VFF distributes $2.5 million to 26 youth-led groups transforming the justice system and invites donors to join the movement to fund all 600 applicants
NEW YORK — The Visionary Freedom Fund (VFF) today announced its inaugural cohort of grant recipients, distributing $2.5 million over two years to resource 26 youth-led organizations on the frontlines of transforming the youth justice system.
“Young people are articulating solutions and realizing wins to end our nation’s systemic punishment, criminalization and violence against Black, Brown and Indigenous youth,” said Manuela Arciniegas, director of the Andrus Family Fund, which launched the Visionary Freedom Fund. “Yet, few funders support youth justice movements, let alone give young people a say in what gets funded. In response, the Visionary Freedom Fund formed the Power Table where youth organizers collaborate with movement leaders and funders to set the grantmaking strategy and determine how VFF’s resources are deployed. Power Table members know firsthand what’s wrong with the youth justice system and what their communities need, so they’ve funded an inspiring group of grantees.”
Selected by the VFF’s Power Table of eight youth organizers, four adult movement leaders and 11 funders, this first round of two-year general operating grants will help organizations advance their long-term visions for a youth justice system that helps, not harms, young people, communities and society. All organizations and projects are led by Black, Immigrant, Indigenous, Queer and Trans and AAPI communities. The grantees are working on a range of efforts, including abolition, restorative justice, calls to divest from policing and prisons and invest in vital community services and building the leadership and power of young people.
“We know that the youth legal system has to change and that youth organizers like myself, who are impacted by this issue, have the necessary analysis and vision for how best to transform it long term,” said Andrea Colon, a youth organizer member of the Power Table and co-director of Sis & Non-Cis.
“As youth movement leaders, often we’re told to sit back and hope that our calls for funding and support will reach the right ears without a chance to have a voice in the process of distributing funds. So I was thrilled to seize the opportunity to lend my voice to the Power Table to help maximize the impact of these grants and support as many incredibly transformative groups as possible,” said Jemima Abalogu, former youth justice ambassador at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.
“We are proud to kick off the Visionary Freedom Fund with this inaugural cohort of grantees and we are humbled by the overwhelming amount of interest and applicants,” said Bryan Perlmutter, VFF’s project coordinator.
“We are inspired by the innovative leadership of youth organizers supporting their communities and carving out paths towards collective healing,” said Jessica Pierce, VFF’s project coordinator. “The impressive pool of applicants makes clear that young people across the country are not only seeking resources for transformative change, but they are also fundamentally community leaders who are building a vision for a future that is for everyone.”
VFF received more than 600 applications from youth organizations across the nation, representing a variety of innovative approaches to transform the justice system—from campaigns and leadership development to healing justice, arts and community building efforts. “I have been supporting youth organizers across 14 states to build state campaigns and close prisons. Knowing that there were 600 organizations doing similar powerful work just reveals the glaring funding gap that we must all galvanize to close,” said Hernan Carvente-Martinez, national youth partner strategist at Youth First Initiative.
“As a funding community, we have the opportunity to fund all 600 applicants if we can raise an additional $24 million,” said Erik Stegman, director of Native Americans in Philanthropy, an adult movement and philanthropic leader at the Power Table. “Investing in youth traditionally left out of philanthropic resources, like Native youth, gender expansive youth, women and girls or Black youth, is a must for philanthropy. They carry the burden, live the impact and are the untapped and underinvested visionaries for change.”
“Together, by pooling our resources, we can boldly transfer power to young people and ensure that resources are deployed precisely to where and to whom needs them the most,” said Loan Tran, adult movement leader at the Power Table and co-chair of the Third Wave Fund advisory council. “We invite funders and donors to join the Visionary Freedom Fund and our learning community at affund.org/visionaryfreedomfund.”
You can also learn more about VFF on the latest episode of the Out Of The Margins podcast. In this episode, you’ll hear from members of the Power Table, including one of its youth leaders, and learn about the importance of funding youth-led organizing, the grantmaking process and lessons learned along the way.
The 26 organizations selected for VFF’s inaugural cohort are:
- Adelante Student Voices | Poughkeepsie, NY | Immigrant Organizing
- Alas de Agua Art Collective | Santa Fe, NM | Artist Mentorship
- Alaska Poor People’s Campaign | Alaska | Native Youth Political Education & Healing
- API Chaya | Seattle, WA | Gender-Based Violence Interventions by API Youth
- Asian American Organizing Project | Minnesota, MN | Youth Leadership Development
- Assata’s Daughters | Chicago, IL | Leadership Development & Abolition
- Brothers Sons Selves Coalition | Los Angeles, CA | School to Prison Pipeline Work
- California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance | Los Angeles, CA | Immigrant Rights & Detention Centers
- Communities United | Chicago, IL | Healing & Education Justice
- Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ) | Oakland, CA | Healing & Schools
- Destination Innovation | Wichita, KS | Abolitionist campaigns & alternatives to incarceration
- FIERCE | New York, NY | Queer Youth & Healing
- I. Am. Legacy | Rapid City, SD | Indigenous Youth Healing
- Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT) | Milwaukee, WI | Youth Leadership Development
- My Sistah’s House | Memphis, TN |Trans & Non-Binary Youth Campaigns
- Native Action Network | Seattle, WA | Healing Justice for Native Women
- Nopal | Stockton, CA | Education Justice
- Pa’lante Restorative Justice | Holyoke, MA | Restorative Justice Alumni Project
- Power U Center for Social Change | Miami, FL | Youth Leadership Development
- Project VOYCE | Denver, CO | Healing Justice
- Recess Art | Brooklyn, NY | Abolitionist youth-led workshop series
- SOUL Sisters Miami Black Girls Matter (BGM) Coalition/SOUL Sisters | Miami, FL | Healing
- TODEC | Perris, CA | Immigrant Youth Leadership Development
- Young People for Progress | Silver Spring, MD | Cops out of schools
- Youth Art & Self-empowerment Project | Philadelphia, PA | Youth Incarceration
- Youth Rise Texas | Austin, TX | Immigrant Communities & Research
About the Visionary Freedom Fund:
The Visionary Freedom Fund (VFF) seeks to ensure that frontline communities have the resources, capacities, supports, infrastructure and relationships that they need to develop and implement inspiring long-term strategies to transform the youth justice system. VFF’s Power Table is a youth-led collective whose members come together to inform values-aligned funders about how to support their long-term visions for youth justice. Together, they will help transform the way philanthropy partners with frontline communities by creating equal representation at the table where grantmaking strategies and decisions are made. VFF’s philanthropic partners include the Akonadi, Hazen, Heising Simons, Libra, Ms., Perrin Family, Pinkerton, Satterberg and Public Welfare foundations, as well as Wellspring Philanthropic Fund and the Andrus Family Fund. Learn more at affund.org/visionaryfreedomfund
About the Andrus Family Fund:
The Andrus Family Fund (AFF), a program of the Surdna Foundation, is a leading national social justice funder that believes that young people deserve more than one opportunity at a good, sustainable life. AFF supports youth ages 16-24 who are impacted by child welfare, youth justice or other disruptive systems. Learn more at affund.org