Reflections from the 2017 Beloved Community Fund

By: Vanessa Camarena-Arredondo

As I reflect on the Beloved Community Fund in 2017, I am moved by the beautiful cultural work under way in Oakland, through projects that center racial justice, work across cultures, and show true love for our city’s communities of color. 2017 was a year fraught with extreme political challenges both locally and nationally: fear for and among our undocumented communities, increased external economic pressures, and, thankfully, some progress toward racial justice, as we saw recently in Alabama’s election. Through all of this, we continue to stand with our communities of color here in Oakland by bolstering their important cultural work that advances racial justice.

This year the Beloved Community Fund awarded $500,000 in grants to 65 projects, with an average grant size of $7,700, prioritizing groups with less access to institutional funding. The number of applications has been growing for several years, and 2017 was no exception. This year, we received 165 applications requesting $2.1 million. We continued our commitment to fund at fuller amounts; which, at times, meant funding fewer projects. We do our best to meet the need here in Oakland with the finite funds we have available, and so we encourage the community to seek support from entities such as the City of Oakland Cultural Funding Program, the California Arts Council, the California Council of the Humanities, and other sources.

We are inspired by our grant partners in Oakland which are primarily led by and serving  people of color. Through the Beloved Community Fund this year, we saw powerful projects like the Afro Urban Society, which created a bridge for Yemeni women, children, and Afro-Urban artists through dance; Zawaya, which brought Arab and Middle Eastern musicians together with African-American musicians to collaborate on and create a musical program; Lower Bottom Playaz, which hosted talking circles with formerly incarcerated men, youth, and service providers to create a healing and storytelling space; and Alphabet Rockers, which was nominated for a Grammy for Rise Shine #Woke, a musical project that seeks to interrupt the patterns of racial bias and offers children non-racist, self-affirming language and song. In addition, Dr. Ayodele Nzinga, director of Lower Bottom Playaz, received a Community Leadership Award from The San Francisco Foundation.

We are grateful to engage with cultural leaders and communities that bring forth strong vision, spirit, and a hunger for justice through action. We look forward to connecting with you in 2018. With Akonadi Foundation’s local focus, we are particularly interested in leadership and projects with deep Oakland roots and partnerships, those who are immersed in this city and intend to be here for the long haul. We know there is work to do here and we want to lock arms with you to continue this good work of building the Beloved Community to advance racial justice. As we wrap up 2017 we are gearing up for next year’s funding cycle for the Beloved Community Fund. This year we were honored to have supported some wonderful events here in Oakland, and will officially re-open the fund in early January 2018.