Posted: December 19th, 2013
Just Communities/Comunidades Justas of Western Mass. $2,000 to organize immigrants and educate and organize communities in support of the Massachusetts Trust Act and the right to a driver’s license.
2013 Markham-Nathan Grantees
From our beginning four years ago, we set out to support grassroots social justice organizations with small grants that they could access easily. To date, we have raised and distributed close to $40,000 among dozens of organizations throughout Western Massachusetts.
This is thanks to you. Your money directly supports social justice groups such as Arise for Social Justice in Springfield, a small and fundamental voice of and for the poor in the region’s largest city, and the Interfaith Council in Greenfield, which helps immigrants who have been profiled by police, arrested and set to be deported. And it allowed partnership between Arise and the northern Pioneer Valley environmental group Climate Action NOW in organizing a wildly successful Environmental Justice Conference that put those most affected by pollution and climate change in the lead of the struggle to combat them.
This is your story. We encourage you to spread the word about how a few dollars spent to support local social justice groups makes all the difference in the world for our most vulnerable neighbors who are subjected to racism, classism, hate speech, displacement from their homes and other forms of violence.
Only the fourth cycle in the Fund’s history, this year’s granting was bigger and broader in reach than ever before. The process was moved from fall to spring to allow us to raise more and give more.
We increased the maximum amount per grant to $2,000 from $1,000 and expanded our granting guidelines to admit groups giving direct service to poor people. The total funds given, $15,500, far exceeded our previous maximum of $10,000, and we were able to give to a larger number of organizations than we had in the past.
The decision was made at a time when the movement for social justice – particularly for the rights of the poor, immigrants and the environment – is on the rise. While we maintained continuity in our funding, we were happy to be able also to meet new needs and help young groups launch and expand.
Of the twelve 2013 grantees, half were new and half had received grants previously. All of the “old” grantees had won grants every year since the founding of MNF.
CLIMATE ACTION NOW $1,000 to organize a conference in Springfield working with poor people and people of color to explore the effects of climate change on their communities and how to fight it and create jobs.
Climate Action NOW. $1,000 to organize a conference in Springfield working with poor people and people of color to explore the effects of climate change on their communities and how to fight it and create jobs.
Interfaith Council. $2,000 to inform detained immigrants in Franklin County about their rights and provide them with lawyers to fight deportation.
Just Communities/Comunidades Justas of Western Mass. $2,000 to organize immigrants and educate and organize communities in support of the Massachusetts Trust Act and the right to a driver’s license. The Trust Act prevents federal deportation of immigrants in police custody. In the spring, led by Springfield State Rep. Cheryl Coakley Rivera, this new group marched for these demands in downtown Springfield.
Nuclear Free Future. $600 for its educational work against the dangers of nuclear power, specifically the Vermont Yankee Plant in Vernon.
Springfield NoOne Leaves/Nadie Se Mude. $2,000 for grassroots organizing and direct action to prevent evictions in the Springfield area. SNOL is a leading voice in a national coalition demanding principle reduction for underwater homeowners and indicting banks for the profit-taking that has led to home loss for millions.
Veterans Education Project. $500 to help veterans teach the public through veterans’ stories about the reality of war. A long-term Pioneer Valley presence, VEP received its first grant this year.
OUT NOW. $2,000 in support of trans/gay/lesbian/bisexual and questioning youth in the Springfield area.
Arise for Social Justice. $2,000 for their contribution to community empowerment, growing out of longtime successful work against police brutality and homelessness in Springfield.
Jobs With Justice. $1,000 to support their yearly conference of labor/community coalitions defending the rights of workers.
Manos Unidas/Hands Together. $1,000 for its bilingual zine advocating immigrant rights in the Berkshires.
Out Now. $2,000 in support of trans/gay/lesbian/bisexual and questioning youth in the Springfield area.
Prison Birth Project. $2,000 for its direct aid to pregnant women in the Chicopee Women’s Prison and advocacy for them within the prison system.
Voices from Inside. $1,000 to continue its work developing the writing talents of prisoners while educating those “outside” about conditions within the walls.
Though the grants are still small, they provide significant support for these groups whose work benefits us all. We thank them and we thank you for giving us the funds to distribute for such meaningful work.
New Program: Emergency Grants for Urgent Organizing
At our recent fall meeting, the Board of the Markham-Nathan Fund unanimously voted to adopt an emergency grant program to meet the needs of the vibrant Western Massachusetts social justice movement. Small amounts will be available between granting cycles for true unplanned emergencies: immigration roundups, racist or police brutality, unlawful arrests, even to “keep the doors open” for those groups working for social justice.
These are both dynamic and dangerous times and we want to expand our availability to those working hard to create a just society.
Celebrating Arky: A Life of Joy and Social Justice
Arky Markham at the party.
On Saturday, September 21, 150 people from Western Mass. and beyond feted our founder, Arky Markham, who turned 98 in June. Arky and her husband George were standard-bearers for the anti-war movement, the struggle for racial justice, and single payer health care.
The evening opened with a warm, poignant short film by board member Natalia Muñoz, highlighted by a lively argument between Arky and her dear friend and longtime peace and justice comrade Frances Crowe over who was responsible for particular peace actions, each giving the other credit.
Northampton City Council President Bill Dwight read The Northampton City’s Proclamation of September 28, deemed “Arky Markham Day.”
With an introduction describing Arky’s “ethical force,” State Representative Peter Kocot and others delivered from honors from US House and Senate.read a citation from the Massachusetts House and others delivered from honors from the US House and Senate.
Family members, social worker colleagues and fellow activists described Arky’s influence on their lives, work and on for the campaign for Single Payer Health Care. These were punctuated by music from the a capella group The Wise Guys, and by musicians Tom Neilson, Lynn Waldron and Elliot Fratkin. Former Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins MC’ed this marvelous party, which aptly illustrated our theme: A Life of Joy and Social Justice.
We thank Arky for her life, and we thank you, our supporters and friends, for using this opportunity to support Arky’s legacy, the Markham-Nathan Fund for Social Justice. If you would like to donate to the fund on Arky’s behalf visit www.markhamnathanfund.org.
Posted: December 19th, 2012
THE MARKHAM-NATHAN FUND’S ROOTS IN TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION
On Friday, November 2, the Markham-Nathan Fund hosted a reception for renowned civil rights/labor organizer Rev. Nelson Johnson of Greensboro, North Carolina’s Beloved Community Center. Rev. Johnson was a major speaker for the UMASS History Department’s Feinberg Lecture Series focusing this year on world-wide Truth and Reconciliation efforts.
Reverend Johnson had helped organize an anti-Ku Klux Klan march in Greensboro, North Carolina, on November 3, 1979. As marchers assembled in an African American housing project, Klansmen and American Nazis drove into their midst, killing five and injuring eleven. Nelson was stabbed, and one of those killed was Dr. Michael Nathan (after whom, along with George Markham, the MNF fund was named). The attackers went free despite two criminal trials but police, Klan and Nazis were found liable for Mike Nathan’s death in a civil trial in 1985.
Twenty years after the killings, the survivors began discussing a reinvestigation, and ultimately the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the United States was formed. Although the City of Greensboro explicitly rejected the process, six commissioners were chosen in an open community forum, and from 2003 to 2006 many witnesses to the tragedy testified publicly, some for the first time. The Commission found the Greensboro Police –whose paid informant had recruited, organized and led Klansmen in the attack—responsible for allowing the violence to occur by withdrawing protection from marchers as Klansmen and Nazis approached. Their findings were presented to the community on May 25, 2006. (http://www.greensborotrc.org).
The Feinberg Series: This year’s Feinberg series, called “Truth And Reconciliation,” came into being when history professor Sigrid Schmalzer viewed “Greensboro: Closer to the Truth,” a film by Adam Zucker (http://www.greensborothemovie.com). Three events concerning the massacre were scheduled as part of the conference. First, the film was shown on October 24th, with Adam Zucker and Marty Nathan as discussants. On November 1st, Reverend Johnson spoke to a large UMASS audience on “Seeking Truth, Justice, Equity and Healing in Greensboro, North Carolina.” He emphasized the relevance of truth-seeking for a nation at that moment in the throes of an election laden with racist overtones and divided by economic disparity; he described efforts being pursued in communities tarnished by hate violence.
On Friday, November 2nd, Reverend Johnson joined Marty Nathan, massacre victims Paul and Sally Bermanzohn, and several other MNF Board members at the WEB Dubois Center Library for the opening of the Greensboro Justice Fund Archives. The Justice Fund—unofficial progenitor of the Markham Nathan Fund—was a small foundation endowed by Greensboro survivors for the support of grassroots social justice groups in the South.
That night, on the eve of the 33d anniversary of the Greensboro Massacre, a reception for Nelson Johnson was held at the home of Bob and Janet Winston in Amherst. Fifty supporters gathered to remember those who died, to honor Nelson’s work, and offer funds for MNF’s growing movement for peace and justice in the Pioneer Valley.
Arky Markham – profile of A Social activist
Over the last few months, Marty Nathan and Elliot Fratkin interviewed Arky Markham, co-founder of the Markham Nathan Fund for Social Justice. Arky, who turned 97 in June 2012, spent some time recovering from a hip replacement and is now back in her home in Lathrop Community. We talked about her life and growth as an activist.
Arky Aisenberg grew up in Worcester Mass, born in 1915 to a Jewish family with three siblings.
“I volunteered in World War II. I joined the army and served in the air corps as a flight tower assistant in Florida and California. They wouldn’t send women overseas for this job, but I would have gone if asked. Hitler had a lot to with my joining the war effort. As Jews, we were acutely aware, we were frightened, of what was happening in Germany. We were in America but really couldn’t trust that we would be unharmed. I wasn’t going anywhere with my life, it was the period between high school and marriage. My joining the army was a show of rejecting Hitler and a demonstration of what we Americans should be doing. My parents had left behind relatives in Europe when they emigrated as children, and they worried about them. We would now call my father a “liberal”; he had the right position on things. We were all New Dealers and supported President Roosevelt. I was more active politically than my brothers and sisters. I joined demonstrations: first, protests against Germany and then, after the war, we demonstrated for peace in front of the United Nations. We marched downtown on First or Second Avenue, and had rallies on Union Square, on 14th street. We protested the Rosenberg trial (and execution in 1953), and we marched for peace with the Soviet Union.
After the war, I went to Columbia University on the GI bill, majoring in Spanish, and then to Teachers’ College for a Master’s Degree, and another in Social Work at NYU. I was married then – I was married for twelve years, but it broke up.
I met George through mutual friends and we saw each other after his first wife died, when he was teaching at NYU. In the 1960s he moved into my neighborhood, midtown between the 30s and 40s near Lexington Avenue, in Stuyvesant town. Our first ‘date’ was on a march against the Vietnam War. We went to many demonstrations together in New York. George was more active than I was; he was in the union movement, he was a journalist. We married in New York City in the 1970s, but George had a hard time finding work. He was much older than other people looking for teaching jobs in the university. And he never liked living in New York very much. I was working for the Veterans Administration as a social worker, and I saw there was a job opening in Northampton at the VA in Leeds. Well this was appealing. I could be closer to my family in Worcester, so we moved to Northampton in 1972.
Although I loved the city, I was very happy to be in Northampton. George found some work teaching at Holyoke Community College and at the University of Massachusetts, but it was hard getting a full time job in those days; there were so many younger people looking for teaching jobs. So George became a full time activist – he had the time – while I continued to work at the VA. George worked with Frances Crowe on peace issues, and when I retired I was able to join them. I also got involved with Social Workers for Peace and Justice, and both George and I were very active on the single payer health care issue, what later became Health Care for All. We worked with Johanna and Tom Plaut, Al and Mary Siano. Then later we protested the Iraq war.
I was always involved with something, whatever was current. I did more and more after I stopped working, mainly single payer health, but also on ‘whatever war was being held at the time.’ Both George and I were veterans of World War II, and it was important for other people to see us at these demonstrations.
George died not long after his 100th birthday. We were very happy together, and I miss him. But I am still breathing and active. I’ll keep going until I am no longer able to.”
And at 97 years old, Arky is still a treasure to behold at peace vigils, rallies, meetings, and events. It is too late to wish her a long life, she has already had that. “Lucky, I guess,” she says. She says chocolate and a glass of wine are her secrets. We value every moment she is with us.
The Markham Nathan Fund is about to enter its fourth year now. With the end of 2012 we can look back at the past three with much satisfaction and enthusiasm. We have had two terrific art auctions, several parties honoring our grantees (we love to party!), and we honored our roots by participating this fall in the UMass History Department Feinstein Series on Truth and Reconciliation (see article). Altogether, our funds continue to grow, thanks to these events and our generous sponsors. We look forward to the next year: we are aiming for increased diversity and welcome your suggestions as well as your help in urging potential grantees to apply. Tell them to take a look at our updated website for guidance and application details. www.markhamnathanfund.org
Our grants during this last 2012 cycle went to a variety of organizations in a wide range of communities east, west, north and south of us! Several are newly established groups, applying for the first time; others are old friends, whose ongoing good work and urgent need we want to continue to help fund. A few others are established Valley organizations requesting funds for one-time specific projects—a film library, a conference, membership outreach and education.
We have encouraged a number of creative efforts, such as two writing projects—a Latino community newspaper, a prisoners’ writers’ journal—and a “green” neighborhood garden project. We’ve helped stop the growth of a Biomass fuel plant. And with our funds, we continue to address such urgent problems as homelessness, gay rights, immigration justice, drug use punishment, and police brutality.
Arise, Inc. (http://ariseforsocialjustice.blogspot.com/) is known for its unflagging work for Springfield’s homeless population and its efforts to alleviate the effects of poverty. This year’s grant was used specifically to investigate police brutality.
Manos Unidos’ Fronteras Comunes Bilingual People’s Zine Project brings together Latinos in the western area (Lee, Pittsfield, North Adams) fosters community outreach through a monthly publication.
Several organizations focus on prisoners’ rights: The Prison Birth Project (http://the prisonbirthproject.org) advocates for reproductive justice for incarcerated girls and women and supports the Doula Project. Voices from the Inside brings light and life to prisoners with writing groups; prisoners then publish and circulate a journal of their work, by the same name. The Foundation for Community Justice works to prevent incarceration in their work for a Drug Court Incentive Program in Orange and Greenfield.
Immigrant and Worker Rights (IWRC) strengthens collaborative work among organizations for immigrant justice.
“Greenagers” (Center for Peace Through Culture) (http://greenagers.org/) in Great Barrington has organized a project called “Front Lawn Food”. FLF encourages low income and at risk families to grow their own food in ten community vegetable gardens.
In Franklin County, Concerned Citizens (http://abetterfranklin.com/) challenge the Franklin County Zoning Board that recently provided a special permit for a Biomass power plant. Our grant provides funds for educational outreach concerning this project.
Out Now’s (http:/outnowyouth.org) grant helps train gay youth staff to manage a coalition of groups: Out Now, The Latin America Solidarity Project, the Violence Prevention Campaign, Queer Youth Revolutionary Theater and the Spirituality and Social Justice Campaign for gay youth.
Finally, a few grants to established groups for immediate projects: we havehelped The Northampton Committee to Stop the Wars (http://northamptoncommittee.org/) in their ongoing project to build a film library and organize a speaker series; the Northampton Living Wage Coalition (http://www.livingwagenorthampton.org/) for membership outreach, visibility and education; and the solid Jobs with Justice, the labor/community coalition for workers rights(http://wmjwj.org/), for publicity and speakers for the 2011 Western Mass Jobs for Justice Conference.
MNF Granting Changes
Entering our fourth year of granting to grassroots Pioneer Valley peace and justice groups, the Board of the Markham-Nathan Fund felt the reality of the recession and increased needs of the poor for economic relief. We have recognized that organizing for social justice cannot be divorced from easing the growing pain of hunger and homelessness.
At the same time we want our grants to have more impact for those who need them, recognizing the seriousness of the struggle to change an unjust system.
Consequently we have made important changes to our guidelines that we hope will further the capacity of small organizations to improve the lives and futures of poor and working people, end racism, and establish peace and a sustainable environment.
Our deadline for accepting 2013 grant proposals is February 15, with grant announcements on April 1. The amount of a single grant has been raised from $1,000 to $2,000, and we are willing to grant to larger organizations, with budgets of up to $150,000, though preference will be made for smaller and new groups without other means of funding. We will grant to organizations who apply for refunding for as many years as their need is real and their work is worthy, recognizing that poor people’s organizations seldom become rich. And we will support social services, including food distribution to poor people, if the organization meets our other guidelines.
We hope these changes increase our ability to support the real changes sought by people in 2013. We welcome your support for our work. Please donate at http://www.markhamnathanfund.org/support-the-fund/.
SAVE THE DATE: DUOPALOOZA APRIL 13!
We at the Markham-Nathan Fund “get by with a little help from our friends”, to borrow from Paul McCartney. Two of our best friends are the nationally famed singer/songwriter duo Karen Brandow and Charlie King (http://www.charlieking.org). They attended our birth, generously singing at our first granting party on December 6, 2009.
The concert is a “Duopalooza”, because Charlie and Karen will be joined by their friends, singers Greg Artzner and Terry Leonino of Magpie http://www.magpiemusic.com for a concert to benefit the Markham-Nathan Fund on Saturday, April 13, at the Unitarian Society in Northampton.
Our 2013 grantees will be introduced at the intermission, so the event will do what we always want to do – combine art and social change… and have fun.
Mark your calendars, tune up your ears, put on your tapping shoes and join us Saturday, April 13 in Northampton. Time to be announced.