FISA Foundation invests in Black women leading change, help for victims of domestic violence, and essential services to people with disabilities during COVID-19

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Building upon its decades’ long commitment to social justice for women, girls and people with disabilities, FISA Foundation’s Board of Directors approved more than $250,000 in grants since April to advance gender-specific racial justice advocacy initiatives and for COVID-19 relief efforts focused on vulnerable groups including people with disabilities and victims of domestic violence.

“FISA Foundation sees its strength as investing in important equity issues that may not be well addressed in most organized philanthropy. When approving grants, our board of directors seeks to invest in advocacy to change structural inequities as well as to address urgent needs affecting women and girls, particularly Black women and girls, and people with disabilities,” comments executive director, Kristy Trautmann.

white woman with short hair and glasses, professionally dressed and smiling Kristy Trautmann, Executive Director of FISA Foundation

FISA is proud to announce that half of its spring grants benefitted a trio of organizations led by Black women, addressing the intersection of systemic racism and sexism:

  • $52,500 to Gwen’s Girls, an organization known for its strengths-based, trauma-informed programs for Black girls also convenes the nationally-recognized Black Girls Equity Alliance, a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to: addressing over-policing of Black girls, disparities in educational opportunities, sexual and reproductive health, and violence; and overrepresentation in child welfare system. Grant funding will support a series of professional development workshops for professionals who serve Black girls in various systems and a See the Best in Me campaign to amplify the voices of Black girls discussing issues that matter to them. According to Dr. Kathi Elliot, CEO of Gwen’s Girls, “Black girls are consistently portrayed in a negative light by the media, which drives harmful misperceptions of their character and behavior. By amplifying the voices of our girls, we will help the community see the truth – Black girls are powerful, fierce, funny, smart, perceptive and they bring leadership skills that are desperately needed to create communities that are fair, just and inclusive.”
  • $45,000 to New Voices for Reproductive Justice, a 16-year-old organization that advocates for comprehensive health and well-being of Black women, femmes, and girls so they can lead long, healthy, and joyful lives. Since 2004, New Voices has served over 150,000 Black women, femmes and girls, women of color and LGBTQ+ people of color. Through its SistahSpeak! Project™, more than 600 girls have learned leadership, organizing, advocacy and life skills. La’Tasha D. Mayes, President & CEO of New Voices, is nationally recognized for cultivating the leadership of Black women and girls, and says “SistahSpeak! is developing the next generation of Reproductive Justice leaders to end anti-Black racism and gender-based violence.”
  • $25,000 for the Black Women’s Policy Agenda (via fiduciary Side Project, Inc.) The emerging initiative, spearheaded by Rochelle Jackson, a leading public policy advocate, is dedicated to creating a collective policy to advance equity for Black women and girls in the Pittsburgh region. Ms. Jackson commented, “The Black Women’s Policy Agenda will collaborate with Black women leaders across disciplines and sectors to shape and change policy through storytelling, research, analysis and advocacy.”

People with disabilities experienced increased vulnerability during the coronavirus crisis, and their needs were sometimes overlooked by community crisis response efforts.  For instance, many people with disabilities are unable to social distance because they depend on attendants and direct care workers to assist with daily activities like dressing, bathing, and eating; and if a direct care worker misses a shift or stops coming to work people with disabilities can quickly find themselves in a medical emergency. A large percentage of people with disabilities are immuno-compromised and fear that if they contract COVID-19 they will experience discrimination, including being denied access to lifesaving treatment. Many families struggled to meet the educational needs of children with disabilities during remote education. FISA Foundation invested $55,000 in grants to address critical needs of people with disabilities during the coronavirus crisis.

  • $5,000 to AAC Institute to support teletherapy for individuals with speech disorders who use augmentative or alternative technology to communicate.
  • $5,000 to Autism Urban Connection to provide education, support, advocacy, and empowerment to Black and other minority families of those diagnosed with Autism.
  • $10,000 to ARC Human Services, Inc. for increased costs in providing residential supports to people with intellectual disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis and recovery.
  • $10,000 to Community Living and Support Services (CLASS) for increased costs in providing attendant care and residential supports to people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis and recovery.
  • $10,000 to Global Links to procure and distribute clear face masks to disability-serving agencies to allow effective communication with people who are Deaf or have developmental disabilities.
  • $5,000 to Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy (via fiduciary, Side Project) for general operating support for peer support and mutual aid efforts during COVID-19.
  • $10,000 to Transitional Paths to Independent Living (TRPIL) for increased costs in providing attendant care and other support to people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis and recovery.

Globally and locally, reports of Intimate Partner Violence increased during the quarantine period of COVID-19, with many victims trapped at home with abusive partners and unable to reach out for help.  FISA Foundation awarded $25,000 in grants to address gaps in reaching victims of abuse.

  • $20,000 to Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh to support a collaborative outreach and communication initiative to reach victims of intimate partner violence during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • $5,000 to Helping All Victims in Need (HAVIN) to provide safe housing and support to victims of domestic violence in Armstrong County during the COVID 19 crisis and recovery.

In addition, FISA Foundation awarded:

  • $30,000 to Autism Connection to provide information, referral, and advocacy for individuals with autism and their families, and to train police and cultural leaders to work effectively with people on the autism spectrum.
  • $30,000 to Sisters Place in general operating support for services to assist homeless mothers and their children.
  • $5,000 to The Pittsburgh Foundation to support the COVID-19 Emergency Action Fund.

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