TBF News Grants Issue

header left

header right


Beyza (who asked that we not use her last name) is a former Turkish journalist who won an immigrant visa through the Department of State’s Green Card Lottery and now calls Boston home.


All Together Now

Beyza was working at a state-run television station in Istanbul, the city where she was born and had lived all of her life, when she unexpectedly won the State Department’s Green Card Lottery, also known as the Diversity Lottery, which offers 50,000 visas annually to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Now, she is a permanent resident here and looking forward to becoming a citizen. Asked what she would be doing if she were still in Turkey, she answers, “I think I would be in trouble.”

After Beyza left Turkey, there was a failed coup, which led to the arrests of military personnel and thousands of other people, including some journalists. “Journalism is a real passion for me,” she says, “but even when I was working there, there was government pressure over the media and you had to write in a certain way. I was self-censoring all the time.”

More than 200 Turkish journalists are in prison now, but Beyza is in Boston completing a Master’s degree in conflict resolution at UMass Boston. Now Boston feels like home to her. Even though she is Muslim and wears a hijab, she has not experienced any of the harassment that some Muslim women have reported. “I have had a one-hundred-percent positive experience,” she explains. “In fact, people go out of their way to smile at me and talk with me on the subway and in Starbucks. It’s very moving.”

She is concerned, however, that America is starting to remind her of Turkey. “People are being separated from each other by politics and hate,” she says. “I am afraid that what is happening here with Republicans versus Democrats or Muslims versus non-Muslims is too close to the kinds of experiences we had in Turkey, where people were divided as pro-government and anti-government—and neighbors were turning against neighbors.”

This summer, Beyza is interning with the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition, which received one of four emergency grants from the Boston Foundation in December in the wake of news reports about tensions over immigration and the vitriol directed at Muslims, immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community.

“Since 1915, when the Boston Foundation opened its doors, the first priority for the organization—and for other community foundations established in the early 20th century—was responding to the needs of immigrants who came to America’s burgeoning cities seeking opportunity and a better life,” says Paul S. Grogan, Boston Foundation President and CEO. “Today, we continue to support nonprofits that work on behalf of immigrants and other vulnerable populations.”

Immigrants Day

This year’s Immigrants’ Day at the State House was an emotional gathering, packed with immigrants, refugees and their numerous supporters.

“The Boston Foundation has been with us since the very beginning 30 years ago,” said MIRA’s Executive Director Eva Millona during Immigrants’ Day at the State House in April. “And it is still standing with us.”

Immigrants’ Day, which is organized by MIRA, is always an inspiring event well attended by immigrants and their supporters, but this year a record crowd packed the Hall of Flags, with speeches by Senate President Stan Rosenberg, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone and several immigrants, who told their own stories.




Elias Rosenfeld is organizing DACA students nationwide to protect their status.

One was Elias Rosenfeld, who came to the U.S. with his mother from Venezuela when he was only six years old, settling in Florida. Tragically, just a few years after they arrived, his mother died of cancer. “She had a work visa,” says Elias, “but I didn’t realize she hadn’t renewed it before she died. I found out when I was 15 and applied for a learner’s permit that I was undocumented.”

By that time, Elias already had developed a keen interest in government and public policy, so to discover that he was undocumented was, in his words, “shocking and heartbreaking.” It motivated him to launch an organization in his high school to lobby the Florida legislature for the rights of undocumented immigrants.

One result of his activism and initiative was a scholarship to Brandeis University—and so he moved to the Boston area to attend college, confident that he was protected under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. “After the presidential election, my goals changed drastically,” he says. Concerned about the rights of other college students like him, he founded a national grassroots coalition to protect, defend and lobby for the rights of some 800,000 DACA students, also known as “Dreamers.”

Rosenfeld conducts his activism in a continuing atmosphere of fear and anxiety. Although the Department of Homeland Security announced on June 15 that current DACA students would continue to be protected from deportation, the permanence of the program is anything but assured. “The administration will not cancel any current DACA permits,” he says, “but it has still not made a choice as to the long-term fate of the program or about new applicants. Thus again, we find ourselves in limbo.”





Janson Wu, Executive Director of GLAD, says that his organization is determined to protect the hard-won rights of theLGBTQ community.



In March, the Boston Foundation made another series of grants to protect our most vulnerable community members; this time focused on the legal rights of immigrants, Muslims and the LGBTQ community. One of the grantees was the Jewish Community Relations Council, (JCRC), which has a long history of supporting those whose rights are being threatened.

“As a result of the Foundation’s grant, we launched Alert2Action,” says JCRC’s Executive Director Jeremy Burton. The new platform alerts constituents about a range of important and timely issues—and makes it easy to send emails, call legislators and speak out on social media, all right from their smart phone.

“For decades, JCRC has stepped out in support of human rights, such as universal health care and marriage equality,” adds Burton. “Now, much of our focus is on supporting communities that are under stress, such as Muslims.” Burton has become good friends with Yusufi Vali, the Executive Director of another grantee, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, which is using the grant to run a series of “Know Your Rights” trainings.

GLAD, a nonprofit legal rights organization that advocates and defends members of the LGBTQ community, also received a legal grant. “There is a lot of fear in our community now,” says GLAD’s Executive Director Janson Wu. “People are afraid that some of the rights we’ve gained in recent years could be rolled back.” GLAD is using the funding to increase coverage for a hotline that routinely responds to a flood of calls from members of the LGBTQ community, including members of the transgender community who are rushing to secure documents that carry gender markers, such as passports and social security cards. The Boston law firm Ropes and Gray has provided GLAD with numerous pro bono lawyers to work with 300 people as a part of the effort.

“We are very proud that Boston has been a beacon for human rights around the world,” says Wu. “But while we have to protect the rights we’ve already won, we also have to keep advancing toward permanent justice for all LGBTQ people.”


Open Door Grants



Xunquan Gao is proud to welcome visitors to his new home.



Xunquan Gao and his wife decided to move from Guandong Province in China to the United States seven years ago so that they could offer their twin children, a boy and a girl, a better education and greater opportunity. Gao was a college-educated chemistry teacher in China and knew he would have little chance of finding similar work in the Boston area, where close relatives had settled. But he believes the sacrifice was well worth it. Today, he drives a van for the Chinese Golden Age Center and has achieved two major goals about which he is fiercely proud. Both of his children are in their second year of college—the son at UMass Amherst and the daughter at Macalester College in Minnesota. And, after moving to different rental apartments five times over the last seven years, he has finally purchased his first home. In his own words, “A dream come true.”


Gao was assisted by a program launched in 2000 by the Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC). The Comprehensive Housing Opportunities Program (CHOP) provides Chinese-language homebuyer workshops and other services to low-income families and individuals. The focus is on financial literacy, homeownership classes and housing counseling.

“I learned about it from a co-worker who attended the same program and purchased his first home,” says Gao. “Now I have done it too.” CHOP also offers one-on-one counseling and connects clients with banks that offer mortgage services in Mandarin and Cantonese.

The program, which Gao attended in Malden where he was living at the time, received a year of project support through the Boston Foundation’s Open Door Grants program, which was launched in 2016 to be responsive to needs expressed by the community as well as organizations and promising ideas that do not align with the Boston Foundation’s strategic grant making. (See more on the Foundation’s strategic grants below.)





Mystic River


Hundreds of children from six school districts took field trips to the Mystic River to learn about the great herring migration.

Another Open Door Grant went to the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) for its Herring Migration Project, which tracks one of the most fascinating wildlife migrations in Massachusetts. Two species of river herring—Alewife and Blueback Herring—spend most of their lives at sea and return to freshwater habitats to spawn, or lay eggs. Every year, the sleek swimmers travel in large schools from the ocean to the Mystic River to the Upper Mystic Lake. When the Mystic River reaches a warm enough temperature, typically in mid-April, the herring begin their annual journey to freshwater spawning grounds. An estimated 448,060 herring swam seven miles up the Mystic River to the Upper Mystic Lake in 2016.

“The Boston Foundation’s grant is helping hundreds of school children experience the migration,” says MyRWA Executive Director Patrick Herron. “These are children from Medford, East Boston, Somerville and other districts who often have no idea that this wildlife adventure is taking place so close to their homes and schools.” Students even help to count the fish through a sophisticated

online dashboard. (Go to 
www.mysticherring.org for more.)



Healthy Moms


Mothers and their children learn about fitness and nutrition through Healthy Moms Healthy Kids.

“Every mother wants to be healthy and every mother wants and needs their children to be healthy,” says Raheem Baraka, founder of Baraka Community Wellness. In 2016, an Open Door Grant went to Healthy Moms Healthy Kids, a program that helps mothers in Jamaica Plain, Lower Roxbury and Dorchester achieve both goals. It is designed to reduce instances of obesity, diabetes and hypertension in the mothers—all conditions that are at epidemic levels in low-income communities of color.

The program provides what Baraka calls “a safe place” for some 400 women to learn about nutrition and fitness through sessions led by registered nutritionists and certified trainers. “These mothers are raising the next generation with little access to high quality resources and instruction to help them understand how to go about living healthier lifestyles for themselves and their children,” adds Baraka. “That’s the problem we’re helping to solve with Healthy Moms Healthy Kids.”


The Boston Foundation’s Open Door Grants program was launched in 2016 to respond to needs expressed by the community as well as organizations and promising ideas that do not align with the Foundation’s strategic grant making.


Long Road to Justice






The exhibit tells the story of figures such as Judge George Lewis Ruffin who was the first African-American graduate of Harvard Law School.


In the early 1990s, the Honorable Julian T. Houston, then a Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court, was asked to give a talk before theSupreme Judicial Court Historical Society on the Quock Walker cases. The cases were a series of 18th century decisions initiated by a Massachusetts slave seeking freedom, which culminated in a 1783 decision of the Supreme Judicial Court that was widely considered to be responsible for the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts, making it the first state in the union to take such a step. The decision, written by Chief Justice William Cushing, cited language in the Commonwealth’s newly adopted Constitution of 1780, which declared: “All men were born free and equal.”

Judge Houston was intrigued by the widespread impact of the decision for African Americans in Massachusetts and began to explore the contributions of other African Americans to the Massachusetts court system. Soon he was captivated by the stories he uncovered. One was about George Lewis Ruffin, the first African American appointed to the Massachusetts judiciary and the first African-American graduate of Harvard Law School. Another was Edward Gourdin, the first African American to serve as Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court.

“Gourdin’s story is extraordinary,” says Houston. “In addition to his accomplishments on the bench, he was an athlete who broke the world’s record in the broad jump in 1921 while still an undergraduate at Harvard College. He went on to win the silver medal in that event at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, shortly after graduating from Harvard Law School.”

Houston’s compelling journey led to the creation of a remarkable exhibit called Long Road to Justice, which opened at Boston’s Edward Brooke Courthouse in 2000. The exhibit honors the struggles, sacrifices and successes of African Americans who have participated in the judicial process as history-making litigants, lawyers and judges over the course of three centuries. It traveled to courthouses and law libraries throughout Massachusetts for three years, then found a home at the George Lewis Ruffin Society, which is affiliated with Northeastern University.

Justice exhibit


“Long Road to Justice” honors the struggles, sacrifices and successes of African Americans who have participated in the judicial process as history-making litigants, lawyers and judges over the course of three centuries.




Since the exhibit first opened, Governor Deval Patrick made an unprecedented number of appointments of judges of color, including Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, the first African-American Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, and Justice Geraldine Hines, the first African-American woman on that court.

Now, in the wake of these and other developments that have occurred over the last 17 years, Houston and a group of supporters, including Hubie Jones, Dean Emeritus of the Boston University School of Social Work, Micheal B. Keating, Esq. and Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall, are seeking funds to update the exhibit and install it permanently in the Edward Brooke Courthouse.

“It could not be more timely,” says Houston, “because it delves into the very meaning of democracy, civic action and the struggle for racial equality—all issues that are being debated today. It tells a story that needs to be told and experienced by people of all ages and colors, especially the young.”







Edward Orval Gourdin during the long jump event at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. Gourdin won the silver medal in this event shortly after his Harvard Law School graduation.


Margaret Burnham was the first African-American woman to serve in the Massachusetts judiciary. In 1977, she was appointed Associate Justice of the Boston Municipal Court by Governor Michael Dukakis (shown here swearing her in).


In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed Judge David S. Nelson
as the first African-American judge to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.


More recent history affecting African Americans, such as the case that led to the desegregation of the Boston Public Schools, is
also included in the exhibit.


Long Road to Justice

The Boston Foundation supported the Long Road to Justice traveling exhibit in 2000 and recently made a special grant of $20,000 for the permanent exhibit at the Edward Brooke Courthouse.

If you are interested in supporting the exhibit, please contact Susan Goodman at sgoodman.lrj@gmail.com.

Live Arts Boston



A performance of BAMS Fest’s production of “The American Symphony of the Soul.”


In March, the Boston Foundation, with support and partnership from the Barr Foundation, announced $750,000 in grants to individual performing artists and small performing arts groups. Live Arts Boston (LAB)—a first in Boston—provides up to $15,000 in project-specific funds to artists, collaborators, groups, bands and small performing arts organizations.

“All of our arts initiatives are focused on implementing the themes and goals that emerged from the City of Boston’s Boston Creates cultural plan,” says Allyson Esposito, the Boston Foundation’s Arts & Culture Director. The plan, which calls for more investment in Boston’s individual artists, engaged more than 5,000 Bostonians in discussions about the future of arts and culture in our city.


Boston Theatre Company


Boston Theater Company produced a documentary play about the 2013 Boston Marathon called “Finish Line.”

A number of the groups funded in March already have had performances supported by the grants, including Boston Art & Music Soul (BAMS) Fest, which presents local musicians of color to diverse audiences. “The Live Arts Boston grant is living proof that organizations such as the Boston Foundation believe in the healing power, community impact and shared experiences that music and live performances have on people,” says BAMS’ founder Catherine Morris.

Canadian choreographer Heather Stewart moved to Boston a few years ago. “The support from the Boston Foundation is providing me with the resources to professionally produce my new work in Boston for the first time,” she says.

“The support is one thing,” says David Henry, Director of Performing and Media Arts at theICA and one of the expert panelists who decided on the grants. “The acknowledgment that their work is worthwhile is every bit as important—for them and other artists who have found new hope.”


If you are interested in supporting Live Arts Boston or would like
to apply for a LAB grant go to

Introducing Nineequa Blanding



Nineequa Blanding

The Boston Foundation’s new Director of Health & Wellness Nineequa Blanding brings to the Boston Foundation expertise from academic, clinical and policy approaches to health. Then add to that a profound insight into the class and race inequities that pervade the medical landscape as well as the housing, employment and opportunity ecosystems that determine overall health for any given individual, family or neighborhood. With these qualities she is uniquely suited to lead the Boston Foundation’s strategy and programs around health and wellness.

Blanding earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Spelman College where she initially pursued an ambition held since youth to be a neurosurgeon. She followed that with laboratory research with one of her college mentors, in anticipation of medical school as a next step. Her mentor, however, was doing groundbreaking work in post-traumatic stress disorder in noncombatants—work at the crossroads of neuroscience and psychology that was increasingly absorbing to Blanding.

After completing a research fellowship at Duke University, her mentor tapped her to conduct clinical interviews with the patient/subjects in his study. He made a wise choice in that: Blanding is a people person—warm, and a skilled listener. She not only gathered data but learned deeply from people sharing their struggles to live after harrowing traumas of all kinds. The undertaking was difficult but steeled her growing resolve to do work that could help people. Given the suffering she witnessed among her research subjects, she sensed the opportunity to help more people through systemic change.

This meant understanding levers for change, which took her into the field of public health. The Brooklyn native returned to New York and earned a Master’s degree with honors in public health from Long Island University. More recently she worked for the last several years in leadership positions at the Boston Public Health Commission focused on initiatives to advance health equity.

“Looking at my career thus far, one common thread is that I’ve always followed my passion. I’m so excited to join the Boston Foundation because it allows me to bring my knowledge and interest in policy and systems closer to direct action with the people they can help,” says Blanding. “Seeing real-time results of our work even as we pursue long-term visions will be extremely gratifying.”

Blanding and Program Officer Mira Kahn are working now on development, implementation and evaluation of one of the Foundation’s strategic priorities to address the health needs of the people of Greater Boston with a special focus on low-income people of color.


One grant went to the BOKS/Reebok Foundation for BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success), a before-school physical activity program.

June Grants



Some of the largest grants in June were in the area of Education, including a two-year, $200,000 grant to Somerville Public Schools for Student Insights, an online data tool that provides principals and educators with key student indicators on academic achievement, behavioral indicators, early warning indicators and interventions. The Boston Public Schools also received a one-year, $150,000 grant for the implementation of five college and career readiness pathways at three high schools, as well as a multi-year plan for implementing the district’s College and Career Readiness work.

In Health & Wellness, BOKS/Reebok Foundation received $50,000 to support one year ofBOKS (Build Our Kids’ Success), a before-school physical activity program for elementary school students in the Boston Public Schools.

A grant in the area of Jobs & Economic Development went to Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation for its entrepreneurship programing. And in Neighborhoods & Housing, Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance received $45,000 for its Yes for a Better Boston Coalition. In Arts & Culture, a grant of $20,000 went to Yard, Inc., to support contemporary dance makers and related artists through paid research residencies, public performances and long-term education.

A $50,000 Nonprofit Effectiveness grant went to Encore Boston Network for a coalition of organizations and professionals dedicated to strengthening communities by engaging the talents of people over the age of 50 (encore talent) to support the second year of Gen2Gen Boston, part of a national campaign to mobilize 1 million adults over the age of 50 to help young people thrive.



Boston Public Market


Public Market


Genevieve Stillman at Boston Public Market.






It’s been wonderful to watch the Boston Public Market happen,” says Genevieve Stillman of Stillman Farms, one of the core vendors in this indoor market designed to showcase food grown, produced or caught in our region. “We were in on meetings from the beginning to provide a permanent place for producers to sell year-round.” Like Genevieve Stillman and her husband Glenn, the Boston Foundation was there at the beginning for the Boston Public Market. A grant of $50,000 to Trustees of Reservations helped the idea get off the ground. The Market has since settled in to a fresh and adaptable space directly above the Haymarket MBTA station on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. The Market opened on July 30, 2015, and features 40 permanent vendors and other seasonal vendors, as well as the KITCHEN, which provides cooking and nutritional education, family events and more.

The Boston Foundation has been “There at the Beginning” with critical early funding for more than 100 great ideas and new nonprofits.

Board of Directors

Zamawa Arenas

Andrew J. Arnott

Brian Conway

Sandra Edgerley, Chair

Michael R. Eisenson

Grace Fey


Paul C. Gannon

Rev. Gregory G. Groover

Paul W. Lee

Linda Mason, Vice Chair

Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan

J. Keith Motley


Peter Nessen

Ronald P. O’Hanley

Greg Shell

Scott Squillace, Esq.

C.A. Webb

Paul S. Grogan, ex officio


Senior Staff

Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO

Stephen Chan

Vice President for Strategy and Operations

Orlando Watkins

Vice President for Programs

Kate R. Guedj

Vice President and Chief Philanthropy Officer

Alfred F. Van Ranst Jr.

Chief Financial Officer

Keith A. Mahoney

Vice Presidentof Communications and Public Affairs

George Wilson

Chief Investment Officer




Follow the Boston Foundation on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, FLICKR, YOUTUBE and LINKED IN.