Acebo

" It's our turn to step up...this is our time. If you ever wanted to do something great in your life. This is the time."
- Bobbi Jean Three Legs
Art by Dignidad Rebelde
Copyright © 2016 Akonadi Foundation, All rights reserved.

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436 14th St #1417, Oakland, CA 94612

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Akonadi Foundation · 436 14th Street, Ste. 1417 · Oakland, CA 94612 · USA

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