Archive for June, 2012

Third Wave Foundation’s Executive Director Mia Herndon Steps Down

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Mia Hernton, Executive Director, Third Wave FoundationAfter more than a decade of extraordinary leadership, commitment, and service, Mia Herndon will step down as the Third Wave Foundation’s Executive Director at the end of the summer.

Under Mia’s direction, Third Wave has driven the philanthropic community in funding reproductive justice and work led by youth of color as a powerful tool for social change. She has overseen the creation of the Reproductive Health and Justice Initiative, ushered in a technical assistance and movement building program for grant partners, launched a national network of youth-led and -focused groups and, most recently, shepherded a new initiative to advance a gender justice framework within philanthropy and social movements.

From its founding 15 years ago, Third Wave today remains the only national feminist fund dedicated to supporting the social justice work of young women and transgender youth. Since 1996, more than 180 grantee partner organizations and individuals have successfully changed critical policies at local and state levels, shifting the terms of national debates on issues like reproductive rights, education, and health. In Mia’s four years as Executive Director, Third Wave supported 35 organizations through technical assistance, national convenings, and more than $1.4 million in grants; more than doubling funding for the field, despite the economic crisis and lasting recession.

“We will miss Mia’s incredible vision, grace and tremendous generosity as a leader,” said Mia Kim Sullivan, board co-chair. “As we celebrate our 15th anniversary, we honor the sustained impact of groups Mia has nurtured over a decade at Third Wave, first as Outreach Coordinator, Program Officer and Director, and then as the Foundation’s Executive Director.” For many of these groups, Third Wave was the first and lead funder whose support opened critical paths to new philanthropic resources. “Working with Mia was a definitive moment for me and so many of us in this movement,” said Paris Hatcher, Executive Director of SPARK Reproductive Justice Now. “She represents what reproductive justice means – the politics and the heart, and it is a fierce heart. She took risks on our work, leadership, and bringing us together. She is simply golden.”

Mia’s leadership in the field has extended the reach of Third Wave. She served on numerous boards, including: Women’s Funding Network; Funders Network for Population, Reproductive Health and Rights; and Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing. She shared the importance of supporting feminist youth work in low-income communities and communities of color through trainings and national conferences, including Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, National Council for Research on Women and the Women Donors Network, and as an Affiliate Scholar and Practitioner of the Women of Color Policy Network. Mia is a Progressive Women’s Voices fellow and She Source expert, and has been featured on television ranging from Grit TV, CNN, CSPAN, and an upcoming spot on “MAKERS: Women Who Make America.” In 2011, Mia was named a “Power Woman of the Year” by NY Moves Magazine.

This executive director transition has been planned for more than two years. In the year ahead, the Foundation’s board will embark on an ambitious campaign to secure continued support for effective youth-led, multi-issue and multi-strategy work. “The transformative struggle for justice, equity and sustained joy in our world requires the innovation and leadership of Third Wave grant partners,” Mia said. “The threats posed by the economic downturn, the Right and our movements’ own challenges in taking the lead from the most impacted and standing up for each other’s dignity is too great to defeat without their voice.”

The disproportionate toll levied on our communities by recent economic hardship comes at a time when Third Wave, like other publicly supported foundations across the country, is facing one of the most challenging fundraising environments of the past 40 years. Over the past year the board made the prudent decision to streamline staff and programming, reducing yet maintaining financial reserves. Despite these challenges, Third Wave will pursue its grantmaking and continue to champion young people’s leadership and organizing as critical sites for innovation, building power, and working across divisions to build a road map to freedom.

Over the next several months, the Foundation’s board will partner with current staff, founders, and community stakeholders to ensure programmatic activities are maintained during the transition, and to plan for the long-term stability and sustainability of Third Wave. An interim director will be engaged to work with staff while the Board conducts a national search for a new Executive Director.

Brown Boi Project Awarded 2012 Black Male Achievement Fellowship!

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

We recently celebrated that Cole, of Brown Boi Project (a Third Wave grant partner), was one of the 16 finalists for the inaugural class of Black Male Achievement Fellows.  We are thrilled to announce that Cole made it all the way, and was awarded the BMA fellowship!!

The fellowship is part of a joint initiative by Echoing Green and Open Society Foundations (OSF) to support “visionary leaders who are generating new ideas for black male achievement in the areas such as fatherhood, mentoring, college preparatory programs, community-building, supportive wage work opportunities, communications, and philanthropic leadership”(Echoing Green).

Cole should be proud of this high-profile achievement! Her work to empower and train “masculine-of-center” young people, and to shape a radical new vision of non-oppressive masculinity certainly deserves this support.

To read Cole’s fellowship profile, click here.

Reflections on Third Wave Grant Partner Reports, Part II

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

I am currently an intern at Third Wave Foundation, and this is a continuation of my reflections after reading through 2010 end of year grant reports.

All of the groups funded by Third Wave are doing groundbreaking and inspirational things. But I was also struck by the kinds of challenges Third Wave’s grant partners are facing. To me, these challenges are significant because they represent the fact that grant partners are doing truly revolutionary, as opposed to popular, work. This lack of “popularity” also underscores the necessity of Third Wave’s support, since funding for many of these issues and approaches is hard to come by.

One challenge is public perception of issues related to sex and gender, as well as the way these issues are (or are not) represented in the media.  St. James Infirmary tried to get their media campaign posted on billboards and was turned down by CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel because the use of the words “sex work” and “sex worker” was deemed “not family friendly.” Different Avenues also reports that they have to stay away from mentioning “sex work” when interacting with many funders.  This also seems to be an issue with many of our groups fighting to bring comprehensive sexual education into schools.  Conservative school boards have put up many barriers, leaving our grant partners frustrated.

Another challenge is navigating the changing fads in philanthropy. Because some issues are hot topics, it is easier for them to get funding. Meanwhile, other equally important issues get overlooked. For instance, many funders are more interested in boys in the system than in girls in the system.  This means they don’t want to invest in groups like Different Avenues.  Young Women’s Empowerment Project reports being approached by those who have caught onto the anti-trafficking fad and want to speak with “trafficked victims.” They have difficulty expressing how the trafficking framework does not feel relevant for most of the girls who are a part of YWEP. Rather, “Girls Do What They Have to Do to Survive,” according to the title of their report on the participatory action research they did with street youth in Chicago. Within the context of prison reform, Justice Now reports on the realignment movement in California and the push for “gender responsive prison reforms.” At first glance, these proposed changes may appear to be improvements.  They are certainly getting plenty of support.  But Justice Now explains how they are, in fact, a regression. They are fighting for substantial changes to make the prison system more humane and for a movement towards decarceration.

Third Wave grant partners tend to look at issues of reproductive health and justice as they affect and are relevant to under-served communities. It can be a challenge for them to appeal to funders working within a mainstream reproductive rights framework (which can seem focused on providing white women with access to abortions). This framework tends to ignore the ways in which gender, class, and racial privileges intersect. Choice USA, the Chicago Abortion Fund, SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, and New Voices Pittsburgh, are all fighting for a woman’s right to choose and for access to safe, empowering, and affordable reproductive healthcare.  New Voices Pittsburgh organized Pennsylvanians to rally against Senate Bill 732, the Health Care Facilities Act, which would close almost all free-standing or non-hospital affiliated clinics in Pennsylvania.  Despite their success as an organization, they report “resistance to our leadership as young women of color”(NVP 2010 report).  These groups recognize that the reproductive rights of people of color are especially under attack. For example, over the past few year, anti-choice billboards around the country have been equating a black woman’s decision not to have a child with the genocide of black people.  Recently, there have been similar billboards aimed at Latina women.  SPARK, Chicago Abortion Fund, and local chapters of Choice USA (at University of Georgia and University of Missouri) have all mobilized against this assault on women of color.

Meanwhile, groups such as COLOR and Kalpulli Izkalli report that many of their constituents are very religious, and have views about abortions that differ from the views of many others fighting for reproductive health and justice. They face the challenge of understanding this fight in different ideological contexts.  COLOR reports: “The conservative religious sentiment in the community drives people to ask how we manage to navigate the relationship between strong cultural religion and reproductive freedoms”(COLOR 2010 report). Kalpulli Izkalli has found it necessary to separate the polarizing issue of “abortion” from the broader issues of reproductive justice, such as reproductive healthcare access.  Working from another angle, Young Women United is supporting young parents, recognizing their accomplishments and expertise, and fighting the stigmatization of teen parenting. All of these groups are negotiating what may seem from the outside to be ideological incompatibilities, and challenging the idea that reproductive justice means only “abortion.” They are working to forward reproductive health and justice in a way that makes sense within their communities, leaving constituents informed and empowered to make the decisions that feel right for them.

To me, the very fact that our grant partners are running up against these kinds of obstacles to their work is a sign that they are doing something right.  It also reinforces my appreciation of Third Wave as a grantmaker.  Third Wave seeks out those doing crucial work, even if it is “unpopular,” and especially when other sources of funding are hard to access.


Congratulations, Gerbode Professional Development Fellows!

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Aspen Baker is the Executive Director of Exhale, a former long-term grant partner of Third Wave.  She is one of 5 people to be awarded the 2012 Gerbode Professional Development Fellowship! Exhale, about to celebrate 10 years of providing women with after-abortion support, has grown and thrived under Aspen’s leadership.  She did not apply for the fellowship, but was selected because of her track record producing outstanding results.  Well done, Aspen Baker and Exhale!

Congratulations as well, to allied funder Vanessa Daniel of Groundswell Fund!  She is another of this year’s 5 fellows.

Third Wave is so pleased to see these two powerful, effective women receiving the recognition they deserve!

YWU Insights about Reproductive Justice in New Mexico

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Media Literacy Project and Young Women United (two of our fabulous grant partners) teamed up to create a video of  YWU Executive Director Adriann Barboa’s insights about the 2011 RJ Network convening and about Reproductive Justice work in New Mexico.  Take a look at this beautiful, informative video: