Supporting Racial Equity in Maine

In a presentation for the Maine Philanthropy Center earlier this year, Lelia DeAndrade, MaineCF’s senior director of grantmaking services, reflected on racial equity grantmaking. DeAndrade noted that the organizations and communities that the Maine Community Foundation works with “have faced and continue to face exceptional barriers.” A one-size-fits-all approach to grantmaking won’t work, she explained, because nonprofits and communities the foundation wants to partner with “aren’t starting at the same place or have access to the same resources.”

Here are three examples of ways in which MaineCF supports racial equity in Maine.

Aroostook Band of Micmac Chief Edward Peter Paul (in baseball cap) led the ribbon-cutting at the Aroostook Band of Micmac Community Wellness Center grand opening. To his right are Virginia Manuel, USDA; Mark Butterfield, HUD’s Eastern Woodland Office of Native Programs; and Craig Sanborn, Aroostook Micmac Housing Director. Photo: Erin St. Peter, courtesy Four Directions Development Corporation

Micmac Community Health and Wellness Center, Presque Isle

With a critical impact investment from the Maine Community Foundation, Four Directions Development Corporation provided construction financing for the Micmac Community Health and Wellness Center in Presque Isle. The new center houses the Little Feathers Head Start early childhood education program and offers ongoing programming for elders in the community. The center also houses a community fitness facility and provides health and nutrition classes, arts and culture workshops, communal spaces, and two kitchen areas for tribal members of all ages.

The project aims to address the Micmac Tribal Community’s most pressing and highest priority needs as well as public health challenges. With construction of the center, the Micmac community has strengthened interactions between tribal youth and elders and safeguarded the sharing of knowledge and traditions between generations.


Cooking and sharing cultures comes easily when the women of PEACE meet in Lewiston. Photo courtesy Central Maine YWCA

PEACE at the Central Maine YWCA, Lewiston

Smiles, food, and the freedom to try a new language are just a few successes of the PEACE program at Lewiston’s Central Maine YWCA. They loom large for “new” Mainers and longtime residents alike, whose efforts are strengthening Lewiston-Auburn's multi-cultural community. 

The PEACE program, or Positive Ethnic and Cultural Exchange, began late last summer with a community-building grant from MaineCF’s Androscoggin County Fund. Today it serves about 75 women from age 16 up who bring diverse backgrounds and shared leadership to their gatherings.

The program has empowered the women of PEACE and provided them skills and confidence to gain more access to their new homeland. There, among friends in a familiar place, they've found the courage to learn and practice conversational English - whether they're talking politics or potlucks. 

Natalie Bornstein and Taysir Jama, who coordinate the program, call it an “intentional community-building space.” PEACE combines walking – when the weather is nice – with planned activities. Participants have tried out archery, swapped clothes, learned screen printing, and served up food from their own cultures.

For Bornstein and Jama, both 24, it’s easy to see the impact of their work in a community they’ve called home for most of their lives. “We benefit from them as much as they benefit from us,” says Jama.


Gerald “Butch” Jacobs​, Passamaquoddy from Waldo, demonstrates black ash splint pounding.
Jacobs harvests​ the ash from his own land to carry on an important Wabanaki tradition. As part of the renowned Passamaquoddy Neptune family from Pleasant Point, Jacobs always knew he would keep his heritage alive. As a young boy he watched his uncles pound ash and weave large fish scale baskets for the sardine factory in Eastport. Photo courtesy of United Society of Shakers​

Native American Market and Demonstration, New Gloucester

This summer will mark the ninth annual Maine Native American Summer Market and Demonstrationat the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester. More than 40 members of the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac, and Maliseet tribes demonstrate traditional Wabanaki art forms, including basketmaking, stone carving, bark etching, beadwork, and jewelry. Also featured are performances of drumming, singing, dancing, and storytelling by the Burnurwurbskek Singers, dancers from the Penobscot Nation, and Micmac spiritual leader David Sanipass.

The event, which has received support from the community foundation’s Maine Expansion Arts Fund, provides a rare opportunity to purchase museum-quality crafts directly from Maine’s finest Wabanaki artists, nationally recognized and honored for their role in the preservation of important traditions. A large flower-top basket by Molly Neptune Parker will be raffled to benefit the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance. This is the southernmost gathering of Wabanaki artists in the state of Maine.

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