Written by Quinn Delaney
With the end of the year approaching, we have been reflecting on our work. It has been a busy year, with some inspirational achievements and many heart wrenching tragedies. Like many of you, we at Akonadi have been closely following the many instances of state violence against people of color. It seems that before we can finish mourning one lost life, we are forced to contend with yet another. The frequency with which these events occur is startling and ultimately numbing. Our hearts go out to the families across the country who have faced the loss of a loved one from institutional violence.
Activists and organizations have responded to the horrific events and Akonadi Foundation has been proud to support their efforts. Not only have we been able to support the new organizing in the wake of the killings, but we have also provided steadfast support to a number of Oakland-based organizations that have been working on issues of policing and racial equity for years and decades.
Many of our current grantee partners focus on organizing and leadership development with communities of color who most feel the impact of over-policing and criminalization. Organizations like Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, which works with young people who have been involved with the juvenile justice system; Ella Baker Center, which works to shift public resources from prisons to education and job training; Black Organizing Project, which organizes against police in our children’s schools; and Californians For Justice, which works to lift up voices of students and families in the decision making process of Oakland Unified School District, to name just a few. Their ongoing work is critically important and we are proud to be long-term funders of their work.
In fact, being a long-term funder is part of our DNA. This year, Akonadi Foundation celebrates its fifteenth year of grantmaking, funding in Oakland, using various strategies, under various fund names. Reflecting on that history is very affirming. Over that time period, we have made 1300 grants, putting out close to $30 million into the community. We have seen many victories over these fifteen years, such as bringing college-required classes to all the students in Oakland Unified, enacting of the Local Control Funding Formula, training more people of color to sit on boards and commissions, and banning the box on employment applications for those formerly incarcerated. Yet there is always more to do.
For the years ahead, we will stay focused in Oakland, developing relationships with our partners and pushing for racial justice. Cultivating and growing relationships in the community has been a hallmark of the Foundation’s work, especially thanks to the commitment and passion of Senior Program Officer, Melanie Cervantes. After eleven years, Melanie will be leaving Akonadi Foundation to pursue her art full time.
I am very excited to see Melanie make this leap to deepen engagement with her art practice. She is a truly gifted artist, and, as many of you know, has been producing art for the movement “on the side” with Dignidad Rebelde for many years.
Yet, I am also sad at the thought of not working daily with Melanie on the issues around racial equity that Akonadi has tirelessly pursued since its inception. She has helped shape Akonadi strategy, analysis and programs. She has helped steer Akonadi on a steady path of living its values of equity and partnership.
Melanie has been in the forefront of speaking to philanthropy around the need to focus on racial justice, not just as a one-off program, but in all of the work. She also insists that we deeply listen to communities as we do our funding, and engage with grantees in an authentic and ongoing manner. These values permeate Akonadi Foundation and we thank Melanie for her commitment to them.
Melanie will be working though the end of February 2016, so be sure to connect with her before she leaves.
As I reflect on this year and all of our fifteen years, I remain inspired by the amazing activists that I am lucky to engage with all the time. It is their dedication and tireless work that gives me hope, and I think gives us all hope.
Best holiday wishes,
President, Akonadi Foundation