Event Transcript — Forging a Liberated Path

Moving towards Racial, Environmental, and Philanthropic Justice

At our November 10, 2021 virtual event, we welcomed you, our Justice Outside community, to join us in conversation. Below is a transcript of an excerpt of the full event, featuring the grantee panel plus Kim Moore Bailey’s remarks.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Good morning, everyone. I think it’s still morning, even in the East Coast. Thank you all so much for being here! It’s so wonderful to see familiar faces and new ones, too. And familiar names and new names, too. Thank you Efraín and Shivani for teeing us up so well. This is a vital conversation, and we’re so thrilled that we’re going to have it, and we’re thrilled that you’re here joining us for it. You’ve heard a little bit today about listening and about trust-based relationships. So as we move into this panel, our hope is to create a brave space together with you and within that space to model those same values of listening and trust. I want to really deeply thank Nikki, Savannah, and Lyrica, who have taken time out of their busy schedules to not only be here today, but, in advance of today, to curate their own learnings and the wisdom of their communities. So, thank you so much for sharing on this panel, and thank you for your leadership at your organizations, within your communities and, of course, within society at large. Before I turn it over to them, the panelists, for introductions, let me just first ask, if you have a question for me, for the panelists, please chat them privately directly to Rena Payan. Like Efraín said, it should be pretty easy to find her name up top. In doing this, we are hoping to minimize distractions through this approach and really so that we can all offer our undivided attention. Thanks so much. So I want to invite each of you to introduce yourself by sharing your name and your pronouns, if you like, your organization and role, where you’re Zooming in from today, and a couple of sentences about your work. We’re going to start with Savannah, then Lyrica, and then Nikki.

– [Savannah Smith] Thank you, Laura. [traditional language], everyone! My name is Savannah Smith. I use she/her pronouns. I am calling in today from the ancestral lands of the Duwamish, Coast Salish, Suquamish, Stillaguamish, and Muckleshoot people, past and present, also known as Seattle, Washington. I am a co-founder and Director of Youth Engagement for Sea Potential, where our mission is to cultivate a full cycle of BIPOC representation in maritime. We define maritime as any career connected to water, and we accomplish our mission through two main tracks. The first track is working with youth to foster heart-based connections to marine environments, acknowledging individual and generational trauma youth could be carrying with them, causing them to harbor subconscious or even conscious negative biases towards marine environments, and then tying in cultural resiliency and healing practices and just creating more opportunity for positive experiences outdoors that change that narrative. And the second half of our company is working with maritime industry businesses on their workplace culture so that they are promoting representation over assimilation. Thank you for having me.
– [Laura Rodriguez] Thank you, Savannah. Lyrica?

– [Lyrica Maldonado] Hi, everyone. Good morning! [traditional language] It’s so good to be here with you all. My name is Lyrica, and I am on occupied Pueblo lands in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I’m the Education and Training Coordinator as well as the Finance and Fundraising Coordinator with Uplift. Uplift is based within the Four Corners states of the Greater Southwest, so namely Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, and we are largely engaged in supporting frontline youth who are advocating and fighting for their communities who are on the front lines of the climate crisis in our region. So we do this mostly through education and training programs such as fellowships and webinars. We create media such as games, and art and newsletters, and we support direct action both in our region and beyond are just generally supportive of creating networks, relationships, and communities for young adults to get involved in their community. Yeah, thank you all. It’s great to be here!

– [Laura Rodriguez] Wonderful. Thank you, Lyrica. Nikki?

– [Nikki Pitre] [traditional language] Hello relatives, and happy Native American Heritage Month! [traditional language] My name is khwhele’, which means “meadow lark,” and in our ways, meadow larks bring good medicine, and I hope to bring that to you today. I am [traditional language], which translates to “those who are discovered here,” a reminder that my people have always been here. Today, we are recognized as the Coeur d’Alene people, who have traditional territories going from eastern Washington into western Montana. My English name is Nikki Pitre, and I serve as the Executive Director of the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute. The Aspen Institute is located on the Nacotchtank and Piscataway people with traditional homelands between two rivers, the Potomac and Anacostia. And the word Nacotchtank translates to “town of traders” and interestingly enough, here in Georgetown was a fur trading hub between the Nacotchtank and the Iroquois people. And though the Nacotchtank were forcibly removed from their traditional lands, we’re reminded of their presence here in DC with Indigenous names in our neighborhoods, our streets, our rivers, and more. And I recognize that the people were removed forcibly from their land as a desperate means of survival, abandoning sacred sites, their ways of life, and land that they loved. And as you’re going through your land acknowledgements in the chat, I invite you all to reflect on that as well. I greet you all with a happy heart and a warm handshake. The Center for Native American Youth is celebrating ten years of youth-led programming. We were founded to address Native youth suicide, and believe that access to culture is the strongest protective factor. All of our programming is done through cultural immersion and Indigenous frameworks. We’ve recently launched a new program where young Native people are given agency and solutions to bringing us all closer towards environmental justice. The program, which I’m sure I’ll be talking about shortly, is called [Indigenous program name], which means “brave heart.” We know that our young people are fierce, and capable of creating a better world for all of us, but too often they aren’t empowered or given resources to solutions. [Indigenous program name] and the center for Native American Youth is working to change that. Thank you.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Thank you all so much. I know that everyone is eagerly awaiting to hear more from every single one of you. So, let’s dive into the questions. We’re going to just try to keep the flow going by offering this order. Nikki, Lyrica, and Savannah have all agreed they’re okay with this order, so we’re going to roll this way. But we’ll hear first from Nikki, and then we’ll move on to hearing from Lyrica, and then Savannah. So our first question is, and just listening, Nikki, to what you shared about the origin story of the purpose — the original purpose — of developing the center for Native American Youth, right? You named suicide as a crux issue. And when we think about mainstream environmental groups, they tend to talk about “diversifying the movement” or “centring the voices of people of color within the environmental field,” right? Without really recognizing the folks of color, the acknowledging the intersectional organizations like yours who are and have been doing work as it relates to the environment. So here’s the question. How do each of you think about your work in the context of the mainstream environmental movement?

– [Nikki Pitre] Are you starting with me? Yes? Okay.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Go ahead, Nikki.

– [Nikki Pitre] Oh, yeah. Sorry, I froze for a second. So I think that the real issue is “mainstream environments” is really a glossed over and a nice way of saying “White.” And to combat colonial ideologies of conservation, we lead with the truth that our people, Native people, are the first stewards of this land. We have ceremonies, gatherings, community happenings that all connects us to the earth and to a special place. And when it comes to solutions for environmental justice and addressing climate change, we need to listen to Indigenous people. CNAY has launched a culturally-immersive program, not for mainstream environmental groups, but for us, for Native people, and most importantly, for our youth, our sacred little ones. We provide opportunities for intergenerational learning space and cultural methodologies that lead in policy reform and policy change. We provide youth with resources within their own communities to address issues that impact the land, water, and natural resources. It is formally called Ambassadors for Land Conservation, but we’ve rebranded it to [Indigenous program name], which means “brave heart” in Lakota. We call it this because we believe that this work of caring for our land and caring for our environment takes brave hearts. In the context of mainstream movement, they need to continue to not only diversify, but prioritize the work of BIPOC, especially the first stewards of the land.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Thank you, Nikki. Lyrica?
– [Lyrica Maldonado] Yeah, thank you for this question. And thank you, Nikki, as well, for your answer. I guess first, I would say Uplift, and the movement ecology that we’re a part of, reside within the climate justice and environmental justice spaces, and CJ and EJ are housed within the broader sort of social movement ecology. So we’re working hand in hand with housing justice folks, with prison abolition and et cetera, because climate change, as I’m sure a lot of you all know, is a justice issue. So I’ll first just put that out there. And then I think speaking to also what Nicki brought up, yeah, the wider environmental movement, the mainstream movement, is another word for a White-led movement. And I would say that this movement is not accidentally White-led, it’s intentionally White-led through White supremacy, and we can see the forefathers of the conservation movement are mostly White men who have pretty problematic ideologies, such as John Muir and Edward Abbey. And ultimately, it’s not the job of frontline communities or marginalized people to diversify the movement because it really does feel like that burden or that duty has been put on our communities to diversify this movement, and that’s not our burden. That’s not our duty. And like Nikki said, we’re not doing our work for the Whiter and Whiter environmental movement. We’re doing this work for our communities. And I would say it’s the job of the mainstream White environmental movement to engage in wealth redistribution, reparations, and accountability for harms that have been caused. I think if you look at conservation ideologies, environmental ideologies as they’ve come from Western and colonial ways of thinking, they’re very harmful towards the land, and they’re very harmful towards the peoples that have resided on that land. They’re also often very patriarchal. And lastly, I would just say that I think, like Nikki said, and I think like you’ll hear today, all peoples, like Indigenous folks, Black folks, immigrant peoples, communities of color, have always been out on the land in different ways, and there are culturally relevant histories and traditions that are part of our both ancestral and modern day cultures and lifestyles that pertain to the land and water and the environment. So often it feels like the environmental movement just woke up one day and realized that people of color exist, and then there’s all this flurry and excitement and energy of, like, “Oh, we need to diversify our state- our org. We need to write these diversity statements and form JEDI, the justice, equity, diversion, diversity, and inclusion. We deform these committees,” and it’s like, “You all can do that. But we’ll be over here living as we always have and fighting for our communities.” I think I’ll leave it at that and pass it to Savannah.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Thank you so much, Lyrica. Go ahead, Savannah.

– [Savannah Smith] Yeah, I think there’s a lot to think about and talk about with this question. And for me, a couple of things are coming up first when I think of environmental movement, I’m like, oh, great. A way to get people on board. That’s wonderful. But then the more I think about it, it’s frustrating because it should really be a way of life and not just a movement. And I think for me and my co-founder, we don’t need a movement in order to do this work, and knowing how intersectional and interconnected everything is, really community is at the forefront. Community is the priority, and that ties in with environmentalism. And when I think of centering, I also want to acknowledge that focusing just on trauma and harm in communities, especially communities of color, isn’t necessarily moving forward or moving in the right direction. Yes, it’s important to acknowledge, but we also need to highlight cultural resiliency and use that for guidance as well. And lastly, I’ll add on with centering by saying that we need to avoid approaching BIPOC individuals and using their voice and their image and our free labor and really allocate funds towards supporting the work that we’re actually doing, and that is moving in the right direction for the environmental movement. Thank you.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Thank you, Savannah. That’s a really great way to segue into this next question. Thank you all so much for your deep reflection on this question. I’m just sitting here nodding and smiling the whole time. So when you think about — you just mentioned at the end, there Savannah, right, what it would take to move in the direction of increased support for Black, Indigenous and people of color-led organizations or efforts and those individuals. What would you like to share with funders on this call? What shifts do you think are still needed when it comes to investing in Black, Indigenous and people of color-led work by philanthropy in the outdoor and the environmental movement? And/or what have you seen funders get right? Let’s, again, start with Nikki, and then we’ll go to Lyrica and Savannah.

– [Nikki Pitre] Sure. Thank you so much. And Savannah, what you said really resonated with me. We need to normalize an investment in leaders, an investment in missions. I believe that especially in the environmental space, we need a stronger investment in Indigenous-led organizations. We see funders get this right, such as REI, Liberated Paths, 11th Hour Project. According to a study conducted by Native Americans in philanthropy, only 0.4% of the overall funding from philanthropy goes into Indigenous-led organizations. I’m going to say that again so the words sink in. 0.4% of overall philanthropic funding goes to Indigenous-led organizations. The United States Census tells us we make up nearly 4% of the overall population, so we need to help provide more equitable funding and stronger investment from philanthropy that will support addressing this inequity.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Thank you.

– [Lyrica Maldonado] Yeah, this is a big question for me. I think I have a lot to say. I’ll first start with what I see Justice Outside doing right. What I have really appreciated in my relationship with them is really explicit trust and partnership that’s backed up by things such as minimal grant reporting and funds for general operations. So if you’re funding a front line org that’s racially marginalized on the front lines of the climate crisis, tell them explicitly in words that you trust them to use the money how they see fit, and that you’re not going to require extensive grant reporting. Because sometimes for me, it feels like, “Am I being given this money to write grant reports, or am I given this money to actually do the work?” So if I spend all my time writing grant reports and getting on check-in calls, after time it feels like all of my energy is being used up that way. And so I don’t think it’s not just about investing money into these orgs. It’s about how are you going about doing it? And so minimal grant reporting is really key. Letting your money be used in general operations. I see so many funders who really want to fund project or programmatic-specific work, and I’m always confused about why is that? Why is there such a hesitation to fund salary? That’s something I’ve seen a lot of. Funders don’t want to fund people’s salary, which is weird because I’m like, should we not get paid for this work? Yeah, so I’ll say that. And also I think there’s this- You know, at Uplift, I’m 24. Our youngest team member who is on payroll is 21. So we’re a fairly young org. Everyone on our paid team are Indigenous people from all over the so-called Americas. And so if we’re getting funded by a White- led, an older White-led org who keeps asking for grant reports who is really particular about how their money is used, it feels like this gross relationship, it feels very patronizing and condescending, and we don’t know how to use our money when we do. And especially when that org is based in some place like New York or DC or California and very far from our communities. And then also, I think going along with this idea of just letting us use the money how we see fit is remembering that money and wealth as it’s been conceptualized and acquired in like a Western White way, is not political. Like money is not apolitical. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. And at least in my belief, you can’t acquire mass wealth, mass money without engaging in exploitation of people and of the environment. And so I urge funders, especially funders who have come into this money in maybe slightly problematic ways to think about this as a form of wealth distribution and that this is money owed back to both the land and also the people. Yeah, I think I’ll stop there.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Thank you so much, lyrica. Savannah.

– [Savannah Smith] What Lyrica was saying really resonates with me as well. I was going to say that I want to see funders move in the direction of offering more general operating funds supports and really focusing on supporting community vision and not just what a funder may initially believe is a priority. And general operating funds allows for that. I think organizations like my own often have to contort to try to fit a grant application, and that really just takes away from valuable time and energy spent doing the actual work. And Justice Outside has been amazing because they offered that general funds in grant and were the first grant that Sea Potential actually received and allowed us to really get in and do the work early on, and we ended up being able to raise $100,000 in grants in our first year. We got started December 21, 2020, so we’re coming up on a year. And with that considered, too, I think that it’s important for funders to also take a chance on newer organizations. A lot of grant applications often have a minimum requirement of being established for a year or a couple of years. And that’s hard because I don’t believe that time is a direct measure of impact, and we haven’t even hit our one year mark yet. But we’ve been doing some amazing things for community. We’re on our fourth youth program right now. We’ve joined the Tacoma Maritime Innovation Incubator. We’ve been heavily involved with Maritime High School and have done countless speaking engagements with youth ranging from elementary to college. And so I think that again, time is not a measure of impact, and want to see funders take a risk on newer organizations. And I realize that it is risky taking- giving newer orgs a chance, but also we can redefine what failure means and understand that learnings and risk are essential for our evolution in this work.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Thank you all so much. We can also redefine what we think about when we hear the word risk, right? Or redefine the idea of risk in our minds. Thank you for that. And again, it’s almost like you planned this! You’ve offered a really great segue to this next question around thinking about impact and what we measure and how we measure it. And so with that, I’ll offer my last question, and then see if we’ve got some questions in the chat. As you all noted, right, founders often ask about impact. It often takes a long time to gather all of the data that folks might ask for to share back on that impact. Can you share how you define success in your work? If you can offer an example with us, whatever comes to mind to share here, how do you describe, define success for yourself in your work? Nikki, we’ll start again with you, and we’ll go down our order.

– [Nikki Pitre] Sure! Thank you. The Center for Native American Youth defines success through Indigenous methodologies and Indigenous frameworks of evaluation. This is really to disrupt colonial and predominant White metrics of success. When we bring in culture and our traditional ways of knowing into any and all spaces in our programming that’s when we see the impact of our work. An example of this is through a leadership program that we run. We knew we needed to change how we define leadership and how we build leadership within our Native youth. Predominant White society tells us that success and leadership is defined by how much money you make, what title you have, where you went to school and financial wealth, but through qualitative surveying and community-based and tribally-based participatory research, Native people had told us that when we lead in our Indigenous values, that’s true leadership. Is this person a healer of their community? Are they generous? Are they humble? Are they spiritual? And when we have normalized these methodologies in our programming, we really start to move the needle on building out young leaders in a new way. So we started to also see a shift in our evaluation metrics, and that really started to improve. Additionally, data from our evaluation tells us that youth’s perception and value that they have in their community has improved as well, and that’s how CNAY’s dismantling how success has been defined and reclaiming how we define impact through culture and Indigenous competencies.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Thank you, Nikki.

– [Lyrica Maldonado] Yeah, I really resonate with what Nikki said as well. I think a large part of our beliefs and principles has to do with relationship building and relational organizing. And obviously it’s really hard to measure- it can be really hard to measure relationships. But that’s one way that we define success in our work, is are we building relationships among frontline youth in our region? And it’s not just about the relationships that we build with other young people, it’s about the relationships that young people build together. Especially in COVID, especially across our region, which is pretty rural and remote, we’re all very disconnected. So we want to see relationships being built in decentralized networks and communities and relationships. Another key part of how success is defined is how we did the thing. So we can focus on the what, we can focus on the quantitative data, the metrics, the number of people served, et cetera, but how we do things matter, because at Uplift, especially as young people, we don’t have time to wait for politicians or CEOs or executives. We need to be embodying our future now, and we need to be- yeah, the future is now. There’s nothing to be waiting for. So are we actually practicing anti- oppressive and justice-oriented principles within our work? One way that we do this, is by making sure that everyone on our team — and we have a small team, this is probably a bit easier than a large staff — but looking at are we being financially compensated for our work? Because if you’re you’re overworked, you’re not paid well. You’re burnt out. Your health is in decline. In my future, in the future that I’m working to build, we’re living healthy lives. And so if we’re not building healthy lives as we’re doing the work, the work doesn’t really matter. We have conversations around like, hey, what do you need to pay your rent? Do you live in Flagstaff, Arizona, which is an incredibly expensive place. In Salt Lake City, Utah, which is also very expensive. Do you have children? What are your finances like? And so having these conversations around money is really important. Having wellbeing check-ins with our team is super important to make sure that our mental health and physical health isn’t taking a toll as we do the work. So I think that’s one aspect of it is how we do the work matters, because I’m working for justice and liberation. And I think as we go down that road towards our future, we’re building the future as we move down the road. And then I think lastly, I’ll add that change does not happen instantaneously. I think that’s often how we view it happening. It feels like just a spark igniting. But there have been centuries and generations of people organizing and working that have gone into this present day. And so we’re in this for the long haul. I think especially when you work with young people, you’re not going to see impact or change or success happen the next day. You’re going to see it years, maybe even generations down the road. So I just want to bring home the idea that we’re in this for the long haul. And so impact is not going to be seen instantaneously.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Thank you so much. Savannah?

– [Savannah Smith] Sea Potential’s work is also very relational. And although we have a niche of helping Black, Indigenous, people of color thrive in maritime, it’s more than just that. We want to inspire people to see the world through a lens of interconnectedness, reciprocal healing, and curiosity. And so the way we engage with folks helps them reflect on a deeper level and really develop a sense of community. And so an example for now is we currently have a program called Get Into It!: Maritime, which is about a five month long program working with BIPOC youth ages 12 to 14 and getting them exposed to maritime industry careers. But we just decided to start off our first two sessions by dedicating them strictly to relationship community building. And so we talked about our personal relationships to water. We talked about things like confidence and imposter syndrome, and we did embodiment practices together before diving into this uncharted territory of maritime industry careers and going on field trips to experience them hands on and meeting BIPOC professionals or women and nonbinary folks in that field. We focused on this relationship building. And for us, it was really affirming because after the first day, we did a one word reflection with all the youth in the group to see how they felt about the day. And one of our 12 year olds said their word was “connected” and said, “I already feel so connected to everyone here.” And for us that really just showed the value in starting off that way and creating that safe space before we get into the learning together. And so our success is really measured by community response, whether that’s things like youth staying after program day of tide pooling to show their family what they learned and what they saw. And we see that knowledge directly being passed on. Or whether that’s word of our organization spreading throughout the community. And in fact, this program we have going on currently, Get Into It!: Maritime, the Port of Seattle reached out to us to start this program. And so that felt like a big success to us that people are knowing and caring about the work that we are doing and helping uplift it. And so overall, I think success is seen in how we strengthen relationships to self, relationships to others in the community, and relationship to the natural world around us.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Thank you all so much! Through the course of everything that you’ve shared over all these questions, I keep coming back to the recurring theme in your responses, which is such depth of intentionality with the “how.” Rena set us up in thinking about the “why,” we’re here today and why we’re talking about all of this work and the relationship between philanthropy and people doing such amazing work. And all of your responses keep going back to your “how,” and it’s so beautiful to hear you talk about it. Thank you so much. We’ve got some time for a couple of questions, and so I’m going to ask you a couple. You can just feel free to come off mute when you’re ready if you want to. If you have a response to that. if you don’t, it’s also okay. So whoever wants to respond, please feel free to do that at any time. You just finished talking about what success looks like for you all. What does success look like for the field in the next five to ten years? The field being the field of philanthropy, the field of the environment, both of them together. Whatever comes to mind for you, what does success look like for the field in the next five to ten years?

– [Nikki Pitre] I think that success within the next five to ten years, whether it’s in the environmental space or philanthropy, is that we no longer have to have conversations like this where the work of my organization, Savannah’s, and Lyrica’s are the exceptions. And so to really normalize and prioritize and investing in my BIPOC-led organizations, and we no longer need to have panels like this anymore that really we’re screaming at the top of our lungs with these solutions, but people are actually investing and listening to us. I think that would be the ultimate success.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Thank you, Nikki. Anyone else feeling inspired to answer this question?

– [Lyrica Maldonado] I can share. I think what I would really like to see within the climate realm of both philanthropy and just the movement, we really don’t have time to be- we don’t have time to be writing grant reports or doing all of that administrative work. The climate crisis is happening now, and as a young adult and someone who works with — and my community is young people in their 20s and late teens, there is just so much ecoanxiety and climate grief happening among everyone, I think, but especially folks who are just now beginning adulthood and even childhood. This isn’t a game anymore. This is real. People are dying because of the climate crisis, and it sometimes just floors me that there are people who have so much money who can fund all of the work in the world, but in order to get that money, we have to jump through so many hoops. So I think I would just like to see all of those hoops being taken away and for us to realize the moment that we’re in, which is– I mean, I personally think that we’ve been in the climate crisis since colonization, but we are experiencing– this is the beginning of the climate apocalypse for young people. So I really would just love to see folks who have access to resources really begin in redistribution, and for all of us to just buckle down and do this work. And also, we know who is polluting the Earth. There’s so much talk about climate solutions and trying to figure things out. We know what is causing the climate crisis. I think I would just like to have some of the circus that’s around all of this taken away, so we can really just do the thing that needs to be done.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Thank you, Lyrica. Savannah, is there anything you want to share?

– [Savannah Smith] Yeah. I agree that I want to see in the next five years, more equitable distribution of funds and not having to justify the work that we’re doing repeatedly. I feel like that’s the best answer I can give right now. It’s hard to think of maybe something specific in five years because this is ongoing work and it’s so dynamic and we’re going to keep having goals that we’re moving towards. It just doesn’t feel right to be like in five years, this is– like we’ll accomplish this and that’s great because we’re focused on continuing to move forward.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Yeah, absolutely. Also, like, five years is like tomorrow, right? It’s really not very much time. It feels that way to me as I think about the future. One last question for you all, and then we’ll wrap this panel up. We’re talking about the future a little bit. Can you tell us about your plans for 2022, 2023? What have you got going on that you’re excited about? Tell us about your future plans, and anyone can start.
– [Savannah Smith] I can start. Yeah, my organization is still pretty new, so we’re figuring it out as we go, what we’re really capable of, or have the capacity to do. But in the next year, we’re hoping to bring somebody on part time as a staff. Right now, it really is just me and my co-founder. So it’s a lot of work on our plates, but we’re hoping to bring on a part time staff. We are going to offer more summer camps, hopefully with the partners that we have this year, like Young Women Empowered and Tacoma Boat Builders. We are going to do some beach restoration. We are hoping to start documenting stories about relationship to water and community with a project with youth documenting that through video and then sharing that out. We are also working closely with Maritime High School in Seattle to help with the curriculum — they have an inaugural cohort of 9th graders right now, and they’re thinking about what the progression of the students’ learnings will be throughout their time in high school, so we’re working closely on that. And we are working to start a maritime recruitment program or internship program in Tacoma, working with the Tacoma Maritime Innovation Incubator and Tacoma Public Schools as well. So those are some things right now, but there’s always things that seem to be popping up, and we’re really excited knowing how much success we’ve had this year.

[Laura Rodriguez] Exciting! Thank you so much for sharing. Who will go next?

– [Nikki Pitre] I can go. I’ll share a little bit more about the work of [Indigenous program name] and what we have in store. So we are very excited to equip Native youth to advocate and mobilize across their communities for the protection of traditional lands, waterways, and sacred sites. We’re going to expand out our culturally-immersive curriculum, prioritizing intergenerational learning spaces, and prioritizing traditional ecological knowledge over Western education, and [Indigenous program name] will directly support community members, like-minded organizations in addressing environmental disruption in the Midwest areas. And so as we’re looking ahead, we want to be able next year to launch [Indigenous program name] in a good way with solid investment and then additionally continue to inspire Native youth throughout the country to really take lead in ownership in restoring that norm of being a steward of the earth, and to be able to normalize that concept through programs and opportunities that we’re offering at the Center for Native American Youth. We’re going to continue with our Indigenous evaluation methodologies, making sure that we are always prioritizing our traditional ways of knowing and our evaluation metrics through cultural competencies and Indigenous methodologies.

– [Laura Rodriguez] Thank you, Nikki, for sharing. Lyrica, bring us home!

– [Lyrica Maldonado] Yeah, I think maybe similar to what Savannah had shared, Uplift is still pretty small. And also we left our parent nonprofit to be entirely youth-led in the very beginning of 2020. So this year is really exciting because we were a staff of two last year. This year, we’re a staff of four. And so next year, I think we’re hoping to hire on hopefully two more coordinator positions to sort of round out our team right now. Something that we’re just now beginning that we’re really excited to continue doing is mutual aid and wealth redistribution in our region, specifically supporting frontline Black and Indigenous young folks who are doing climate and community organizing in the region. So this year, we were able to redistribute or support ten young climate activists in our region with small micro grants, and we’re hoping to make that more of a priority next year. I think overall, Uplift is having these internal conversations talking about how we really want to be supporting young people in our region and also how we really want to be engaging in the grassroots and mutual aid work. So, talking about how we move money, how we approach money, and even what is our relationship as an autonomous org to — the nonprofit industrial complex has been a big conversation of ours. That’s one thing. We’re also going to be expanding upon our Indigenous Youth Fellowship/Co-Director position to better support specifically young Indigenous people in our region who are doing decentralized organizing in our community. So they’re not necessarily supporting Uplift or engaging in direct Uplift programming, we’re just trying to figure out how to support decentralized organizing through fellowship positions and through other programs such as that. And then we’ve also been on this sweet sort of track of creating zines. I’d love to drop a zine in the chat when I have a moment, but we’re wanting to also up our grassroots media components of our work around zines and artworks and so forth. Yeah, thank you all!

– [Laura Rodriguez] Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing, and it’s so exciting to hear about everything that you’ve got going on, and will be getting into next year. You’ve shared so many rich and inspiring thoughts over the course of just a quick 30 minutes or so, right? I want to just ask everyone in the audience, maybe we can’t see you, but please, let’s see those heart emojis, those finger snaps, whatever you want to do to offer a virtual round of applause and gratitude to Lyrica, Savannah, and Nikki. (applause and cheers) It’s so clear that groups like Uplift Climate, Sea Potential, and Center for Native American Youth are leading the way, and that it’s so necessary for philanthropists to support them and groups like these with trust-based relationships. I want to say thank you so much to each of you once again for sharing your insights and your time with us today. We appreciate you so much. And with that, I’m going to pass it back to Efraín. Thank you.

[Efraín Delgado] Wow. What a wonderful panel. There’s a lot to sit with, a lot to take in, and many clear paths toward action, with several of the nuggets of knowledge that were shared by the panelists. Thank you so much, y’all! We want to offer a deep thanks to Savannah Smith, Lyrica Maldonado, and Nikki Pitre for sharing their insights with us, and thank you Laura for helping navigate this important discussion. Our next speaker is none other than our very own President and CEO Kim Moore Bailey. Let me take a moment and share a little bit about Kim. With over 25 years of experience in strategic planning and community engagement, Kim Moore Bailey provides the leadership and vision that drives Justice Outside’s work, shifting resources to, building power with, and centering the voices and leadership of Black, Indigenous and people of color to advance racial justice and equity in the outdoor and environmental movement. As President and CEO, Kim guides the overall strategic direction of the organization and supports the leadership team as they manage the organization’s grantmaking portfolio, training and capacity-building programs, and ongoing advocacy work. Kim is also the guiding force behind the creation of the Liberated Paths grantmaking program, which I am very fortunate to be working with on a day to day basis. And today she’ll share some reflections as well as some exciting news. And so with that, I’ll hand off the space to Kim.

– [Kim Moore Bailey] Hi, everyone, and thank you so much, Efraín, for setting the table for this next part of our conversation. I also want to share that I’m sitting in downtown Oakland, and it’s become a little noisy, so please bear with me if you start to hear sirens or what sounds like some construction. I am really feeling the power and connection from that panel as I imagine all of you are, as well, as I saw the chat just light up. But if you’ll join me and let’s just take one more moment to share our thanks in the chat to the extraordinary grantees who just led that discussion. And again, it was Lyrica Maldonado from Uplift Climate, Savannah Smith, the Co-Founder of Sea Potential, and Nikki Pitre, the Executive Director at the Center for Native American Youth. And I also want to thank our own Laura Rodriguez, again, for so skillfully moderating that rich discussion.

In addition, on behalf of the board and staff of Justice Outside, I’d like to offer special thanks to the North Star and Trailhead sponsors for today’s event, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Environmental Stewardship Fund, Marin Community Foundation, Northlight Foundation, Pisces Foundation, REI Co-op, and The Satterberg Foundation. Thank you to these organizations for your leadership in supporting today’s important conversations.

I am struck by some of the insights shared today in the panel discussion, and I heard several themes that tie into what we are aiming for in our Liberated Paths grantmaking program. We’ve heard about the work on the ground from these organizations led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color, and how that work continues to our broader environmental and racial justice movements. As Nikki said from the Center for Native American Youth, our people have always been here. Native people are the first stewards of this land. When looking for solutions for addressing climate change, what they’re doing is supporting youth in leading policy change to protect our land, water, and environment. And we heard Lyrica, who spoke about how Uplift Climate is engaged in supporting frontline youth advocating for their communities in this climate crisis. They pointed out that their climate change is a justice issue. Their work is housed within broader social movement ecology, which includes housing justice, prison abolition, and more interconnected social and racial issues. Savannah, again, our founder of Sea Potential, brought it home by sharing that community is the priority, and that is the key to justice-centered environmentalism. We heard about our panelist successes and how we can all do a better job at aligning our definitions of success to best support our grantees. Lyrica talked about how a key measure of success lies in how the work is accomplished. For Uplift Climate, the focus is on restoring relationships and connections between participants and the organization, between young people and their peers, and between people and the land. As she so eloquently put it, the path towards liberation must be liberating in and of itself. We sometimes hear people talking about diversifying the environmental movement when, in fact, Black, Indigenous, and people of color have always understood the importance of protecting our lands and waters.

For us, the connection to the outdoors is at the intersection of our identities and what we value in this world. In fact, this is one of the reasons I have been so passionate about our work at Justice Outside. From our Outdoor Educators Institute to the Rising Leaders Fellowship, and now, including our Liberated Paths grantmaking program, we have worked to elevate and leverage support and be in community with this leadership that has always been there. When you think about who has access to greater opportunity and resources, you realize you’re having a conversation about race. If we can honestly address and ultimately uproot the many ways racism functions in our society, then real change can take place. Liberated Paths was created to affirm and build on the rich history of connection to nature that communities of color have experienced for centuries. This is about meeting the accessibility needs of our communities right now, and it’s about trusting the leadership of BIPOC-led organizations to know what’s needed right now.

And speaking about meeting the needs of our community, we also have some big news to share today. First, I’d like to share about the extraordinary growth of Liberated Paths. In our inaugural year of 2020, we were able to award nearly $340,000 to 17 grantees. This year, thanks to our current and new funders, we’re excited to announce the expansion of our program into California and awards totaling $1 million to 52 grantees. But that’s not the only good news I have to share. In 2022, Liberated Paths will be coming to the East Coast. So in addition to our grantees in the Western region of the US, we anticipate partnering with approximately 30 grantees on the East Coast. We’ll be centering our work in the Delaware River watershed, which includes parts of Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York. We are very grateful to the William Penn Foundation, whose lead support is making this new geographic expansion possible.

So to put it all together, with Liberated Paths we celebrate the leadership of communities of color by trusting that they have the solutions to some of our most pressing climate and social problems. We see the unparalleled value that their vision and leadership has in charting a better future for the environmental movement and the planet. We are here to provide resources and shift power to further the vision of the leaders we partner with, just like you heard from our panelists. And we hope that you will consider joining us as a funder of Liberated Paths, and as a supporter of these and all of our grantees. So thank you. I thank you each, for showing up for this necessary conversation. Thank you for supporting the tremendous growth of Liberated Paths grantmaking program. Our liberation is bound up in each other. Let’s collectively commit to supporting the leadership of Black, Indigenous, and people of color. I’m going to pass the mic back to Efraín, who will host a short community building session before we wrap up at half past the hour. I hope you join in. Thank you, again!

In addition to this transcript, we offer this recording, which is the same excerpt of the full event, featuring the grantee panel plus Kim Moore Bailey’s remarks.

Justice Outside envisions a just world where Black, Indigenous, and Communities of Color experience safety, health, and abundant joy in the outdoors and with each other. Now entering its second year, our Liberated Paths Grantmaking Program provides financial support and capacity-building to grantees working at the intersection of racial justice and the environmental sector. Liberated Paths shifts resources to programs that are rooted in Communities of Color, with leaders that have the lived experience to understand what approaches will work the best for their communities. We invite you to join in to this work as a funder, supporter or ally. For more information, contact Robert Sindelar at robert@justiceoutside.org.