If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that community organizations are an essential part of D.C. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the region in March, these groups stepped up to ensure that D.C.’s vulnerable residents, among them, people experiencing homelessness, those who lost their jobs and don’t qualify for traditional unemployment benefits, and people in need of food. Despite the pandemic changing nearly everything about our lives—how we work, where we go, how we interact with others—community organizations continue to take care of their clients and offer some good news in a pretty dreary period.
With that being said, our annual guide to giving back, presented in partnership with the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington, feels particularly significant this year. The organizations you’ll read about below have gone above and beyond in the past few months to ensure that students are still learning, people are still taken care of, and everyone can continue to thrive. The staff at CFP have vetted every organization to ensure that they are in good financial standing. Better yet, CFP doesn’t take a cut from your donation, so every dollar you give goes straight to the organization.
Although times are tough, in this season when we give thanks, we encourage you to support these organizations however you can. Your financial support will allow them to continue their work for the people of D.C. in good times and in bad. —Caroline Jones
Calvary Women’s Services
The women who come to Calvary have always been among the most vulnerable members of the DC community—those who are survivors of trauma, in recovery from addiction, living with mental illness, or suffering from chronic health conditions. In the age of COVID-19, they are more vulnerable than ever. Calvary has always helped these women find comprehensive care through permanent and transitional housing, mental health and addiction recovery services, healthy meals, education, job readiness programs, life skills classes, and a sisterhood of support. But the pandemic has proved challenging: A spike in cases of domestic violence will likely increase homelessness, and job loss threatens progress. Looking ahead means keeping housing safe and helping women whose progress was derailed get back on track. With hygiene practices in place, Calvary continues to provide a safe place for homeless women. You can ensure that it will do so tomorrow.
The Father McKenna Center
Every day, 70 to 80 men seek assistance at the Father McKenna Center, where they receive food, clothing, and other basic services while they work with case managers to end their homelessness. From November to April, 15 to 20 men are guaranteed a bed, shower, and meal as they work toward the same end. But these are not ordinary times. The food pantry, which typically serves more than 200 families in Ward 6, continues to operate, and a community food hub, in partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank, now distributes groceries to thousands of D.C. residents. To comply with Department of Health and Human Services guidelines, the men’s day program closed in March. It reopened on July 20, following new cleaning protocols and ensuring social distancing. The center is reaching for this goal because it knows that its guests are among the most vulnerable in our city—and need our help.
Thrive DC welcomes our most vulnerable neighbors. Some are homeless or jobless; some suffer from mental illness or substance abuse or both; others are victims of sexual or domestic abuse; many live with chronic health problems. Most have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic and, until the indoor meal program can fully reopen, Thrive continues to help them via email and phone, connecting them with job training, substance abuse counseling, reentry and victim services, and shelter. It helps clients file for unemployment, offers mail services, groceries, snack foods, hygiene and personal care items, prescription assistance, stipends for workforce development clients, and connections to employment opportunities that have emerged during COVID-19 in cleaning services, retail, and warehouse work. Thrive offers support to clients who are struggling mentally and emotionally, reaching out to reduce isolation and help ease anxieties associated with this unprecedented crisis.
Wanda Alston Foundation
Founded by transgender women of color, the Wanda Alston Foundation is dedicated to serving one of D.C.’s most vulnerable populations: LGBTQ youth aged 16 to 24 who are experiencing homelessness. Located in Ward 7, the foundation offers 18 months of shelter with 24-hour care and support. A clinical supervisor and case manager complete a full intake assessment and create individual service plans, which they revisit at weekly meetings with each resident. These youth have experienced trauma, rejection, discrimination, and more, so the foundation partners with mental and behavioral health specialists to help residents heal and improve their well-being. Meanwhile, youth receive daily meals, take part in practical life skills lessons, and get assistance with securing permanent housing or employment or with continuing their education—whatever they need to chart a new path. Most importantly, they experience acceptance and love. Every kid deserves that.
At the 1951 Refugee Convention, 145 countries agreed to respect the rights of refugees— today’s asylum seekers—while the merits of their legal claims are considered. Surviving persecution, violence, and war, they arrive with few resources: Nearly half have no income. AsylumWorks provides asylum seekers and their families with holistic services that complement the work of immigration lawyers—an approach that has been shown to dramatically improve legal outcomes. Before the pandemic, most clients were on track to become self-sufficient. By April, 70 percent had lost their jobs and were again in need. To complement the core work, a “friendly neighbor” initiative matches clients with supportive volunteers, and an emergency food and medicine fund helps out. But more help is needed. We are all learning what isolation and loneliness feel like—asylum seekers know it only too well.
Central American Resource Center
One in 10 Washingtonians is Latino, and the majority are immigrants. Many have fled violence at home, and all are seeking better opportunities. They face a host of challenges, including limited English skills, unstable employment and housing, low wages, and now COVID-19—which has not only hit their community hard, but has also made accessing help more difficult. Legal services and consultations to resolve immigration status issues, secure work authorization, gain permanent residency, and prepare for tests and interviews can no longer be held in person. Instead, clients have been paired with volunteer tutors to accomplish what they can until CARECEN’s doors reopen. The housing program has started providing assistance in completing unemployment and emergency rent assistance applications, as well as disbursing funds to the undocumented community. Our neighbors were under pressure before the pandemic; let’s help them now.
Many Languages One Voice
Many Languages One Voice builds power in D.C. immigrant and refugee communities, and has responded to a surge in demand for services since March. It immediately called for the closure of the Farmville Detention Center in Virginia so community members could safely self-quarantine, and it remains on call to advocate for the release of those who are detained or undergoing deportation. MLOV distributes monthly stipends of $600 to $800 to its most vulnerable members, who are ineligible for government aid, and trains street vendors as public health promoters who distribute food, hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves to hundreds of other vendors and their families. Its Birth to Three campaign addresses the root causes of inequities in the child care system and tests innovative solutions, while its Youth Action Team meets in-person or virtually to engage in a social justice and racial equity campaign. In conditions already inhospitable, COVID-19 has created new challenges, and MLOV rises to meet them.
The Family Place
Of the nearly 800 families served annually at The Family Place, more than 90 percent are low-income, newly arrived immigrants operating in survival mode to provide for their families’ basic needs. Lacking social networks, inexperienced with urban agencies, and extremely limited in language skills, those with young children are triply isolated. TFP begins by focusing on the littlest ones, providing families with parent education, early childhood education, and immunization monitoring. Using the acclaimed Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters program, TFP encourages families to learn as a unit and create a literacy-rich home environment. Meanwhile, workforce readiness and literacy programs in English and Spanish build parents’ self-sufficiency. Emergency material assistance, a Spanish-language domestic violence support group, case management and referrals—all are woven together to create a comprehensive support system for families who otherwise have few options.
Washington English Center
An estimated 41 percent of DC’s low-wage workers are immigrants, but without a command of the English language, career advancement is nearly impossible—and time and money for classes are scarce. So Washington English Center fills the gap, providing excellent and affordable English instruction at convenient hours: six days a week, day and night. A team of more than 350 volunteer teachers and tutors offers a sequence of classes from beginner to advanced, focusing on both written and verbal communication and serving 1,700 students each year. Citizenship preparation, computer classes, and a workforce readiness program that includes one-on-one job coaching, interview preparation, and job fair field trips further build skills and empower students. For many, WEC is a community as much as a classroom—the place where they learn, connect, and take the first steps toward achieving the American dream. You can help make this dream a reality.
Health and Hunger
Christ House provides comprehensive and compassionate health care to the sick and homeless in D.C. who are too sick to be on the streets, but not sick enough to be in the hospital. A 24-hour, 33-bed nursing and respite care home, its work has continued unabated during the pandemic. With strict adherence to safety protocols, it partners with local homeless outreach teams to identify and refer men who would benefit from nursing care, admitting individuals who test negative and those who are recovering after isolation. It also provides telemedicine support to homeless sites where vulnerable individuals have been relocated out of congregate settings and where patients are quarantined after testing positive or while awaiting results. Christ House is committed to maintaining a posture of hospitality while reducing the risk to its vulnerable patients—a challenge to which it is determined to rise.
Charlie’s Place at St. Margaret’s
For 30 years, Charlie’s Place at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church has served breakfast to all who walk through its doors, providing more than 350,000 meals to our homeless and working poor neighbors in the Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan neighborhoods. To observe social distancing guidelines, some services, like art therapy and yoga, paused on March 17.: Sit-down breakfasts became hot meals to-go or bagged lunches containing bottled water, fruit, nutritious snacks, masks, toiletries, and hand sanitizer. Housing, employment, and medical referrals are still available, and a physician is on-site on Wednesdays. Clothing donations are up, and guests have access to bathroom facilities and phone charging. Neighbors who have fallen on hard times receive bagged groceries, and every Tuesday, Charlie’s Place passes out bagged lunches and clothing in Franklin Park. Here, hardship is met with generosity, fellowship, and compassion.
Food Recovery Network
The Food Recovery Network was born when several University of Maryland students noticed that campus dining halls were wasting nutritious food while community members were going hungry. So when campuses suddenly closed last spring, the food warriors didn’t stop. Recovering surplus food and donating it to nonprofits is critically important, especially when food insecurity escalates. So FRN began working in other areas of the food system: It contacted farmers to support getting fresh food to those in need, without student leaders as hands on the ground. Companies with canceled events—and there were many—reached out to learn how they could do the right thing and donate unused food to hunger-fighting nonprofits. Pilot programs and partnerships launched in the fall to keep students engaged in the work. There is no wavering in their passion for food recovery, despite the tremendous uncertainty.
From streets, shelters, prisons, and hospitals, each year Joseph’s House welcomes approximately 35 individuals, all of whom have AIDS or terminal cancer, to its eight-bed home in Adams Morgan. Serving the homeless and those with unstable housing, it offers physical, emotional, and spiritual nourishment, 24-hour nursing care, medical case management, and addiction recovery support, as well as home-cooked meals and communal activities. Staff and volunteers hold vigil for the dying, providing constant love and care in the final hours. Other residents regain their health and, when they do, Joseph’s House encourages them toward independence while continuing to help with medication management, transportation, and other basic needs. In a city with some of the nation’s highest rates of HIV infection, cancer mortality, and homelessness, Joseph’s House offers a home—and community—to all those who come through its doors.
Dreaming Out Loud
More than 34,000 D.C. residents live in food deserts—over a mile from a supermarket—and many also struggle to pay for needed food. So Dreaming Out Loud combines food access with economic opportunity, building food systems that are powered by the communities they serve. Since 2008, its community farmers markets have provided 40,000 low-income customers with 300,000 pounds of healthy food. At the farm and food hub, its flagship program in Ward 7, DOL grows organic produce; runs a CSA program where members pay before the growing season and farmers share the harvest; conducts school-to-farm educational programs; and offers workforce development training. Partnering with regional farms, it also serves as a hub for storing, processing, and distributing local food, which it shares with area schools, small businesses, and nonprofits. Fueling local economies and creating food security: it’s a win-win.
Strong writing skills are fundamental to future success, but even before the pandemic, only 35 percent of DCPS students were writing at a proficient level. Now, there is an urgent demand for effective remote learning that is focused both on social-emotional needs and on the substantial learning loss precipitated by school closures. Grounded in feedback sought immediately following the shelter-in-place order, 826DC provided teachers with creative writing curricula for distance teaching. A STEM-based summer program—the popular ReWriting the Stars, which mimics the experience of going to space camp—helped students fight summer learning loss and provided the blueprint for remote fall learning. But real strength and effectiveness in this work requires investment in digital learning resources and professional development, for which no one had planned. 826DC is poised and committed to address the challenge—with your help, please.
An Open Book Foundation
Students benefit from discovering stories, characters, and creators that reflect their own life experiences and cultures—and that can help nurture a lifelong love of learning. But inequalities in our educational system and in the publishing industry prevent too many from seeing themselves as readers and writers. When school buildings closed in March, An Open Book Foundation began serving its community with high-interest, age-appropriate books, with delivery that could be timed to coincide with meal or instructional packet pickups. While its traditional, in-school author and illustrator events can no longer be held, AOB now offers virtual visits to online classrooms, because students need to see award-winning authors and illustrators with whom they can connect as role models. A flexible, dynamic programming structure that can be easily adapted makes AOB ready for anything as the new school year unfolds.
For Love of Children
By the end of fifth grade, low-income children are nearly three grades behind their more affluent peers, so For Love of Children works to mitigate the challenges, offering a continuum of support that guides students from first grade through college and beyond. It intentionally targets neighborhoods with the lowest reading and math levels, and FLOC’s one-to-one match approach (virtual since mid-March) provides two hours of individualized support in reading or math or both every week. A college and career readiness program offers 14 weekly workshops—financial aid, school selection, admissions, stress and time management, and more—to prepare youth and families for success. Juniors and seniors get assistance with college and job applications, free test prep, personalized application support, and access to scholarship funds. At a time when traditional schooling has been upended, individualized support can make all the difference in the world.
Communities In Schools of the Nation’s Capital
Communities In Schools steps in where the need is greatest, working in 14 schools where 96 percent of families are low-income or poor. Highly trained site coordinators develop comprehensive drop-out prevention plans, coordinated with school staff, families, and community partners to fully support the “ABCs” of attendance, behavior, and coursework. Those most vulnerable to dropping out receive targeted case management. With schools closed, regular check-ins went virtual, caseloads inevitably grew, and gift cards for basic needs, like food and hygiene products, were added to homework packets. During the summer, staff implemented plans to create a strong start to the school year, no matter where students are learning, by working to identify students most in need of academic and social support. This new environment is a tough one for students, but CIS is working to keep them engaged and to meet their needs during a frightening and difficult time.
After three decades of partnership, the people of Wellington Park trust Horton’s Kids, so when in-person programming was suspended, no one considered closing the doors. The families here have an average annual income under $10,000 and are among the most adversely affected by the public health crisis. School closings meant the loss of nourishing food and left children at risk of falling further behind in their studies. An emergency food pantry and supplies helped meet basic needs, while case managers and therapists offered families advice about receiving aid checks, filing for unemployment, and getting access to medical care. Trained staff and volunteers connected with children virtually, providing coaching and motivation to complete schoolwork. Hopeful about the ability to reopen in-person, Horton’s Kids will resume its tutoring, mentoring, and post-secondary success work, serving 500 children and their families—and being the lifeline they deserve.
Washington Youth Garden
In an ordinary year, Washington Youth Garden would offer its year-round gardening programs to 6,500 youth, partner with schools and communities on school gardens, and deliver free science and nutrition curricula to enrich learning. Instead, this year it has been growing and donating thousands of pounds of arugula, collard greens, turnips, onions, cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, okra, and more for D.C. families in need—through DC Central Kitchen and its partner schools—and 1,200 vegetable seedlings for organizations across the city. For schoolchildren, it added a food forest of edible perennials, two beehives, and grow-at-home kits. D.C. high school interns work with staff to grow food for donation and build gardens for neighbors, and school gardens have been improved so that students will return to renovated outdoor classrooms. Determined to remain flexible during this crisis, WYG is sharing its resources and skills in extraordinary ways.
Inner City-Inner Child
The COVID-19 crisis is a potential catastrophe for our nation’s youngest children, especially those in the most economically challenged communities. The early years, ages birth to 5, are crucial to their development and school readiness. Inner City-Inner Child plays a vital role here, providing age-appropriate, meaningful content to educators, families, and children who are learning at home. When it is safe to gather, in-person residencies, family workshops, and arts-based professional development will be underway again. In the interim, books, art materials, and emergency relief supplies are delivered to families, with social distance observed; instruction, music, and movement videos are available on YouTube; and early childhood music, movement, and visual art classes are conducted on Zoom. One-on-one coaching fosters dialogue between teaching artists and classroom teachers, while online workshops for teachers and parents keep everyone safe and connected until those all-important social interactions can resume.
Peace of Mind
Peace of Mind helps educators teach mindfulness, neuroscience, gratitude, empathy, and conflict resolution—not just to help kids self-regulate (though they do self-regulate), but as tools of liberation. Students notice and manage their feelings and work out conflicts before they escalate; teachers create kinder, more inclusive schools; and together, they are positioned to create a more peaceful and equitable world. PoM is developing its classroom-based curriculum for delivery online as well as in print, continuing to build a video library of resources that can be used by educators in the classroom and by students and families at home, creating model classes for teachers to watch as they prepare lessons and offering virtual professional development sessions for educators in fall 2020 and beyond, if necessary. As health conditions permit, this work will return to the classroom, where it is much needed in a contentious world.
Teaching for Change
While most claim to welcome all families and to honor diversity, day-to-day practices in schools with children of color, low-income youth, and immigrant youth fall far short of the ideal. Teaching for Change plays a central role in grassroots education reform in the D.C. region. Its Zinn Education Project brings the history of working people, people of color, and organized social movements into the classroom. It also makes available the best selection of multicultural and social justice books for children, young adults, and educators. Curricular innovation, powerful professional development for teachers, and meaningful parent engagement are now even more critical as racial bias and injustice have emerged as urgent national issues. In our COVID-19 world, staff have reformatted lessons for user-friendliness, supported engagement with harder-to-reach families, and moved parent engagement and teacher workshops online—until the day when schools can permanently reopen.
DC Youth Orchestra Program
DC Youth Orchestra Program is the only program in the region that makes high-quality music education available to all interested students, regardless of their circumstances. From pre-K to 12th grade, more than 600 students from over 200 schools and all D.C. wards progress from introductory lessons to advanced chamber music instruction and concert performances. Tuition is need-based and starts at just $25. Full programming moved online by late March: teaching artists called students individually; group lessons, sectionals, and ensemble rehearsals were arranged and conducted virtually; and a local recording studio began producing virtual concerts that are watched and shared online by students’ families and friends. Interactive programming is offered throughout the week so that kids stay connected with the larger musical community. Without DCYOP, the vast majority of their students would never learn a musical instrument, develop life skills, and, importantly, play in an orchestra—something they desperately yearn to do again.
A cultural anchor in the Brookland/Edgewood neighborhood, Dance Place is a theater, dance school, and community cultural center in one—an extraordinary combination. The thriving arts campus typically hosts a 36-week presenting season, with performances by national and international touring artists as well as established and emerging D.C.-based companies, while its world-class school offers everything from youth to adult dance training. Now, along with its presentation series, its six-week, tuition-free youth summer camp, and the Dance Africa DC festival, programming has moved online, at least through the end of the year. Some participants lack access to the technology that makes all of this available—a problem for many nonprofits during COVID-19. But Dance Place is actively working to be a Northeast D.C. and dance community resource for accessible programming, which is invaluable to community members seeking support and inspiration in troubling times.
Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C.
Singing in choral mode—typically a healthy, joyous, and community-affirming activity—is now a high-risk one for spreading the coronavirus. So choruses like the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., with its 300 participants, are facing very significant challenges, as are performing arts groups across the region and the country. It will likely be among the last to return full-tilt. In the meantime, the group is exploring options to continue its mission-based performances via smaller ensembles that protect the safety and well-being of members and audiences but keep the music alive. GMCW has also increased its virtual footprint, including brand-new videos and quality online offerings like the streaming release of its March 2019 concert “Let Freedom Sing,” a celebration of the Black and African American influence on music. This is a tough time for those who participate in and benefit from the arts. Let’s keep them alive.
GALA Hispanic Theatre
A unique fusion of professional bilingual theater, youth development, and community development in the transitioning neighborhood of Columbia Heights, GALA mounts a wide range of works by artists from Spain, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the U.S. Early in the pandemic, it recorded video interviews with actors, directors, playwrights, and Latinx arts leaders to share with patrons. Its summer youth program offered a hybrid of virtual work and small, in-person groups in a controlled setting. Many of GALA’s young people live in small apartments with multiple generations and need their time at the theater, where mentoring and creative learning is offered in the (safe and healthy) Paso Nuevo program. When the season opens, with hygiene measures and social distancing in place (274 seats reduced to 70), GALA will face a major challenge that a caring community’s generosity can help address.
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital
The public health crisis forced the D.C. Environmental Film Festival to cancel its live festival of 167 films, which included 142 D.C., U.S., and world premieres. Without access to brick-and-mortar venues, it launched its first-ever online festival on March 17. World-class documentarians tackled a broad spectrum of topics, from climate activism to parkland preservation, ocean health, animal conservation, indigenous rights, plastic pollution, and many other critical environmental topics. Despite the short lead time, 79 films (nearly half the original roster) drew more than 121,000 viewers from every continent on Earth. The successful online festival will now be presented annually alongside the live annual festival, which is tentatively rescheduled for March 2021, accompanied by an expanded roster of virtual programming. This year’s youth program for 1,000 D.C. students is contingent on public health conditions, but the hope is to bring it back. Promoting environmental stewardship through film: We can’t afford to stop.
Girls and Women
Girls on the Run – DC
Girls on the Run pairs character education with running instruction, giving girls in all eight wards of D.C. and in Prince George’s County the skills and encouragement they need to meet life’s challenges. Last spring, when the pandemic made running in after-school teams impossible, GOTR at Home offered twice-weekly virtual instruction for exercise and creative activities tied to core values: celebrating commonalities and differences, standing up for oneself and others, identifying emotions, and managing stress. Fall planning includes twice-weekly virtual lessons that connect girls with dedicated coaches and teammates from their site (plus some ward-based teams with community coaches) and a fluid program that moves seamlessly between in-person and virtual sessions should schools open and close. Having 75 percent of participants on scholarship is tough because some girls have no devices, but GOTR is determined to address the challenge. Let’s help them.
DC Rape Crisis Center
DC Rape Crisis Center offers free, confidential, trauma-informed counseling and case management to survivors of sexual violence and their friends, family, and partners. Trained advocates provide crisis intervention, support, advocacy, and referrals 24/7, 365 days a year. DCRCC also elevates public awareness—given new urgency by the #MeToo movement—and advocates for improved policies by giving voice to survivors and speaking directly to social justice issues like racism that greatly exacerbate trauma. Not surprisingly, the pandemic has created a surge in client requests and the move to telehealth has made a painful situation even more painful. In response, DCRCC has expanded its hotline and added staff to meet the increase in callers and requests for therapy. Cleaning supplies, PPE, self-care items, iPads for clients in Wards 5, 7, and 8 who lack access to technology will help bring survivors the support they deserve.
HER Resiliency Center
HER Resiliency Center supports vulnerable young women ages 18 to 25 who have aged out of foster care with no support and have experienced homelessness, drug addiction, early pregnancy, sexual exploitation, or other traumas. Their needs only escalated when the pandemic hit because street life became even more dangerous. Maintaining on-foot outreach in all eight wards of the District, conducting wellness checks, assisting with shelter access, providing food, and supporting basic needs like hygiene products, snacks, food gift cards, and even underclothes, HER also continued its one-to-one support for those in crisis and virtual support to ensure that others continue on their journey in a positive way. As the world reopens, in-person individualized skills development, sexual health workshops, and education, employment, and housing assistance resume.Ninety-five5 percent of HER women will be empowered to make progress on their personally identified goal plan—even in a brutal year.
An infant born in D.C.’s poorest ward is 10 times likelier to die than one born in the wealthiest. Committed to serving low-resourced families of color, Mamatoto Village fights this and other staggering disparities in maternal health care. Throughout pregnancy and for the first three months of the child’s life, mothers receive comprehensive, culturally-relevant services like health education, care coordination, labor and breastfeeding support, and counseling, that empower them to make informed decisions about their health, their parenting, and their lives. Inspired by the care they received, clients often return to complete the Perinatal Workforce Training Program, learning to serve their community as trained community health workers and lactation consultants—thereby increasing the number of women of color employed in maternal health and having a positive effect on the local economy. Mamatoto believes every mom and every baby deserves quality care. Don’t you?
With one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation, D.C. is home to thousands of young families living in poverty because the parents lack an education: Fewer than 2 percent of teen mothers earn a college degree before age 30. Founded by a former teen mother, Generation Hope surrounds these young parents with the support they need to thrive in college and to help their little ones enter kindergarten ready for success. The Scholar Program provides parents with a mentor, crisis support, and up to $2,400 a year in tuition assistance. Meanwhile, Next Generation Academy offers home visits, parenting support, learning materials, and access to high-quality child care for scholars’ children ages 1 to 5. Next year, Generation Hope will support 101 Scholars and 20 children and provide college-readiness workshops to 300 parenting high schoolers. With your help, more diplomas are on the way.
Black Swan Academy
In the aftermath of the George Floyd killing, Black Swan Academy’s work has taken on even greater urgency. Its innovative 36-week civic leadership and engagement program enhances youth voices, builds youth power, creates a safe space for youth of color to engage and gain advocacy skills, develops a youth-led policy agenda, and shifts the culture of D.C. policymaking so that it is more inclusive of youth of color. The end goal is nothing less than racial equity and systemic change. Of course, COVID-19 has forced a shift from in-person to virtual meetings and from direct action organizing to thinking strategically about what a youth-led and youth-centered digital organizing strategy might be. Education inequity, criminalization, trauma, and poverty will likely be more pressing in our post-COVID world. The time frame for social distancing is uncertain; what is certain is the heightened need for organizing in this moment.
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed businesses from Main Street to Wall Street, SEED SPOT began providing its programs virtually to support innovators, including women and persons of color, who will be the engine of economic recovery. Newly designed Pivot Camps help existing business owners pivot their products, services, and technologies, find short-term opportunities, and plan for the return to normalcy. Launch Camp guides new entrepreneurs through the process of defining a problem and its solution: They leave with a solid business plan, pitch, and action steps to advance their ventures. Industry experts host talks on topics like applying for SBA disaster loans and moving your business online. A COVID-19 Resource Center includes everything from funding opportunities to tips on working from home. It’s a new world out there and SEED SPOT is poised to deal with the present and create the future.
Parents Amplifying Voices in Education, Inc.
Parents are the ultimate experts on their children, yet they are rarely consulted about the education policies that impact their children’s lives. So Parents Amplifying Voices in Education, Inc., steps in, empowering D.C. parents to engage in the policymaking process and demand great schools for every child. Trained parent leaders serve on ward-based,citywide Parent Leader in Education Boards, meet with elected officials, mobilize other parents, and build targeted campaigns. PAVE equips them with information and resources and also partners directly with schools, state agencies, and policymakers to improve their family engagement practices. Here’s how it comes together: In 2018, PAVE parents identified out-of-school programming as a top priority. Their activism resulted in a $10.5 million budget increase to support these activities—a huge win for D.C. families. We need more wins to secure what we all want: excellent schools for all.
Shout Mouse Press
In a country where half of all 5-year-olds belong to a racial or ethnic minority, only 10 percent of children’s books feature characters like them. Shout Mouse Press is changing that, empowering people from marginalized communities to tell their stories and, as published authors, act as agents of change. Working in partnership with other nonprofits, a team of teaching artists leads writing workshops that engage at-risk teens, immigrants, cultural minorities, and the incarcerated. Staff then professionally edit, design, and publish their work, helping authors to share their stories in the media and as public speakers, panelists, and student leaders. With more than 35,000 books in circulation, sales benefit the nonprofit partners and their authors. These powerfully original stories—children’s books, novels, poetry, comics, and memoirs—amplify voices that would otherwise go unheard. It’s time to listen.
Washington Area Community Investment Fund
Economic disparity and systemic inequality are stark and pervasive across the Washington, D.C., region, where White households have an average net worth 81 times that of Black households. And though entrepreneurship is critical to closing that gap, entrepreneurs of color are more likely to be denied loans, receive lower amounts, pay higher rates, or not apply at all. The Washington Area Community Investment Fund focuses on communities east of the Anacostia River for almost half its lending. It also offers robust advisory services, from one-to-one business counseling to intensive multi-week courses. During the pandemic, it has provided comprehensive financial relief including loan repayment forgiveness and loan restructuring; COVID-specific online training such as digital strategy, business model pivoting, and mental health for entrepreneurs; social capital investment; and more grantmaking, as opposed to lending. The businesses WACIF serves will continue to need its support as they face an uncertain and still changing new economy.