MoFo News Item

MoFo Foundation’s Response to Racial Injustice

15 Jun 2020

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd and as part of its long-standing commitment to the fight against discrimination and social injustice, The Morrison & Foerster Foundation launched a fundraising campaign on June 1, 2020, with the announcement of its own initial donations and a special match program to incentivize giving throughout the firm. The campaign resulted in $90,000 in racial justice donations by individuals and $85,000 in combined contributions by the Foundation and firm to support organizations championing much-needed and lasting social change. In total, Morrison & Foerster’s combined firmwide donation was $175,000.

A summary of the firm’s charitable giving is as follows:

“Since its founding in 1986, the MoFo Foundation has contributed more than $60 million to a wide variety of nonprofit organizations that strengthen communities and address societal inequities through programs focused on access to legal aid, services for disadvantaged youth, public interest legal fellowships, response to natural disasters, and now the COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice outcry in the wake of recent police killings,” said Jamie Levitt, chair of The Morrison & Foerster Foundation and co-chair of the firm’s Commercial Litigation and Trial Group. “Much of our giving has a racial justice component, as the organizations we support combat discrimination and work to improve the lives of low-income communities and communities of color.”

Our long-standing commitment to the fight against discrimination and race-based disparities includes:

  • Through our 20-year relationship with Equal Justice Works, the MoFo Foundation has sponsored 50 Equal Justice Works Fellows, whose two-year public interest law projects have addressed discrimination and social injustice affecting disadvantaged children and families. Projects have included: working with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project in New York City on behalf of girls of color who have been systematically excluded from programs meant to redress the racial achievement gap in education; and working with Open City Advocates in Washington, D.C., which serves youth both during and after they are released from incarceration to support their successful reintegration into their families and community.
  • In response to the needs arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we collectively donated $200,000 in support of first responders, community health centers, essential healthcare workers, people experiencing food insecurity, and schools seeking educational supplies for children in need, as well as other nonprofits responding to urgent local needs.
  • In the summer of 2018, our firmwide challenge grant resulted in $60,000 to aid nonprofits responding to the crisis faced by families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, including $33,000 in individual contributions and $27,000 in donations by the MoFo Foundation to organizations including RAICES, Immigration Justice Campaign, Texas Access to Justice Foundation, Texas Civil Rights Project, The Florence Project, Immigrant Defenders Law Center, Legal Aid Justice Center, and Casa Cornelia Law Center.
  • Local offices also partner with a wide variety of public interest organizations that are important to people in each of their local communities.

More Information About the Groups MoFo Has Supported

As mentioned above, the firm’s charitable giving has benefited these groups in various ways. Here’s more information on each organization and the work each does to support criminal justice reform, fair elections, freedom and diversity of the press, and health justice.

Criminal Justice Reform

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which advances racial and economic justice by working to shift resources away from prisons and punishment and towards opportunities that make communities safer, healthier, and stronger. Communities of color face struggling schools, family separation, and a lack of opportunities as a direct result of being disproportionately policed and punished. The Ella Baker Center changes the conversation about public safety to be less focused on fear and punishment, and more focused on a living wage job, healthy food, and affordable childcare, healthcare, and housing and opportunity.

The Gathering for Justice, which was founded in 2005 by Harry Belafonte after he saw a news report of a five-year-old black girl being handcuffed and arrested in her Florida classroom for “being unruly.” Its mission is to build a movement to end child incarceration and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline while working to eliminate the racial inequities that permeate the justice system.

Vera Institute of Justice, whose mission is to build justice systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities. Vera fights for justice reform by tackling the most pressing injustices of our day – from the causes and consequences of mass incarceration, racial disparities, and the loss of public trust in law enforcement, to the unmet needs of the vulnerable, the marginalized, and those harmed by crime and violence. Vera works with governments to study problems that impede human dignity and justice, pilot solutions, engage diverse communities, and drive effective policy reforms.

Fair Elections

Black Futures Lab, created by Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, to make Black communities powerful in politics through a combination of technology and traditional organizing methods. Recent initiatives include the Black Census Project, the largest survey of Black people conducted in the United States since Reconstruction. Black Futures Lab works to understand the dynamics impacting Black communities, build the capacity of the communities to govern, and engage and include Black people in the decisions that impact their lives.

Brennan Center for Justice, inspired by Justice William J. Brennan’s commitment to a fair and inclusive democracy, support for the disadvantaged, an end to mass incarceration and respect for individual rights and liberties. The Brennan Center pioneered automatic voter registration, crafted ballot initiatives to end partisan gerrymandering, litigated to end disenfranchisement, and uses research and advocacy to transform the debate over mass incarceration.

Freedom and Diversity of the Press

Ida B. Wells Society, a nonprofit news organization that seeks to increase the ranks, retention, and profile of reporters and editors of color in the field of investigative reporting and to foster social justice journalism and accountability reporting about racial injustice. Its programs include training and professional development, as well as intensive fellowships to learn in-depth investigative reporting techniques from accomplished journalists. Co-founded by veteran Black journalists Nikole Hannah-Jones (2020 Pulitzer Prize Winner), Ron Nixon, and Topher Sanders.

Maynard Institutefounded by Bob Maynard, reporter and editor at The Washington Post who went on to become the first African-American owner of the Oakland Tribune. Approximately three-quarters of American newsroom employees are white, according to the Pew Research Center, and this lack of newsroom diversity is inextricably linked to the issue of well-rounded coverage. The Maynard Institute seeks to break the cycle of biased depictions in the media of people of color by training media managers, journalists, and correspondents from communities of color, creating content for nuanced coverage, and keeping media accountable through its Watchdog program.

Health Justice

Black AIDS Institute, which understands that health justice is racial justice. BAI works to end the Black HIV epidemic by addressing the social determinants of health, dismantling practices, systems, and institutions that lead to health care disparities and increasing access and ability for health service providers and institutions to serve Black people. BAI is revolutionizing the HIV service industry to allow Black people to live their fullest, healthiest lives with dignity, care, and respect.

Black Mamas Matter Alliance, which envisions a world in which Black women have the rights, respect, and resources to thrive before, during, and after pregnancy. Black women in the United States die in childbirth at a rate three to four times that of White women. BMMA seeks to address this disparity by serving as a national voice and coordinating platform for initiatives to advance maternal health, rights, and justice.

Black Women’s Health Imperative, the first nonprofit created by Black women in the United States dedicated to promoting, protecting and advancing physical, mental, and spiritual health and well-being of Black women and girls. It targets the most pressing health issues through national programs in health policy, education, research, knowledge, and leadership development and communications.

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