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Racial Justice grants awarded to Lane County initiatives led by people of color

Escudo Latino volunteers celebrate new mural in Springfield.
Ofelia Guzman
Escudo Latino
Escudo Latino volunteers celebrate the creation of a new mural in Springfield. Director Mariela German-Hernandez is in the center, holding her child.

Ten culturally specific initiatives have been chosen to receive operating grants from United Way of Lane County’s new Racial Justice Fund.

Each $5,000 grant will support projects and programs led by or serving people of color. The Racial Justice funds to be dispersed next month will assist Indigenous mentorship efforts, provide scholarships for youth in performing arts with African roots and more.

Escudo Latino was awarded a grant to provide free translation and interpretation services for Spanish-speaking communities.

Mariela German Hernandez and another Escudo Latino volunteer stand in front of a colorful table.
Escudo Latino
Mariela German Hernandez, left, with another volunteer for Escudo Latino at 2022 Noche Cultural event.

“I will translate fliers," said Escudo Latino director Mariela German-Hernandez. "I will translate different Facebook posts into Spanish for my community to stay up to date with news, information, upcoming events."

The word “escudo” translates to “shield,” which German-Hernandez said protects her Latino community. In addition to numerous other partners, Escudo Latino provides Spanish interpretation services for the City of Springfield and the Springfield Library.

“It’s not just about the translating. It’s about the wording. Sometimes there are certain words in our Spanish that aren’t very good at being translated,” said German-Hernandez. “Or there are words in English don’t exist in Spanish. So, we have to come up with something around the text that will say the same message.”

Over 200 community members and groups have donated to the Racial Justice Fund since 2021.

The Racial Justice Fund (RJF) is led by an Advisory Council composed of local leaders of color. United Way of Lane County’s grant making is shaped by feedback, needs and issues identified by local communities of color.

“We’ve tried diligently to remain true to our initial commitment: advancing racial justice within Lane County by investing in community-identified and community-led solutions,” said Advisory Council co-chair Collina Beard.

“The intended impact of these grants is to have a lasting and long-range positive effect on our communities of color," she added, “which in turn ripples to our greater community and the state at large.”

On April 1, 2023, the following ten initiatives will each receive $5,000 grants:

  • Xcape Dance Company: provides scholarships for kids ages 2 and up to participate in performing arts, including almost 50 movement classes weekly with roots based in African Diaspora.
  • *Escudo Latino (Community Alliance of Lane County): provides free translation/interpretation services, advocacy for equity in education, and more for Spanish-speaking communities. 
  • *BLACKS (H.O.N.E.Y. Inc.): funds expansion of this new, culturally specific organization helping Black students succeed without giving up their cultural identity.
  • Lift Every Voice (Xcape Dance Company): fills unmet wellness needs and service gaps for BIPOC families and provides spaces for leaders of color to coordinate services. 
  • Ecostudies Institute’s Willamette Valley Fire Collaboration: funds Indigenous mentors providing cultural mentorship, support, and training to Indigenous burn crew carrying out prescribed and cultural fire practices. 
  • King Silky’s Blessing Boxes: supports leaders of color coordinating delivery of food/care essentials to folks in need, particularly elders, folks with disabilities, and veterans, with respect to dietary, cultural, and other special needs. 
  • Solid Strides: supports culturally-specific equestrian programs to reduce barriers to horse sports for historically excluded riders. 
  • Refugee and Immigrant Services  of Catholic Community Services of Lane County: expands translation and interpretation services to meet additional language needs of refugee and immigrant communities.  
  • Human Rights Human Stories: funds film projects providing legal support for potential victims of human/civil rights violations and education about the Declaration of Human Rights focused on youth and the education system. 
  • Lane Arts Council: expands the Arts & Culture Roundtables to better serve underrepresented cultural producers and artists of color and provide space for artists and cultural leaders to engage in solutions-oriented discussions.

    *Applicants applying with a fiscal sponsor with the sponsor listed in parentheses

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.
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