February Grants Awarded!

Historic Win For Oceans Conservation

History was made on October 30th with the designation of the first ever large-scale marine protected area in the high seas. The Ross Sea, known as the “Last Ocean” because of its status as the most pristine shallow sea left on earth, is now the world’s largest marine protected area. The designation, agreed upon by the 25 members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), safeguards 1.55 million km2 and protects populations of ecologically important species such as Weddell seals, Antarctic toothfish, and a unique type of killer whale. This protected status bans commercial fishing across roughly three-quarters of that area, with a small amount of fishing for research purposes allowed throughout the protected area. The designation is groundbreaking not only because of the size of the reserve, but because it is the culmination of years of difficult international negotiations to protect previously unregulated waters on the high seas.

This decision follows years of hard work by participating governments and NGO’s, including Greenpeace and Antarctic Ocean Alliance, two organizations supported with funds provided through the discretionary grants program of The Overbrook Foundation. Conservationists and nonprofits hope this designation will serve as a precedent for many other significant victories for ocean protection. Two additional proposals for marine protected areas in East Antarctic waters and the Weddell Sea are still being discussed, and those involved in the designation of the Ross Sea area are confident these areas will be protected in the coming years. The agreement will take effect in December 2017, and will last an initial 35 years for most of the reserve.

A Movement Without Letters

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.

Overbrook on Governor's Island!

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!


New York Harbor Foundation VP Matthew Haiken and Overbrook speak to one of the Harbor School’s teachers about his curriculum and student life at the School

New York Harbor Foundation VP Matthew Haiken and Overbrook speak to one of the Harbor School’s teachers about his curriculum and student life at the School

Executive Director Murray Fisher giving Overbrook a tour of the School’s Governors Island campus

Executive Director Murray Fisher giving Overbrook a tour of the School’s Governors Island campus

Harbor School’s Aquaculture Program Director Pete Malinowski shows Overbrook’s Directors some oysters from the Project’s on-site oyster nursery

Harbor School’s Aquaculture Program Director Pete Malinowski shows Overbrook’s Directors some oysters from the Project’s on-site oyster nursery

Appeals Court Hears Case of Purvi Patel

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.

Updates to The Overbrook Foundation Website

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.