Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds youth-driven creative agency

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 mini-grant to the Ypsilanti-based youth-driven creative agency Ward 1 Productions on April 9, 2018.

Ward 1 Productions’ mission is to teach youth marketable skills in the new creative economy. The agency produces videos and other media content while also teaching youth leadership and job skills through a project-based training program called the Ward 1 Productions System. The system teaches project management, budgeting, documentary writing, storyboarding, interviewing for film, videography, lighting, sound and staging, editing, social media management, and event planning.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Ward 1 Productions representatives with their $1,000 mini-grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Ward 1 Productions representatives with their $1,000 mini-grant.

Ward 1 Productions is a team of adult and youth coaches who believe stories from seldom-heard communities have particular and extraordinary power and that the best stories come from within the story’s own community. The agency is based in Ypsilanti’s Ward 1, the traditionally African-American voting district in the heart of town. Ward 1 Productions is supported in part by MichiganWorks! job training programs and the agency’s partners and customers.

Ward 1 Productions currently borrows most of its video production equipment and has been particularly challenged to get quality audio sound. Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to purchase an audio kit including lavalier mics, a recorder, a boom stand, headphones, a softie windscreen, a handheld mic, a shotgun mic, and a slate.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

 

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds Flint community garden founded by U-M football players

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 mini-grant to Team Gardens on March 4, 2018 to fund its community garden in Flint.

The Flint #Eating Garden is one of multiple community gardens operated by Team Gardens. Team Gardens was founded by former University of Michigan (U-M) football stars Vincent Smith and Martavious Odoms and U-M grad Sonya Sutherland. Odoms and Smith started their first community garden in their hometown of Pahokee, Florida as a way to give back to their community.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundations trustees present Vincent Smith and Sonya Sutherland with their $1,000 grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Vincent Smith and Sonya Sutherland with their $1,000 grant.

From there, Sutherland and Smith quickly shifted their focus to found a community garden to serve an under-resourced population in Michigan. With the help of other former U-M football players, Team Gardens made the decision to start its newest garden in Flint. The #Eating Garden now occupies five city lots. Team Gardens is currently remediating the soil to grow plants, removing invasive species, and maintaining the area. The team has already created raised bed areas to grow vegetables, focusing on crops that have low water needs.

Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to purchase a variety of supplies for the #Eating demonstration garden and health and nutrition education outreach. The garden’s goal is to get residents active outdoors.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

 

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds Black Men Read program

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 mini-grant to Black Men Read on March 4, 2018.

Black Men Read was founded by two Black mothers and Ypsi residents, Yodit Mesfin Johnson and Tamara Ibarisha. Drawing on their professional and lived experiences, these women saw a need for a literacy program that centered their cultural experiences and history in the stories their children heard. They set out to normalize the historical and cultural contributions of Black people through stories while uplifting and countering the narrative that Black men don’t engage in their families or communities.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Yodit Mesfin Johnson with her $1,000 grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Yodit Mesfin Johnson with her $1,000 grant.

Black Men Read took shape during Black History Month in 2016 when Johnson and Ibarisha activated their networks and set out to host reading events for children on Saturday mornings, with Black men reading to the children in attendance. The women believe that the stories told are important and essential so that students can “see” themselves in the stories that are read to them. They believe this is key to all children’s cultural awareness and development.

Building on the program’s success, Black Men Read’s founders are now joining with fellow Mitchell Elementary School parent Cathleen Haglund to offer the program to Mitchell students beginning in January 2018. Awesome Foundation funds will be used to provide small stipends to readers, and healthy snacks and books to hand out to children who attend Black Men Read events.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

 

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds Ypsilanti step dance team

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded its monthly $1,000 mini-grant to the Learnt Ones Foundation on January 7, 2018 to fund an all-male drama and step dance team in Ypsilanti.

Awesome Foundation trustees present members of the Learnt Ones Foundation and T.H.E. C.R.E.A.M. with their $1,000 mini-grant.

Awesome Foundation trustees present members of the Learnt Ones Foundation and T.H.E. C.R.E.A.M. with their $1,000 mini-grant.

The Learnt Ones Foundation, an organization promoting the moral and spiritual edification of young men in urban environments, will sponsor an auxiliary step and drama group named T.H.E. C.R.E.A.M. This auxiliary group will target at-risk males in the Ypsilanti community and empower them to make positive life choices that enable them to maximize their potential. Participants will perform at various events throughout their community, in the hope that other young men will be inspired to join the group. Awesome Foundation funds will go towards the purchase of team uniforms and shoes.

Through collaborative programming with schools and other community-based organizations, the Learnt Ones Foundation also provides educational, social, and mentoring opportunities to enhance academic performance, community connections, and career options for young men ages 8 to 17. The Learnt Ones was founded by Ypsilanti resident Tru Ajani, a public speaker, author, and minister dedicated to improving the lives of young men in his community.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds project to turn school bus into sustainable living space

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded its monthly $1,000 mini-grant to University of Michigan senior Tori Essex on December 3, 2017 to fund her efforts to turn a school bus into a sustainable living space.

Essex, a student in the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design, plans to use the finished bus to convey themes of sustainability and living a creative lifestyle. She will drive the bus to volunteer with farms and nonprofits both in Ann Arbor and across the United States, inspired by her experience volunteering on an organic farm in Ireland last summer. The bus will have a formal audience at the 2018 Stamps Senior Show in April and an informal audience on the road. Instead of making work about sustainability and a creative lifestyle, Essex intends the bus to be a creative work that embodies those themes while serving a utility.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Tori Essex with her $1,000 mini-grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Tori Essex with her $1,000 mini-grant.

Essex has already purchased a bus at auction, and is currently in the process of renovating its interior. The finished bus will contain custom-built furnishings such as benches with built-in storage, fold-away tables, bookcases, a bed, a sink, a composting toilet, and a booth made out of bus seats. The exterior will have a space for an outdoor shower head and curtain, and a platform on the roof. Essex will source as much material as possible from recycle and reuse centers, scrap material, and free material. She expects to learn the most from her hands-on design and building process.

Essex’s Awesome Foundation grant funds will go toward the $5,000 overall budget for her project. Since the bus has already been purchased, grant funds will go primarily towards purchasing scrap and recycled materials to renovate and furnish the bus. More information and updates on the project can be found at Essex’s blog.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds DJing workshop for women

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded one of two $1,000 mini-grants to Seraphine Collective on November 5, 2017 to fund the collective’s Beat Match Brunch program for female and female-identifying DJs.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Sophia Softky of Seraphine Collective with their grant funds.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Sophia Softky of Seraphine Collective with their grant funds.

DJ culture, in Detroit and elsewhere, is male-dominated: VICE magazine reports that women make up under 10 percent of all DJs at music festivals. There is also a high barrier to entry — the cost of equipment can be prohibitive, and as beginners, women are less likely to have access to technical mentorship, practice space, and booking opportunities. In April 2016, Seraphine Collective, a Detroit community of feminists supporting marginalized Detroit artists, rose to this challenge. The collective launched its first workshop series, Beat Match Brunch, a month-long introduction to the fundamentals of the art form for aspiring female-identified DJs. The first workshop, facilitated by Detroit DJ Mother Cyborg, was so popular that about half of the applicants had to be turned away.

Eight women with diverse musical tastes and cultural backgrounds learned how to use turntables; handle, select and “read” vinyl records; isolate sounds; and use beats per minute to beat-match, all in a supportive and collaborative environment. After completing the workshop, several of the DJs have continued to independently borrow equipment, organize practice sessions, and perform at dozens of events around town.

Seraphine Collective hosted its next round of workshops, for 12 people this time, in September 2017. Additionally, the collective hopes that the Beat Match Brunch program will become self-sustaining, with graduates teaching later generations and performing at fundraising events.

Awesome Foundation funds will be used to purchase industry-standard equipment, rent practice space, compensate facilitators, and build a record library for collective use. Seraphine Collective’s first priority is to purchase at least one more set of secondhand Technics 1200 turntables, and purchase a collection of practice records. With funding from the Awesome Foundation, the collective will be able to continue opening up the dance floor as a transformative organizing space for women often marginalized by technology and media.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

 

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds Michigan Prison Doula Initiative

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded one of two $1,000 mini-grants to the Michigan Prison Doula Initiative on November 5, 2017.

 Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Jacqueline Williams and Emily Sluiter of the Michigan Prison Doula Initiative with their grant money.


Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Jacqueline Williams and Emily Sluiter of the Michigan Prison Doula Initiative with their grant money.

The Michigan Prison Doula Initiative (MPDI) is a start-up nonprofit that seeks to support incarcerated pregnant mothers during their prenatal, labor, and postpartum process through doula support, childbirth education, and postpartum visitation coordination. Women who are pregnant and incarcerated represent one of the most vulnerable factions of our community. Incarcerated mothers are often affected by poverty, racism, domestic violence, and drug addiction. Therefore, pregnancies are often high-risk to mother and child, and marred by lack of adequate prenatal care.

MPDI seeks to mitigate some of these effects by providing an experienced doula for each eligible mother, as well as full-spectrum childbirth and nutritional education classes. After the birth, MPDI seeks to work with the Michigan Department of Corrections and Catholic Social Services to allow for more visitation between mother and infant, creating opportunities for bonding and breastfeeding when available. Elsewhere, these efforts have been shown to reduce recidivism rates, strengthen the mother-child bond, and help reintegrate mothers back into their communities upon release. MPDI’s ultimate goal is to train mothers post-release to work within MPDI in some capacity, offering no- or low-cost doula and childbirth education training as a means to widen employment opportunities for interested mothers. MPDI is in discussions with Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility to launch a pilot program.

MPDI co-founder Jacqueline Williams is an activist, mother, and writer from southeast Michigan. Although she and her collaborators are experienced doulas, no one in MPDI has ever worked as a prison doula. Therefore, MPDI doulas will use their Awesome Foundation grant funds to attend a prison doula training hosted by the Prison Birth Project in Massachusetts this winter. They also hope to attend a reproductive justice conference hosted by Hampshire College next spring. In the meantime, MPDI is gathering childbirth and nutritional education materials to send into the prison, as well as assessing the cost of textbook provisions.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds Southeast Michigan Doula Project

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation’s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to the Southeast Michigan Doula Project (SMDP) on September 10, 2017 to fund doula training scholarships for marginalized local women.

SMDP has a base of approximately 50 dedicated and trained volunteer doulas who serve the nine southeast Michigan counties. These women provide evidence-based, emotional, physical, and informational support to pregnant women, teens, and their families before, during, and after birth. In addition to birth doula services, SMDP is committed to community outreach and public awareness regarding reproductive issues.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Ashton Steele of the Southeast Michigan Doula Project with her $1,000 mini-grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Ashton Steele of the Southeast Michigan Doula Project with her $1,000 mini-grant.

SMDP was founded three years ago by two newly trained doulas who shared a vision of volunteering their services to low-income and homeless pregnant women and teens. It became obvious that there was a need for doulas within the local community when SMDP’s founders were asked to expand their services to low-income women working with University of Michigan midwives. Within one month they had too many clients to handle on their own and were scrambling to find other community doulas to volunteer their time.

SMDP has recognized a gap in its ability to provide the majority of its clients who come from marginalized groups with a doula of similar identity. Additionally, women from these marginalized groups encounter financial barriers to obtaining doula training. Part of SMDP’s mission is to bridge this gap by providing as many doula training scholarships as possible to women who would not otherwise be able to afford it, but would be great assets and diverse members of the local birth community. These scholarships would also provide recipients with future entrepreneurial opportunities serving as for-hire doulas to the more affluent mothers and families who can afford them.

SMDP’s Awesome Foundation grant will be used to provide three doula training scholarships to women who are representative of marginalized groups, including but not limited to women of color, LGBT women, and economically underprivileged women. These recipients will be added to SMDP’s volunteer base to better provide SMDP clients with doulas who share their identity and life experiences.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

 

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds children’s library program

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to Books for a Benefit on August 13, 2017.

Founded by two University of Michigan students, Books for a Benefit is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help low-income and minority students overcome barriers to a proper education. One of the projects the organization has undertaken has been to provide libraries for different nonprofit social programs. Books for a Benefit works to donate the supplies necessary to have a substantial library addition to these facilities with no cost burden to their budgets,  recognizing that these programs are not always able to allocate funds for promoting literacy or the arts when they are often strained to provide for the day-to-day essentials.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Malini Dasgupta of Books for a Benefit with her $1,000 mini-grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Malini Dasgupta of Books for a Benefit with her $1,000 mini-grant.

Books for a Benefit provides a large number of books fitting the age ranges of program participants, furniture such as bookshelves and seating for reading areas, decorations, and painting and cleaning supplies. The organization has been able to build libraries in a variety of areas including the youth shelter services program Matrix Off the Streets in Detroit, Cornerstone Community Outreach in Chicago, and PRIMO Center for Women and Children in Englewood through Alternative Spring Break Trips to Chicago. Books for a Benefit’s efforts have created environments that promote and facilitate interest in reading through providing a safe, calm space to escape into the stories.

Books for a Benefit’s Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to purchase the supplies necessary to build more libraries, starting with one to be housed in either the Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti location of the youth homelessness nonprofit Ozone House. Grant funds will be used to purchase furniture, transportation, and food.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds Ypsilanti farm employing citizens returning from incarceration

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to We the People Growers Association (WTPGA) on July 9, 2017 to create a tool shed and employee rest and rehydration station.

We The People Growers Association (WTPGA) recently signed a land lease agreement to create a 1.5-acre community-based farm in Ypsilanti with the goal of employing men and women returning home from incarceration. Currently, WTPGA has tilled 8,000 square feet and created 12 vegetable beds. As WTPGA develops, one of its immediate needs is infrastructure development. WTPGA will partner with Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley (HHHV) to meet the critical infrastructural need of constructing a tool shed for secure on-site storage, as well as a place for employees and volunteers to rest and rehydrate.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present We the People Growers Association founder Melvin Parson with his grant money.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present We the People Growers Association founder Melvin Parson with his grant money.

Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to buy construction supplies for the tool shed and rest and rehydration station. In partnership with HHHV, volunteers will work together to construct both projects over the course of a day-long community event this summer.

WTPGA was founded in 2015 by Melvin Parson. Parson has developed a passion for building community since returning home from 13 years of incarceration. He is a recent graduate of Eastern Michigan University’s School of Social Work and is currently a student at Michigan State University’s Student Organic Farm training program.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.