2011 ushered in a new era of activism; although from the mainstream media’s perspective the wave of global protest didn’t crash upon our nation’s shores until the fall. Perhaps at the RFC we should have been aware of its impending arrival, because we noted an uptick in new applications starting at the beginning of the year. We weren’t swamped with requests from the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement in 2011 because it was still in its infancy when our fall application deadline passed in early October. But we were already straining to meet the rising demand for our support.
Years of hard times, vicious attacks on unions and international solidarity workers, as well as a militarized domestic security complex, ignited both protest and repression. With hindsight it is easy to see why we were deluged. It seems obvious now that resistance was building and that OWS caught an existing wave.
Predictable or not, it sure was a dramatic year at the RFC. 2011 would have been very busy and productive for us even without the upsurge in domestic activism. On top of increased activity on the granting side, we produced a tremendous amount of programming these last 12 months.
We concluded our 20/20/20 series during the first half of the year. As you may recall, starting in the fall of 2009 we began what we planned to be 20 events in 20 cities over a 20 month period to mark our 20th anniversary. We ended up holding 26 events over 21 months in 16 states ending in June of 2011. We personally thanked over 1000 supporters, and introduced the RFC to hundreds of new friends. This extraordinary effort also generated over $63,000 more for our beneficiaries. This is something that our entire community should be proud of.
Then in August, we held our first Carry it Forward Gathering since 2006. Originally we planned this event for 2009, but in the wake of the financial crash of 2008 we were forced to postpone it for lack of funds. We brought together over 20 young adults, all current or former RFC beneficiaries, for four days of sharing, network building, artistic expression and fun. They were a dynamic and inspiring group. Their level of engagement, coupled with our exhilaration at reinstating this threatened program, had a cathartic impact upon all of us.
We could tell from how they responded to us and each other that the Gathering had a powerfully positive impact on the young participants. Moreover, a number of the attendees connected with kindred spirits who, I believe, will provide mutual support for their ongoing organizing work in the future. I wish everyone in the RFC community could have shared this experience, because no one who did could have doubted its value. If you have not seen it already, I urge you to view our video of the event here.
Finally, in November we completed our 21st year of granting. We awarded over 150 grants, totaling just under $370,000 (an increase of $10,000 over 2010) to benefit hundreds of children of targeted activists and targeted activist youth. I am proud to announce that the RFC has now made over $4 million in grants since our first award of $805 in May of 1991. I wish to emphasize that the vast majority of these funds came from tens of thousands of modest donations from our activist-oriented, beloved community of support.
We face 2012 wondering where the recent burst of progressive activism will lead us in the coming year. I admit to being a little concerned that it might become positively manic around the RFC office as our spring deadline approaches if we receive many new requests from those who were targeted during the last couple of months. But I’m more excited than worried. I know that all of you in the RFC community stand with us and that together we will rise to the challenge.
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