A crowd of community members gather at dusk at the edge of Lake Merritt in Oakland

By Brandi Howard

To Dream. To Heal. To Belong. This is more than a tagline. For me, it is my life’s work, both personally and professionally. And it is the underlying foundation for EBCF’s work to change the economic conditions in the East Bay so that everyone can thrive.

To dream is to imagine a future filled with optimism and hope, not just for ourselves, but for our families and community. But to dream, we must first heal from the deeply-rooted emotional, mental, and physical scars left by systemic oppression. We must create spaces for healing; for it is only when we heal that we can dream again. And when we dream together, we foster a sense of belonging, allowing us to thrive in our shared humanity.

Healing is an ongoing process, a journey that never truly ends. We must continually engage in this process, both as individuals and as an organization, because the oppressive systems that have caused so much harm still exist. Poverty is still poverty; racism is still racism. These are not individual failings but the products of a 500-year-old system that allows only a select few to thrive.

Many of EBCF’s partner organizations not only work with people who need and deserve to heal, but also employ staff who need the space and opportunity to heal themselves. It’s challenging to serve the community when you struggle to make payroll and keep the lights on. It provides little to no space for healing. 

Our partners are continually thrust into a state of survival, which hinders them from envisioning what can be possible. Shawn Ginwright, PhD, says, “Survival caused by oppressive conditions renders our imagination inert.” We must be as committed to reimagining and leaning into the possibilities as we are to the fights against oppression. This will take resources, trusted partnerships, and the space to dream. 

At EBCF, we have made this commitment and have extended our funding to support programs and resources for staff wellness for our community partners.

EBCF is part of Bay Area Power Building Funders Table, a group of six foundations that have come together to strengthen the region’s social justice movement infrastructure – including wellness. Together, we have raised over half a million dollars to support BIPOC organizers, including training, wellness grants, and long-term sustainability practices.

Additionally, as part of our ASCEND BLO (Black-led organizations) program, EBCF is funneling resources toward staff care. We believe that wellness is the foundation for liberation, and in December of 2023, we launched pilot wellness grants. These are six-month, unrestricted grants of $20K to support organizations to build their wellness programs, initiatives, and practices.

Through our work around wellness, we support preventative strategies to reduce staff burnout, which strengthens the movement infrastructure and enables us to serve our community. With healing and care for each other, our community partners can dream. They can go beyond fighting what is wrong and have the energy to create what is right. That is how we reimagine our world.

Many of our community partners are already taking action, and EBCF will continue to leverage our financial resources toward changing the economic conditions so that everyone has the power to dream, heal, and belong. Our role as a community foundation is to create spaciousness for dreaming and reimagining and to help create a movement ecosystem that serves the collective. Join us on this journey