August 17, 2022

Maine Justice Foundation Awards Grants to Seven Maine Groups Working for Racial Justice and Equity

The Maine Justice Foundation has awarded grants from its Racial Justice Fund to seven Maine groups for 2022. The goal of the Fund is to support Black, Indigenous, and People of Color statewide to forge social, systemic, and economic solutions that will address racism and inequities in our culture, organizations, and systems.

“We are delighted to announce these Racial Justice Fund grants to seven inspiring organizations. The grants result from thoughtful consideration and hard work by the Fund’s volunteer Advisory Committee, the Foundation’s Board and staff, and generous donations by many corporate and individual leaders,” said Michelle Draeger, Executive Director of the Foundation. “We believe these projects will meaningfully advance racial justice and equity for BIPOC Mainers.”

The Foundation is issuing seven grants between $5,000 and $10,000 during this second year of grants, an increase in both organizations supported and funds distributed from the inaugural year. The grantees and the projects supported are:

  • Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project: To support a new fellowship opportunity for law school students who identify as immigrants or having lived immigrant experience.
  • Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center: To support continued expansion of the Center’s iEnglish Project to provide more language training to non-English speaking BIPOC community members so they can join Maine’s workforce.
  • In Her Presence: To support the Bridge to Career Fulfillment program which aims to equip immigrant women with the tools they need to find fulfilling employment and achieve success in the workplace.
  • Indigo Arts Alliance: To support Artists in Residence and community engagement for social justice in an effort to develop opportunities for social practice artists.
  • Ladder to the Moon Network: To support Amjambo Africa in expanding their reach by increasing materials printed in seven languages and adding distribution at social service agencies, libraries, food pantries/soup kitchens, the shelter/hotel system, medical facilities and elsewhere.
  • Maine Inside Out: To support arts and advocacy-based leadership development programs for system-impacted youth of color who have lived experience of Maine’s juvenile and criminal justice systems.
  • Mindbridge: To support the Healing Racial Trauma Initiative to measure and make improvements on the quality of healing interventions and to re-define, destigmatize, and improve the accessibility of metrics and clinical methodologies.

“I am honored to be part of history once again with respect to funding seven outstanding local organizations committed to racial justice and equity in Maine,” says Reginald Parson, member of the Racial Justice Fund Advisory Committee. “I was impressed with the creative projects that were presented and I look forward to seeing how each project develops in the coming year. I have also been blessed to work with a group of dedicated professionals on the Racial Justice Fund Advisory Committee. Everyone is committed to making a difference and this gives me the inspiration to keep moving forward in a time of turmoil and uncertainty in America and the world."

Ladder to the Moon Network and the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome center are among the seven organizations selected to receive funding in the second grant round. Reza Jalali, Executive Director of the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center shares that "Maine, the state we all love, will thrive if every Mainer, including those born in other parts of the world and calling Maine home now, succeed in reaching their full capacity. The Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Centerhelps New Mainers learn English to join the workforce and become economically independent. Their successful integration is good for all of us. The Maine Justice Foundation's support will make it possible for us to do our work better." Kathreen Harrison, Vice President of the Board for Ladder to the Moon Network is excited to expand their reach. “Our award from the Racial Justice Fund will enable us to get our publication into the hands of many more people desperate for information about how to navigate life in Maine. We'll be able to print more copies each month and distribute through expanded networks, including through food pantries and soup kitchens, at hotels housing asylum seekers, and through social service organizations. Since we publish in seven languages, newly arrived Mainers will be able to gather tips of all sorts, such as how to stay safe from scammers; how to prevent illness - including COVID; how to access free community college and certificate program opportunities; how to protect against immigration fraudsters; and what to think about when choosing a financial institution in the U.S. We are thrilled with this award.”

Since the inaugural grant round, corporations, philanthropic leaders, and individual donors across Maine have given an additional $290,000 raising the fund to $644,000 to combat racial injustice and inequity through the Foundation’s Racial Justice Fund. This growth has allowed the Foundation to increase both the number of grants made and funds distributed in 2022. The founders of the Fund are:

AARP Maine, Androscoggin Bank, AT&T, Baker Newman Noyes, Bangor Savings Bank, Bernstein Shur, Central Maine Power, Cross Insurance, BirchBrook, Drummond Woodsum, Eaton Peabody, F.L. Putnam Investment Management Company, Gorham Savings Bank, HM Payson, Hancock Lumber, Hannaford Supermarkets, Harvard Pilgrim, Northern Light Health, Pierce Atwood, Preti Flaherty, RM Davis, Verrill, and the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation.

The Fund’s Advisory Committee issued a request for proposals and reviewed applications. The current members are co-chairs Dr. Evelyn Silver and Prof. Marcelle Medford, Michael-Corey Hinton, Mary Herman, Reginald Parson, Francys Perkins, Shelly Okere, Bill Harwood, and Janis Cohen.

The Maine Justice Foundation, founded in 1983 as the Maine Bar Foundation, is the state’s leading funder of civil legal aid and is committed to ensuring access to justice for all Mainers. Learn more about the Racial Justice Fund at www.justicemaine.org.

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