Religious Inclusion, Immigrant Justice, and School Climate Are Aims of Summer 2015 Social Justice Grants

June 23, 2015
Transforming official policies and cultural attitudes toward LGBT people within the world’s religions, refugee systems, and school communities is the focus of a number of grants in the Arcus Foundation’s summer 2015 Social Justice Program portfolio.

The Chicago-based Reconciling Ministries Network, a highly effective pro-LGBTQ organization that seeks inclusion of gay clergy and congregants within Protestantism and Christianity overall, plans to mobilize faith leaders who are accepting of LGBT individuals to increase the numbers of active reconciling congregations in the United States. RMN will continue to build relationships with open-minded, moderate Christian leaders in Africa, particularly in Cote d’Ivoire and Zimbabwe, with the aim of creating inclusive congregations. At the same time, it will increase its work in the U.S. South to promote safe spaces for LGBTQ people, establish inclusive policies within the Methodist denomination, and increase the number of reconciling congregations nationwide.

A grant to the Church World Service was made to meet the profound needs of LGBT refugees who have escaped dangerous environments but still find themselves in highly precarious circumstances. The CWS plans to expand training for faith leaders as allies of LGBT immigrants and refugees in Kenya and South Africa. It will build on its prior success in moving these leaders to provide immigrant support services in both countries; increase their communities’ understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity to reduce persecution and forced migration; and contribute to growing efforts to document LGBT refugee needs and provide this information to U.N. bodies.

For undocumented LGBT immigrants in the United States—known to face horrific conditions and violence in detention centers—a grant to United We Dream will help the group pursue alternatives to detention for this vulnerable population.  UWD has brought its concerns directly to the Department of Homeland Security and the White House and is solidifying a strong coalition of LGBT and immigrant groups to argue for deferred action and release, raise awareness of the need for such alternatives, and build two chapters the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP) in Florida and Texas.

Improving school climates and reducing pushout of LGBT young people are the aims of two organizations that will work together in California’s largely conservative interior. California Rural Legal Assistance plans to continue monitoring and ensuring schools’ compliance with safe-schools regulations to reduce harassment and unfair discipline of LGBT youth in the northern San Joaquin Valley, build local LGBTQ leadership, and address school policies that particularly affect LGBT youth of color.

A first-time grant to the grassroots Dolores C. Huerta Foundation will focus on southern California’s Kern County middle- and high schools, seeking a transformation in treatment of LGBTQ students. The organization will form a new coalition focused on fighting LGBTQ discrimination, building on its successful track record of training and empowering leaders in low-income communities to fight racial and ethnic discrimination.

Grants to two media partners aim to bring LGBT issues to large public audiences. Funding will help the esteemed producer Freemind Beauty, based in Falls Church, Virginia, make “The Trans List,” providing a platform for 16 transgender individuals to tell their stories of identity, family, career, and love. The grant will help ensure the distribution of the film and its associated educational curriculum to targeted audiences.

A first grant to National Public Radio will help Identity and Culture Unit reporters delve deeply into LGBT lives and experiences for broadcast on “Morning Edition”—the nation’s #3 ranked national morning radio show—and “All Things Considered.” It will also support the work of radio host Michel Martin, known for her investigations into multiculturalism and identity, and enable NPR to increase its on-air features and grow its digital audience, which already consists of about 2.5 million Twitter followers and more than 2.4 million Facebook fans.

Funding was also awarded to the True Colors Fund to create strong supports and resources for homeless LGBT youth; the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico to build infrastructure for advocacy and programs; and the Ruth Ellis Center for Out in the System, which works to improve awareness and fulfillment of LGBT youth needs in the child-welfare system.

Grants were also provided to alQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, Equal Rights Center, Forward Together, Funders Together to End Homelessness, General Secretariat of the Organization of American States, I’m From Driftwood, Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by, HIV and AIDS (MANERELA+), North Star Fund, Pacific Sexual Diversity Network, Race Forward, Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders, StoryCorps, Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, UHAI – The East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative, URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, The Youth and Gender Media Project—a project of The Center for Independent Documentary, and Yvette A. Flunder Foundation.