Following a daylong racial justice symposium at O’Maine Studios on June 13, Maine Initiatives threw its second annual Changemakers celebration to honor organizations working on various aspects of social justice around the state.

“These are organizations that are advancing racial justice in so many different ways,” said Andrea Berry, director of community engagement, of the Changemaker honorees. “These 20 organizations are changing our state.”

The organizations, which received grants of more than $2,500 each, included Black Artists Forum, Four Directions Development, Homeless Voices for Justice, Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, Portland Outright and Survivor Speak.

“Maine Initiatives is a progressive community-based foundation here in Maine,” said Executive Director Phil Walsh, explaining that the nonprofit raises funds from individual donors, pools those resources and distributes grants. Grantees are selected in a community-based process that includes 330 volunteers. “We believe that a better, more equitable, more just Maine is possible. We’re trying to experiment with a radically different approach to justice that gets at equity. It’s collective.”

“Maine Initiatives redistributes resources and power in an equity-driven, community-based, joyful way,” said Jessie Spector of Jefferson.

“They get people from all around the state to participate in conversation about what the pressing needs are, and from that process, racial justice emerged as their focus,” said Anne Hallward of Safe Space Radio. “They’re not only giving these organizations grants but helping to build their capacities and doing cross-learning.”

“Maine Initiatives really seeks out people of color and wants to teach us how to manage a nonprofit,” said David Thete of Portland-based grantee Kesho Wazo, which means “Tomorrow’s Ideas” in Swahili. “Through Maine Initiatives, we can reach these kids. We make clothing, music and fashion. It’s liberation, real liberation.”

“I’m excited to see conversation and action toward racial justice in Maine,” said DrewChristopher Joy, executive director of Southern Maine Workers’ Center, one of the grantees. “Maine Initiatives really supports all the organizations that are doing good work, no matter how small they are.”

Kathy Pollard spoke on behalf of Bangor-based grantee Gedakina, which revitalizes Native American cultural knowledge and conserves places of historical, ecological and spiritual significance. She said that Native Americans are growing food along the Sandy River in Starks on “land that was remembered with love and fondness,” despite not having access to it since a massacre in 1724. “We’re growing food out there for the first time in 300 years,” she said.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

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