Celebrating Juneteenth: Advancing Racial Justice in Maine

18 June 2024 , Posted in: Uncategorized

In celebration of Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, the Maine Justice Foundation is proud to highlight the current grantees of the Racial Justice Fund. Racial Justice Fund supports education and advocacy aimed at achieving racial justice and addressing systemic racism. The Fund supports Black, Indigenous, and People of Color by forging social, systemic, and economic solutions to combat racism in Maine. Grants from the Fund are made to qualified organizations for programs to advance racial justice throughout Maine, at every level of society, including but not limited to the legal system, healthcare, education, the workplace, food insecurity, natural resources, and housing. To date the fund has deployed $130,000 to organizations over three grant rounds.

In the most recent grant round, the Foundation awarded grants between $5,000 and $10,000 to six inspiring Maine organizations dedicated to advancing social, systemic, and economic solutions for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) across Maine. These grants aim to address racism and inequities embedded within our culture, organizations, and systems.

 Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project

 The Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP) was awarded $10,000 for their Racial Justice Fellowship Program. This grant was to provide a paid fellowship opportunity for law school students who identify as immigrants or have lived immigrant experience. One of the Fellows from their pilot year continued her work with ILAP and will be joining as a full-time staff attorney after taking the bar this summer. She will be instrumental in the ongoing expansion of the organizations legal services for new arrivals seeking asylum.

 Ladder to the Moon Network

 Ladder to the Moon Network was awarded $10,000 to expand the reach of Amjambo Africa, a publication that provides vital information directed toward immigrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking community members, through digital channels including radio, podcast, and videos. The podcasts have begun to gain traction and the organization has pivoted to producing video versions of those multilingual podcasts.

 Maine Inside Out (MIO)

 Maine Inside Out was awarded a $10,000 grant to engage BIPOC young men incarcerated at Mountain View Correctional Facility in weekly workshops with Maine Inside Out theatre facilitators to create and share two original plays. The program is designed to build trust and create space for vulnerability and play, synthesizing personal stories and artistic content into a cohesive original play called “Life Lost in the Streets.”

Maine Commission on Public Defense Services

 The Maine Commission on Public Defense Services was awarded a $10,000 grant to host a series of DEI, trainings for attorneys who provide criminal indigent legal services in Maine. The first training, Litigating Race and the Traumatic Effects of Policing in Communities of Color was presented on March 22, 2024, by Professor Kristin Henning. Eighty-nine attorneys attended the training. The second training, Advancing Equity in Legal Representation: Culturally Humble Representation & Actively Challenging Inequitable Treatment was presented at PDS’ Inaugural Child Protective Defense Conference on April 1, 2024, by Louie Gasper and Gina Cabiddu. Fifty-five attorneys attended the training, and it was recorded so it could be added to the PDS training library. The third training, See Something, Say Something: Strategies for Interrupting Bias in the Criminal Legal System, was presented by Professor Kristin Henning on May 21, 2024. Fifty-two attorneys attended the training. The training was recorded and added to PDS’ training library.

In Her Presence

In Her Presence was awarded a $5,000 grant to ensure the availability of culturally appropriate and nutritious food at the Frances Warde House for sheltered asylum seekers in Portland, ME. Through funding from the Maine justice Foundation, In Her Presence has been able to ensure that residents of the Frances Warde House have access to culturally appropriate, nutritious food. The organization hosted discussions with the residents to determine which foods they would prefer to have available, while ensuring that the selected foods have solid nutritional value. The sessions promoted a dialogue and respect across the diverse cultures of the residents which includes women from six different countries with more than eight languages and perceptions. They made a shopping tour at the known vendors of ethnic food to establish a favorable price for a regular supply of preferred food and initiated a Maine Immigrant Greens Collaborative Education Program.

Alpha Legal Foundation

The Alpha Legal Foundation was awarded a $5,000 grant to support a Maine JusticeCorps pilot program in Androscoggin and Cumberland Counties that will place a minimum of seven (7) full-time BIPOC AmeriCorps members as legal navigators in courthouses. To date, Alpha Legal Foundation has entered into a co-working space lease agreement with the Equality Community Center to establish a community presence and have space to facilitate meetings with partners and has successfully posted its contract position on the Maine Association of Non-Profits Job Board.

The Racial Justice Fund has grown significantly since its inception, thanks to contributions from corporations, philanthropic leaders, and individual donors. Since the inaugural grant round, donors across Maine have made significant additional contributions to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fund, which now stands over $830,000, to combat racial injustice and inequity in Maine. The founders of the Fund are AARP Maine, Androscoggin Bank, AT&T, Baker Newman Noyes, Bangor Savings Bank, Bernstein Shur, Central Maine Power, Cross Insurance, BirchBrook, Drummond Woodsum, Eaton Peabody, F.L. Putnam Investment Management Company, Gorham Savings Bank, HM Payson, Hancock Lumber, Hannaford Supermarkets, Harvard Pilgrim, Northern Light Health, Pierce Atwood LLP, Preti Flaherty, RM Davis, Verrill, and the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation. The current Advisory Committee members are co-chairs Dr. Evelyn Silver and Prof. Marcelle Medford, Mary Herman, Reginald Parson, Francys Perkins, Shelly Okere, Bill Harwood, and Janis Cohen. To read more about the Racial Justice Fund and the Advisory Committee Members CLICK HERE.