Last month, the Stanford Social Innovation Review featured a piece written by Samantha Harvey, Overbrook’s Environment Program Officer and Program Manager for Building Equity and Alignment for Impact (BEA-I). The piece explores ways that funders can better support grassroots efforts through the lens of Harvey’s experiences with the BEA-I, an initiative designed to reach greater sustained success for the progressive movement by supporting equitable funding structures among grassroots groups, large NGOs, and philanthropy. To read, visit SSIR here.
The Foundation’s Staff and Directors had a chance to see a grantees’ work firsthand earlier this month when we held our June Board of Directors meeting at the Billion Oyster Project site. The Billion Oyster Project is located on Governor’s Island, where its staff is working to restore one billion live oysters to the New York Harbor in an effort to once again make it the most productive body of water in the North Atlantic. The Project operates in collaboration with the New York Harbor School, a public high school that instills environmental stewardship in its students through hands-on learning in marine sciences, conservation, and habitat restoration. Students at the Harbor School raise the oysters and help design and implement the restoration process, and have restored over eleven million oysters to the Harbor to date.
During our visit, Billion Oyster Project's team showed our Staff and Directors around the Harbor School and the Project site. The group got an inside look at the Harbor School's interdisciplinary approach to education through a tour of its classrooms and facilities. The tour concluded with an opportunity to see the nurseries where oysters ad raised, and to learn about the oyster life cycle and the complex process of restoring them to the Harbor. Our time on Governor's Island reminded us of the importance of New York's local marine ecosystem and of the fascinating work happening to return it to its original state. Thank you to the New York Harbor Foundation and Billion Oyster Project team for your warm welcome and for your amazing work!
On Monday, the Indiana Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the feticide and child neglect conviction of Purvi Patel. Patel, the first woman in the U.S. to be convicted for terminating her pregnancy, has served 14 months of a 20 year prison sentence. Since her arrest, reproductive justice advocates have argued vehemently that Patel and other women should not be prosecuted for their pregnancy outcomes.
Patel was arrested in 2013 after seeking emergency medical treatment following the loss of her pregnancy. Instead of treating her with respect and quality care, the attending doctor called the police, who interrogated and then arrested her while she was still in her hospital bed. She was later convicted of both neglect of a dependent and feticide (charges which Patel’s lawyers have argued are contradictory).
At Monday’s hearing, Patel’s lawyers argued that that the feticide law in Indiana was intended to protect pregnant women against attacks by third parties, not to prosecute women for having abortions, miscarriages, or stillbirths. The upholding of this conviction would set a dangerous legal precedent for feticide laws being used to punish pregnant women, not only for self-induced abortions but also for drinking, smoking, or any other conduct prosecutors could link to pregnancy outcomes. In addition to denying women their civil and human rights, this precedent may discourage any pregnant person from seeking important medical care during pregnancy or miscarriage. While the judges weighed these implications of the precedent in court on Monday, their standing on the case is still unclear.
The conviction, along with the 2011 Indiana case against Bei Bei Shuai and increasing laws policing reproductive rights, are evidence of the disproportionate criminalization and stereotyping of pregnant Asian American and Pacific Islander women and pregnant people of color in general. Miriam Yeung, executive director of Overbrook grantee National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, stated, “Asian American and Pacific Islander women are particularly vulnerable for being targeted because of myths and racist stereotypes about our reproductive decision-making.” The denial of Patel’s appeal would only compound the already staggering legal burden and lack of access to reproductive justice for communities of color.
Overbrook grantees National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum and National Advocates for Pregnant Women have been closely involved in advocating for Patel and mobilizing the public to support her appeal. Patel remains incarcerated while the Indiana Court of Appeals considers her case.
The Foundation website now includes important updates on its work over the past year. We have posted a recent message from the Chair and President, which includes information on changes made to the Foundation’s Board, its commitment to the Divest Invest Philanthropy initiative, and its recently completed strategic plan. The plan, which will be implemented in 2016 – 2018, reaffirms the Foundation’s mission and values, as well as its continued support of human rights and environmental conservation efforts as its core work. Central to the strategic plan is Overbrook’s strengthened commitment to its relationships with grantees and to the broader movements it supports. Partnerships with many current grantees will continue, and new initiatives will be carried out incrementally and assessed along the way. To read more about the Foundation’s renewed mission, please see its full strategic review.
The Foundation is pleased to announce its February 2016 grants to the following organizations.
The Human Rights Program awarded grants to 11 organizations:
The Environment Program awarded grants to 8 organizations:
Congratulations to these groups on their many achievements!
Last Thursday, indigenous activist and 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Berta Cáceres was assassinated in her home in La Esperanza, Honduras. Cáceres was co-founder of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), and an inspiring community leader to the region’s Lenca people. She led campaigns on a variety of environmental, indigenous, and women’s issues, including a decade-long fight against a proposal to dam the Gualcarque River, an important water resource considered sacred by the Lenca People.
The Honduran police initially reported the case as an attempted burglary, but the victim’s friends and peers are certain the murder was linked to Cáceres’ work as an activist. The tragedy occurred less than a week after she received death threats in relation to her efforts against the Gualcarque River damming project. The handling of the case has been emblematic of an escalating situation in the country with the most killings of environmental defenders in the world. The murder, and the long preceding history of impunity towards crime against activists in Honduras, has led to protests throughout the country and solidarity from around the world. Activists are calling for a thorough investigation of this murder and that those responsible are held accountable.
While Overbrook did not work directly with Ms. Cáceres, we are committed to supporting human rights defenders at risk due to their advocacy and we honor her leadership and activism. Many of our grantees were partners in her efforts to defend human and environmental rights, and the loss is felt deeply throughout the community. To learn more about Berta’s work and developments on her case, please see coverage by Overbrook grantees, or visit the website of her organization.