My apartheid-era South African upbringing exposed me to some of the darkest human failings. It opened my progressive's eyes to similar injustices here, though it took me years to appreciate the subtleties on this side. Many of you post about these issues, so I know they are dear to your hearts; sexism, racism, homophobia, persecution, economic injustice, etc. Many other issues still fly under the radar.
Apart from the occasional donation or social media post Idid little to get involved, even though I'm a get involved kind of guy. Why not? Well, if I'm honest, mostly I felt like as a foreigner it wasn't my place.Instead I found myself ever looking over my shoulder at South Africa, as if it was there I should help. It left me impotent because this has become home.
So as I revisit thoughts of whether to either renew my GreenCard or to get citizenship I found that loving this city and the treasure trove of people I have found during my travels were only part of the answer.For me to feel like I belong I must participate. I must feel like a part of making a better, sweeter, kinder, fairer world.
It was a chicken and the egg conundrum, so to break it I've dived into some human rights volunteering seeking a connection strong enough to break my outsider feelings.
I found a group striving to make a difference and using innovative ways to do so. They are Social Justice Fund NW and their agenda is to help resolve issues of social injustice like poverty, gay rights, racial inequity, etc. and do so at the root, not merely treating the symptoms. I'm part of a giving project made up of diverse individuals hugely representative of those most affected by the inequities most of you are also passionate about ending. They are a remarkable group that I'm learning from and growing with. I chose SJF carefully, asking around first to those in the know and they came highly recommended.
SJF's approach is to gather a group of folks just like us to do philanthropic work with social justice outcomes. Our group will raise money, accept and review grant applications from nonprofits, and then grant money to those we believe to be the best of them, particularly the ones most ignored by the current business-minded charitable system.
We must also start the hard conversations with our friends and talk about the issues we'd usually rather not talk about, and yes, I'd love to chat to you.
We're tackling issues I know most of you care deeply about.We'll help nonprofits full of dedicated, overworked stalwarts doing astonishing work at the leading edge of social change. And here's where you come in. Here's where I do something terribly awkward and difficult for me, embarrassing even... but also important.
Here's where I ask you for a donation.
If we do our part right, and we will do everything in our power to do so, then your donation will have a disproportionately large impact because it will be applied where it is needed most. If you'd like a sense of the kinds of groups we'll fund, check out last year's remarkable grantees: http://socialjusticefund.org/2013-Grantees .
SJF serves Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming,so those of you in other locations might ask yourselves why I'd be asking you too to donate when we may be far from you. Well, one current example is gay marriage. It had to start somewhere, right? That first ripple was not the first time a state made it legal, but one of the many battles that proceeded it. Some of you were a part of that. We aim to help those making that kind of ripple, and many ripples will reach you too.
All of our freedoms are inextricably linked and we are in this together. Please help us to help all of us. I'm busy reading and evaluating grant applications for the 31 finalists and so far I'm stunned at the work being done out there. It leaves me wishing we had much more to give because we'll end up saying no to too many deserving groups.
Every member of the team backed up their volunteer commitment with a personal donation we could afford. I donated $500. It would be wonderful if you could please make whatever donation you can afford. I would be thrilled to see some of you go as far as matching my donation, and I will make an additional $50 donation of my own for everyone who does match me, up to double my original donation. Plus my organization's 3X matching gifts program will turn every dollar I donate into four, adding $200 to your donation.
You also don't have to give it all at once, you can make monthly or even quarterly payments. Then please tell me about your donation so that I can tell SJF that it's for the Portland giving project.
We will make sure every donation counts, no matter the size.
Here's the link for donations. Please specify the PortlandGiving Project under the Designation field and for tracking purposes please add my name to the comments: https://app.etapestry.com/onlineforms/SocialJusticeFund/donate.html
If you're in or around Portland and you'd first like to know more or hear directly from some of those our work will aid then I urge you to join us this Saturday for our Oregon Social Justice Summit to learn about local progressive movements, hear directly from some of the most inspiring organizers in our region, and meet others passionate about social justice: http://www.socialjusticefund.org/oregon-social-justice-summit
Or ping me and we'll do coffee or a phone call.
Thank you for your time and for reading all that, even if you choose not to give, but I hope you do. And any of you who want to take this conversation further, please drop me a line. I would love to share a coffee and exchange stories.
Here's a photo of our team of volunteers: