Newsletter Vol. 4 No. 5 – May 2024

NAVIGATION
The Power of BIPOC Leadership

by Shabnam Nolan

Leadership is hard no matter your identity. To be a woman of color leading an organization in Vermont… well, I can count on less than two hands how many of us there are, and I knew how hard it was going to be when I decided to take the role of Executive Director at King Street Center.

I know many of you have been there. Do I take this opportunity? Will I be the only one? Will I have to always be the voice? Is it worth it? Do they really care about equity? The answers to these questions are neither obvious nor simple. 

So, during one of the final stages of my interview process, I came prepared. I had been asked to put together a presentation on how I would work to apply an equity lens onto the organization. [This was, of course, summer of 2021, and every organization had suddenly woken up to racism.] So…I came in with my own test. I placed the Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Oppression Organization document on the table and asked: where do you think King Street falls on this continuum? For me, there was a right answer. They passed, and I decided my answer, should I be offered the role, would be yes.

Did I know all the answers to the questions running through my mind? No. Was I scared that it would all go to shit? Yes. But that is what leadership is about: taking leaps of faith… over and over again. 

The truth is that there WILL be too many times you are the only person of color in the room and the only one to point out the problematic language or approach. Your white executive director colleagues will say something not too different from you, but you’ll be told saying something as benign as “don’t cut us out” is too aggressive, or that you are shameful for speaking up about the harm another organization could cause in your community.

You will need to come, shield in hand, and be prepared. You have to know your values and where you stand. You have to be confident in who you are because people will question you, your motives, your decisions, and just about everything you do and the way you do it.

BUT. Because you said yes, you will take a white led, majority white staff and in 3 years turn it into a BIPOC led, majority BIPOC staff serving majority BIPOC youth in Burlington. You will hear staff, youth, and families acknowledge the importance of reflecting what is possible for communities of color because here is a woman of color in a leadership role. You will have power – power that does not easily come to BIPOC folks – and you can use that power to lift up your community and say yes when others may say no. You will stop evictions and bad policies and prevent more than one first-generation college student from falling victim to the systemic racism that plagues our higher education institutions.

I share this part of my story with you not to say being a leader in this state is easy or that it is easy to cut through all the barriers systemic racism puts in the way of people of color getting leadership roles, but to tell you that it is worth it and we need more BIPOC folks in leadership roles across the state. It’s also important to acknowledge that many women of color have, in fact, done this in Vermont and have been scapegoated.

But every day I see just how much BIPOC youth in our state need BIPOC leaders and mentors. As I write this, there are more than 10 King Street Center youth who are asking for mentors on a daily basis. We can’t find them.

If you take away anything from this article, take away this: you can take action right now and be a leader. You don’t have to wait for someone to offer it to you. What might you ask, is that action? It’s simple yet profoundly impactful and will generate more BIPOC leaders in our community: mentor a King Street Center youth. They need you. Let’s show them we are willing to invest in them, just as we need people to invest in us. All you have to do is reach out to me.

P.S. We also need funders to invest in our leadership. There are not enough professional development dollars for BIPOC people to learn the skills they need for leadership roles or even funding for the current leaders to grow. So if you are a funder or connected to a funder, consider being a leader in this space. We also need you.

About the Author

A first-generation Iranian American, Shabnam has dedicated her life to advocating for children and families, especially those who are most often pushed to the margins of our society. Currently, she serves as the Executive Director of King Street Center, a nonprofit youth development organization serving low-income children 18 mo – 18 years old and their families, most of whom come from the immigrant/refugee communities in Burlington that Vermont is lucky to have. 

Leading King Street Center combines Shabnam’s passion for youth with her commitment to justice and equity. She has worked in a variety of roles in the nonprofit sector for 17 years and has expertise in policy advocacy, communications, public relations, data analysis, and the ever beloved and never ending joy of nonprofit grant writing. When not raising good trouble at work, Shabnam spends time with her husband, three children, and friends, although they will tell you she also raises trouble outside of work (ahem… but always in pursuit of justice). And no, she does not ski. Ocean – always the ocean.

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT

Our member spotlight is on Anthony Huynh (he/him)!

Born and raised in Vermont, Anthony currently serves as the Marketing and Events Specialist at Feeding Chittenden, a food service program under the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO). Anthony currently resides in Colchester, Vermont.

news FROM THE NETWORK

VT PoC’s The Things in Between

Missed out on our past Financial Literacy Series webinars? No worries! We’re shaking things up and bringing the knowledge straight to your screens with our new video format!

Get ready to dive into The Things in Between! ✨ Our hopes for The Things in Between is to provide an accessible way to share information, while also discussing topics beyond financial literacy.

In April, we spoke with Shanda Williams from S D Communications Marketing and Consulting Group to answer questions about personal finances. Check out the playlist at the link below!

Generator’s Summer 2024 BIPOC Scholarship Application is OPEN!

Through our BIPOC Scholarship program, we provide $10,000 worth of makerspace access and technical education to Vermont’s Black, Indigenous, and People of Color community each year. 

Scholarship recipients receive 6-months of free makerspace membership ($594 value) and a $400 tool training credit.

The current application will close June 1, 2024. Membership will start August 1st, 2024 though scholarship recipients will be able to sign up for tool trainings starting July 1st, 2024.

VT PoC’s 2023 Annual Report

2023 was an incredible year of growth and community for VT PoC, and we’re excited to share the work that we did with you. Find the full report at the link below.

Document cover for VT PoC 2023 annual report pdf

New Fellowship at Outpost for BIPOC High School Students

BIPOC high school students throughout the state (grades 9-12) who are poets, fiction writers, and essayists are invited to apply for this fellowship! A small cohort of promising students will be selected to participate in an intensive writing workshop. This workshop will be held at the historic Robert Frost Stone House in Shaftsbury. Selected fellows will receive a $300 award plus travel expenses.

Applications will close on May 15th. If you have any questions, contact Ricardo Wilson at director@outposttheresidency.org.

Apply now: VTDigger’s Advertising for Racial Equity program is accepting new businesses

The program supports BIPOC-owned Vermont businesses, entrepreneurs, and solopreneurs by offering up to $2,000 worth of free digital advertising on VTDigger’s website!

BIPOC Financial Empowerment

The Root Social Justice Center is excited to announce the launch of the BIPOC Financial Empowerment program, an initiative of the Building Equity Collaborative. The program is designed to provide BIPOC with the knowledge, tools, resources and coaching to support their financial wellbeing.

BIPOC must be living in rural Vermont (outside of Chittenden County) to participate in the program. The program offers monthly hybrid (in-person & zoom) workshops on various financial topics, a supportive affinity group setting and 1:1 coaching to help you achieve your goals.

Workshops start in April and end in October, register to claim your spot now! The program will offer free workshops and coaching in English and Spanish. English workshops will be offered the 1st Saturday of the month and Spanish workshops on the 3rd Saturday of the month.

Apply now: Firefolk Arts is looking for vendors!

Firefolk Arts in Waitsfield has 5 more spots open for our Makers Market on June 8, from 12-5 pm.

If you are an artist, maker, food vendor etc, please apply here by May 12 to join us if you’d like to sell goods! 

Families of Color Advisory Committee for Racial Equity in Child Care Policy

Your insights and experience are very important to help Let’s Grow Kids monitor how the new child care bill is working in Vermont. You are invited to join Let’s Grow Kids’ Families of Color Advisory Committee for Racial Equity in Child Care Policy.

Your voice can help to shape the future of child care in Vermont and help us make sure that child care in the future serves ALL Vermont families, including children of color and their families.

The Advisory Committee meets by zoom once a month for 90 minutes. The group is hosted by BIPOC facilitator Ilia Gilligan. Meetings are on the second Tuesday of each month from 7:00 – 8:30 PM.

EVENTS

May 7, 21 – Mandarin Conversation Circle with the Vermont Chinese School (11:00 AM – 12:00 PM)
Please join volunteers from the Vermont Chinese School to learn and improve your Mandarin and make new friends. Registration is not required. All are welcome! Please email vtchineseschool@gmail.com with any questions. Thank you!

May 7, 14, 21, 28 (Every Tuesday) – Richard Kemp Center: Got Chess? (5:00 PM – 7:00 PM)
The Youth Chess Club is a dynamic and inclusive program designed to empower young individuals from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities through the timeless game of chess. Our program offers a safe and welcoming space where youth can explore the world of chess, cultivate essential life skills, and experience a range of valuable benefits.

May 7, 8 – “Know Your Rights” Training Sessions in Middlebury and Rutland with the ACLU of Vermont (5:30 PM)
Encounters with police can be unexpected — and stressful. We’re holding “Know Your Rights” training sessions to give folks a greater understanding of their civil rights when interacting with police. Be prepared to advocate for yourself in future situations, and to help others do the same. There will also be an opportunity to take action around police accountability in Vermont. These events are free and open to the public. Here’s some of what we’ll cover: What are the different types of police encounters? When and how should you assert your rights during an interaction with police? When are you required to show your ID to an officer? What are some ways to report police misconduct? Refreshments will be provided. RSVP here.

May 7, 14, 21, 28 – Burlington Yoga Equity Project Presents: BIPOC Affinity Space Yoga Class (5:45 PM – 7:00 PM)
The Burlington Yoga Equity Project is pleased to offer incentivized affinity-based yoga classes and workshops designed to support and sustain the health and wellness of our BIPOC community members at Laughing River Yoga (Chace Mill).

May 8 – Vermont Womenpreneurs’s Biz Buzz Brews Waitsfield (5:00 PM – 7:00 PM)
Come join us for a day of networking, learning, and fun at Lawson’s Finest Liquids! Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting out, this event is perfect for all womenpreneurs looking to connect with like-minded individuals. Enjoy delicious brews, engaging conversations, and valuable insights to help grow your business. Don’t miss out on this fantastic opportunity to mingle with fellow female business owners in the beautiful town of Waitsfield. See you there!

May 8 – Vermont Housing Finance Agency’s Homebuying 101 Webinar (6:00 PM – 7:00 PM)
Join us and @theloanmonarch for a FREE online webinar to help you understand tips and tricks to succeed in the homebuying process, how special programs could help, and where to get started! Register today at: https://bit.ly/3QpRIBB

May 8 – Paint & Sip Sunflower Barn at Zenbarn (6:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
Begin Wednesday Night Dead at Zenbarn with Paint Night. Paint your acrylic on canvas of a sunflower barn. On May, 8th, join teaching artist Natasha Bogar from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. upstairs at Zenbarn in Waterbury for an evening of fun and creativity. The class is guided step by step, learning about color mixing, brush handling, and blending. All supplies are included and all abilities are welcome. Doors open at 5:45 for paint night. Live Grateful Dead music starts at 7:00 p.m.

May 8, 15, 22, 29 – ELL Classes: English for Beginners and Intermediate Students (6:30 PM – 8:00 PM)
Beginning English-language learners can practice written and spoken English with a certified TOEFL instructor. FREE. Please register for classes by emailing Barbara Shatara at bshatara@burlingtonvt.gov.

May 9 – Vermont Womenpreneurs’s Biz Buzz Burlington (10:00 AM – 11:00 AM)
Our monthly Burlington Vermont Womenpreneurs meet-up at 10am is an opportunity for women business owners in Chittenden County to connect, learn of new opportunities and updates from one another. Join us for coffee and light breakfast at Kestrel Coffees at 47 Maple Street. Free event. Just walk in.

May 9 – Richard Kemp Center: Black Affinity Space for Adults (6:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
All are welcome to participate In recognition of the unique experiences, challenges, and strengths of the African Diaspora “Black Space provides a safe, supportive, and empowering environment where Black individuals can come together to share common experiences, build relationships, foster community, and promote healing.

May 9 – Bob The Drag Queen at the Vermont Comedy Club (9:30 PM)
The alter ego of non-binary comic/actor Caldwell Tidicue, “Bob The Drag Queen” describes herself as “hilarious, beautiful, talented and…humble.” Bob’s unabashed confidence won her the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar” on season 8 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” multiple acting roles for HBO, Netflix, Sony Tristar, MTV, and VH1.

May 10 – Mah-Jongg at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library (1:00 PM – 3:00 PM)
Come alone or bring a friend and play with members of the community. All experience levels are welcome. No registration required.

May 10, 24 (Every 2nd and 4th Friday) – Richard Kemp Center: Youth Movie Night (6:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
Youth Movie Night is a community-centered initiative aimed at promoting awareness, understanding, and dialogue on racial justice issues through the medium of film. This program creates a safe and inclusive space where youth from 8 to 18 can come together to watch thought-provoking movies with cultural themes, engage in meaningful discussions, and share food in a welcoming and collaborative environment.

May 10 – Remembering Reuben Jackson (6:30 PM – 8:00 PM)
Join Poets Toussaint St Negritude LN Bethea Isaiah Hines and Rajnii Eddins as through poetry they explore musings on life, mortality, personal story, grief and the absurdity of race in remembrance of Poet and Loved One Reuben Jackson.

May 11 – Black Fae Day at Zenbarn (12:00 PM – 2:00 PM)
The purpose of this day is to increase positive representation of Black People in fantasy. Black Fae Day is also a brand that highlights black fantasy enthusiasts year round. Join us at Zen Barn in Waterbury, Vermont for the most lit celebration – for the culture!

May 11, 25 – Fletcher Free Library Presents: The Poetry Experience with Rajnii Eddins (1:00 PM – 3:00 PM)
Looking for a fun space to be creative and share poetry? Check out this local writing/sharing circle (held every 2nd and 4th Saturday). The Poetry Experience is hosted by Rajnii Eddins! Please spread the word and feel free to invite poets, writers, teachers, emcees, creative people and arts enthusiasts of all ages.

May 11 – Fletcher Free Library Presents: Black is Beautiful Film Series – Devil in a Blue Dress (3:00 PM – 5:00 PM)
The bone-deep disillusionment of postwar film noir becomes a powerful vehicle to explore America’s racial injustices in Carl Franklin’s richly atmospheric Devil in a Blue Dress, an adaptation of the hard-boiled novel by Walter Mosley. Denzel Washington has charisma to burn as the jobless ex-GI Easy Rawlins, who sees a chance to make some quick cash when he’s recruited to find the missing lover (Jennifer Beals) of a wealthy mayoral candidate in late-1940s Los Angeles—only to find himself embroiled in murder, political intrigue, and a scandal that crosses the treacherous color lines of a segregated society. Featuring breakout work by Don Cheadle as Rawlins’s cheerfully trigger-happy sidekick, this stylish mystery both channels and subverts classic noir tropes as it exposes the bitter racial realities underlying the American dream.

May 13, 27 – English Conversation Circle (12:00 PM – 1:00 PM)
Practice your English and make new friends. Join library staff and volunteers for a fun and friendly conversation with other adult English learners. Our English Conversation Circle meets the second and fourth Monday of each month, in the Digital Lab of the South Burlington Public Library. Registration is not required for this program. All are welcome! Email sbplprograms@southburlingtonvt.gov with any questions.

May 16 – Vermont Womenpreneurs’s Biz Buzz Bristol (9:00 AM – 10:00 AM)
Join us at our Biz Buzz meetup in Bristol, an opportunity for women business owners and leaders in Addison County to connect, learn of new opportunities, and hear updates from one another.

May 17 – Pride Center of VT Presents: Barn Party at The Intervale (4:30 PM – 7:30 PM)
The weather is warming up and it is time to get outside! Thrive, in collaboration with Intervale Center, we are throwing an outdoor party for Queer/Trans black and brown folx and the greater POC community. Families are welcome! Food & drinks! Music & dancing! Fun & games. We will be providing food, grilled on site, but feel free to bring your own. If you have any lawn games or board games, please bring them along. Masking is encouraged but not required.

May 17 – Richard Kemp Center: Game Night (6:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
The Game Night is a unique and inclusive community event designed to foster unity, understanding, and celebration of diverse cultures while promoting racial equity and social justice. This is a welcoming space for people from all racial backgrounds to come together, have fun, and engage in meaningful conversations. You can expect Inclusive Games, Cultural Exchange, Racial Justice Discussions, Networking and Building, Community, Food and Refreshments and a Family-Friendly Environment.

May 18 – Korean Food Festival & Spring Yard Sale at the Vermont Korean American United Methodist Church (11:00 AM – 3:00 PM)
For $10 – $14 each, indulge in a tantalizing array of traditional Korean dishes that will transport your taste buds to the heart of Korea. We’re also hosting a Spring Yard Sale, where you can score amazing deals on a variety of items. Don’t miss out on this fun-filled day of shopping! We’ll only be accepting cash!

May 21 – English Language Learner Movie Night (5:30 PM – 6:30 PM)
Are you an English language learner? Are you looking for more opportunities to practice English? Join us at the English Language Learner Movie Night! We will be screening an Academy Award winning short film, The Neighbors’ Window (2019). This film tells the story of Alli, a mother of young children who has grown frustrated with her daily routine and husband. But her life is shaken up when two free-spirited twenty-somethings move in across the street and she discovers that she can see into their apartment. Content warning: the film contains elements of sex and nudity, profanity, alcohol, drugs and smoking. Come ready to watch the film together in the Digital Lab on the second floor of the library and have a discussion together afterwards. We hope to see you there!

May 23 – Richard Kemp Center: Outreach and Education; Equal Protection and Reparations – Hybrid (6:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
Join us at the Richard Kemp Center for outreach and education on systemic racism root causes, impact and discussions on solutions. This is an opportunity to learn and get acquainted with folks who are interested and engaged in doing the work of eradicating systemic racism. These sessions are intended to equip our community and provide space to do the work. If attending online, click to register in advance for this meeting.

May 25 – Max Razy Tent Sale (11:00 AM – 4:00 PM)
Get ready for HUGE savings on your favorite MRStyles at our epic tent sale happening at 9 Morrie Dr, Orange, VT on Saturday, 5/25/24, 11am-4pm. Entertainment will be provided by Contagious Band. Come shop MRStyles, listen to live music, or just stop by and take in the view. See you then.

May 25 – Firefolk Arts Presents: Tea + Meditation Workshop with Vanessa Santos Eugenio (3:00 PM – 6:00 PM)
Need a moment of grounding? Let us fill your cup. The Firefolk crew loves tea time… offering us a daily reminder to slow down, steep ourselves in reflection, breathe in aroma, notice taste, give our brains a rest, and sink into our bodies — a return to our center and equilibrium, amidst this swirly world. Join us in welcoming Vanessa Santos Eugenio, for a community tea & meditation practice: The Art & History of Tea. Cost: $30.

May 26 – No-Till Garden Workshop with Maple Mountain Homestead (10:00 AM – 2:00 PM)
Learn how to build a no-till garden from start to finish. First workshop in a series of 6. Email info@maplemountainhomestead.com to sign up. Cost: $45.

May 30 – For Startup and Existing Businesses: Complying with the New Federal Benefit Ownership Information Reporting (BOIR) Requirement Webinar (10:00 AM – 11:00 AM)
Do you know about the new Beneficial Ownership Information reporting (BOIR) requirement? As of January 1, 2024, the federal government now requires small, for-profit businesses registered with the VT Secretary of State to file information about who owns and who controls their business. In this one-hour webinar, a team of faculty and students from VLGS’ Vermont Small Business Law Center will answer questions about this new requirement, and explain how to report accurately and on time so you avoid penalties. This class is appropriate for startup and existing businesses. Register here for this Zoom webinar.

June 1 – Community Discussions on Community Health and Wellness (4:00 PM – 6:00 PM)
Public safety conversations focusing on racial justice is crucial, given the historical challenges faced by Black communities in the United States. We are adopting a comprehensive and collaborative approach that combines policy advocacy, community engagement, and education to contribute to a meaningful change in the conversation around public safety, particularly as it pertains to the safety and health and wellness of Black people. This open and ongoing communication with community members, organizations, and stakeholders is crucial in building a comprehensive and effective response. It will enable us to formulate and execute the community-based approach required to ensure our safety, health and wellness.

June 8 – 2024 Women’s Economic Opportunity Conference (8:30 AM – 3:30 PM)
The Women’s Economic Opportunity Conference was founded by former Senator Patrick Leahy and his wife Marcelle and has been for 25 years in Vermont. The conference has a long history of bringing Vermonters together to learn, network, and discuss issues in the economic sphere. Senator Welch is excited to carry on the WEOC legacy, and will be hosting the conference at Vermont State University in Randolph, Vermont on June 8, 2024. To receive updates on the conference details, registration, and other information, head to our website. You can email weoc@welch.senate.gov or call 802-863-2525 with any questions or reasonable accomadation requests.

FUNDING & GRANTS

VT PoC BIPOC Relief Fund Reopened for BIPOC Small Businesses and Community Members

The VT PoC BIPOC Relief Fund has reopened and is available with limited funding available to BIPOC small business owners and community members in need of relief funding from the July 2023 flood.

Reach out to VT PoC’s Community Support Coordinator, Airon, and who will guide you through the application process here.

Application Deadline: May 15, 2024.

BCA Community Fund
Calling all BTV-based artists, creatives, and small arts organizations! Apply for a grant of up to $5,000 to support a Burlington-based project that promotes a vibrant creative community and contributes to the greater public good. Application Deadline: May 28, 2024.

NOFA-VT’s Farm Share Program – Waitlist Open
NOFA-VT’s Farm Share Program reduces the cost (25-75%) of a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share or farm stand credit for Vermonters in need of financial assistance, while ensuring farmers are fully paid. A CSA is a subscription (usually weekly) from a farm for a regular supply of farm-fresh veggies, dairy products, meats, bread, and more. Due to high demand, all applications will be added to a waitlist. If funding opens up, we will contact you regarding next steps.

The BIPOC Artist Exchange and Activation Initiative
The BIPOC Artist Exchange and Activation Initiative is designed to showcase the contributions of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) artists to the New England art community. This program empowers BIPOC artists in New Hampshire and New England, inspiring local BIPOC artists by introducing them to artists from outside our community. Applications will be accepted until funds are exhausted.

NEWS

Vermont Senate supports granting professional licenses regardless of immigration status
The legislation, passed by the Vermont Senate Thursday, covers more than 50 professions including plumbers, realtors and nurses that can qualify for professional license regardless of a person’s immigration status. The Vermont House passed similar legislation last month.

Vermont House passes bill that would expedite New Americans’ access to education grants
The legislation would eliminate a one-year residency requirement for grants that cover workforce training and courses like driver’s ed. The bill already passed in the Senate.

New ‘incentive calculator’ launches to help Vermonters electrify their homes
Here’s how to use the tool to find which rebates, tax credits and discounts you might qualify for.

Program to help marginalized Vermonters own their first homes expands statewide
“For us, it would have been impossible to buy a house” without the down payment and closing costs assistance, one new homeowner told VTDigger.

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