Looking back on 2018

Today we are taking a look back at The Foundation’s 2018 giving. True to our core mission, we continued to urgently respond to and invest in the needs of women leading movements and community solutions that confront economic, gender and racial injustice. A record high of more than $11 million in grants were made to 175 community organizations working to advance women’s economic security, increase political leadership and civic participation, disrupt and prevent gender-based violence, and protect access to healthcare and sexual and reproductive justice.

The Foundation’s 2018 grantmaking expresses our increased response to the needs of historically underinvested communities most impacted by poverty and violence, particularly through building upon our philanthropic partnerships to maximize impact. Our approach to funding emphasizes philanthropic unions — collaborations with other foundations and grantmakers – and leverages our collective muscle to tackle ingrained and systemic problems.

This past year, The Foundation embarked on two particularly ambitious funding initiatives to accelerate societal change, The Fund for Me Too and Allies and the Justice Fund.

The Fund for the Me Too Movement and Allies, created in 2018 in partnership with Tarana Burke, founder of the ‘me. too.’ Movement, supports survivor-led organizations from around the nation working to deter sexual harassment, heal survivors of gender-based violence, and strengthen marginalized communities impacted by sexual abuse. It builds on The Foundation’s 30-plus year history of investing to end gender-based violence. While rooted in New York City, it’s The Foundation’s first effort with national reach.

 In 2018, we also launched the Justice Fund and introduced a family-centered paradigm to actively dismantle mass incarceration in New York City and support organizations creating new paths for stability in the lives of New York City women, families, and communities. Its grants focused on key issues including closing the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island and bail reform.  Our partners in this first-of-its-kind partnership and mobilization effort that focuses criminal justice reform through a gender and racial equity lens are the Art for Justice Fund, Ford Foundation, Frances Lear Foundation, and The Pinkerton Foundation. In 2019, the first major grants from the Justice Fund were made to five organizations leading the way.

 The NYC Fund for Girls and Young Women of Color, one of our long running philanthropic partnerships, enabled the support of local New York City organizations working to address root causes of inequity for girls and young women of color and invested in organizations advancing housing justice, education access, and TGNC rights. At a time when it is vitally important to maximize civic engagement and protect democracy, The Foundation’s Resilience NYC initiative invested in organizations supporting women’s civic participation, political leadership and influence in public life, and working with women and families directly impacted by changes in federal policies that target immigrant communities and trans and gender non-conforming individuals.

In 2019, through the power of our philanthropic partnerships, the work of our grantee partners, and the generosity of our donors, The Foundation will continue to upend institutionalized and gendered norms, indifference and discrimination.


TransLash Episode 3: Chosen Families as Liberation

Families preparing to gather for Easter and Passover brings into focus this most elusive, but essential, of all human institutions especially for trans people. That’s why I decided to dedicate the entirety of Episode 3 of TransLash to family in all its forms.

The goal of TransLash is to tell trans stories in order to save trans lives during this time of social backlash. There is no greater story for all of us than family.

The story around family for too many trans people, especially those of color, remains a harsh one.  According to the National Center for Trans Equality, nearly half of all black trans people have experienced hostility from their family around their gender identity, with 1 out of 8 having been physically attacked or thrown out of their homes. Black trans people are twice as likely to experience homelessness as a result.  But trans people of color are not isolated in these harsh realities. Overall 2 out 5 trans people have experienced antipathy from their family members.

As we explore in Episode 3, I am fortunate that my story is somewhat different.  Though I grew up in Atlanta, my family is from Southwest Georgia (an overwhelmingly rural region of the state) and they are Christian, many serving in leadership positions of their churches. On paper it would be assumed that they would be disapproving, if not downright caustic, about having a trans member of the family. However they are the exact opposite, overwhelmingly loving and supportive. By their own admission they have been on a journey of acceptance parallel to my own.  But it wasn’t always this way.

Facing various forms of threats from my immediate family growing up, I like many hid my gender identity under a thick layer of conventionality and an ultimately failed attempt at gender norms.  Had I expressed my inner truth earlier as a child I could have easily faced the worst case scenario. The impact of violence and exclusion is explored in Episode 3 through conversations with trans people from all walks of life.

Even as trans people can experience tremendous pain from our birth families, there is tremendous power and resilience in that we create new forms of family as an antidote.  Chosen family, as well as kinship ties through partnerships and marriage, sustain trans people at the most difficult times. They underscore the point that family is not only what we are born into, but what we build.

In a hostile world, newly developed families can be the key to making it. That’s because the world does actually remain a punitive place for trans people.  Recent history speaks for itself. Continuing a grim trend from late last year, all transgender people killed this year have been Black trans women. On the policy front, when asked at a recent Congressional hearing if she knew that rescinding discrimination protections for trans students would cause harm to those students, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos replied, “I do know.” At another recent Congressional hearing on trans equality, transgender witnesses were berated by the GOP. And the Trump Administration’s ban on transgender military service went into effect on April 12.  All clear signs underscore the point that the backlash is real.

But trans families, especially those through choice or kinship, also form the basis for fighting back.  This has been true since Stonewall and it remains true now. Organizer Micky Bradford of the Transgender Law Center and Southerners on New Ground (SONG) tells us specifically how this works.  The point of coming together to love and protect each other “is so that eventually we won’t have to fight this hard.”

Overall this episode, probably the most difficult for me because it was so personal, is undoubtedly hopeful.  As my fourteen year-old cousin, who discovered transness on Instagram years ago, says in this episode, “God made you just like you are and you are a beautiful creation.”


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In Conversation with Stephanie Wang-Breal

Tell us about your new film, Blowin’ Up.

Blowin’ Up is a film about sex work, prostitution and human trafficking told through the lens of the criminal justice system. The film is centered around our nation’s first Human Trafficking Intervention Court in Queens, New York, led by the Honorable Toko Serita and a group of female prosecutors, public defenders and social workers. The women coming through this court are mostly undocumented Asian women, Black and Latina women and transgender women.

Why did you want to make this film?

The first time I walked into this courtroom, I was immediately taken by how many women occupied this space. When we think of our nation’s criminal justice system, rarely do we think about it as a room full of women. This courtroom—from the Judge to the prosecutor to practically all the defendants and the social workers—have gathered here because they are challenging our notions and dilemmas regarding prostitution and sex work. I wanted to make this film, to show that this is an imperfect solution but it is one full of empathy, compassion and hope.

From your perspective, what is the role of film in activism? Do you consider Blowin’ Up to be a piece of political art?

As a Chinese-American female filmmaker, my work is often viewed as coming from a feminist political perspective. However, I never intended to create works of political art. Rather, with each work, my intention has been to create a window into the institutions, families and systems that surround each and every one of us so that we can visibly experience the humanity at the core of each of these institutions. I believe art and, specifically, the language of cinema, has the incredible power to transform and shift people’s ideas /or viewpoints, which then allows them the space to breathe in and discover a whole new place, ideas and group of people.

Thank you, Stephanie, for joining us.

Thank you for having me!

Blowin’ Up premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival to critical acclaim, praised for its sensitive and immersive approach to the difficult realities of women in sex work. The film will open in NYC at the Quad Cinemas starting April 5th to the 11th and LA April 12th to the 18th. Stephanie and special guests will be at select screenings to host talk-back session around the film.  To purchase tickets and to learn more visit blowinupfilm.com

 Stephanie Wang-Breal is an award-winning filmmaker and commercial director. Blowin’ Up is Stephanie’s third feature film. Her first film, Wo Ai Ni Mommy (I Love You Mommy), premiered at the 2011 AFI/ Discovery Silverdocs Festival, was nominated for an Emmy® and is the recipient of three Grand Jury Best Documentary Awards. Stephanie’s second film, TOUGH LOVE, premiered at the 2014 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The film premiered on PBS’ POV in July 2015 and went on to win the 2016 Silver Gavel Award for Best Documentary from the American Bar Association. Stephanie sits on the Board of Directors of The New York Women’s Foundation and resides in Brooklyn, New York with her son & daughter.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/307087764

We’ve been busy this fall!

As winter approaches, we have a grantmaking round up for you—as fall was an extraordinary season for The New York Women’s Foundation.

On October 15, we announced the first recipients of The Fund to Support the Me Too Movement and Allies grants, celebrated the first anniversary of the Me Too Movement going viral and some of its most prominent advocates, and recognized women leaders changing the world through their work and their lives at our 2018 Radical Generosity gala. Click here to read our coverage in AP.

When we first announced the creation of The Me Too and Allies Fund and our partnership with Tarana Burke, founder and leader of the ‘me too.’ Movement at our Celebrating Women® Breakfast in May, our aim was to ensure that the momentum spurred by a hashtag would be sustained. We could not have predicted the events to come, as countless stories of sexual harassment and violence would come to light and force a reckoning.

The pervasiveness and force of those tales underscored the potential of The Foundation’s long-held mandate of supporting women leaders engaged in building transformational movements and investing in community-led solutions that confront gender violence.  With Ms. Burke, we took our mandate nationwide and awarded grants to eight organizations around the country achieving their goals of justice and the healing of survivors by promoting women’s leadership and addressing the underlying causes of gender violence.

For this grantmaking cycle, the Fund prioritized organizations led by and for communities of color that give voice to women, immigrants, and LGBTQ people. The first grant recipients are: • Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective – Los Angeles, CA • Black Women’s Blueprint – National, New York City • DC Rape Crisis Center – Washington, D.C. 2 • Equality Labs – National • FreeFrom – Los Angeles, CA • The Firecracker Foundation – Lansing, MI • The “me too.” Movement – National • Violence Intervention Program – New York City.

On October 17, we launched The Justice Fund, a new collaboration to help dismantle mass incarceration and the first of its kind initiative in the U.S. to engage in criminal justice reform through a lens of gender and racial equity. Read more about our fund at Inside Philanthropy.

Part of a seven-year grantmaking and philanthropic mobilization effort, this initiative focuses specifically on incarceration and its effects on women, girls and trans and gender non-conforming communities.  When women are jailed, the impact is far reaching, and destabilizes families and entire communities, yet gender-specific solutions and long-term solutions for women and families involved in the criminal justice system remain elusive.

To counter this, The Foundation is investing in community-based and cross-sector solutions that significantly decrease the involvement of women and families in all phases and aspects of the justice system.  Among our key priorities are the early closing of Rose M. Singer and investing in alternatives that promote justice, safety and overall well-being for these communities.

On November 8, The Foundation released the final installment of our Voices From The Field reports, Blueprint for Investing in Women Ages 25-59. In it, we explored the position, strengths, needs, and best strategies for promoting the wellbeing and progress of New York City women across the full span of their lifetimes.  Click here to read the report.

We also celebrated the accomplishments of three of Brooklyn’s most inspiring women leaders at our 2018 Neighborhood Dinner in the borough on November 15. Click here to see photos from the evening and here to read more about the amazing women that we celebrated!