Members of the Lakota Oyate Ki Club at the Oregon State Penitentiary sitting around a drum circle.

“I took over grant-writing for Lakota Oyate Ki in 1999 and wrote my first grant ever to MRG. Those investments from MRG were not just dollars—they were the embodiment of hope. They reminded us that people cared about us, loved us, and saw us as a part of a wider community.”  — Manuel Mose, former grantee

MRG Foundation has always held space at the growing edge of the movement, often funding groups and causes that care for and support the most vulnerable, the too-often ignored in our communities. I am honored to be a part of MRG as we continue this tradition.

I’d like to share with you one of the ideas of which I am proudest this year. As MRG’s Grantmaking Committee reviewed the 76 grant applications we received for our most recent funding cycle, it was clear to the committee that there has been, and continues to be, a clear and consistent need for funding from the groups that support folks in the prison and court system, as well as formerly incarcerated people.

This year our Grantmaking Committee asked if we could start a new fund, just for these groups, so that they can depend upon the critical support that MRG provides.

Since 1986, MRG has provided over $300,000 in funding for social change activism led by currently or formerly incarcerated people and their communities and families. I hope you will give today in support of these communities.

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While these groups have been successful in competing for funds with other social change groups in the applicant pool, the type of organizing they are able to do on the inside is unique, and faces very particular challenges, including: 

  • Lack of access to technology to research or apply for grant funding
  • Lack of access to broader community to organize fundraising or individual donor events
  • Not enough relationships on the outside to seek organizations that may serve as fiscal sponsors
  • Financial, institutional, and legal barriers
  • Lack of cooperation or political will from Department of Corrections staff

I am so proud to let you know that we have begun organizing our new Incarcerated & Formerly Incarcerated Fund. Yes, the name needs some work–but it’s the idea that matters. MRG believes that those most impacted are the best equipped to make decisions about their lives. Our plan is for grantmaking decisions for this Fund to be made by formerly incarcerated folks, as well as family and friends of those in prison. 

When you give your year-end gift to MRG, it will join with others to help fund our new Incarcerated & Formerly Incarcerated Fund to support groups like: 

  • Lakota Oyate Ki, a Native American Culture club located in the Oregon State Penitentiary since 1968 that re-introduces Native American traditions, culture, and spiritual teachings and practices to educate about the unique values, principles, teachings, and ways of living in harmony with Mother Earth.
  • Uhuru Sasa, an African-American Culture club based in the Oregon State Penitentiary since 1968, that helps members grow and prosper educationally, vocationally, spiritually, and culturally, both as individuals and collectively as they seek to learn more about themselves, their people, and their history, so that they can strengthen their families and the communities to which they will be returning.
  • Latino Club in the Oregon State Penitentiary, which creates an environment within the prison that ensures everyone has the same access to education and work opportunities, regardless of race or ability to speak English. By tackling issues of racism and discrimination, the Latino Club helps their members successfully transition back into their communities.
  • Red Lodge Transition Services, which recognizes that Native Americans are grossly over-represented in Oregon’s prison population, and works to reduce recidivism, prevent intergenerational incarceration, and challenge the Oregon Department of Corrections to address religious freedom and basic human rights of Indigenous people.

And many others that provide equally critical support and services. MRG has funded these groups and communities for 33 years, and with our new Incarcerated & Formerly Incarcerated Fund, we will continue to do so for as long as it takes until our funding is no longer needed. 

Your gift is, as our former grantee Manuel put it so eloquently, the embodiment of hope. It will be a reminder to the grantees of our Incarcerated & Formerly Incarcerated Fund that people care about them, love them, and see them as part of our wider community. 

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