We are excited to announce that the ReImagine Nashville Giving Circle has granted $20,000 to our Fall 2023 Grant Winners through funds collectively donated over the past six months!
- Free Hearts $10,000
- One WillCo $10,000
Learn more about the great work of these organizations below.
Free Hearts is an organization led by formerly incarcerated women that provides support, education, and advocacy in organizing families impacted by incarceration, with the ultimate goals of reuniting families and keeping families together.
Our direct services are through our Direct Services, Free The Vote & Participatory Defense Teams. The problems addressed are Decarceration, Decriminalization, & Democracy.
Decarceration: For people born in the 1980s, Nashville has the zip code with the highest incarceration rate in the country, 37208, & the 38th highest in the country 37207, both of which are historically Black rapidly gentrifying communities. The multibillion dollar private prison industry was also founded here & continues to exert political influence here. We are third in the country for instances of parental incarceration, an ACE. Decriminalization: We have a big issue with the criminalization of survivors of sexual & domestic violence. Also, TN also criminalizes poverty. Poverty is not itself a crime, but poverty is criminalized when being poor is made illegal, when activities that people engage in in order to survive—such as driving without a license, or being forced to sleep outside, or for being unable to do certain things—such as paying outstanding fines & fees, or even being locked up because one is unable to afford bail—due to poverty. Democracy: TN leads the country in felony disenfranchisement. Despite the fact that we already had the most convoluted voter restoration law of any state; is the only state that requires an individual to be up to date on child support; & is one of only a handful of states that permanently disenfranchises anyone; or connects any financial obligations to restoring the right to vote, a recent change has made the restoration of voting rights tremendously more difficult. TN now joins only one other state with permanent disenfranchisement for all people with felony convictions absent extraordinary, discretionary action from the governor or the courts.
Our Direct Services Team provides programs inside jail, juvenile detention, prisons, schools, & in the community & implements alternatives to incarceration. Our Free The Vote Team works with individuals to restore their right to vote & assists people in jail with exercising their right to vote. Our Participatory Defense Team works with families of loved ones facing the criminal legal system & have saved 1777 years of incarceration for our community members since 2017. Through our direct services, we ground ourselves in and meet immediate & ongoing needs of people directly impacted by incarceration, & identify patterns for campaigns & policy change efforts.
The anticipated impact of the grant & expected outcomes are as follows:
Direct Services Team: We will be able to serve 100 more directly impacted people with our direct services programs & use the body of evidence to envision alternatives to incarceration & responses to violence that address the root causes of criminalization, incarceration, & violence.
Free The Vote Team: We will be able to restore 200 more people’s right to vote, & get 200 people to vote from jail, & use the evidence to identify policy changes.
Participatory Defense Team: We will be able to save 300 additional years of incarceration for people in our community over the next year & use the evidence to identify policy changes.
Leadership Campaigns & Policy Team: We will use our direct service efforts to identify 10 new directly impacted people to develop their leadership to help continue building a base of those directly impacted by the issues we are trying to address to lead in campaigns & policy change efforts.
One WillCo works to build a community where the voices of students of color can be supported and heard by actively educating themselves and others about the complicated race-related issues schools face.
Our School Board Advocacy work is where we began, and it continues monthly. We now have a school board leadership team who actively works to build community engagement, gives newsletter updates, and helps families who are dealing with harassment or inequity navigate the public comment piece.
School Board Advocacy is where we fight against bookbans, offer input on policy like code of conduct and dress code, and it’s where we stand with the schools as collaborators, as opposed to those “concerned parents” who are suing the school district because they won’t remove five library books from the high school libraries.
Our board meets with the WCS Superintendent quarterly to discuss progress made on the culture strategy plan developed from the equity audit by Fostering Healthy Solutions; this is how we bring accountability to the equation.
School Cluster Volunteer Project-
Our next step in building wraparound support for students and staff is to develop relationships with each individual school. To do this, we have developed a school cluster volunteer project. We currently have an environment where administrators hear from parents “concerned” about curriculum, library books, or DEI efforts. If we are to support more equity in our schools, it’s imperative that administrators know there are community members who support those efforts. We’ve heard from teachers and counselors that administrators are often afraid to be bold about DEI efforts for fear of pushback. This project aims to change that. It will also help develop One WillCo’s community engagement.
This project will begin this fall, with our first volunteer training session scheduled for September 27, 2023. Our goal is to meet with 15 schools this year, beginning with those most in need of support, which we have already identified.
We are asking for $10,000 to support the administrative and marketing help necessary to move into the schools and broaden our community engagement. We would like to grow our volunteer base by 30%, have a One WillCo banner hanging on every football field. We would like to have professional folders and information to leave with each administrator and with senior staff as well as with new potential corporate sponsors. We want to become known in the community as leaders in the racial equity space and to demystify DEI and to make conversations about race normal and positive.