Why The Ford Foundation <p> Launched A Program for <p> Formerly Incarcerated People
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Why The Ford Foundation

Launched A Program for

Formerly Incarcerated People

In late 2015, Darren Walker approached the foundation’s Talent and Human Resources team and asked us to create a professional development program for graduates of the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI). At the foundation, we’ve long supported the innovative work of BPI, which gives incarcerated men and women an opportunity to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentences. And we’ve highlighted our commitment to this program, how it transforms the daily realities of incarcerated people and offers them a sense of possibility that is essential to rebuilding their lives and participating in their communities after their release from prison.The foundation’s work with BPI also aligns with our support for fair-chance hiring policies and other efforts to eliminate barriers to employment for people with conviction records. In short, we don’t believe a prior history of convictions should disqualify people from employment—especially since this is a problem that disproportionately affects people of color, whose lives have been hit hard by decades of overcriminalization.So when Darren approached us with the idea, we were as eager as he was to figure out how we could “walk our talk” on these issues.Listen to the NPR story featuring BPI graduate and Ford Foundation employee Lavar Gibson:The first steps: Listening and learning .

As a social justice foundation, we had the advantage of in-house expertise on prison education and re-entry issues. But our human resources team had limited experience working purposefully with formerly incarcerated people who were re-entering the workforce. We had a clear goal—to deliver a program that built the BPI graduates’ skills and knowledge and prepared them for jobs that would lead to a career. But we also had lots of questions. So we started by talking to the experts: members of our staff who work on employment, education, incarceration, and racial justice. In turn, they connected us to leaders from organizations they support, including JustLeadershipUSA, the College and Community Fellowship, A New Way of Life, and the Vera Institute of Justice. Experts from those organizations generously shared their insights into how we might structure our program and maximize its benefits for everyone involved. And, of course, we also relied on the knowledge and expertise of BPI co-founder and executive director Max Kenner. Jed Tucker, BPI’s director of re-entry, was also a key partner in this effort. (more…)

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Wiz Kid / Lemonade Stand
EMPLOYMENT | EMPOWERMENT | ENVIRONMENT | YOUTH

Wiz Kid / Lemonade Stand

Mikaila Ulmer was 4 when she had an important epiphany inspired by the pain of a bee sting. A couple of bee stings, to be exact. “I got stung by two bees in one week!” she says about her initial run-in with the winged pollinators. “I was super, really afraid of bees.” But after using extensive research as a way to overcome her mounting fear, Ulmer had a realization: “Honeybees were important, they were dying, and we needed to save them.” Her solution? Making a lemonade brand inspired by her great-granny’s recipe that would taste delicious and help the plight of the honeybee. (more…)

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Homeless-One Stitch Closer
COMMUNITY | EMPLOYMENT | EMPOWERMENT | HOMELESSNESS

Homeless-One Stitch Closer

The City of Berkeley estimates that nearly 1200 people are living on the streets, but that number only covers those that have been reported (BerkeleySide). That number is too low to adequately cover the amount of individuals moving through homelessness in Berkeley. The homeless community is large and they are up against the same problem: a lack of affordable housing. However, the fact that they are united by this one issue does not mean that each individual does not have different goals and different priorities. With this in mind, it is important to consider the wants of the community when offering up solutions.

One thing that homeless individuals do have in common is the basic reality that they need a way to keep warm at night, but they are responsible for carrying everything they own. The product created by The Empowerment Plan, based in Detroit, started with this idea, and grew into a sustainable business working to break the cycle of homelessness. Veronika Scott created a product designed to alleviate the challenges of mobility and staying warm with her EMPWR coat. The coat can be worn to keep warm, but it also transforms into a sleeping bag and an over-the-shoulder bag. This functional design efficiently addresses the day-to-day needs of a homeless individual. (more…)

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Student Parent to Graduate

Her Son by Her Side

Graduating senior Dajanaye Adrow-Hubbard always knew she was destined for college. She grew up in Oakland in a low-income family and knew that her ticket to a more comfortable lifestyle was getting an college education. In high school, she joined College Track, an organization that gives students from under served communities the skills they need to succeed in college. With support from the program’s mentors, she applied and was accepted to a handful of universities, including UC Berkeley.

When she found out she was pregnant as a senior in high school, she never considered changing her college plans. “It was like, okay, I guess me and baby are going to college,” she said. “I didn’t count it out. I was like, well, I guess I’m going to have a best friend to take with me the whole time. I’m not going to be alone.”

But before the 17-year-old could tell her family about the pregnancy, her boyfriend and the father of her baby was shot and killed at a party.“When he got killed, I told my parents about the pregnancy,” she says. Adrow-Hubbard was worried her mom was going to be mad, but she and the rest of her family were supportive. “They were like, ‘Oh, it’s a blessing. It’s like God is giving you a gift.’ ” (more…)

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Hidden-Figures
Hello

Hidden-Figures

 

One of the most toxic attempts to dismiss the prevalence of racism is what Jenée Desmond-Harris calls “vanity sizing for racism,” the idea that a large number of Americans cannot be racist. That “racist” is a hurtful term that only really describes people so outwardly bigoted that they use racial slurs and harass people of color. But in reality, a large number, even a majority, of white Americans can be racist. Their racism is not necessarily overt; rather it is oftentimes more insidious in its subtlety.

Hidden Figures understands this. The film tells the story of three black women at NASA who were pivotal in Project Mercury, the mission that sent the first American to orbit the planet in 1962. The three brilliant women, Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), struggle throughout the film to have their skills utilized, let alone recognized, by their white “superiors.” They are confronted with misogynoir at every turn, whether it be Dorothy trying to get a book from the whites-only section of the library or Mary trying to receive an engineering degree at a white-only school. Segregation is an inescapable part of their lives.

But their oppressors are not the typical racists depicted in film. It is not random blue-collar white men who advocate for racial violence, but rather professionals in fancy clothing who use “precedent” and “rules” to deny black women access to the resources and basic needs they are entitled to. NASA is segregated, with Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary working at the West Area Computing facility, which lacks the technology granted to the white Langley Research Center. However, the three black woman continually prove themselves to be deserving of what they ask for. Eventually, when their skills are finally realized to be essential to the mission, they are allowed to enter white spaces. (more…)

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