Three-year effort aims to expand perceptions and enable impacted communities to share authentic narratives about the border
NEW YORK (March 18, 2021) – Today, the Ford Foundation announced it will partner with Borealis Philanthropy, the Center for Cultural Power, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures to launch Reclaiming the Border Narrative.
Reclaiming the Border Narrative is an effort to penetrate and shape the national attention on migration and the United States-Mexico border by supporting authentic storytelling by affected communities on the cultures and socio-political dynamics that comprise the region. Funding will enable immigrant rights advocates, artists, writers and organizations to work over the next three years to organize and preserve stories reflecting the dignity and truth of border communities, connecting and empowering them to center their own narrative on their terms and in their voices.
The US-Mexico border is a region that includes US citizens, indigenous communities, immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers living and working in California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas, as well as migrants from Central and South America and around the world who make their way to the border every day in search of safety and a better life for themselves and their families.
Prevailing narratives across administrations have demonized border communities and stoked fear of immigrants, fueling xenophobic policies including a multi-billion dollar border wall and family separation. Through it all, the authentic life stories, voices, and narratives of impacted border communities have been flattened, and the complexities of their cultures, contributions, and experiences have been erased.
The Ford Foundation will provide more than $4.5 million in grants to the partners, who will regrant to:
- Immigrants’ rights organizations working in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas;
- Artists, filmmakers, writers, and journalists who live or work along the border and who lift up the region’s stories and issues; and
- Provide training and technical assistance to those grantees to improve and expand their capacity to use documentation, storytelling, and other forms of creative expression to advance their organizing and advocacy agendas beyond the life of their grants.
Ford will provide additional support to the Southwest Folklife Alliance to document the learning from this initiative. The collective efforts will be compiled into an accessible digital archive to collect, house, and preserve the stories from the border and include contributions of other communities, advocates, and creatives after the project ends.
“The truth that runs through all of our work is that directly affected communities are the essential creative force in the larger arc of social change,” said Amoretta Morris, president of Borealis Philanthropy. “In the aftermath of the last four years of extreme anti-immigrant actions and narratives, we must listen to and center the stories, experiences, and wisdom of border communities who are determining their own futures. Borealis is thrilled to support the advocates helping to uplift the voices we need to hear right now.”
“It’s clear that culture and stories shape national policies about immigration,” said Favianna Rodriguez, cultural strategist and president for the Center for Cultural Power. “For too long, our country’s dominant story has been one of criminalization and dehumanization, which has led to children and families being held in cages. The Center for Cultural Power is honored to build the cultural capacity of artists and pro-migrant organizations to create, amplify and normalize a different kind of culture that’s welcoming to immigrants and can move us away from a punishment economy.”
Maria Torres-Springer, vice president of U.S. Programs for the Ford Foundation, said, “Damaging narratives about border communities have for too long dominated the national attitude towards immigrants. We are proud to support these communities to reclaim their truth, speak their stories, and craft new anthems for America that ring with the dignity, demands, and dreams of border communities.”
“It is a rarity to be among partners whose shared commitment to cultural competence can act as a powerful catalyst for systemic change, beginning with our efforts to amplify the rich and dynamic border stories too often overlooked,” said Alberto B. Mendoza, executive director for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. “With this investment, NAHJ and our journalists are part of a veritable opportunity for storytelling that preserves significance and fosters authenticity.”
“The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures has long stood in solidarity with Latinx artists and organizations along the southern border,” said María López De León, president and CEO of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures. “We work to uplift the most marginalized voices within our communities because we know that art and culture is our most powerful conduit for transformative change. Using their artistic and cultural practice strategically to advance justice, artists and culture-makers along the southern border will create works that reflect the dignity, resilience, and beauty inherent in border communities and our histories. It is an honor to stand with the Ford Foundation and other partners supporting arts and culture-makers throughout the border region in cultivating collaboration across creative disciplines and borders.”
“Many widely held assumptions and beliefs about the border region and immigration that circulate in U.S. culture and media paint a negative, flat picture of these complex issues,” said Maribel Alvarez, folklorist and ethnographer for the Southwest Folklife Alliance. “To bring about lasting changes in public perceptions and policies, we need to augment the scale and capacity of those close to the ground to get their stories heard and taken seriously. This project is the welcome and urgent first step towards a more democratic and equitable public narrative about some of our country’s hardest working, yet most vulnerable, communities.”
About Borealis Philanthropy
Borealis Philanthropy directs resources to people building powerful, thriving communities, with those most impacted by injustice leading the way. As a philanthropic intermediary, Borealis invests in leaders, organizations, and movements who are boldly ushering in change, and works with donors to support movements in ways they may not be able to do on their own. Through their work with both funders and grantee partners, they aim to shift power and invest in communities. Borealis is co-powered by 30 staff and 10 board members, reflective of the communities and movements they support.
About the Center for Cultural Power
The Center for Cultural Power is a women of color, artist-led organization, inspiring artists and culture makers to imagine a world where power is distributed equitably and where we live in harmony with nature. The Center supports artists through fellowships, training and opportunities for activation. They create intersectional stories and content addressing issues of migration, climate, gender and racial justice. They engage groups in cultural strategy and organize artists in issues that inspire them. Together with allies, they are co-creating a field of cultural strategy with organizations and practitioners through convenings, design teams and strategy tables.
About the National Association of Hispanic Journalists
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) is dedicated to the recognition and professional advancement of Hispanics in the news industry. Established in 1984, NAHJ created a national voice and unified vision for all Hispanic journalists. NAHJ has approximately 3,300 members, including working journalists, journalism students, other media-related professionals, and journalism educators.
About the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture
The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is the nation’s largest funding and advocacy organization devoted to the support and promotion of Latinx arts in the United States and Puerto Rico. Founded in 1989, the nonprofit facilitates intergenerational dialogues among disciplines, languages, and traditional and contemporary expressions. NALAC has awarded over 893 grants to the field totaling an investment of $5.1 million. Over 500 Latinx artists and arts administrators have participated in its intensive leadership training programs. For more information about NALAC and its programs please visit www.nalac.org.
About the Southwest Folklife Alliance
The Southwest Folklife Alliance celebrates the everyday expression of culture, heritage, and diversity of the communities of the Greater Southwest. Through a range of public programs, it provides direct support to traditional artists and culture bearers, documents and amplifies stories about culture and heritage, and provides consultation, assessment, training, and leverage for cultural community development efforts throughout the region. The Alliance is the first dedicated folklife organization along the US-Mexico border corridor focused solely on uplifting, supporting, and presenting the work of traditional artists year-round. SFA is an affiliate non-profit organization of the University of Arizona, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. They are a designated Folk Arts Partner of the Arizona Commission on the Arts with the support of the National Endowment of the Arts.
The Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
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