Four-and-a-half years ago, the Seahawks Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund was created out of a desire to, as Seahawks Legend Doug Baldwin explained it, “do something actionable.”
And in the four-plus years since its creation, the Action Fund has done just that, making a big difference in the lives of local organizations through grants, and to local youth through a Players Fund Scholarship, and this month the Action Fund handed out another round of grants to five organizations, as well as the Players Fund Scholarship, totaling $250,000.
With the latest round of grants, the Players Action Fund, which has been supported by donations from fans and supporters, by Seahawks players and staff, by Paul G. Allen Philanthropies, by the Carroll Family Fund, by John and Traci Schneider, by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's Nadella Family Trust, and by Starbucks and the Starbucks Foundation, has awarded more than $1.337 million in grants to local nonprofit organizations, schools and in scholarships.
This year's recipient of donations are:
For more information on the Players Action Fund and the Scholarship Fund, or to donate, go to https://www.seattlefoundation.org/nonprofits/communitycampaigns/seahawks-players-action-fund
Amir Soulkin, the development director of East African Community Services, said the grant, which in part is expected to support the organization's MathCode+Robotics STEM program, is "transformative" for his organization, which has a mission to, "inspire East African refugee and immigrant families to achieve cradle to career success."
"It is transformative," Soulkin said. "We live in the Pacific Northwest, and sometimes we fancy ourselves as being progressive and inclusive, but what it comes down to is the Seahawks Players Fund actually living out those progressive values. Oftentimes, people talk a good game, and then when there's an opportunity for the media and an opportunity to be quoted in the local paper, but it is another thing altogether to live out your value set that you're making a demonstrable impact on young people's lives. And that was the thing that blew us out of our chairs. We realized, not just the donation, but the power, the expertise, the ability for the players, the Seahawks organization to perhaps show up and empower our young people, to talk to our young people, to encourage them to choose the right pathways.
"And there's also something to be said about when The Players Fund lives its values, and that is made public. The Players Fund is then encouraging other people to live out anti-racist and values of equity and inclusion. So that everything about this experience was just encouraging because we knew the domino effect it would cause of encouraging other people to wake up and to live out their values, and to make a difference in marginalized communities."
Part of what makes Players Action Fund's actions so powerful is the types of organizations that the players choose to support. While there are plenty of big, national nonprofits that do great work, the Action Fund often selects small, grassroots organizations for whom a single grant can be transformative. Players have also frequently selected organizations that support oftentimes overlooked groups such as those that work in the field of restorative justice, trying to help youth avoid or work their way out of the criminal justice system.
"I think that breaks a bunch of myths about folks that have been harmed and that harm," said Metasabia Rigby, a facilitator at Collective Justice. "I think that's the most important part. I think the dominant narrative is that there are folks who are deserving and there are some folks who are less deserving, and these folks are innocent and these folks are not. There's not enough nuance, and in the nuance is the actual truth. I think that when organizations or groups like the Seahawks work with folks like us, I hope there'll be further conversation around the criminal legal system. I'm just hoping that'll break some barriers."
Said Flo, also a facilitator for Collective Justice, "This is an investment in how people can heal in a different way. That doesn't mean the justice system can't provide some people with some closure. But this is an opportunity to really build skills for other folks about how they can examine when folks harm them, when potentially harm is happening to others, and actually have a dialogue and get to the root for what's happening for themselves and their family and reverberating in the community. I think, it's really powerful to be partnered with Seahawks to say, 'Oh, this is an investment to see that there are other alternatives that we can also see healing happen.'"
Collective Justice, which is a restorative justice organization, addresses violence and harm by working both victims of that violence and imprisoned community members aiming to "heal from the harms we have experienced and caused," and again, having Seahawks players behind the effort is important not just for the money but what it symbolizes.
"For those people that may be opposed or have whatever positions they have, what they can realize is that the people who were closest to the problem are also closest to the solution," said Devon Adams, Collective Justice' fundraising director. "And they are out here really putting it on the line and really doing the real work of what it takes and engage with young people and meet them where they're at.
"By (Seahawks players) acknowledging (restorative justice) as an alternative and putting some resources into it, hopefully people will learn more about it and get involved. Because it's really about skilling up the folks in community so that we can build for permanence… To see them acknowledging it, recognizing it and seeing how it works, together with all the other organizations we're in community with and building with, it is validating and encouraging. And hopefully folks will not just provide resources, but get involved, because their involvement can also help increase the impact in community."
Here are more details on the organizations selected for this round of grants:
Wellness in community encompasses artistic expression, all spiritualities, sustainable land stewardship for food sovereignty, and space to witness and heal. We value cultural connection to each other and the land. All those in the Black community deserve a space where they can BE all of their intersectional selves while in respite.
Further, by providing cultural explorations of the land, traditional healing gatherings, and social justice coalition building, our collective lives the intention to lift the oppression of generational trauma through liberation and joy!
We are a restorative justice organization brought together by a diverse group of survivors and imprisoned community members in Washington State. We focus on resourcing our communities to address violence and harm in ways that move us closer to wellness, accountability, and collective liberation, and away from state violence. Through our programs, we are bringing together survivors in the community and in prison to co-create trauma-informed responses to harm that center the dignity and resilience of all people and do not rely on mass imprisonment. We are building leadership and collective power amongst the most marginalized people to influence public policy and drive social change.
We build responses to harm that center the dignity and resilience of all people and harness the collective power of communities impacted by the trauma of violence and mass imprisonment toward cultural and systemic transformation. By supporting survivors to come together through storytelling, organizing, and advocacy rooted in racial justice, our approach counters trauma from all forms of violence and builds new pathways of accountability and healing. Collective Justice seeks to bring people together to share our stories, build relationships, and heal from the harms we have experienced and caused.
Nurturing the whole-life development of East African youth from cradle to career. Unapologetically embracing a growth mindset that centers the strengths of our community. Intentionally creating space for all individuals to grow. Demanding respect for diverse cultural perspectives. Maintaining an open-door policy that defers to community needs as they arise.
We recognize and commemorate the culture and heritage of African Americans. The mission of The BE Project is to provide youth the exposure to HBCU's that empowers them to do and BE more.
The vision of The BE Project is to provide youth positive values that will change their lives and give them the opportunity for a successful future. The program emphasis is student discipline and personal responsibility.
The Youth Achievement Center is more than just a community center. It's a place in our neighborhood to call home. YAC will offer more than 45,000 square feet of housing and services to more than 100 young people—designed for and by youth. Seattle's growth should be centered on the success of our young people. Help us answer the call of creating a space where our youth can be successful, healthy, whole, happy and safe.
Seahawks Players Equality and Justice for all Scholarship Fund
In 2021, in partnership with the Seattle Foundation, the Seahawks players launched a college scholarship fund to support career opportunities for students who have overcome significant adversity, with preference given to students of color and first-generation college students from Tacoma, Seattle, Renton, Bellevue and Kent School Districts.