COMMUNITY CONVERSATIONS ABOUT
JUSTICE AND EQUITY IN MAINE
Welcome to Maine Initiatives. INTRODUCTION 5
THE PROCESS 6
As Executive Director of Maine Initiatives, I am fortunate to be able to MAINE INSIGHTS 8
spend time meeting with community organizers, activists, and donors—
people actively engaged in making our communities more just and
equitable. So often I find myself in a conversation about values: what
motivates someone to support progressive action in Maine;
what drives them–and us–to dedicate so much personal and professional energy to
These conversations are generative: connection, capacity, and power are all created
when you hear someone else articulate a deeply held conviction of your own. This Maine
Insights report is a testament to that phenomenon, and we are pleased to share it with you.
Maine Insights brought together Mainers in twelve meetings throughout the state. This
report—what we heard and what we learned through this process—is a clarion call for
collective action around a shared vision for Maine that reflects greater justice, equity,
opportunity, and community.
This is the essential work of Maine Initiatives. We bring people together around shared
values; we identify, mobilize, and leverage the resources and assets of our community
in support of those values; and we build capacity for independent and collective action
advancing greater justice and equity in Maine.
In this spirit, I want to express my deep gratitude to all of the Mainers who shared their
homes, offices, and community spaces with us so that we could convene these
conversations. And to our Insights participants—thank you for your generosity with your
time, talent, expertise, wisdom, vision, and values. You, as members of the Maine Initiatives
community, embody our capacity for advancing social, economic and environmental
justice in Maine.
2 MAINE INSIGHTS
FINDINGS 10 ICSRSOUSESS-CUTTING 16 LOOKING FORWARD
ECONOMIC JUSTICE 12 SHIFTS IN THE 22 CTROAMNMSUFNOIRTMY ATIVE
RACIAL JUSTICE 14 MODEL IPNHMILAAINNTEHROPY 25
CLIMATE CHANGE RANACDIAELQJUUITSYTICE 26
MAINE INSIGHTS 3
When working toward justice
there is a temptation to think
that there are two teams—us,
and them. However, justice is
something that is for all of us.
We’re in this together.
4 MAINE INSIGHTS
We are pleased to share this report on Maine Insights, a project undertaken by
Maine Initiatives beginning in June of 2015.
As a progressive community-based foundation, we convened Mainers across the state for
conversations about our shared vision of social, economic, and environmental justice. We
invited our community members to engage in a dialogue around the issues they hold most
dear. Through twelve conversations across the state we guided over 175 participants
through facilitated discussions and documented what we heard.
We met community leaders, activists, advocates, nonprofit executives, organizers, students,
entrepreneurs, retirees, small business owners, elected officials, and citizens from all walks
of life. We were inspired by the range, depth, and clarity of vision and voice we heard in each
conversation, and by the passion for Maine we heard articulated in living rooms, conference
rooms, and church halls.
This report outlines the major themes that emerged from the Maine Insights process. You’ll
hear what participants had to say, in their own words, and the themes that emerged as
consensus priorities as we traveled across the state.
We present this report not as the conclusion or culmination of a process, but as a beginning.
This process—and the report you hold in your hands—will inform our work together
going forward as we contemplate our grantmaking, our work convening and engaging
the community, and our broader role of fostering informed, intentional, and collective
progressive philanthropy in Maine.
“Every step forward is a step in the right direction. We’ve been
resistant to change, and of not doing things perfectly. Choosing
to act in spite of our fears allows us to do the right thing now.”
MAINE INSIGHTS 5
It is a powerful, compelling experience to hear a deeply held belief or value of yours articulated by someone else, and in particular
by someone you don’t know. When that statement comes from a neighbor or a community member they can be even more inspiring.
With that frame, let’s walk through the Maine Insights process.
“Who are you in the community?”
We started each Maine Insights conversation by asking participants to share one word that
describes who they are in the community. The words we heard were thought provoking.
Organizer. Activist. Listener. Learner. Even Curmudgeon.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
We jumped into the conversation by asking people to reflect on this quote from abolitionist
Theodore Parker, brought to our contemporary discourse by Dr. Reverend Martin Luther
King, Jr., and, more recently, President Barack Obama, and to ask where are we on this arc
today in Maine?
What is one insight As you look around,
you have about in your community
social, economic, or across Maine,
and environmental what are the most
justice in pressing justice and
Maine today? equity opportunities
or issues you
6 MAINE INSIGHTS perceive?
“I love the idea of a progressive philanthropic organization
hosting intimate, relevant, and stimulating community
conversations around the state. We need more of these
conversations to occur.”
What is one thing
we must do to
and equity in
Maine in the next
12 to 24 months?
MAINE INSIGHTS 7
“There is a lot of divide-and-conquer rhetoric in Maine. It needs
to be transformed to WAITT dialogue: We’re All In This Together.”
Rooted in the notion that we, individually Throughout this process we listened to a and progress. Participants expressed
and collectively, are the agents of the diverse range of voices. We heard from profound concern that our state is
change we seek in our communities, the children as young as nine who are worried becoming increasingly fragmented across
Maine Insights process engaged and about pollution and access to clean water. many fault lines: geography, class, politics,
connected people around the state through We listened as retirees told us about identity, demographics, etc.
facilitated conversations about our shared intergenerational poverty. We heard moving
vision for advancing social, economic, and testimonies from recent immigrants sharing As participants shared concerns about
environmental justice in Maine. their dreams and aspirations for their lives systemic inequality in every sector:
as Mainers. As we traveled across the state healthcare, education, criminal justice,
It was part listening tour. It is central to we found that, although each conversation housing, and employment, and broader
our success that we understand and was unique in its articulation of distinct concerns about entrenched racism, sexism,
address the concerns of our stakeholders. ideas and concerns, we were able to and homophobia, they also affirmed
Through Maine Insights, we set out to identify overarching themes and messages that ours is a community of practical,
identify the justice and equity themes, that clearly resonate across differences in compassionate, and altruistic individuals
opportunities, and challenges that are age, social class, race, gender, and other eager for connections to others that can
most resonant across our state. seeming divides. advance social change.
It was also a community conversation. Across all conversations we heard a While the problems are complex, the
Maine Insights brought people together desire and demand for collective action solutions proposed by our participants are
around shared values, fostering new around our shared values and concerns. ultimately simple: we must come together
connections and relationships that increase Despite our reputation as a state of rugged to act on our shared values.
our individual and collective capacity to individualists, we heard a consistent call
advance justice and equity in Maine. for unity, inclusiveness, opportunity,
8 MAINE INSIGHTS
Social, economic, and environmental justice are connected:
we can’t have one without the other two.
Three issues, in particular, emerged as defining themes:
ECONOMIC INEQUALITY RACIAL JUSTICE CLIMATE CHANGE
“Maine seems to be following the rest “Maine’s reputation as the most “Our shared vulnerability in the face of
of the nation into deeper division along racially homogenous state makes climate change may bring out our worst
socio-economic lines.” some people think racism needn’t selves in the name of self-protection,
–INSIGHTS PARTICIPANT be addressed here. As we know, the without strong, capable, wise leadership
state is changing and racism must and highly-skilled community organizers
be addressed in Maine.” and spaces to build connections.”
–INSIGHTS PARTICIPANT –INSIGHTS PARTICIPANT
MAINE INSIGHTS 9
The increasing gap between
the wealthy and the poor
makes progress toward
justice increasingly elusive,
but not impossible.
14.8% Across the state, economic justice emerged and education, gentrification, and the
as a predominant theme in every Maine need for more affordable housing.
of Mainers live in poverty Insights conversation. Economic disparities,
including 1 in every 5 children.1 economic dislocation, and uneven access Participants recognized that in the face of
to economic opportunity were the most rising economic inequality, it is becoming
50% common issues and concerns. ever more difficult to effectively address
these issues—a reality that is both financial
One of every two black and African Participants highlighted economic justice and relational. Concern was raised that
American Mainers and one-third challenges that they viewed as particularly Maine’s public agencies and programs
of Maine’s Native Americans live in pertinent to Maine’s communities: dedicated to supporting the poor have been
poverty. The poverty rate for these intergenerational and rural poverty, hindered by policy and politics, driving
groups topped 50% in 2013, the food insecurity, the isolation of elders, those who are struggling economically to
highest in the nation. The national persistent income disparities for women, increasingly look to the nonprofit sector
average rate is 27.6%.2 and the unique economic opportunities for support. At the same time, participants
10 MAINE INSIGHTS and challenges facing recent immigrants. worried about an increased demonization
They advocated for fair wages and paid of the poor and a fraying of the social and
family leave, expressing concerns about political fabric that permits us to support
unemployment, the cost of healthcare our neighbors in need.
We heard deep concern about economic through an inspiring combination of advocating for economic justice and equity
justice in Maine and a clear commitment individual and collective action. for all Mainers.
to making our communities more just and
equitable. In the face of grim statistics about Food AND Medicine: In a victory for In these examples, communities have come
the challenges of poverty and economic individuals and families in poverty, Food AND together to identify and mobilize their
uncertainty, we also heard from participants Medicine has created a fund that permits existing resources to create collaborative
stories of hope and inspiration: SNAP recipients in Bangor and Brewer to solutions. In so doing they demonstrate
receive a 50% discount at local farmers that we have the collective capacity to work
Poverty Action Coalition: Citizens of markets, dramatically increasing access together, end poverty and hunger, and build
Waterville are confronting poverty with an to healthy food while supporting the local bridges to economic opportunity. Maine
abundance mentality: coming together agriculture movement. Initiatives remains committed to supporting
through the Community Investors initiative projects like these.
to identify and meet critical financial needs In addition, we heard strong support for
of neighbors experiencing financial hardship organizations that are organizing and
“Economic inequality means taxes increasingly vilified, our
safety net shrunk, increasingly concentrated wealth and
income, increasing barriers to education, and debt rather
than equitable pay.”
EXEMPLARY ORGANIZATIONS SERVING ECONOMIC JUSTICE IN MAINE
Maine Center for Economic Policy | www.mecep.org
Maine Equal Justice Partners | www.mejp.org
Maine People’s Alliance | www.mainepeoplesalliance.org
Southern Maine Workers’ Center | www.maineworkers.org
1 US Census Data, 2016.
2 Maine Center for Economic Policy, “Census Bureau Data: Poverty Among Blacks and African Americans in Maine is the Highest in the Nation,” 2014.
MAINE INSIGHTS 11
and future is blocked by
our inability to talk and
discuss race and racism
truthfully and openly.
80% Our communities are only as just and some quarters about the New Mainer
equitable as we demand that they be, as communities: immigrants, refugees, and
Maine’s communities of color we make them. And in every one of our asylees. Others highlighted the daily
grew by 80% between 2000 and conversations, Maine Insights participants experience of African American
2010, and every single county expressed concern that our communities communities with generational legacies
in the state saw double-digit fall short of our shared vision of racial in Maine who are still perceived and
growth in populations of color. justice and racial equity. treated as outsiders. Still others placed
Cumberland, Androscoggin, the conversation about racial justice firmly
and Oxford Counties increased We heard about persistent and pernicious in the context of the long arc of history
by 99% or more.3 racism: implicit, explicit, institutional, in acknowledging the primacy of the tribal
structural, and systemic. We learned communities in any conversation about
Several Maine cities have alarming about disparities in access to healthcare, race, justice, and equity in Maine.
arrest rate disparities for people education, and justice, and unequal
of color: in South Portland, black opportunities for communities of color. Participants also expressed concern
and African Americans are 3.5 that Maine, as the state with the largest
times more likely to be arrested Some participants raised questions of majority white population in the nation,
than whites; in Bangor, 3.2 times; racial justice in the context of the changing is under-prepared to confront and
in Lewiston, 2.8 times; and in face of Maine and recent criticism from address these issues.
Portland, 2.6 times.4
12 MAINE INSIGHTS 3 Maine People’s Resource Center, “Maine Racial Justice Policy Guide,” 2011. 4 Maine ACLU, “Maine Police Departments Show Staggering Race Gaps In Arrests,” 2014.
The call to confront racism, xenophobia, priorities. We heard this from individuals, of organizations and funders working
and discrimination in Maine is clear, nonprofit leaders, and even funders, unsure together on immigrant, refugee, and asylee
but the path ahead is less well lighted. as to how to support progress and change rights. At the community level, we observe
on these issues. an inspiring breadth of creativity—through
It is clear that many individuals and performing and visual arts groups, youth-
organizations in our communities recognize At the same time, as we see an emerging led organizations and initiatives, legal
the urgency of addressing racial inequity consciousness of the importance of assistance programs—as Mainers embrace
as a root cause of injustice, though the engaging on questions of racial justice nontraditional approaches to address
complexity of these questions and the nationally, we see more energy emerging in racial inequity.
conversations required to address them Maine around these issues. Organizations
represent a challenge. The organizational and individuals working in Maine to build The consensus among our participants
and financial infrastructure for addressing cross-class and cross-cultural coalitions was that we must act to ensure that our
issues of racial inequity are less robust than for advancing racial justice indicate a shift. communities reflect the values of diversity,
those available for other justice and equity Another powerful trend is the rapid growth inclusion, equity, and opportunity for all.
“Maine as a collective used to be more compassionate to poor
people, until the face of poverty changed.” –INSIGHTS PARTICIPANT
EXEMPLARY ORGANIZATIONS SERVING RACIAL JUSTICE IN MAINE
American Civil Liberties Union of Maine | www.aclumaine.org
Four Directions Development Corporation | www.fourdirectionsmaine.org
Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project | www.ilapmaine.org
Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition | www.facebook.com/MEImmigrantRightsCoalition
Maine Inside Out | www.maineinsideout.org
Showing Up for Racial Justice | www.showingupforracialjustice.org
Somali Bantu Community Association of Lewiston/Auburn | www.sbcmala.org
MAINE INSIGHTS 13
15% Among the three predominant themes that implications of a changing climate and the
emerged from the Maine Insights process, social and economic dislocation likely to
Our state’s snowfall – an important climate change was unique. Although result from those changes.
part of our winter tourist economy it was not as frequently mentioned as
– has declined by 15% since the economic inequality and racial justice, the Concerns cited by participants included
late 1800’s.5 participants raising the issue of climate sea-level rise, shifts in farming zone
change were consistently among the most boundaries, declining forest health and
44% fervent advocates for any single issue. ecosystem impacts, ocean acidification and
Environmental justice advocates also acid rain, and unpredictable impacts on
Researchers forecast that stresses emphasized that climate-related problems public health.
on the natural environment will suffer from the misperception that they
change 44% of Maine’s landscape are less urgent. One participant from Blue Many participants described climate change
to a different kind of habitat. Hill summed it up this way: “I see our as being intersectional, acknowledging
This is the highest percentage community as a boat. And while social and a significant relationship between
of any state.6 economic issues are concerns on the boat, economic, social, and environmental
14 MAINE INSIGHTS climate change is a hole in the boat!” justice and expressing growing alarm that
the negative effects of climate change
Conversations about climate change will disproportionately affect the most
focused both on specific environmental vulnerable communities.
Opportunity This commitment has been reflected by From cleaning up hazardous waste sites
recent environmental victories in places that are stifling low income communities
Participants noted that, while climate like South Portland and Searsport and to passing pesticide-free ordinances that
change is a global concern, Maine has in coordinated inter-sectoral efforts to support Maine’s flourishing local and
been and has the potential to be a leader tackle these issues head-on, like the sustainable food movement, the work of
in environmental activism. The state’s recent Summit on Maine’s Economy and Maine’s environmental advocacy groups
longstanding history of conservationism Climate Change, which brought together fit increasingly in the realm of economic
and environmental stewardship is a representatives from the state’s Chambers and social justice. This strategic placement
proud and important legacy, and Mainers of Commerce, nonprofit organizations, signals an exciting opportunity for even more
have demonstrated their individual and business sector, and farms and fisheries.7 coordinated justice and equity initiatives.
collective commitment to a better
Climate change and its
extremes will impact those
least able to adapt to it.
EXEMPLARY ORGANIZATIONS SERVING THE ENVIRONMENT IN MAINE
Environmental Health Strategy Center | www.ourhealthyfuture.org
Environment Maine Research and Policy Center | www.environmentmaine.org
Maine Conservation Alliance | www.protectmaine.org
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association | www.mofga.org
Toxics Action Center | www.toxicsaction.org
5 The University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute: “Maine’s Climate Future: Update 2015,” 2015.
6 Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences: “Climate Change and Biodiversity in Maine: A Climate Change Exposure Summary for Species and Key Habitats,” 2013.
7 The Kennebec Journal: “Challenges, opportunities of climate change in Maine,” 2015.
MAINE INSIGHTS 15
More than 6 in 10 low-wage workers As is the case in any wide-ranging participants to rank the issues that were
in Maine are women, and 62% of conversation, Maine Insights participants perceived to be of greatest opportunity
those women over the age of 25 are brought many justice and equity issues, and urgency. The following represents
single heads of household.8 insights, and concerns to the table. In the themes that we heard emerge as
16 MAINE INSIGHTS each community conversation, we asked top priorities.
WOMEN AND GENDER EQUALITY
“Poverty is a women’s issue. 58% of focus on equity, opportunity, and success
Maine women who are single heads of for Maine’s women and girls is a critical
household with children under five live concern for our stakeholders. The Maine
in poverty, versus 47% nationally. This Women’s Policy Center recently published
means that their children live in poverty, a report8 that identifies four priority areas
and the effects are widespread, deep, for women and girls in Maine: economic
and long-lasting.” security, civil rights, freedom from violence,
–INSIGHTS PARTICIPANT and access to healthcare and reproductive
rights. All of these issues were raised as high
It is clear that a consistent and intentional priorities in the Maine Insights process.
True justice can only
be achieved when
everyone works together.
GOOD LGBTQ AND ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE,
GOVERNANCE AND TRANSGENDER MENTAL HEALTH AND
CLEAN ELECTIONS CIVIL RIGHTS ADDICTION SERVICES
“We must strategize together for a “As a young queer woman in Maine, “A lot of our public health issues are tied
long-term vision for Maine. It should I wonder how we can make every part to other questions, including the
be connected to solid electoral policy, of Maine—not just Portland—a safe and disconnectedness and isolation a lot
education, and civic participation.” welcoming home for LGBTQ folks.” of people feel. I’m interested in how we
–INSIGHTS PARTICIPANT –INSIGHTS PARTICIPANT rebuild our social fabric and confront
mental health and addiction from that
When the Maine Insights process kicked off LGBTQ issues in Maine were among the position of strength.”
in 2015, many participants were engaged in most interesting and complex. Many –INSIGHTS PARTICIPANT
a ballot initiative to increase transparency participants cited the successful passage
in campaign finance and strengthen our of marriage equality in 2012—and Maine’s Maine’s vulnerable populations die at
state’s landmark Clean Election Act. On distinction as the first state to affirm significantly higher-than-average rates from
Election Day, the grassroots work of Maine marriage equality through the popular vote, preventable chronic illnesses such as heart
Citizens for Clean Elections (MCCE) paid off. led by Equality Maine—as a major victory disease, asthma, and diabetes. Deep cuts
Over 1,000 volunteers collected signatures for justice and equity. Perhaps as a result, to public programs, especially services for
in support of Question 1, which passed by some participants ranked general LGBTQ the mentally ill, laid heavy on many minds.
a double-digit margin. issues as low justice and equity priorities. In particular, many participants expressed
concern about Maine’s heroin epidemic,
Even after this decisive victory—the act In contrast, specific concerns were raised including record numbers of overdose
became law in late December of 2015—we about rural, youth, and elderly LGBTQ deaths in 2015.9
heard strong support from participants for populations and the importance of
increased transparency and accountability transgender equity across the state. Indeed, Participants agreed: It doesn’t have to
in politics and government. We also heard twice participants identified “Transgender be this way. We heard a call for programs
admiration for MCCE, their approach to Rights” as a stand-alone issue and placed it and opportunities that address public
organizing, and support for similar citizen- at the top of the priority list. “This is the fight health crises and focus on education
empowering grassroots ballot initiatives. we’re in now,” the groups explained. and prevention.
8 Maine Women’s Policy Center: “Building a Prosperous Maine: A Roadmap to Economic Security for Women and their Families,” 2014.
9 The Bangor Daily News: “AG: Maine on track to see record overdose deaths,” 2015.
MAINE INSIGHTS 17
There is no guarantee that the
moral arc of the universe will bend
toward justice. It is our job to make
it so. We have to pay attention, stay
connected in our communities and
find our common values.
18 MAINE INSIGHTS
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM EDUCATION
“As the national conversation about “We must increase access to quality 26%
mass incarceration gains momentum, education throughout the state.”
Maine is ripe to name and implement –INSIGHTS PARTICIPANT of transgender adults have lost a
alternatives that achieve true justice, job due to bias, 50% have
and to be a model for the nation.” Education was frequently cited as a experienced harassment while
–INSIGHTS PARTICIPANT critical building block for many of the working, and 20% have been
justice and equity challenges we face evicted or denied housing.
We were not surprised to hear from in Maine. Participants expressed support Trans women see their incomes
our stakeholders that criminal justice for well-funded, high-quality early care decrease by 30% on average,
reform is central to a just and equal and education, K-12, higher education, post-transition.10
society. Participants spoke out about and career training programs across the
mass incarceration, the privatization of board. Parents shared their concerns $27B
“Supermax” prisons, reducing solitary about achievement and attainment gaps,
confinement, preventing the school-to- funding disparities and quality differentials In 2015, Maine’s Department of
prison pipeline and the revolving door across Maine’s many school districts; Justice spent nearly a third of its
for young offenders, reducing mandatory participants talked about their desire $27 billion budget on prisons.11
minimums, increasing safety and to keep more qualified young people in
guaranteeing basic rights for prisoners, the state for college and after graduation.
and eliminating racism and bias in We heard participants loud and clear:
arrests and court trials. education is a cornerstone of progress.
Participants noted connections between
criminal justice reform and other justice
and equity issues, including racial justice,
economic justice, women’s equality, LGBTQ
equality, mental health and addiction,
and more. We heard a compassionate call
for human-centered programs, such as
the Restorative Justice Institute of Maine
and the Restorative Justice Project, and
alternatives to incarceration that work,
including rehabilitation, education, and
10 The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force: “The National Transgender Discrimination Survey,” 2012.
11 The Portland Press Herald: “Maine Voices: Criminal justice system needs fix,” 2015.
MAINE INSIGHTS 19
SHIFTS IN THE MODEL
Throughout all of our conversations we heard threads addressing topics beyond the scope of any one justice or equity priority, including:
YOUTH SCARCITY VS COMMUNITY
ENGAGEMENT ABUNDANCE FRAGMENTATION
“There is great hope and possibility “We are collectively limiting our ability to “We have to destroy the concept of
within our youth to take the reins move towards a just and fair society by ‘from away.’ It fuels the concept of
of leadership. They are energetic, our shared agreement to believe in the other and divides our community.”
courageous, fearless and they are mythology of scarcity.” –INSIGHTS PARTICIPANT
our future.” –INSIGHTS PARTICIPANT
–INSIGHTS PARTICIPANT It is clear that while we strive to talk about
While there wasn’t universal agreement “one Maine”, we are increasingly pitted
Twenty-three years after the founding on this point, a small but vocal subset of against each other through geographical,
of Maine Initiatives, we can attest to participants felt strongly that we need demographic, and ideological divides:
the eagerness within our community to to reject the narrative of scarcity and “from away” vs. Mainer, Greater Portland
embrace a new generation of leaders in the deficiency that is often used to characterize vs. the rest of Maine, minority vs. majority,
progressive movement in Maine. We heard our communities. They asserted that etc. Opportunity arose in our conversations
a clear call for organizations and cause- politicians create false dichotomies around a systemic breakdown of these
related efforts to make room for youth not to pit groups against each other, and divisive dichotomies—if the progressive
only to participate, but to take leadership that a narrative of scarcity is used more community can model a conversation
roles in creating real and meaningful generally to impede social progress. Other and movement around shared values
change. New trends in intergenerational participants noted our communities’ own and coalition, perhaps we can piece back
organizing, and preparing young inaction in the face of opportunities, citing together one united Maine.
activists to take the reins permeated deficiency and scarcity while overlooking
every conversation. available resources and untapped
potential within their own communities.
20 MAINE INSIGHTS
There are many visionary young
people in Maine who care deeply
about justice and need more
meaningful opportunities to
develop their leadership and
critical thinking about justice
MAINE INSIGHTS 21
22 MAINE INSIGHTS
A VISION OF TRANSFORMATIVE
COMMUNITY PHILANTHROPY IN MAINE
“We must build a platform for the voices of those who are
currently under- or un-represented to speak for themselves
on issues of economic, racial, and social justice.”
MAINE INSIGHTS 23
We may not share the same
opinions, but we have the same
fundamental values. I want my
kids to be healthy and safe, and
for them to know justice. We
have to work together for that
24 MAINE INSIGHTS
Transformative Community Philanthropy in Maine
Throughout the Maine Insights process we On one hand, this means money: since It is our charge and our commitment
heard a clarion call for greater collective 1993 we have made over $3.5 million to unleash this potential:
action in support of shared values. People in grants to grassroots community
across Maine expressed concern that we organizations that have achieved lasting, Through a practice of community
are becoming increasingly polarized: in our measurable victories for justice and equity philanthropy that is not merely
discourse, our politics, who we talk to, who in our state. While money mobilized is about money, but about people –
we hear from, who we value. In many arenas one measure of our success, our vision of their knowledge, experience,
we see increasingly stark lines being drawn transformative community philanthropy relationships, resources, values,
between who is “us” and who is “them.” goes beyond money. and time;
Amidst these feelings of polarization and It is fundamentally about people: bringing By engaging and connecting people
division came a powerful clamor for greater to bear our collective values, vision, and on the issues that matter to them and
community; affirmation that we can still resources on issues of justice and equity to their communities with intention,
come together around shared values and in our state. with information, and with others.
act – independently and collectively – in
support of those values. In this context, the Maine Insights process is This is our vision of transformative
a cornerstone of our work moving forward. community philanthropy.
This is our work. This process of community outreach and
engagement affirms that there exists in our As we pursue this vision, we do so
Maine Initiatives is a fund for change. community great untapped and unrealized within the context of the themes
But more than a fund, we are a network potential. Potential for: that have emerged through the
of individuals – donors, activists, citizens – Maine Insights process. While all
supporting greater social, economic, and Individuals to bring about positive of the themes raised through
environmental justice in Maine through change in their communities; this process fit within the broad
informed, intentional, and collective scope of Maine Initiatives’ mission,
action. Together, we identify, mobilize, and Communities to embody greater we will prioritize an emphasis on
leverage the resources of our community social, economic, and environmental racial justice and equity.
in support of greater justice and equity for justice; and
All Mainers to be agents of change
in our communities, to be progressive
MAINE INSIGHTS 25
Why Racial Justice
Racial injustice is woven into the
fabric of our nation. It is historical and
contemporary. It has social, economic,
and environmental expressions. And it
is something that can only be effectively
addressed through a combination of
individual and collective action.
While there is a great deal of collective
concern about racial justice and equity,
we also observe a sense of intractability
about the problem. People feel limited
individual capacity to have an impact
on issues of racial justice. Organizations,
coalitions, and even funders are often
reluctant or ill equipped to directly
engage with the topic.
Maine Initiatives seeks to address this
collective hesitancy, using our grantmaking,
programming, communications, and
convening power to build opportunities
for greater action on racial justice in Maine.
We will create space for individuals and
organizations to actively engage with these
issues and will highlight unheralded and
underfunded work already occurring in our
state that is having important impacts on
We are inspired and informed by
organizations whose work across many
different sectors—women’s equality,
tribal rights, immigrant issues, economic
empowerment, health, criminal justice,
youth activism and leadership—is
increasing racial justice in Maine. Our
efforts will highlight these success stories
and make room for deepening our
understanding of, and our commitment
to, racial justice and equity.
26 MAINE INSIGHTS
We need to nurture
experience and value
MAINE INSIGHTS 27
Three Challenges to Addressing Racial Justice and Equity:
As we address the issues of racial justice and equity through this lens, we also recognize the intricacy of these topics. The Maine Insights
conversations highlighted three challenges related to a communitarian approach to addressing racial justice and racial equity:
OWNERSHIP AGENCY OPPORTUNITY
Even within the progressive community, Even for those individuals committed Finally, even for a person committed to
there exists a sense that racism and racial to advancing racial justice, the issues of playing an activist role on racial justice in
injustice are primarily problems of a few racial justice and racial equity are often his or her community, there is not a clear
bad apples: racists. As such, the solution perceived as “original sins” of our nation, path to engagement and effectiveness.
to the problem is to “fix” the racists. This far beyond the ability of one individual For many other topics discussed, there
notion presents a problem of ownership in to address. Faced with a seemingly is robust scaffolding and infrastructure:
that it limits the role “non-racists” have in immovable part of our social, economic, organizations, coalitions, and funders for
fostering and advancing racial justice in our and historic fabric, the question becomes whom the issue is central to their mission.
communities, beyond rooting out racism. “what is one person to do?” For many, However, the multi-sectoral nature of
there appears to be no clear place of racial justice and equity pursuits makes
purchase for engaging on the issues of the development of structural support
racial justice and equity. networks an unwieldy endeavor.
28 MAINE INSIGHTS
We must ask:
Who speaks for issues of racial justice?
Who supports those voices? Who convenes
individuals and organizations advancing
racial equity? Who coordinates strategy?
Who funds this work? Who celebrates
Maine Initiatives is in a unique position to
create the space to ask and seek answers
to these questions. And we are committed
to doing so.
While we propose to address racial inequity,
we do recognize that it is one of the most
complicated justice issues facing our
communities, our state, and indeed our
nation. As such, we don’t expect to solve
the issues of racial injustice. Instead, we
expect to increase collective ownership
of this issue: engaging our full community
in the search for and support of the
solutions here in Maine.
This will be a complex process, one in which
we will need to address our discomfort with
risk taking, embrace the ideas of others,
and unify around a shared vision for Maine
and its people.
Will you join us?
MAINE INSIGHTS 29
There are many people in our
communities and our state who
are hungry for change and eager
to take collective action to move
us toward social, economic, and
30 MAINE INSIGHTS
Philip Walsh, Caitlin Gilmet, and
Design & Photography
Thanks to Maine Inside Out, Resident Association of Lewiston and Auburn for
Owned Neighborhood Associations of offering their community gatherings as
Maine, and the Somali Bantu Community subjects for our report photography.
We are grateful to our Maine Insights hosts: Lichtfield, and Coastal Enterprises, Inc.;
Charity West; Meri and Lee Lowry; Waterfall and Leslie Goode and the Blue Hill
Arts Center; Betsy Smith and Jennifer Public Library.
Hoopes; First Parish Church in Portland;
Tom and Cindy Longstaff; Drew Christopher Generous support from the Broad Reach
Joy and the Southern Maine Workers’ Fund and individual donors to Maine
Center; Pious Ali, Susan Roche and the Initiatives made this report possible.
Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project; Larry
Dansinger and the Peace & Justice Center of And to our Maine Insights participants,
Eastern Maine; Jennifer Goldman and Sarah individually and collectively:
Lewis; Rebecca Darr Lichtfield, Jeremy Thank you.
About Maine Initiatives environmental justice from the
is a community We are a public foundation.
of more than We make grants with the money we raise
2,000 individual donors and activists from the community, pooling large and
supporting greater social, economic, small donations from many supporters.
and environmental justice in Maine
through informed, intentional, and We are the people’s foundation.
collective philanthropy. We are a community of individuals
engaging and expressing their progressive
We are a progressive foundation. values with intention, with information,
We make grants to fund and strengthen and with each other.
nonprofit organizations that are
advancing social, economic, and
MAINE INSIGHTS 31
ABOUT JUSTICE AND EQUITY
PO Box 66 | 14 Maine Street, Brunswick, ME 04011 | (207) 607-4070