“We knew we wanted to find flexible funds for grassroots, community-based entities organizing towards social and economic justice and emergency response,” said Jake Goodman, executive director of the Opportunity Fund. “We know that the organizations that might be the most acutely affected immediately are the larger ones, because they have more infrastructure, more staff, and more programs. But if we were only to give to those ones, often times for some of the smaller groups, many of which are led by people of color, that would widen the disparity. So we didn’t want to do that.”
The foundation is in its ninth cycle of funding and has given out $6.5 million worth of awards through 524 different grants. Applicants submitted their proposals before COVID-19 hit, but in order to better meet community needs, the Opportunity Fund reached out to applicants after they had applied to determine how their situation had changed due to the pandemic.
Back in April, the foundation created a $500,000 COVID-19 Response Fund to help organizations, particularly those who had applied previously, to stay afloat during the crisis. This new fund did not require formal applications. The grants were given to around 50 Pittsburgh arts and social justice organizations to support their operation as the pandemic continued.
"We reached out to a large part of our community to ask 'How are you doing, what are you doing, what’s going on, what do you need, and who do you know about who is doing stuff,'" said Goodman. "Then, we divided the funds as quickly as we could around 50/50 between arts and social and economic justice."
The foundation has decided to make Racial Justice a specific part of its mission, as a focus over all its social and economic justice funding. Other actions include planning to increase the number of Black-led Arts organizations to which the foundation provides multi-year, general operating funds, committing to adding a new “all-Black Advisory Team” to work on developing a new fund focused on Black self-care and mental health, and searching specifically to add Black members to the organization’s leadership team by the end of 2020.
“We believe that racism and white supremacy and anti-Blackness are baked and caked on to every American system, and into American life and into our own bodies as white people. It is not new,” said Goodman. “By accepting it and not being as outraged as we should be by it, I think we were tacitly saying that this is the way it is, this status quo is the way it is, and we can’t change it. And that is unsustainable for Black people’s lives, and also for our ethical codes.”
Pittsburgh artist and activist collective 1Hood Media was awarded $10,000 specifically to support the Young Black Motivated Kings and Queens program (YBMKQ) which helps engage Black youth in leadership and community activities.
“We are really grateful to work with the Opportunity Fund. We want to fulfill the needs of young people, from big to small,” said Kahlil Darden, CEO and co-founder of Young Black Motivated Kings and Queens. “With the Opportunity Fund, they’ve provided us their operating support for all the things that we want to do to support our community.”
YBMKQ, which is celebrating its fourth anniversary on July 9, plans to announce scholarships to high school and college students in the next few weeks. They also hope to highlight the stories of young people who were particularly affected by the COVID-19 crisis through a virtual program called “How COVID-19 Changed My Life.”
“We work with youth activists and youth entrepreneurship in the community. If young people have any ideas that they want to see in their community, feel free to reach out. We’re here to serve you guys,” Darden said.
Latino and immigrant advocacy and community organization Casa San Jose received a grant of $25,000, to be distributed over the course of two years, to support general operations, and long-term sustainability, as well as $12,500 to help start up the Guerrero Glass Youth Program, which will provide free glassblowing classes to immigrant youth in the Pittsburgh area. The organization also received $15,000 from the Opportunity Fund’s COVID relief efforts to support their Relief Fund in response to the crisis.
“We’re just really appreciative that there are foundations like this that are thinking about other things than just the basic needs of folks,” said executive director Monica Ruiz. “Their grant process is very inclusive and has the input of a lot of actual folks on the ground doing the work.”
As the COVID-19 crisis has continued, Casa San Jose has been able to provide a number of different types of assistance to families, including direct cash assistance and food supplies.
“So many different needs have arisen, and we are also thinking about the future, and how there may be more problems later [related to COVID] that we don’t foresee now,” said Ruiz.
Goodman said that the organization will make a point to ask current applicants for the second funding cycle of the year about how their organization will address outcomes for Black people and their work, and what they are doing to address them.
The rest of the Opportunity Fund recipients are listed below:
- Alia Musica Pittsburgh ($10,000)
- Allegheny County Parks Foundation ($20,000 over three years)
- Allegheny Health Network’s Center for Inclusion Health ($5,000)
- Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall ($7,500)
- Assemble ($10,000)
- barebones productions ($7,500)
- Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation ($7,500) to support BOOM Concepts
- The Brew House Association ($5,000)
- Bricolage Production Company ($12,500)
- Bridgeway Capital ($20,000 over two years) to support the ORIGINS Initiative
- Center of Life ($10,000)
- Chatham Baroque ($12,500)
- Circles Greater Pittsburgh ($10,000) to support the infrastructure and growth of The Wellness Collective
- Jean B. Purvis Community Health Center ($10,000)
- Community Human Services Corporation ($15,000) to support the expansion of Project Silk
- Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF+) ($10,000)
- Crisis Center North ($10,000)
- Dreams of Hope ($12,500) to support Hatch Arts Collective
- East End Cooperative Ministry (EECM) ($7,500)
- Eden’s Farm ($7,500)
- Focus On Renewal Neighborhood Corporation ($17,500)
- The Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh ($10,000)
- Front Porch Theatricals ($5,000)
- Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank ($40,000 over three years)
- Grounded Strategies ($5,000)
- Hill Community Development Corporation ($12,500) to support the general operations of Nafasi on Centre
- International Documentary Association ($5,000) to support Ghost Lights: Reclaiming Theater in the Age of AIDS
- Kamratōn ($10,000)
- Lighthouse Arts, Inc. ($5,000)
- Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild ($45,000 over three years)
- New Sun Rising ($7,500) to support Inside Our Minds’ “We’re Speaking. Are You Listening?” series
- Pennsylvania Women Work ($10,000)
- Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble (PNME) ($10,000)
- Pittsburgh Youth Chorus ($7,500)
- Pittsburgh Youth Concert Orchestra ($7,500)
- Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania (PPWP) ($45,000 over three years)
- POORLAW ($12,000)
- POWER ($15,000)
- RealTimeInterventions ($7,500)
- Repair the World ($7,500)
- Resonance Works ($5,500)
- Squonk Opera ($25,000 over two years)
- Thomas Merton Center ($3,500) to support the Harambee Ujima Black Art and Culture Association
- Unique Projects, Inc. ($12,000) to support slowdanger’s collaboration with MICHIYAYA Dance
- Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) ($5,000)
- The Westmoreland Museum of American Art ($10,000)
- Willissae’s Agency for Vision and Empowerment (WAVE) ($10,000)