New York foundation bankrolling truth process
In an April 19 speech in Greensboro City Council chambers, council member Florence Gatten charged some members of the media with failing to treat the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission and other organizations pushing the truth process with appropriate scrutiny.
Who’s funding the truth process, she asked. Then she answered her own question by asking: ‘“Who is the Andrus Foundation [SIC] in New York?’” She also questioned why the majority of funding for the truth process is coming from sources outside of North Carolina.
The truth commission has so far received $60,000 from the Andrus Family Fund, $75,000 from the JEHT Foundation and $15,000 from private donations raised from both local and national sources, said Joya Wesley, spokeswoman for the commission. The day after Gatten’s query, Wesley told YES! Weekly the Commission is applying for grants from North Carolina foundations, but she declined to give specific names. She also said she did not know the names of the private donors.
The Commission’s money is being managed by the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro. Wesley said the grants and donations pay the rent for the commission’s offices in the Self-Help Building in downtown Greensboro, as well as operating expenses and salaries. The commission employs an executive director, a research director, a public hearings coordinator and an administrative specialist.
‘“It’s not enough yet to cover all the expenses,’” she said. ‘“I think we’re talking about releasing the whole budget, but we have to run it by the commissioners first. Transparency is what we’re all about.’”
Rosemarie Vardell, program director for the Beloved Community Center, said the Greensboro Truth and Community Reconciliation Project raised $18,000 through individual appeals to help the Commission with individual expenses. The project also paid the salary of a Commission staff member, Administrative Specialist Scott Pryor, with grant money from the Andrus Family Fund through March.
The New York-based Andrus Family Fund has underwritten virtually the entire truth process ‘— funding the Commission itself, along with organizations responsible for initiating the truth process, providing technical support and studying the Commission’s effect on public attitudes.
In its 2000-2002 grant cycle, the Andrus Family Fund disbursed a $20,000 start-up grant to the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro and the Greensboro Justice Fund to develop a truth and reconciliation project. The Beloved Community Center is a social action center established by Rev. Nelson Johnson and Joyce Johnson, two survivors of the Greensboro Massacre. The Greensboro Justice Fund, based in Northampton, Mass., was established by Dr. Marty Nathan, also a survivor, with money paid by the city of Greensboro when it was found liable along with members of the Klan and Nazis for the death of her husband.
The Andrus Family Fund later disbursed a $330,000 grant for a three-year period to the two organizations that became known as the Truth and Community Reconciliation Project to establish the independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission through a broad-based community-selection process.
The Fund has also granted a total of $108,250 to the International Center for Transitional Justice in New York over a two-year period to provide technical support to both the Project and Commission. In addition, the Fund gave $97,000 to the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine’s department of social and administrative medicine to gather baseline data on residents of Guilford County to assess in future research whether ‘“attitudes on race, reconciliation, justice and social cohesion change over time as a result of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission.’”
In total, the Fund has given a minimum of $615,250 to organizations involved in the truth and reconciliation process in Greensboro.
The money given to the Greensboro truth and reconciliation process falls under one of the Fund’s four major grant areas: ‘community reconciliation.’ According to its literature, the Fund is concerned about division, injustice and violence related to identity, police-community relations and conservation issues. The Fund champions the so-called ‘Bridges theory of transition’ as a guiding principle for projects it supports. The theory is based on a book by a California-based business consultant named William Bridges, who published the bestseller Managing Transitions in 1991.
Among the organizations that have together received millions of dollars from the Fund are:
‘• The Community Law Center, which received $115,000 to address strained relationships between police and residents of a Baltimore neighborhood;
‘• The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which received $75,000 to address anti-gay violence in New York;
‘• The National Conference for Community and Justice, which received $165,000 to address racial profiling in Detroit;
‘• The New Prospect Development Corp., which received $175,000 to ease tensions between police and communities of color in Cincinnati; and
‘• The Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance of Saco, Maine, which received $50,000 to address ‘“deeply rooted conflicts within the northwest Atlantic fishing community.’”
The Andrus Family Fund also gives money to organizations that help foster children make the transition to independence as adults ‘— a concern for founder John Emory Andrus, whose wife was an orphan.
According to an account of the philanthropic organization, the Andrus Family Fund is organized around an extended family. Originally established as the Surdna Foundation, it reorganized as the Andrus Family Fund in the late 1990s when it made the transition from a hierarchical family foundation to a networked extended family philanthropic organization. The Surdna Foundation was established in 1917 by Andrus, who spelled his name backwards to deflect attention from himself.
Andrus, who was born in Pleasantville, NY in 1841, founded Arlington Chemical Company, a producer of manufactured medicines, according to an article provided by the defunct Surdna Foundation. The company possessed timber holdings in California and mineral rights in New Mexico, as well as extensive land holdings in Florida, New Jersey and Alaska. Andrus was elected mayor of Yonkers, NY and served four terms in the US Congress.
The other major source of funding for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the JEHT Foundation, is much younger, having been founded in April 2000. JEHT stands for ‘justice, equality, human dignity and tolerance.’
‘“That’s what they’re about and this is right down their alley,’” Wesley said.
The Foundation’s website describes its three areas of interest as redirecting funding from incarceration to programs for at-risk persons and former prisoners, confronting US reluctance to honor international law, and increasing voter participation in US elections.
To Gatten, who was interviewed on April 20, the thousands of dollars provided by private foundations to examine the painful legacy of the Morningside Massacre could be spent on more immediate problems.
‘“What I’m hearing today is that people wish that money was being spent for homelessness, hunger or to do something about chronic drug use, rather than something that was more ephemeral,’” she said. ‘“’”We heard that with the baseball stadium, and I think that argument could be advanced here. But who am I to tell people how to spend their money, right?’”
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