Founded in 2000 by Quinn Delaney and her husband Wayne Jordan, Akonadi Foundation began as an extension of their commitment to racial justice. The foundation evolved from Quinn and Wayne’s years of experience as progressive donors, campaign activists, and civil rights advocates.
The foundation’s seeds were planted in 1999, as youth groups in the San Francisco Bay Area began campaigning against Proposition 21, a statewide initiative that was to appear on the March 2000 ballot. Under the proposition, many 14-year-olds would be tried in adult rather than juvenile courts and 16-year-olds could be incarcerated in adult prisons. A wave of youth activists and youth-led organizations organized against the initiative, inspiring people across the country. Quinn and Wayne noticed something different about these organizations’ approach to their work: each was committed to an explicit vision for racial justice. Inspired by what they saw and resolving to support organizations that had a racial justice focus, Quinn and Wayne launched Akonadi Foundation, named after the oracle goddess of justice in Ghana. For the next five years, Akonadi supported local and national groups that advanced racial justice, including the Applied Research Center, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, East Side Arts Alliance, and Causa Justa/Just Cause.
Through a strategic planning process and lessons learned from the foundation’s first five years, Akonadi evolved from grantmaking focused on “dismantling institutional and systemic racism” to a deeper understanding of structural racism and the large-scale social movements needed to build a racially just society. In 2008, Akonadi launched three pilot programs through which we could support crucial work while continuing to fine-tune our strategy:
- The SOS (Strategic Opportunity Support) Fund, making small one-time grants (with rapid turnaround) for strategic opportunities and innovation in racial justice movement building.
- The RAP (Race and Place) Capacity Building program, a pilot that provided grants and opportunities for collective discussion to a group of Oakland grantees, to enhance their ability to think, act, and talk in ways that build social change movements’ capacity to eliminate structural racism.
- The Oscar Grant Fund, in support of urgent local organizing and coalition building after 22-year-old Oscar Grant was killed by a police officer.
In 2012 Akonadi Foundation, to concentrate its financial and human resources toward building a localized racial justice movement, shifted its grantmaking to focus solely in Oakland.
We launched the Arc Toward Justice fund to support local organizations’ long-term organizing to advance racial equity, focusing on creating a climate of compassion, respect, and dignity for youth and young adults of color in the city. We launched the Beloved Community Fund as a cultural strategy to support free public art and cultural events that celebrate and are rooted in Oakland’s communities of color, and that advance racial justice.
And in 2016, we launched the So Love Can Win Community Response Fund to offer one-time grants ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 to spark imagination and seed efforts to create healing and safety in Oakland’s communities of color.
In August 2016, after 15 years as President of the Foundation, Quinn Delaney took on the role of President Emeritus and Board Chair and hired Lateefah Simon as Akonadi’s new President. Through the years, the foundation has given over 1,300 grants totaling $30 million to nonprofit organizations, primarily in the Bay Area as well as across the country.
Akonadi Foundation staff, July 2018;
- Lateefah Simon, President
- Gina Acebo, Vice President of Programs
- Vanessa Camarena-Arredondo, Program Officer
- Iris Garcia, Learning and Impact Program Officer
- Renee Geesler, Communications Manager & Executive Admin
- Lucy Aghadjian, Finance & Operations
Akonadi Foundation board, July 2018;