Happy Birthday Akonadi!

Written by Lucy Aghadjian |

In a small brick office building in Old Oakland, before everybody had their own email account, and long before every entity had its own website, a few file cabinets were busting at the edges filled with applications for early Akonadi grants. Organizations doing amazing work both locally and nationally sent in handwritten cover letters, printed materials, newspaper clippings, grant applications, and videotapes describing their efforts to address racial inequality. Quinn Delaney, President of Akonadi Foundation, sat in her office with a small tabletop TV and a VCR to watch hours of video. On January 1st of the new millennium, Akonadi made the first four grants of its young life, to organizations that worked on issues of criminal justice and employment.

Fifteen years later, $30,000,000 in grants have made their way to a web of more than one thousand partners in the effort to nurture many strands of the racial justice movement. Over a dozen employees have worked at Akonadi Foundation during its fifteen years, each bringing a unique perspective and personality to the work. Melanie Cervantes, as Akonadi’s Senior Program officer, makes more than a hundred grants a year; and initiated Akonadi’s Racial Justice Poster Project which for seven years has used art as a vehicle for social change. Renee Geesler, Digital Engagement Coordinator, has propelled us into the 21st century by broadcasting the work of the Foundation and its grant partners. Grants Manager, Iris Garcia, supports grantmaking by expanding Akonadi’s capacity to reach better outcomes and to uplift best practices for racial justice philanthropy. Deputy Director Gina Acebo uses her abundant organizing experience to assess the current political landscape and guide staff to best develop and deepen the foundation’s body of work. Akonadi Foundation has also benefitted from a host of skilled consultants to advance its work to support racial justice movement building.

During Akonadi’s fifteen years, Quinn Delaney and her staff have collaborated with hundreds of social justice leaders, activists and community members about institutional racism and how to address it squarely into the focus of philanthropy. I have worked with the Akonadi Foundation in the realm of finance and human resources from the time it took me to usher my child from kindergarten to college. And whether it was a two person, four grant office or the bustling organization with a team six, Akonadi has stayed fiercely focused on the vision for racial justice while responding to the fast changing landscape.