February 22, 2017
Dear Beloved Community,
Please join us in saying thank you and farewell to Sheena Johnson, program officer for the Beloved Community Fund, whose last day with us will be March 3. I know I speak for the entire Akonadi Foundation team as well as our Beloved community in saying we are deeply thankful for Sheena’s invaluable contributions and her unwavering commitment to championing culture as a powerful strategy to shift hearts and minds, fight structural racism and advance movement building.
Under Sheena’s leadership, the Foundation has strengthened its support for high quality arts and cultural programming to communities of color in Oakland. Among her accomplishments, she helped the foundation triple its Beloved Community Fund Information Sessions in Oakland, resulting in a significant increase of applicants in 2016. Close to 50 percent of the grants awarded touched on priority areas of interest such as supporting youth of color to combat racialized stereotypes, Black organizing, responses to state violence, culture as means to address historic trauma and advance healing, and examining issues of race and displacement. Under her stewardship, 77 grants were made through the Beloved Community Fund totaling more than $500,000.
Cultivating and growing relationships in the community is core to our work, and with Sheena’s guidance, Akonadi Foundation collaborated with the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture to launch its first Critical Connections Mixer, bringing together Oakland’s artivists, organizers, and educators committed to racial justice, cultural organizing, and social justice, providing space for community building and helping to inform our ecosystem grantmaking.
In addition, Sheena worked to engage peers in social justice philanthropy at the local and regional levels, helping to increase support for infrastructure needs of arts and community organizations. She also helped to launch research efforts to examine the character, strengths and needs of the current non-profit arts and culture sector focused on serving people of color in Oakland. Finally, she was instrumental in conceptualizing and launching our So Love Can Win Rapid Response Fund, which seeded efforts that contributed to creating healing and safety for communities of color in Oakland.
We will miss Sheena’s sharp analysis, her spirit, her leadership in advancing our own learning within the foundation, and her tireless work and dedication to racial justice movement building. We wish her much love as she embarks on her next chapter of her movement life. Akonadi Foundation remains committed to executing the Beloved Community Fund and its focus on championing free public arts and cultural events that celebrate, and are rooted in, communities of color in Oakland.
Sheena’s final day will be March 3, 2017, so be sure to connect with her before she leaves. After that time, please contact Deputy Director Gina Acebo with any questions about the Beloved Community Fund, at Gina [at] akonadi.org. For more information about the Beloved Community Fund, including upcoming application deadlines, visit our website.
President, Akonadi Foundation
Photo Credit: Andria Lo Akonadi Staff from L-R
Renee Geesler, Iris Garcia, Gina Acebo, Sheena Johnson, Lateefah Simon, Lucy Aghadjian, Pati Ortega