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A protester at the Families Belong Together March in Chicago. Photo by Sarah-Ji

Throughout the month of December, we are sending a series of emails featuring grantee profiles. In our most recent grant cycle, we funded 120 amazing grantees doing truly important work. This week the spotlight is on Northern Illinois Justice for our Neighbors (NIJFON), a Rockford-based organization that advocates for immigration laws that are just, humane and righteous.

Crossing the border is not a choice for migrants but a necessity as they are forced to leave their countries due to violence, persecution, human rights violations, and extreme poverty (the role that the US has played in the destabilization of Central and South America cannot be overlooked). The trip itself is dangerous and there is no guarantee of entry into the US. The situation has worsened under President Trump, whose anti-immigration stance has resulted in the implementation of truly horrifying policy: separating and detaining families at the border; putting migrant children in detention camps; limiting the number of asylum seekers allowed to enter the US each day; increasing military presence at the border; and, most recently, firing tear gas at men, women and children who are seeking asylum.

NIJFON, whose mission is to provide free, high-quality immigration legal service, engage in education and advocacy, and build cross-cultural-communities, is vitally important in the face of the current administration’s crackdown against migrants and asylum-seekers. NIJFON’s education and advocacy occurs primarily through church and community settings with a focus on migrants’ rights. They have lobbied the governor and legislators on refugee rights and for the creation of a sanctuary state in Illinois, and organized in-district meetings with state and federal legislators. NIJFON is a necessary watchdog for a system that is run by private, for-profit detention facilities and overseen by an inhumane judicial system.

 

An end-of-the-year gift to Crossroads Fund will enable us to continue supporting NIJFON and others who are fighting against deportations, detention, criminalization, and the incarceration of immigrant communities. Please consider a gift of any amount today to keep Crossroads Fund at the forefront in the fight for racial, social and economic justice!

 
Fri, Dec 07, 2018

Crossroads Fund awarded a Critical Response Fund grant to March to the Polls: Women's March Chicago to support logistical dimensions of the march and targeted outreach to communities of color. (photo credit: Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times)

The present administration in Washington D.C. is doing all in its power to trample human rights at every level. Each day the news reports another incredible round of hate and fear mongering. There is no question that the Right has gone too far and that we need to stand firm in our efforts to dismantle systems that have only been used to subjugate people of color, native and indigenous communities, women, LGBTQ people, and the poor. We need to use every tool in our organizing toolbox to fight back against an emboldened white supremacist ideology that is destroying us.

The ballot box is one of those tools. This election cycle we have a new wave of progressive candidates that includes women of color and LGBTQ people. At the same time, voter suppression is high, and there are millions of people who are systemically disenfranchised from their rightful process.

Tuesday, November 6, there are elections in Illinois and all across the country. If you can vote, please do. And no matter the outcome, we all need to hold our elected officials accountable, regardless of party affiliation.

That is why Crossroads Fund supports activists throughout Chicago who are building organizations, coalitions, and campaigns that push our government and institutions to make our city and our nation more just and equitable for everyone. We fund people who demand change and know that elected officials serve the people. Our grantees are working day in and day out – during elections cycles and the time in-between.

No matter what the results are at the polls on Tuesday, our work isn’t done.

Last year, we granted over $1 million to movements for racial, social, and economic justice in Chicago.

Partner with us right now to help grant even more this year. It will matter today, tomorrow, and for our future.

 
Mon, Nov 05, 2018

Nesreen Hasan is a third generation organizer who works with AAAN and works with college students.

How did you come into movement work and why do you think it is important?

My family's been in the movement for a long time. My grandfather was one of the founders of the Arab American Community Center and later, in 1995 they filed to become a non-profit and became the Arab American Action Network (AAAN). I started organizing in 2012 but you could say it’s in my blood because my family members were one of the first Arab American organizers in Chicago.

I would say the reason why I came into this work is because I'm from the community. AAAN organizes with working class Arabs who want to change systems but need to meet their basic necessities or needs first. The Arab American Action Network’s vision is my vision as well. I really feel that a lot of things that are holding our community back is because our community doesn’t feel empowered. That's why I jumped into this work and that's why I think it's important. We've been in this city, we've been here for such a long time and we need to make our voices heard. People need to know who we are and know the struggles that we go through. I think it's important not only because it’s who I am and the community I grew up with but a better empowered community is a better community for everyone.

This moment of heightened racism and xenophobia is, sadly, not a new experience for the Arab and Muslim community in the US. How have you seen the young people in AAAN’s youth organizing respond to the challenges of this moment differently than young people in the past have responded to similar experiences?

For many years, Arab and Muslim Americans have been experiencing racism. It can be traced through the Iranian hostage crisis, the first Gulf War, 9/11, and then the Iraq war. This is not new.

With our youth, one thing I am observing is that they are reaching out to older generations. I’m not saying that is something new as previous generations have also done this. The youth are learning about what can they change and learning from older generations’ mistakes. They're not excluding people by their age group. They're bringing the elders in and the different generations are learning from each other, which I think is beautiful.

Another difference is that, in the past, I would say there was also this mindset of trying to prove we're “good Americans” or seeming apologetic where this youth group is unapologetic. We're challenging systematic oppression. We’re not challenging only individual acts but we’re addressing the root causes. It's horrible and sad when someone commits a hate crime. Our youth are asking if that person is part of a system that enables them to commit that crime or that act of hate. I think that's what's amazing about our youth is that they're challenging this in a way where they're unapologetic and they're addressing the root causes of the issues.

AAAN uses an intersectional framework for its organizing. How do understand this framework and what do you value in it?

Through AAAN’s framework, I’ve learned a lot. It really showed me that we will not see liberation until everybody is liberated. In the history of the United States, when the Irish came here, when the Italians came here, when everybody came here, they rode on the backs of indigenous and Black folks. So what we learned is that we were all in this together. For example, my community cannot be liberated if there is no justice for the Black community. My community cannot be liberated or live in peace, if there is no justice for the LGBTQ community or for the Latino community. All of our issues are very intersectional. Our community is a community of immigrants. We have people that are undocumented. So how are we not to going to go and support OCAD who do powerful organizing with the undocumented community? How can we not support the Black Lives Matter movement when the same forces that are oppressing our people back home are training the police here with military grade weapons?

What they've taught me is that you don't just support other movements because your movement relies on it or because you share a similar experience. You support other movements because other movements are fighting for the same human rights and everybody deserves that.

What have you noticed happening in the conversations on intersectionality of movements between young people and older generations?

There is an organization that was founded by a former AAAN member. Her name is Camille Odeh and she founded the Southwest Youth Collaborative. It was an organizing center for youth on the southwest side. It had predominantly Black, Latino, and Arab youth working together. A lot of AAAN is modeled after their organizing model. It is leaders like her and leaders who went to college and organized with the Black student groups and Latino student groups as well that set the groundwork for this powerful intersectional analysis that frames our organizing today. They set the groundwork for it and our youth have made those connections on their own but they did some of the groundwork.

There are folks in the community, who are great people, who adore our youth but, simultaneously, they critique our youth because these community members have their “good American” narrative. These community members believe that we have to prove how good and professional we are and how successful we are. Many of these community members are stuck in a model minority mindset. Our youth are the ones that educate those members of the older generations that think that way. They challenge them which I appreciate.

#MeToo and the Women’s March have received much attention over the last years. How do you relate to these movements?

I think it's amazing that these movements are happening. It still took us till the year 2018 to have this discussion and to call out those perpetuators. I just hope these movements don’t forget that there are many women who are still silent. Charlene Carruthers from BYP100 made a great point about #MeToo when she affirmed the movement’s importance but stressed that we should also remember that most of those women who were able to speak out were from Hollywood. We need to make sure that the voices of a waitress or a fast food worker are amplified and heard just like these Hollywood stars. I hope that we elevate everyone's voice in the movement regardless of class. I hope that we continue these movements and continue to hold people accountable. I hope that this won’t just be a hashtag for 2018 but will continue on for the rest of our lives.

Are there other leaders or other groups that you think are supporting the amplification of the voices of all women, not just Hollywood stars?

Many groups have been having these conversations before #MeToo went viral. I would say the #MeToo movement really helped us with our points that we've been trying to get across but this is not new. Our own organization has called out sexual violence and we've always had it in conversation. The immigrant rights movement has been working on it, BYP100, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. This is the importance of intersectional organizing as many groups tie sexual violence to White Supremacy and to all of these other “isms” that are connected as well. Male fragility is connected to sexual violence, which is connected to male supremacy. It is all connected in the end.

What do you think Crossroads Fund's role is in movement work?

I mean funding is important, let’s not downplay that. I can’t lie about that as it really did help our youth work. Additionally, I would say showing up to our events, showing bodies and bringing bodies. That presence really shows our youth that folks are in support of us. You guys already do that as Jane and Emily come to many of our functions. Also, networking. We know Crossroads Fund works with many organizations that are doing great work in Chicago. How do we bring these organizations together even if we don't work on the same issues. We do different forms of organizing but how can we learn from each other? Sharing strategies, skills, and building relationships is important.

What is one thing that people can do to support the work of AAAN and other groups/organizations that you’re connected to?

Funding and donations are important because we have staff that work over 40 hours a week but they get paid part-time. We do need resources to do the work that we do. We always need people to show up to our events, engage in our campaigns, and ask questions about how they could help and what skills they could bring. We have folks who volunteer with us who are good with graphic design or good at giving workshops on certain issues. Just even coming to our center and asking these questions about what they could do is very important.

What does it look like to be working with college students in this moment?

College students are older than high school youth but they still need to learn. They're passionate but they don't have a lot of representation on campus. There's so many issues that they are passionate about whether it's women's rights, LGBTQ rights, or other rights, they don’t necessarily have advocates. My work is to encourage them to be vocal, get involved with organizations, not just AAAN but others. For example, I had a student who had a professor who wanted her to write about Arabs in a certain way. I told her, this is how you're going to write this, this is your narrative, and you need to explain that to him. She did that and she got an A. He didn't question. She just needed someone to tell her that even though he is your professor, even though there is a form of hierarchy, you can challenge him. So, even an example like that, that’s just empowering to them.

Learn more about the Arab American Action Network and our 2018 grantees.

Mon, Sep 24, 2018

 

Crossroads Fund is excited to announce that we made more than $1 million in grants to 120 powerful grassroots organizations in our most recently completed fiscal year, ending June 30th.

It's the most we've given in a single year - ever!

By pooling resources from over 1,000 donors and engaging in a community-driven grantmaking process, Crossroads Fund was able to deliver more resources to the organizers and activists who are reimagining and realizing the just Chicago that we deserve.

Chicago's organizing ecosystem is thriving, and we want to celebrate this with you. Thank you for helping to make $1 million in grants possible. 

   
  Crossroads Fund Staff  

 

Since 1981, Crossroads Fund has served as an anchor organization for movement building across the city by moving money for grassroots organizers working at the intersections of racial, social, and economic justice in Chicago. Since day one, we have been committed to using a community grantmaking model to fund bold organizing that is led by people directly impacted by issues of injustice.

Click here to learn about the work of our 2018 grantees.

Wed, Sep 05, 2018

 

Crossroads Fund sat down with Charlene Carruthers to discuss her time at BYP100 and her new book "Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements."

 

Since you were in college, you’ve dedicated yourself to building movements. What experience convinced you that doing that work of organizing is the best way to fight for justice?

I first remember getting involved in organizing work when I was in college in response to an incident at my college campus where folks were seeking to take away the representation of Black students and other marginalized groups on campus. It was out of that moment that I decided to get actively engaged in organizing, or I would mostly call it like activist-y kind of stuff because it wasn’t part of a long-term effort. I knew that doing collective work was smarter and it was more effective than doing work on my own. So it was that one experience, and there were other experiences after that, but it was that one where I saw that I have power on my own but not the power to create the kind of change that I want to see in the world.

What lessons did growing up in Chicago teach you about power, how it’s built and how it’s maintained?

There’s a lot there. I grew up in Back of the Yards neighborhood until I was about thirteen and then Gage Park, to Englewood and Woodlawn. If nothing else, Chicago is an example of people making choices. People choosing to value certain neighborhoods, certain people, and certain ventures and then deciding that there are people who are not valuable, neighborhoods that are not valuable, and efforts that are not valuable. More often than not, the people being valued are not my people. So there is a reason why Englewood has the resources that it has and lacks the resources that it lacks. There's a reason why South Shore neighborhood, where I live now, is full of Black folks of various socio-economic statuses and we only have one grocery store. That’s all choice. The things that we do have are also a result of people choosing to organize for those things and not because the government or the state was benevolent.

As the national director of BYP100 you’ve been unapologetic about building a movement using a Black, queer, and feminist lens. How has the world of organizing been challenged by you and other leaders whose organizing is rooted in an intersectional lens?

Our work is an example of what it means to make consistent, intellectual, and also grassroots organizing interventions. We not only put our power in our speech, in what we write and what we communicate, our politics show up in how we work, who we work with, and what we work on. In some instances, it’s been disruptive because it goes against the norm. In other instances, it is an opportunity for bridge building and an opportunity for deeper connections because of the rigor that we have when it comes to being clear that all of us have to be free or none of us are gonna be free.

Do you have an example of some of the bridges that have been built that maybe weren’t there or that needed to be built or weren’t there?

There are very few things that we are the first to do, very few. Some of the things that I think we built on is work within Black and Brown communities. Our work with Organized Communities Against Deportations on expanded sanctuary and dismantling the Chicago gang database is one example. That’s critical work that connects us with various communities and struggles but also shows that Black people are impacted by nearly every issue in this country and the world. For us, it’s about connecting with people who get it, and sometimes people who don’t get it, and helping them to actually understand it. Additionally, I think our intergenerational work really matters, too. Even though we are an organization of young people we also work intergenerationally. We work with people who are younger than us, people who are older than us, that’s how we have always approached our work. We’re able to hear from people who have been doing this work longer than us and some for not as long. People have lived through different stages in this country’s history, which I think is really important, as people have come from different positions, different organizing positions, and have experienced different movements. It helps us to be sharper, to have a more rounded view, and I think a more grounded view.

At Crossroads Fund, we firmly believe that everyone has a role in building movement for collective liberation. With your departure from BYP100, what does that look like to you as you enter your next phase of building and supporting movements?

In the next phase of my work, first, I want to start a training agency for organizers, activists and people who are generally committed to movement work. It will be an institute for people to learn new skills, hone their skills, enhance their skills, and connect with other people in a learning community. We don’t have enough places for that to happen in this country and we need more. I think Chicago is the perfect place to do it. Second, the book I wrote, Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements, is really another tool for people, in all phases of their organizing, to sharpen how they approach the work and to expand the framework from which they do the work. It’s an offering and a labor of love for our people. I don’t know where that book is gonna take me. I’m not sure but I hope it will be useful for people and that it generates a lot of good conversations and movement building.

During your time being at BYP100, what have you learned about the role of sustaining and funding movements? Do you have any lessons to share with small groups that are trying to fundraise and build movements?

A couple things. The money is never guaranteed. General operating over everything. Be unapologetic about who you are and what you do. Don’t ever lie or massage what you do and who you do it for. Always be clear that money is not guaranteed and is not permanent so you have to do the work of creating a culture of grassroots fundraising in everything that you do and it’s not easy. I work with young Black people and we have all kinds of relationships with money, all kinds of relationships. If you're a person going out to raise money, you need to really interrogate what your relationship to money is and be clear about what your relationship is because I think it can put you in a position to be an effective fundraiser and a more effective organizer, too. When you have work, lean on the work, not hype. I’m able to go in and talk about our work. I don’t need to make up stories or massage anything. So do good work and build relationships. Remember: fundraising is not based on merit or how great your work is, relationships matter. Also remember, foundations have to spend this money and it’s actually owed to us. They’re not doing it to save us. So, I don’t go begging. They have to give the money out so it’s about whatever their political will is to grant it to the kind of work that any particular organization does.

When you do organizing trainings, do you talk about the role of fundraising as organizing?

Yeah, we do. We just had a midwest regional training and we did this role play where one of our staff members talked about BYP100 to funders and we asked tough questions and then we debriefed it. This helped people to see how we talk about our work, what our approach is, and we also do a fundraising training with our members.

Black women are leading movements and transforming the struggles for racial, economic, and gender justice, among other things, not only in Chicago but nationally. How do you think movements have tangibly changed because of the many Black women who are leading these campaigns?

I think we force organizations and institutions to ask different questions and to show up in different ways that are not always comfortable and not always easy. I think that’s what we do. We also give examples for what the work can look like. When we say we wanna live in a world without prisons or police, we actually live that. We talk about mistakes, we talk about the things that worked well, all of that, because none of this is perfect. I know I’m not perfect, BYP100 is far from perfect, and so that's what I think we do.

Why do you think Crossroads Fund is important to Chicago's movements?

Crossroads Fund was one of our first funders. It’s just really important be able to provide that early funding to groups. I mean we started with ninety thousand dollars and now our national budget is over one million dollars. Like Emily’s List says, the early money rises like yeast. And early money just doesn’t apply to politicians. It applies to grassroots organizers, too, and we need early money. It also gives groups practice in what the broader landscape for fundraising is like as they grow. So that was really important for me, our organization and I want everybody to know what Crossroads Fund does.

Donate today to support movements for racial, social, and economic justice in Chicago.

Mon, Aug 06, 2018