So far in 2017, the Rapid Response Fund has awarded 15 grants totaling $160,500 to local and state-based efforts in California, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia, as well as to several national efforts. These grants support a range of strategies and issues, including:
Groundswell provided support for the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) convening, Where We Go From Here: Women’s Town Hall & Reception, that followed the January 21 Women’s March in Washington DC. Hundreds of women from across the country participated in the event, which featured Alicia Garza, Gloria Steinem, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Linda Sarsour, and several Groundswell Fund grantees as speakers. Over 650 people attended the event, while another 400,000 people participated by Facebook Live stream through direct views and shares. According to NDWA, the event, “played a key role in strengthening the broader social justice movement. In our current moment, we strongly believe that progressive organizations need to break out of our silos and work together. This event was an opportunity for many different organizations to come together and engage with potential new supporters, volunteers, and allies.” The town hall built post-march momentum, providing grassroots organization leaders to meet new activists and connect them to ongoing base-building work and opportunities to stay involved.
Ohio made national news in mid-March when Governor John Kasich vetoed a six-week abortion ban and approved a 20-week ban instead. In response, with Groundswell funding, New Voices for Reproductive Justice (NVRJ) expanded its work with Ohio partners NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, Preterm, Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Women Have Options Ohio, URGE, and Ohio Student Association, prioritizing work with Black women and women of color. At the same time, NVRJ also expanded its Pennsylvania policy advocacy with partners All* Above All, Women’s Law Project, Women’s Medical Fund, Philadelphia Women’s Center, and Pennsylvanians for Reproductive Health.
The election of Donald Trump caused widespread fear and panic in immigrant communities. A national organization led by Korean and Asian American people, 75 percent of whom are immigrants, NAKASEC received Groundswell funding for its #WeAreHereToStay campaign and 24-hour bilingual immigration hotline. NAKASEC’s #WeAreHereToStay national campaign uses education, organizing, advocacy, direct action, and leadership development strategies to engage at least 10,000 Asian Americans to understand their rights. The first phase of the campaign will center on government transparency under the slogan President Trump Show Us Your Taxes! What Are You Hiding? NAKASEC supports community members to share stories about the percentage of income they pay in taxes towards schools, hospitals, and parks and call on President Trump “to reveal his contributions to the public good.” With Groundswell funding, NAKASEC hired four young women of color interns to support local affiliates in California, Minnesota, and Virginia to participate in the national campaign and to make connections to local work. NAKASEC engaged community members via mass outreach at schools and universities, Asian American businesses and institutions, community events, senior homes, and social media in order to spur participation in Tax Day Marches.
The Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), and International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) received Groundswell funding to support A Gathering on Community and Movement Self-Defense, a cross-movement, closed-door strategy meeting held at the Highlander Center and designed to identify opportunities for joint work; share replicable local community and movement-wide self-defense strategies; create shared agendas and positions on issues; and connect US work to movements around the world. The gathering, held April 7-9, brought together over 60 leaders from 32 invited organizations committed to connecting local, national, and international struggles against racism, Zionism, Islamophobia, capitalism, imperialism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. Many participating organizations — BYP 100, Blackbird from the Movement for Black Lives, Southerners On New Ground and Groundswell grantees Project South and Audre Lorde Project — are led by queer and transgender people, women, and people of color. Co-funded in partnership with the Solidaire Network.
The Immigrant Youth Coalition (IYC) received funding for a series of deportation defense and Know Your Rights workshops across California. As an undocumented and Queer/Trans youth-led organization that mobilizes youth, families, and incarcerated people to end the criminalization of immigrants and people of color, IYC will leverage its local chapters to advance statewide action. As the Trump Administration issues directives for immigration enforcement, detention, and deportation, young immigrants and their families are at increased risk, particularly immigrants who are further marginalized by their LGBTQ identities, age, gender, income, and history with the criminal justice system. IYC is a strong grassroots voice for inclusive undocumented immigrant-led justice. Groundswell funding helps to strengthen IYC’s capacity to engage in long-term grassroots organizing and resistance against immigration proposals that increase criminalization and detention. Co-funded in partnership with the Third Wave Fund.
Restaurants Opportunities Centers (ROC) United and Presente.org received funding to advance the Sanctuary Restaurants project to defend and organize vulnerable workers in the restaurant industry. As the largest employer of undocumented immigrants in the US, and one of the largest employers of Muslims, women of color, Latinx, and LGBTQ individuals, the restaurant industry has been a prominent target of aggressive attacks, harassment, and immigration enforcement actions. In addition, women account for 71 percent of restaurant servers in the U.S., leaving them directly reliant on customers for their wages via tips. This is, in part, why the restaurant industry is the single largest source of sexual harassment claims in the nation. Working at the intersection of economic and reproductive justice, ROC United and Presente are organizing restaurant employers nationwide to become Sanctuary Restaurants, agreeing to a zero–tolerance policy for sexism, racism, and xenophobia, and inviting restaurant diners and workers to join the campaign – with 13,000 participating to date. With Groundswell funding, ROC United will host informational meetings, webinars, and calls that provide information on the current state of immigration and labor policies; best practices to prepare for or defend against harassment, interrogation, detention, and raids; and how to organize for change, including joining a “rapid response” network and sharing stories. Both organizations are developing restaurant worker-led teams to respond quickly to harassment, attacks, and immigration enforcement actions targeting restaurant workers and employers. As part of this rapid response work, ROC United’s Legal Department will work with allies to bring legal action whenever possible. In preparation for a ROC-member-led May 1 strike, Groundswell provided additional funding to support a Worker Direct Action Fund that will support restaurant workers participating in this action and other civil disobedience who may subsequently face such reprisals as fines or lost shifts.
Survived and Punished is a national coalition of four organizations working to end the criminalization of survivors of violence who act in self-defense. Groundswell funding will support the No Perfect Victims Network, a convening for over 60 women of color survivors and organizers from around the country at the 2017 annual Allied Media Conference in Detroit. No Perfect Victims will address what’s changed for criminal justice and anti-violence work under the Trump Administration and will provide opportunities for survivors and organizers to create strategies, share stories, and educate attendees about the need to focus on the criminalization of women and gender non-conforming survivors of violence. The convening will connect to reproductive justice by highlighting the stories of mothers of color who have been arrested and criminalized for trying to protect themselves and their families. For Survived and Punished, the failure of the state to protect children of color and the criminalization of women who act in self-defense to protect their families is a reproductive justice issue.
On the heels of successfully organizing Native Nations Rise – the largest ever mobilization of indigenous people on Washington D.C. – Native Organizers Alliance (NOA), in partnership with 2016 Rapid Response grantee Indigenous Environmental Network, organized the Indigenous People’s contingent of the April 29 People’s Climate March. With Groundswell’s support, NOA mobilized 20-25 Native leaders, the majority of whom were women, to attend the March and bring the issues of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL) to national conversations about the environment in the era of Trump. Separately, NOA also fundraised to support eight white and working–class ranchers to travel to the March. These Native and white ranchers are leaders in the newly re-energized Anti-KXL Cowboy-Indian Alliance. Right-wing misinformation campaigns about Standing Rock have pitted working–class white people against Native communities in North and South Dakota. With this grant, NOA used the march to begin to heal divides and connect Native organizers with labor organizers. By lifting up the leadership of ranchers and ranch owners from South Dakota who partner with Native communities in the KXL fight, the Cowboy-Indian Alliance is building connections among working–class Native and white communities to oppose DAPL and the KXL.
In a national action to support incarcerated Black women, Groundswell funded over a dozen grassroots organizations working on the first National Black Mama’s Bailout Day, which was created to bail out incarcerated Black women before Mother’s Day so they could be with their families. The campaign also focused on the ways that cash bail and the bail bonds industry violate the rights and well-being of families and communities most impacted by the criminal justice system. The campaign bailed out more than 100 mamas before Mother’s Day; sparked a national conversation about the whole bail system; and got commitments from various organizations to execute their own national bail out days in the future.
Groundswell supported the Campaign for Southern Equality, home of the Southern Equality Fund’s Safe Schools, Safe Communities initiative to support Southern LGBTQ grassroots groups and individual leaders in under-resourced and rural areas. With Groundswell’s support, the Fund is working with Southern LGBTQ communities to find out what safety means for them and funding community-led initiatives to increase safety for children, families, and communities. Since last November’s election, hate crimes against religious minorities in the South are up; four of the nine trans women of color killed this year lived in the South; and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) presence in Southern communities has increased significantly, causing widespread fear. In the current political climate, Southern LGBTQ people, and the many communities they are a part of — people of color, undocumented immigrants, religious minorities, people living with HIV/AIDS, women and low-income people — are facing heightened threats to their safety, health and well-being. The Safe Schools, Safe Communities initiative will direct resources to both groups that promote safety and sanctuary in schools and communities across the South and to groups working at the intersections to protect and defend anyone who is targeted based on race, age, gender identity, immigration status, religious beliefs, ability, or sexual orientation. In addition to grants, the Fund provides one-on-one technical assistance to grantees, networking opportunities, and a special leadership development program for transgender leaders. Grant decisions are made by an advisory council (made up primarily of LGBTQ activists of color) that review grant applications weekly and makes grants of up to $500 to grassroots groups (including those without 501(c)(3) status) and individuals.
Groundswell awarded Birth Justice Fund grantee Healing Clinic Collective a rapid response grant to host a June Healing Our Healers event, after they surveyed providers and healers who reported fatigue and exhaustion given the high demand of communities of color for healing services since the election. The event combined group and individual treatments and political conversations in order to provide the best experience possible for hard–working and overextended healers, educators, and organizers who have been constantly responding to communities under attack and, as a result, experiencing vicarious trauma themselves. The event was coordinated by a five-person multigenerational team and the attendees were predominantly women of color, queer, and trans people, many of whom were parents, community organizers, educators, doulas, and healers.
In retaliation against sanctuary cities, the state of Texas passed SB4, a “Show Me Your Papers” law, in May that threatens immigrant and Latinx communities. Among its provisions, SB4 forces campus police in Texas to profile students, inquire about citizenship status, detain students and notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This puts DACA, undocumented, immigrant, and international students in immediate danger. As a result, MOVE, a youth organizing group that centers the leadership of Latinx, undocumented and students of color, sued the state of Texas. Groundswell supported MOVE to ensure that young undocumented, immigrant, Latinx and international students were at the helm of organizing youth and communities to understand their rights under this law, organizing resistance against it, and supporting the ongoing federal court case, even as the law goes into effect on September 1. With Groundswell’s funding, MOVE will use its existing organizing model and mobilization channels to support DACA, immigrant, and international students through civic education, leadership development, and issue advocacy.
In an emboldened show of force and racist violence, white supremacists descended upon Charlottesville, VA, for a “Unite the Right” rally to promote hatred and white supremacy. Chanting anti-Semitic, racist, xenophobic and anti-trans and anti-gay epithets, crowds of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan and white nationalist groups marched through the streets and the University of Charlottesville, a campus built by enslaved Black people. Black Lives Matter (BLM) Charlottesville and other organizations led counter-protests on August 12 and were attacked by white supremacists, while the police stood back and failed to protect people of color and anti-racist activists from racist violence. In a horrific attack, a white nationalist drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, injuring 20 anti-racist activists and killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old progressive activist. In a city where organizations led by people of color are not well-resourced, BLM Charlottesville is one of the only people of color led groups and it is leading the resistance against white supremacy and healing efforts. With support from Groundswell, BLM Charlottesville will focus on ongoing mental health care, trauma counseling, and living expenses for Black organizers and the victims of violence, with a focus on people of color. Additionally, as a recently launched group, BLM Charlottesville will focus on base-building within Black communities in Charlottesville and fortifying its capacity to lead resistance against white supremacists who have vowed to return to Charlottesville; continuing its organizing efforts to urge elected officials to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces; and, urging the University of Virginia to publicly disavow, ban, and revoke the diplomas of known white supremacist alumnae.
As one of the only people of color organizations that was active in leading counter-protests against white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, PHAR has been organizing low-income residents, many of whom are Black and people of color, to engage the city in shifting policing practices. On August 11 and 12, the police showed up in force to the white supremacist rallies but failed to protect counter-protesters and Charlottesville residents from racist violence. PHAR offered an open letter to the Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer and Charlottesville Police Department to urge changes in policing practices and to hold an independent investigation into the failure of the police to protect residents, people of color, and anti-racist activists. PHAR is also calling on the city to decisively demonstrate its opposition to white supremacy. PHAR is leading organizing to hold the city accountable to the needs of low-income communities of color in Charlottesville moving forward.
After the white supremacist violence that shook Charlottesville, several cities, schools and states saw people-driven direct actions to remove Confederate and racist monuments from public spaces and government properties. In Durham, organizers tore down a Confederate monument in solidarity with Charlottesville. This powerful show of resistance was met with swift backlash from the state and police. Black and Brown activists were singled out, arrested and charged with felony crimes. Since then, these activists have received hate mail, death threats, and doxing from white supremacists across the country. White nationalist fliers began appearing around town in Durham and some of the activists who removed the monument have even received threatening visits from white nationalists at their workplaces. This escalated the morning of the first court appearance of four arrestees when a local Klan chapter informed the Durham County Sheriff that they planned to march at noon. During the court appearance, skin heads in fatigues were spotted in the parking lot across from the courthouse. Immediately responding, the Southern Vision Alliance launched a #Frontlines initiative to provide physical security (house and office security, escorts, event security, and digital security) to anti-racist activists, with a focus on supporting women, queer people, and people of color. The Southern Vision Alliance is a grassroots intermediary that provides infrastructure, capacity-building, and assistance to youth-centered organizations focused on social, racial, and environmental justice, along with gender equity, LGBTQ rights, and education justice in the South.