Legacy Evolved: Meet AFF Board Member Tyler Pakradooni

We recently got the chance to speak with new board member Tyler Pakradooni (he/him). Our conversation ranged from his personal roots in philanthropy to his evolving perspective on AFF’s critical mission.

How did you first get involved with the Andrus family philanthropy programs?

I was introduced to family philanthropy at a young age by my father. He often spoke about John Andrus’ legacy and his intention to create something meaningful for family members to remain involved in important causes. My father served on the boards of several Andrus-related institutions, so as early as I can remember, I was brought into this world. I was taught about the history of these organizations, John Andrus’ legacy, and his family’s commitment to those principles. I’ve been formally involved with Andrus programs since around age 12. Now, being a board member, I’m really getting to actualize the values I’ve grown up with.

Tell us a bit about your experience at recent AFF in-person events.

Attending events with Surdna and AFF has allowed me to meet some of the incredible teams doing impactful work in communities. I am now more mindful of the range of perspectives and aim to be more open-minded to really understand what’s happening on the ground.

How has your view on abolition changed since joining the AFF board?

What’s changed is my knowledge of the facts around the effectiveness of these systems, their history and origins, and who created them. When speaking with people on the issues AFF focuses on, I no longer lead with opinion. Instead, I start with questions on their perspective:  What value does the current system create for you and others (safety, deterrence, rehabilitation, retribution, etc.)? Do you believe it is achieving these goals? That typically sets up a great conversation where we can focus on metrics, particularly around recidivism and community alternatives, to show that there indeed is another way.

“Abolition” is a radical term – tearing down systems entirely. Before joining AFF, I likely would have resisted the word. But I’ve learned more about why that language is used on the ground – the years of frustration with failed reform attempts. While “abolition” may seem overly strong to some, it’s essential to remain open to the possibility that it is the most necessary and useful word. We have to understand why language like that resonates with those doing the work on the ground. It’s incredibly important to listen and be open to diverse perspectives.

What are your goals and hopes for your time on the AFF board?

I want to learn more about how we can be most effective as a board in supporting the work, including best practices around concepts like trust-based philanthropy. I aim to learn and implement practices to enable the team to do their best work. I also want to figure out our true purpose as a board, beyond traditional fiduciary responsibilities. How do we create the most effective relationships and systems to support the staff and grantee partners? I want to build incredible relationships within the board and with the team and grantees doing the on-the-ground work. If we focus on accomplishing our mission, the rest should fall into place.

What advice would you give to future board members?

Don’t be afraid of what you can bring to the table. We all have something unique to offer, whether perspectives, skills, or ambition to do the work. Focus on listening to and empathizing with the voices in the room and ecosystem. Dive in to build relationships across the board, staff, and partners. Being on the AFF board is a unique opportunity to understand what’s happening beyond what you’ve traditionally been exposed to. When opportunities arise, represent the impacted individuals and those doing the work as best you can. Extend opportunities outward beyond the family. We all grapple with legacy, but we can still show up and make a difference.

Imagining the Future with Program Officer Lincoln Mondy

AFF is excited to introduce Lincoln Mondy (he/him), our new Program Officer! We sat down with him to chat about his past work, what excites him about AFF, and his vision for an abolitionist future. 

What piqued your interest in social justice and abolition?

Growing up in Texas, I was conditioned to have a strong sense of patriotism, individuality, and adherence to authority. Even as I saw a separate criminal legal system based on race and class or systemic failures of the state, I still bought into the myth of the American dream.  

When I was younger, I believed that becoming a lawyer or politician was the only way to create positive change. I thought it was all about making compromises and incremental reforms. Then, I had the opportunity to study democracy in Athens, Greece. My time there was transformational—Greece had just elected one of Europe’s farthest-left political parties. Still, at the same time, the national media was legitimizing a neo-nazi party.

This experience taught me how art, culture, and media play a (positive or negative) role in forming perceptions, whether it was conservative leaders using economic uncertainty to stoke xenophobia or graffiti artists using their craft to mobilize neighbors to join general strikes. 

I began reckoning and unraveling the myriad of myths I had bought into. That justice came from the state. That humanity had to be earned. And most of all—that the communities I hold sacred just needed to wait their turn, be polite in their asks, and accept that existing systems were the only options we have. To sum it up, I was surprised that my unwavering and unquestioning belief in systems was not universal. 

How do you see art and creativity as a bridge between social justice efforts and other sectors? How do you integrate arts and activism in your work?

The intersection of art, social justice, and youth power can produce limitless possibilities, but I’ve also found that these areas are often siloed and underinvested in. 

While in college, I interned at a national public health organization, Truth Initiative. At first, I really wasn’t invested in the role as something I could see myself doing long-term. I’d always seen public health as a very white, traditional, clinical space. I thought you had to be a doctor or have a masters in public health. I didn’t see my interests, or even myself, aligning. However, my curiosity piqued when I began learning about the 50+ year campaign to transform menthol into a “black cigarette” through predatory marketing, philanthropic giving, and political strategy. I was floored and began seeing connections in my own life. 

I went on to produce, direct, and host two short films over 7 years funded by Truth Initiative. The series, Black Lives / Black Lungs, explores the origins and impact of America’s First Great Enterprise, the Tobacco Industry, and how it shaped the Black experience in America. 

This experience gave me the permission to color outside the lines, and the understanding that movements need all types of people to amass true, lasting power. 

This is what formed my fierce belief that abolition is inherently creative. Oppressors don’t want us to imagine a future where we all belong, void of harmful systems and filled with grace, care, and thriving futures. But that visualization is a crucial element in our movement. We need artists, organizers, and cross-issue collaboration to make the case of abolition irresistible and urgent. We all need to be able to see the world we’re building, not just the one we’re leaving behind.

This isn’t your first time working with some of the Andrus staff, right?

Right! After college, my first job was as an account coordinator on the Issue Advocacy team at BerlinRosen. I worked with clients on a range of issues, and one of my first clients was Youth First Justice Collaborative, an AFF grantee partner! It was my favorite client, alongside Advocates for Youth, and I started working with Mishi and some other amazing folks. 

The work was personal for me. As a child who grew up with a parent who was incarcerated, I intimately understood that these harmful systems don’t just impact the individual—they impact entire generations, families, and communities. Working with Youth First really modeled trust-based relationships for me, the team saw that I had a personal investment in this work, and they nurtured that. 

It was an invaluable learning experience—I was not only able to learn from the experts at Youth First, but I began working closely with state-based campaigns and system-impacted young people, who generously educated me on the harmful and ineffective archaic institutions that are youth prisons.

What are you most excited about in your upcoming work with AFF?

So much! I look forward to learning and being in community with our grantee partners. I’m deeply invested in forming a strong, imaginative, powerful cohort of current, former and future grantee partners who all work together and understand that one individual organization will not get us free—we will only rise together if we’re hard on the issues, but soft on the people. If we treat each other with respect and grace, I think we’re going to be the groups, the generation, the mechanisms that will unlock the futures we’re imagining. 

I’m also thankful to continue what has been the north star of my career—youth power. Young people have been at the front of every modern movement, whether it’s the civil rights movement, the LGBTQ health and rights movement, reproductive justice, abolition, everything. We need to resource, nurture, and give them the respect and responsibility they’re asking for. I’m eager to build a practice and politic around funding youth power that will hopefully influence the broader philanthropy space. 

What’s your grand vision for liberation?

My grand vision for liberation is a future where every young person, no matter their zip code or citizenship status or race or class or disability, has every single resource and opportunity to lead safe and healthy lives, to lead full lives.  I envision a world where no person is seen as disposable. A world where we don’t have to struggle to survive and can focus on thriving, abundance, and rest.

Lincoln Mondy Appointed Program Officer of the Andrus Family Fund

New York, September 7, 2023— The Andrus Family Fund (AFF), a program of the Surdna Foundation, today announced the appointment of Lincoln Mondy as Program Officer, starting August 2023.

Lincoln will help guide a $5 million grant portfolio and manage field leadership and learning agendas supporting the self-determination, power, and liberation of Black, Brown, AAPI, and Indigenous youth impacted by youth incarceration, family policing, and other disruptive systems.

With deep expertise in youth activism, LGBTQ+ health and rights, and reproductive justice, Lincoln leverages his creativity to connect movements, build narratives, inspire participation at scale, and imagine alternatives that advance the health and power of the communities he holds sacred.

Previously, Lincoln led strategic projects for Advocates for Youth, a reproductive health organization anchored by a cohort of 150+ youth activists. There, he directed a YouTube series for LGBTQ+ youth of color, trained youth activists as storytellers, and managed the organization’s external brand and relationships. Lincoln started his career at the political affairs firm Berlin Rosen supporting a range of justice-focused clients—including the Youth First Initiative, an AFF grantee partner and national campaign to end youth incarceration and invest in community-based supports, services, and opportunities for youth.

“Young people across the country are organizing, innovating, and envisioning new worlds of belonging, free of disruptive systems, filled with grace, and overflowing with possibilities,” said Lincoln Mondy. “I’m honored to accept this appointment to help seed and scale young people’s capacity to push our collective thinking forward.”

“Lincoln has an unswerving commitment to the self-determination of young people that is deeply in line with our work,” said Mishi Faruqee, Director, Andrus Family Fund. “He understands that we need both abolition and imagination—we have to dismantle the systems keeping youth away from families, education, and opportunities, and support the design of community-driven alternatives for youth well-being, safety, and justice.”

“We are inspired by Lincoln’s rich experience supporting youth power-building and activism,” said Katharine Korchnak, co-chair of the Andrus Family Fund board. “He will be a fantastic addition to the AFF team and we are looking forward to working and learning alongside one another as we boldly center abolition and imagine a more just world for young people.”

Learn more about Lincoln’s work.

Strategy Refresh

Read our Strategy Refresh to learn how we are building on the knowledge, experience and lessons learned through our work together as funders, movement partners and the broader field.

Disrupting Norms: The AFF Board is Leading to Embrace Abolition

Last year, the Andrus Family Fund launched a strategic refresh that boldly centers abolition. Since the launch, the AFF board has fully supported the shift in AFF’s grantmaking priorities to resource organizations that build community power and are organizing to transform (and ultimately abolish) disruptive systems. Coming to embrace abolition was an evolutionary process that entailed learning from and ceding power to our movement partners.

I witnessed this evolution firsthand over the course of my tenure. AFF started providing more general operating grants and streamlined the application process to reduce the time, emotional and financial burden we place on partners. We stopped relying on traditional metrics to measure success. All of these decisions were made with an understanding that we must base long-term partnerships on trust. 

Trust is something AFF fosters from the inside out. As a family board, we realize the importance of bringing partners to the decision making table. Sharing power with community board members and the Movement Partner Advisory Council (MPAC) is key to our accountability as a funder. We value our collective humanity, which allows us to sit in discomfort together and be emotionally vulnerable with each other in order to work through difficult situations.

I am proud to share leadership with a new cohort of board officers, including my co-chair Ray Holgado, vice chair Meg Belais, secretary Daryl Hannah and treasurer Zelpha Williams. This new cohort represents many firsts for AFF. Two officer positions are now held by community board members. We have adopted a co-chair leadership model. And, I am the first trans person to be in a position of leadership on the board. Trans representation is often lacking, or non-existent, in family foundations. So, it’s important for me to be an advocate for my community — especially as a social justice funder. 

As AFF continues to embrace abolition as a funder, I hope we can also evaluate ways in which we can help transform philanthropy’s power structure. What would it look like to decentralize a family board? Should we work towards having community board members comprise most or all of our board? Can we encourage more funders to assume more financial risk and to reallocate more of their resources? I look forward to engaging with my colleagues and other family boards about the barriers present within philanthropy and disrupting norms to better serve our grantee partners. 

Mishi Faruqee appointed Director of the Andrus Family Fund

NEW YORK, October 25, 2022—The Andrus Family Fund (AFF), a fund of the Surdna Foundation, today announced Mishi Faruqee as its new director. A recognized leader in youth and criminal justice advocacy, Mishi will begin on November 1, 2022.

Mishi will oversee an over $4 million grantmaking portfolio supporting the self-determination, power, and liberation of Black, Brown, AAPI, and Indigenous youth impacted by the youth justice, child welfare, and other disruptive systems.

She will collaborate with AFF’s staff, board, Movement Partner Advisory Council, and grantees to implement AFF’s recently refreshed strategy, prioritizing youth-led organizing, advocacy, and power-building. AFF’s goal is to abolish the juvenile justice and child welfare systems that reinforce structural racism and diminish the well-being of the young people in them. Instead, AFF seeds and supports community-driven approaches that help youth flourish at home with their families, in school, in their communities, and in life.

Mishi will also spearhead shared learning for AFF’s board, composed of eight Andrus family members and six non-family community members. As an anchor partner of the Visionary Freedom Fund, she will work hand-in-hand with a collective of youth and other movement leaders and funders to promote learning about and catalyze long-term investment in BIPOC youth-led organizing in the youth justice field.

She succeeds Katayoon Majd and Nyoka Acevedo, who served as Interim Director after AFF’s longtime Director Manuela Arciniegas moved to the Ford Foundation earlier this year.

“Mishi is perfectly poised to lead AFF and flow funding to the experiments, policies, and programs for a world without youth prisons and other disruptive systems,” said C’Ardiss “CC” Gardner Gleser, board chair of the Andrus Family Fund. “Mishi has a strong track record of building coalitions, putting youth at the forefront of lasting social change, and making a real difference in people’s lives. We’re lucky to have her on our team.”

“I’m delighted to welcome Mishi to the Andrus Family Fund,” said Kaitlin Miles, vice chair of the Andrus Family Fund and 5th generation Andrus family member. “I look forward to learning and working with her to bring about racial and social justice and positive change — in ourselves, in our board rooms, and in our communities.”

Most recently, Mishi served as president of Youth First Initiative, an AFF grantee partner and national campaign to end youth incarceration and invest in community-based supports, services, and opportunities for youth. In this role, she supported state-based juvenile justice campaigns and secured widespread policy changes. Prior to Youth First, Mishi worked with the ACLU, the Correctional Association of New York, the Children’s Defense Fund-NY, and as a special assistant to the Commissioner at the New York City Department of Probation.

“I’m honored to join the Andrus Family Fund, especially after collaborating with many of AFF’s staff, board, grantees, and movement partners while at the Youth First Initiative,” said Mishi Faruqee. “I look forward to rolling up our sleeves to uplift the visions and solutions to end the criminalization of BIPOC, LGBTQI, disabled, and immigrant youth and families and create caring, community-driven approaches that promote well-being, education, and prosperity.”

“Mishi brings a wealth of experience, imagination, and commitment to youth justice and the Andrus Family Fund’s mission,” said Don Chen, president of the Surdna Foundation. “All of us at AFF and Surdna are thrilled that she will lead AFF into its next chapter of impactful, innovative grantmaking.”

Meet AFF’s new Interim Director

Dearest AFF Community,

After two incredible years at the Andrus Family Fund (AFF), I am nervous and excited to share that my family is moving abroad, and my last day as Interim Director will be June 30th.

While I am thrilled about my family’s next adventure, this move is bittersweet. When I joined AFF, I never could have predicted what we as a community would experience and accomplish: a pandemic, the uprisings, an insurrection (!), the losses we learned from, the joy we created, and the wins that brought us closer to youth and racial justice.

Serving and working alongside you, the AFF team, and the board has been a true honor and a privilege.

Meet Katayoon Majd
I’m thrilled to announce that Katayoon Majd will serve as AFF’s Interim Director. Many of you may already know Katayoon from her work with AFF, which helped guide our strategic refresh, and as an advocate, grantmaker, and litigator for youth and racial justice. She will be working roughly two days a week beginning today, June 23, 2022 and can be reached at kmajd@affund.org. Zaira Cedano will continue to serve as our fabulous Program Associate. Please feel free to contact Zaira (zcedano@aff.org) and Katayoon about grant-related matters.

At the same time, Koya Leadership Partners is searching for AFF’s next Director. Check out the job description and please share it with folks you think would be a good fit—maybe even you!

In It for the Long Haul
I know the news of my transition may be unsettling to some of you, but please know that AFF’s work, strategy and partnership approach will continue stronger than ever. AFF is not a fickle funder—we are in it for the long haul and committed to fulfilling our mission: Supporting the self-determination, power, and liberation of Black, Brown, AAPI and Indigenous youth impacted by the youth justice, child welfare and other disruptive systems. We are excited about how the next phase of our strategy will support the youth justice and child welfare movements.

Thank You!
Each time we lead, we stand on the shoulders of those before us. I am grateful to AFF’s former Directors—Manuela Arciniegas, Leticia Peguero, and AFF’s dedicated board and movement partners for shaping AFF into what it is today.

We know that the work of liberation is a life-long commitment. Each day, each step, each action, gets us a little bit closer to freedom. In the words of Assata Shakur, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” Thank you for your continued commitment to creating a liberated world for young people and, in turn, for us all. I look forward to cheering you on from abroad and staying connected.

In solidarity,
Nyoka Acevedo

Movement Partner Spotlight: Youth First Initiative

Hernan Carvente Martinez of Youth First Initiative explains what abolition means to him, what a world without youth prisons looks like and what it will take to get there.