Tag Archives: social justice

Just Communities’ Second Annual Social Equity Summit

Just Communities’ is hosting its second annual Social Equity Summit: “Anti-Racism Work Beyond the Statement” virtually on Thursday, May 13th.

For the past 20 years, Just Communities has leveraged the work of its committed staff, dedicated board and volunteers to empower others to incorporate social and language justice into their work, their interactions, and daily lives. 

“We readily acknowledge that our work alone doesn’t create social change. Rather, we equip students, teachers, school administrators, parents, businesspeople and community leaders with attitude-shifting information, tools, skills and establish support networks so they can turn their personal transformation into lasting social change. In short, we open doors to new awareness, sensitivity, advocacy and action so that others can not only walk through those doors themselves, but hold them open for others in their own communities.” – Fabiola Gonzalez-Gutierrez, Just Communities Development and Communications Manager 

Just Communities’ second annual Social Equity Summit will build upon this work by bringing together members of the Central Coast community from all sectors to learn and discuss how to move beyond condemning racism with public statements and social media posts to addressing everyday inequities and systemic racism in their own organizations and communities.

The keynote speaker, Gabrielle Felder (she/they), also known as Ifademilade Omotola Oosafunmilayo, is the sole educator, freelance graphic designer, social media artist behind the platform GFx Studios (@gfx_prints on Instagram). Originally from Orange County, California, Gabrielle completed her undergraduate education at University of California, Santa Barbara. She graduated in 2018 with honors, receiving two degrees: Ecology and Evolution, B.S. and Biological Anthropology, B.A. In June 2020, Gabrielle graduated from University of Washington School of Public Health with a Master’s in Environmental and Occupational Health. Gabrielle has forged her own path forward by creating a personal and professional career focused on environmental justice, critical race theory, and education. 

Gabrielle is a culture critic, educator, and digital activist focused on dismantling white supremacy to move toward Black liberation and indigenous sovereignty. Join Gabrielle and Just Communities for “Moving from Performative Action to Material Change” where she will discuss the 2020 response to George Floyd’s murder and how to move from short lived engagement to material change in the lives of Black people.

For a complete list of the workshops and to register, please visit: www.just-communities.org/social-equity-summit-2021

Tickets are $50, with available scholarships, please contact Melissa Patrino at (805) 966-2063 for more information. 

ADL Adds Exceptional Community Leaders to its Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties Board

Mark A. Goldstein, Esq., Regional Board Chair
Jill Goldworn
Judi Koper, Esq.

ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties is proud to announce the induction of five new leaders to its Regional Board.  

John Daly, a retired events industry veteran who founded “The Key Class” to teach life skills and etiquette to students from the eighth-grade level through college levels; Shannon Gaston, owner of Crushcakes & Café in Santa Barbara and founder of C2C (Crushcakes 2 Communities), which donates to local civil rights causes; Jill Goldworn, co-Founder/CRO of thefirstclub.com, a worldwide digital entertainment rewards platform, and member of the Board of Advisors for UCSB Customer Experience Program; Judi Koper, an attorney who serves on the Assessment Appeals Board and Civil Service Commission of Santa Barbara County; and Jeffrey Winter, a former hospital and health systems Chief Executive, Board Chairman of two home care organizations that also serve people with intellectual disabilities, and Board member for an Autism services organization; have all joined as ADL Regional Board Members.

John Daly
Jeffrey Winter

This impressive group joins a roster of 29 other community leaders, led by recently elected Regional Board Chair, Mark Goldstein, a partner and intellectual property attorney with SoCal IP Law Group LLP. 

Dan Meisel, ADL Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties Regional Director, shared, “This is the largest group of new board members we have inducted in my decade of involvement with the organization. We are tremendously proud of the group of change-makers selected to join our Board and look forward to their important input and guidance as we continue to expand our programs and work throughout the Tri-Counties.” 

Simon Pivots to Social Justice

Rachel Simon would be the first to admit she was blessed by the circumstances of her birth. 

Her father is Herbert “Herb” Simon, the Indianapolis-based real-estate billionaire (and owner of the Indiana Pacers!), and her mother is Diane Meyer Simon, the notable political and environmental activist who founded Global Green, U.S.A.

Her father, Simon says, gave his kids “just enough room to make our own way, but was always there to instill the most important core values.” 

Diane Meyer Simon was an active figure in the populist progressivism of the early Kennedy era. “My mom was just, you know, this super-cool woman, she worked for Bobby Kennedy and had all these awesome stories,” Simon says. “She was an environmental activist and so a lot of my interests probably followed from watching her do her work. [My parents are] both extremely engaged in the community and politically active. So, I mean, I lucked out. We all did.”

Together, Simon says, her parents created in her “a very environmentally conscious and progressive thinker.” 

That progressive thinker is now leading the second generation of philanthropy at the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, based in Indianapolis, but with a regional and even global reach focusing on the environment, education, art and culture, and issues of social justice and sustainability. 

As lucky as Simon is to have cool parents with a desire to give back to their communities and the means to do it, she is also grateful for the gifts that come with being the daughter of two distinct regions that are integral to the country’s cultural fabric – the American Midwest and the American Riviera. 

As director of the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, Rachel Simon is bringing her diverse geographic and cultural influences together as she leads the foundation into a new decade brimming with urgent challenges

Simon was born in Indianapolis and spent a good part of her childhood as a Hoosier, before her parents took up primary residence in Montecito. She returned to Indianapolis to attend the Herron School of Art and Design in the early 2000s. She majored in painting, something she laments she doesn’t find enough time for these days, and stayed in Indianapolis upon graduating. 

Simons says she loves the seasons and close-knit community there, but admits that California and Montecito are never far from her mind. Montecito had a familiar small-town feel as her early childhood, and yet the West Coast opened her cultural horizons and helped hone a keen interest in climate and sustainability. 

“As much as Indianapolis raised me, Montecito raised me,” she says. “If I hadn’t spent so much time in California, I definitely wouldn’t think the way I think, and wouldn’t be aware of the things I’m aware of… the social issues that are the forefront of the brain.”

As director of the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, Simon is bringing her diverse geographic and cultural influences together as she leads the foundation into a new decade brimming with urgent challenges, especially related to climate change, sustainability, and social justice. Simon says the foundation has just finished a strategic planning session that will keep its philosophy intact but will focus efforts more directly in some key areas. 

“We are still focused on the environment, arts and culture, and basic needs,” she says, “but social justice will be its own impact area.”

She says the foundation will also work to sharpen its mission and message, especially working with grassroots, community-based organizations. “You know, you can support the education and then you can support equity in education. You can support the environment and then you can support environmental justice, and depending on how you tailor your focus, it could be in a bunch of different areas,” says Simon. “The intersectionality of [environmental and social justice] is so important for people to recognize right now.”

Getting back to parental influences, Simon says she’s “a huge basketball fan” but she won’t give her love to the Lakers, even though she attended USC, just down the road from Staples Center, for a couple years. That’s understandable as Simon is active with Indiana Pacers Foundation. For the Pacers, she has love, for the Lakers, it is “respect.” 

Hey, we can live with that, after all, love and respect is what it’s all really about and that, in the end, seems like Simon’s true inheritance. 

“Speaking of my parents, one of the most important things that they taught us was that we were so blessed and so fortunate… Every day that I work on foundation work, I feel grateful and blessed that I have the opportunity to give back because of the hard work of my parents. So, it’s an awesome responsibility that I’m grateful for.”

Philanthropic Joy

Sara Miller McCune has been discreetly and powerfully fueling the performing arts, education, social justice, and the Jewish community in Santa Barbara County for decades.

The renowned publishing trailblazer (she founded SAGE Publishing as a single woman in 1965 and remains Executive Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of this international scholarly publishing empire), is also the co-founder of the McCune Foundation (in 1990), a locally focused philanthropic organization whose mission is to build social capital in both Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.

Sara, who was raised in a working-class Jewish family in Queens, New York, recalls being introduced to philanthropy early. Her family embraced the ancient Jewish tradition of Tzedakah, which in Hebrew literally means “righteous behavior.” It’s also the closest word in the Hebrew language to “philanthropy” but it encompasses so much more than just charitable giving. As she describes it, “Tzedakah” isn’t just about being generous; it’s the moral and ethical imperative for all Jews to put contributing to the greater good of one’s community at the center of one’s life.

She recalls that there was always a box set aside in her childhood home, where family members would deposit their spare change. This money would then be used as part of the family’s charitable giving – their good deeds, or mitzvot. Giving from this mindset, which values connection and mutual support above all else, taught her (and her younger brother) that when a neighbor’s social or economic burdens are lifted, everyone benefits.

“Philanthropy, when it’s done right, strengthens a local economy. It’s woven into the fabric of community life. And what could be better than that?”

-Sara Miller McCune

Philanthropy, as Sara points out, isn’t about charity: it’s about relationship building, and she learned how valuable and joy-inducing this work is at the feet of her parents.

“For me, growing up this way, I wound up discovering eventually, especially over these past few decades, that being a philanthropist makes me very happy. And I feel lucky that I get to give back.”

Sharing resources, Sara has found, releases a very unique and powerful kind of joy into a community. It’s hard to put this feeling into words, but she describes how it frees people to step into creativity and self-sufficiency and problem-solving in really unique ways.

Teach Your Children Well

And this philanthropic joy doesn’t depend on the size of your gift. Sara shares how, based on the example of former SAGE Board Member and publishing colleague Jerry Kaplan, she began the practice of giving her young grandchildren a modest amount of money at Thanksgiving. She instructed them that this money (which was separate from any holiday gifts they’d receive) was theirs to give to any cause or organization they felt passionate about. Then, come spring, during Passover, they’d tell her what they’d done with that money. 

“I loved hearing what they were excited about because it let me get to know them better and brought us closer together. One granddaughter was passionate about ferrets one year, another grandchild wanted to help save the environment, two grandkids gave to a classmate whose house had burned down, and so on. I got to see each of them experience that indescribable philanthropic joy for themselves.”

Philanthropy as an Engine for Change

Sara has become keenly aware of how vital philanthropy is for real, meaningful societal change.

Philanthropists are incredibly in tune with what’s happening in their local communities and are often able to identify problems quickly. She points out the entrepreneurial nature of philanthropy, and the smart risks philanthropists are able and willing to take in order to solve a problem before it escalates and negatively impacts the broader community. But again, this isn’t about largesse.

“People don’t realize that philanthropy provides a lot of employment and creates jobs, on both sides of the equation. Philanthropy, when it’s done right, strengthens a local economy. It’s woven into the fabric of community life. And what could be better than that?”

Finding the Right Philanthropic Partners

Miller McCune understands that strong philanthropic relationships are built on cultivating and expanding a shared passion. For instance, the Board of a performing arts organization should seek out philanthropic organizations that already have a demonstrable commitment to funding the arts: in other words, like attracts like.

“I look for good leadership within the organization,” Miller McCune shares. “Especially with regard to their treatment of staff, their fiscal clarity, and how they are achieving their mission and goals.”

Dismantling Racism on the Central Coast

In 2008, Fabiola Gonzalez-Gutierrez took part in Just Communities’ intensive CommUnity Leadership Institute designed to teach up to 40 local high school students about all the “isms” that get in the way of social justice.

“All my experiences with racism and classism had been private,” Gonzalez-Gutierrez says. “For the first time those experiences were welcomed and supported. As a young person you need that validation, to know that you are not alone.”

Ten years later, after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles, Gonzalez-Gutierrez came to work for the nonprofit that had opened her eyes a decade before.

That nonprofit, Just Communities, “advances justice by building leadership, fostering change, and dismantling all forms of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression.”

Its staff of five helps youth, educators, and families through cultural competency trainings for organizational leaders, running education seminars for the general public, and producing leadership training institutes for students and teachers.

Gonzalez-Gutierrez, Just Communities’ Development and Communications Manager, and Executive Director Melissa Rodezno-Patrino point to the outcome of a recent student seminar at a local Santa Barbara high school. There, students serving on-campus suspensions had to do so in the cafeteria. At lunchtime they were made to eat their lunches facing the wall. “It was dehumanizing,” Gonzalez-Gutierrez says.

As part of the Just Communities’ model the students gave a presentation to the principal. That was in August. Come September, when school started, the practice had been dismantled.

Rodezno-Patrino likens this example to the greater “sense of awakening” about racial injustice gripping the country. “Once you know what is happening there is no way to go back,” she says. “We at Just Communities have always had this conversation. We are not a regular nonprofit where you are treating the ailment with a band-aid. We are treating it directly.”

Every year the staff serves more than 400 young people and adults throughout the region. And every day they are hearing from new organizations looking for tools to dismantle racism in their work. For nearly 20 years, Just Communities has been doing just that