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$1.5 Million Grant Will Support Institute’s Social Justice Mission Marguerite Casey Foundation's award to Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy will bolster efforts that link academic pursuits to community organizing

By Les Dunseith
The UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy has received a $1.5 million grant from the Marguerite Casey Foundation to bolster the institute’s ongoing programs in support of social justice movements in Los Angeles and elsewhere.

The institute is among four recipients of grants totaling $6 million from the foundation, which are intended as a bridge between social justice scholarship and social movements.

“We believe that bold investments in ideas about how to shift power in society must be matched with bold investments in organizing efforts that help bring them to life,” foundation President and CEO Carmen Rojas said in announcing the grants.

The new funds will help the institute, launched in 2016 and based at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, continue to advance social justice in cooperation with colleagues and community partners, said Ananya Roy, the institute’s founding director and a UCLA professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography.

“We have been building an interinstitutional space connecting university-based and movement-based scholars in the shared work of research and scholarship to analyze and challenge dispossession and displacement in U.S. cities and communities,” Roy said.

As part of that work, Roy and her colleagues and partners are seeking to ensure that increased government spending on public programs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic benefits those most in need rather than further entrenching race and class inequality, exploitation and oppression.

Rojas, who, like Roy, earned a Ph.D. in city and regional planning from UC Berkeley, stressed that organizing efforts supported by the grants “should be multiracial and durable in nature to ensure that their impact reflects the character of the communities they aim to serve and leaves those communities changed, more informed, more free and better able to shape our democracy and economy.”

In applying for the grant, the institute pledged to support efforts to “advance the collective power of those who have been excluded, evicted, criminalized, banished and disappeared by liberal democracy, from the unhoused to climate refugees.”

The institute’s grant-related plans include:

  • Expanding its signature activist-in-residence program.
  • Hosting a distinguished speakers series focused social and racial justice movements, with particular attention on scholars based in the global South. To this end, the series will use both in-person and virtual formats.
  • Organizing “freedom schools” that bring together movement-based and university scholars for theoretical and methodological training related to social justice.
  • Initiating a program to unite leading university and movement-based scholars around a shared vision and narrative of housing justice that reaffirms housing as a reparative public good.
  • Creating doctoral student and faculty seed grants to support research at the intersection of ideas and organizing.

Also receiving $1.5 million grants from the foundation were the Portal Project of the Social Justice Initiative at the University of Illinois Chicago; Haymarket Books, a nonprofit publisher based in Chicago; and the Highlander Research and Education Center, a grassroots organizing and movement-building organization active in Appalachia and the American South.

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