Black Trans Fund On Centering Joy and Liberation Through Community Care
by Bré Rivera, Program Officer, Black Trans Fund
Black trans and gender-expansive (TGE) people have been leading the fight for liberation for decades, even when those fights have not centered or valued our trans identities. In the wake of the pandemic and uprisings, one major way our communities sustain ourselves is through community care. This can take the form of mutual aid efforts which are a direct response to the climate crises, late-stage capitalism, and the deterioration of our infrastructure.
Community care is centering those most directly impacted by distributing resources and building infrastructure that meets the immediate needs of the community. Most importantly, these efforts are led directly by impacted communities.
Black Trans Fund (BTF) launched shortly before the national shutdown in 2020, which put an extra strain on Black TGE organizations and leaders already struggling to provide basic needs and survival support. For our Black TGE communities, this support looks like access to food, health care, and housing.
During the pandemic, philanthropy expanded giving capacity by funding the same basic needs that they have historically and repeatedly said “no” to supporting when asked by Black TGE-led organizations. Black trans leaders turned no’s into possibilities — sometimes at our own expense because those possibilities came with great mental strain, fatigue, and financial cost as Black trans leaders are using their own resources to move work.
We are aware of the historical and current ways Black TGE people are treated in the country; it’s not new. BTF seeks to decenter the focus on the violence facing our communities but rather uplift the joy and vision of our communities to thrive despite the systemic oppression we face. Over the last few years, there has been an increase in physical attacks and a historical amount of anti-trans legislation passed in states lacking supportive infrastructure for trans communities.
Black TGE communities have always been forward thinking in the ways that we care for and hold our community members. At the center of the efforts to care and hold our communities, while facing state-sanctioned violence, you’ll find Black trans-led organizations and leaders on the frontline, who for years, have implemented community-based solutions that are both joyful and liberating.
Two examples of these solutions are the joy and beauty seen within ballroom culture and the innovation and brilliance of survival-based networks organized by sex workers; both examples lift up Black trans communities’ resilience and our own ability to create space, places, and formations where we can care for each other, celebrate our lives, and thrive.
For many Black TGE leaders across the country, we have a deep understanding of service work and it’s direct connection to communities organizing towards liberation. I Am Human Foundation Inc. is one of BTF’s most effective organizations in connecting the importance of service work to organizing. Started as a service organization providing first response care to communities experiencing housing and food insecurity, funding from Black Trans Fund supported I Am Human Foundation’s transformation into the premier organizing hub for TGE communities in Atlanta, Georgia.
“I live by the motto, If not me, who? So yes, it’s my responsibility to make sure that people who look like me are represented and are provided with much-needed resources. Thanks to Black Trans Fund and Bré Rivera believing in and financially supporting our work, we are able to do just that.” — Alex Santiago, I Am Human Foundation Inc. and Community Care Grantee
This year, BTF staff and advisors worked vigorously to ensure that all our grantmaking is free of fiscal fees, increasing the amount of resources moving directly to the field. We also:
- Utilized feedback from our community, launching two new initiatives to build capacity within our grantee partners and maximize our reach in rural and under-funded areas.
- Developed a deep partnership with the Transgender Strategy Center to provide technical assistance to our grantees, build capacity and further movement understanding of how service work transforms Black trans communities organizing for liberation.
- Implemented grantmaking partnerships with our most innovative and effective grantees to ensure that there is funding and a dedicated leadership pipeline to invest in newer, nascent Black trans-led groups.
In our first year, through thoughtful partnership with Groundswell Fund’s Rapid Response Fund, BTF moved $200,000 to 30 organizations that supported mutual aid efforts within Black trans and gender-expansive communities. We moved an additional $200,000 in grants to 10 Black TGE-led organizations in our first Core Portfolio docket. BTF paid the fees on grants for fiscally sponsored Core Portfolio grantees to allow full use of their funds without the worry of being taxed for responding to the needs of the community.
We are proud that in our first year we supported work rooted in joy and collective care like:
- Outlaw Project (AZ) is building cooperative economic and housing models for sex workers;
- Knights and Orchids Society (AL) provides wrap-around programs that link voter engagement with direct and survival services;
- Take Resource Center (AL & National) is pioneering trans health models in the South; and
- Black Trans Prayer Book (National) is utilizing arts, culture, and spirituality to amplify Black trans voices and build power.
“Black Trans Fund has taught me that a Black trans woman can achieve her goals without compromising joy. I aim to supply trans women of color in Arizona with housing through our tiny home initiative, and I know I can reach that goal because of BTF’s support of the Outlaw Project. Our first BTF grant funding cycle in 2020 was revolutionary and transformative. 9 Black trans and gender-expansive people came together to lay the groundwork, building a healthier movement and funding the next generation of leaders.” — Monica Jones, Black Trans Fund Advisor and Core Portfolio Grantee
BTF operates differently than traditional philanthropy. Program staff and advisors come from the community and directly hear from and impact our grantee’s work. To find joy in our work, we must be rigorous in building relationships if we want to be effective grantmakers. For BTF to truly contribute towards the collective liberation of Black TGE people, we must have and hold the trust of the communities we are a part of. Our liberation and freedom are bound together.
“Because of your vision, Third Wave was able to incorporate fiscal fees into our grantmaking this year. BTF is not letting funders off the hook and is an essential presence in philanthropy, challenging all of us to step up and fund Black trans-led work.” — Kiyomi Fujikawa, Third Wave Fund
As part of our commitment to investing in joyful movements, BTF accepts Community Care Grant Applications on a rolling basis throughout the year. Community Care Grant funding is open to all Black TGE-identified communities. However, we strongly encourage applications that uplift and center Black trans-masculine and gender-expansive communities, sex workers, communities with disabilities or navigating chronic health conditions, and trans youth and adolescents.
Please visit https://groundswellfund.org/black-trans-fund/ to view the process and deadlines to apply, a list of our criteria and priorities for funding, and access the official Community Care Grant Application.
The Black Trans Fund is the first national fund dedicated to uplifting and resourcing Black trans and gender-expansive social justice leaders. We address the systemic lack of investment in Black trans and gender-expansive communities by cultivating joy through direct grantmaking and technical assistance support. Join us.