by Diverse City Fund volunteer Rachel Cohen
As an organizer, fewer things are more rewarding than seeing a packed room turn out for an event you’ve worked on. When I arrived at the Florida Ave. Baptist Church for the celebration of the DC Fund’s second round of grantees on July 25, I saw something even better: volunteers bringing out more chairs to accommodate the standing-room only crowd of nearly 200 people!
And I know that entire crowd left excited and inspired by the evening’s program. After music from a local DJ and homemade pupusas that put everyone in the mood to celebrate, the crowd got to know each other, sharing stories about what brought each of us to DCF, and pinning notes on a map of DC to indicate where new projects are taking place. Ayize Sabater of the Fund’s Board of Instigators pumped up the room, reminding us that the Fund does something that no other DC funder does: support innovative, grassroots, largely volunteer-run projects and people working each day to make our city stronger, while taking no overhead on donations as an entirely volunteer-run fund.
We then heard from Family and Friends of Incarcerated People, one of those great projects and a grantee from the DC Fund’s first round. FFOIP supports the children and families of DC area incarcerated people by hosting youth outings and activities, fostering stronger parent/child relationships and strengthening community through their annual cook-out (coming up on August 18). Stuart Anderson from FFOIP was thrilled to report that they used their DC Fund grant to make their recent events even more fun and engaging, and they can’t wait for their upcoming cookout and kids skating sessions. Hearing his excitement about his work, and appreciation of the support of the DC Fund, was an unforgettable part of the evening.
But this event wasn’t about the Fund’s past successes, it was about recognizing the recently announced round of grantees, who are just starting to put their grants to work. We had a chance to meet and hear from many of the 23 projects in the District of Columbia that will benefit from the Fund’s $45,000 in grants as Board members read each grantee’s name as they stood to applause from the excited crowd. As the grantees stood up one by one, from Affordable Housing DC to the Women Empowering Women Project, the pride in the room was palpable. When Ruby Corado from Casa Ruby announced that she was so excited to have received funding for the first grant she had written in English, we were all reminded that the DC Fund is doing unique and vital work for our city.
The 2012 spring/summer grantees represent the variety of projects and partnership blooming across our city. From Three Part Harmony Farm’s work to distribute local produce to I Dream A World’s efforts to empower youth to envision – and actively pursue – their preferred world, there is so much social justice work already underway and even more to be done. I can’t wait to meet the new grantees, learn how they plan to use their grants and work with the people they educate, train, empower and mobilize.
Another highlight of the night was the poetry. Local poets Tony Keith and Jonathan B. Tucker inspired with their art and stories about working with DC residents of all ages in their “day jobs” coaching youth slam poetry and counseling college students. The evening was a great way not only to celebrate the 23 grantees, but also a way to recognize and celebrate hundreds of activists and advocates working to make our city a more equitable, more just place to live, work and play. The food, the music, the poetry & the speakers – all a perfect representation of how the Diverse City Fund draws out the talents of its grantees, volunteers and donors, and pulls together so many of the most exciting elements of our city.
This round of grantees will tackle issues of affordable housing, educational opportunities, LGBT equality, music & the arts, sustainability & food justice and so much more. Stay tuned for more on past and present grantees, and – if you are as excited about this work as I am – consider making a donation to support the work of the Diverse City Fund and its incredible grantees.