Crossroads Fund sat down with Charlene Carruthers to discuss her time at BYP100 and her new book "Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements."


Since you were in college, you’ve dedicated yourself to building movements. What experience convinced you that doing that work of organizing is the best way to fight for justice?

I first remember getting involved in organizing work when I was in college in response to an incident at my college campus where folks were seeking to take away the representation of Black students and other marginalized groups on campus. It was out of that moment that I decided to get actively engaged in organizing, or I would mostly call it like activist-y kind of stuff because it wasn’t part of a long-term effort. I knew that doing collective work was smarter and it was more effective than doing work on my own. So it was that one experience, and there were other experiences after that, but it was that one where I saw that I have power on my own but not the power to create the kind of change that I want to see in the world.

What lessons did growing up in Chicago teach you about power, how it’s built and how it’s maintained?

There’s a lot there. I grew up in Back of the Yards neighborhood until I was about thirteen and then Gage Park, to Englewood and Woodlawn. If nothing else, Chicago is an example of people making choices. People choosing to value certain neighborhoods, certain people, and certain ventures and then deciding that there are people who are not valuable, neighborhoods that are not valuable, and efforts that are not valuable. More often than not, the people being valued are not my people. So there is a reason why Englewood has the resources that it has and lacks the resources that it lacks. There's a reason why South Shore neighborhood, where I live now, is full of Black folks of various socio-economic statuses and we only have one grocery store. That’s all choice. The things that we do have are also a result of people choosing to organize for those things and not because the government or the state was benevolent.

As the national director of BYP100 you’ve been unapologetic about building a movement using a Black, queer, and feminist lens. How has the world of organizing been challenged by you and other leaders whose organizing is rooted in an intersectional lens?

Our work is an example of what it means to make consistent, intellectual, and also grassroots organizing interventions. We not only put our power in our speech, in what we write and what we communicate, our politics show up in how we work, who we work with, and what we work on. In some instances, it’s been disruptive because it goes against the norm. In other instances, it is an opportunity for bridge building and an opportunity for deeper connections because of the rigor that we have when it comes to being clear that all of us have to be free or none of us are gonna be free.

Do you have an example of some of the bridges that have been built that maybe weren’t there or that needed to be built or weren’t there?

There are very few things that we are the first to do, very few. Some of the things that I think we built on is work within Black and Brown communities. Our work with Organized Communities Against Deportations on expanded sanctuary and dismantling the Chicago gang database is one example. That’s critical work that connects us with various communities and struggles but also shows that Black people are impacted by nearly every issue in this country and the world. For us, it’s about connecting with people who get it, and sometimes people who don’t get it, and helping them to actually understand it. Additionally, I think our intergenerational work really matters, too. Even though we are an organization of young people we also work intergenerationally. We work with people who are younger than us, people who are older than us, that’s how we have always approached our work. We’re able to hear from people who have been doing this work longer than us and some for not as long. People have lived through different stages in this country’s history, which I think is really important, as people have come from different positions, different organizing positions, and have experienced different movements. It helps us to be sharper, to have a more rounded view, and I think a more grounded view.

At Crossroads Fund, we firmly believe that everyone has a role in building movement for collective liberation. With your departure from BYP100, what does that look like to you as you enter your next phase of building and supporting movements?

In the next phase of my work, first, I want to start a training agency for organizers, activists and people who are generally committed to movement work. It will be an institute for people to learn new skills, hone their skills, enhance their skills, and connect with other people in a learning community. We don’t have enough places for that to happen in this country and we need more. I think Chicago is the perfect place to do it. Second, the book I wrote, Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements, is really another tool for people, in all phases of their organizing, to sharpen how they approach the work and to expand the framework from which they do the work. It’s an offering and a labor of love for our people. I don’t know where that book is gonna take me. I’m not sure but I hope it will be useful for people and that it generates a lot of good conversations and movement building.

During your time being at BYP100, what have you learned about the role of sustaining and funding movements? Do you have any lessons to share with small groups that are trying to fundraise and build movements?

A couple things. The money is never guaranteed. General operating over everything. Be unapologetic about who you are and what you do. Don’t ever lie or massage what you do and who you do it for. Always be clear that money is not guaranteed and is not permanent so you have to do the work of creating a culture of grassroots fundraising in everything that you do and it’s not easy. I work with young Black people and we have all kinds of relationships with money, all kinds of relationships. If you're a person going out to raise money, you need to really interrogate what your relationship to money is and be clear about what your relationship is because I think it can put you in a position to be an effective fundraiser and a more effective organizer, too. When you have work, lean on the work, not hype. I’m able to go in and talk about our work. I don’t need to make up stories or massage anything. So do good work and build relationships. Remember: fundraising is not based on merit or how great your work is, relationships matter. Also remember, foundations have to spend this money and it’s actually owed to us. They’re not doing it to save us. So, I don’t go begging. They have to give the money out so it’s about whatever their political will is to grant it to the kind of work that any particular organization does.

When you do organizing trainings, do you talk about the role of fundraising as organizing?

Yeah, we do. We just had a midwest regional training and we did this role play where one of our staff members talked about BYP100 to funders and we asked tough questions and then we debriefed it. This helped people to see how we talk about our work, what our approach is, and we also do a fundraising training with our members.

Black women are leading movements and transforming the struggles for racial, economic, and gender justice, among other things, not only in Chicago but nationally. How do you think movements have tangibly changed because of the many Black women who are leading these campaigns?

I think we force organizations and institutions to ask different questions and to show up in different ways that are not always comfortable and not always easy. I think that’s what we do. We also give examples for what the work can look like. When we say we wanna live in a world without prisons or police, we actually live that. We talk about mistakes, we talk about the things that worked well, all of that, because none of this is perfect. I know I’m not perfect, BYP100 is far from perfect, and so that's what I think we do.

Why do you think Crossroads Fund is important to Chicago's movements?

Crossroads Fund was one of our first funders. It’s just really important be able to provide that early funding to groups. I mean we started with ninety thousand dollars and now our national budget is over one million dollars. Like Emily’s List says, the early money rises like yeast. And early money just doesn’t apply to politicians. It applies to grassroots organizers, too, and we need early money. It also gives groups practice in what the broader landscape for fundraising is like as they grow. So that was really important for me, our organization and I want everybody to know what Crossroads Fund does.

Donate today to support movements for racial, social, and economic justice in Chicago.

Mon, Aug 06, 2018

"I was assigned to be on the band for ninety days and it was worse than prison for me. It kind of made me feel like an animal."

- Edmund Buck

On July 17, a coalition of organizations, including Crossroads Fund grantees Circles & Ciphers, Organized Communities Against Deportations, Chicago Community Bond Fund, Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration, and Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, hosted "Challenging Electronic Monitoring in Cook County." This event was the Chicago launch of a national campaign focused on demystifying electronic monitoring and building a movement to slow the rise and, ultimately, end the use of this surveillance technology. Crossroads Fund provided a grant to help make this event and campaign launch possible.

The event consisted of two panels and group workshops. The first panel was moderated by Robert Agnew from JustLeadershipUSA and featured Lavette Mayes from the Chicago Community Bond Fund, Edmund Buck from EDOVO, Manny Black from the Lawndale Christian Legal Center, and Nigel Lee from Precious Blood, who all have previously been "on the shackle." This group discussed their experience with electronic monitoring and the arbitrary restrictions on their movements, inconsistent parole officers, and an exorbitant amount of fees and costs that the person on electronic monitoring must pay. 

The second panel was moderated by Monica Cosby from Moms United and consisted of Crossroads Fund Board Member Emmanuel Andre from Circles & Ciphers and Northside Transformative Justice Center, Irene Romulo from the Chicago Community Bond Fund, Cathryn Crawford from Lawndale Christian Legal Center, and James Kilgore from Challenging E-Carceration. This group discussed ways to challenge the normalization of electronic monitoring and their worries about the long-term impact of government surveillance on the lives of Black and Brown people.

The use of electronic monitoring is increasingly seen as a more humane future of incarceration by sheriffs, judges, elected officials, and private prison companies as the national call to end mass incarceration grows. The reality, as told by those who have experienced electronic monitoring, is that the harms are similar. The coalition leading the local campaign all see the dehumanizing impact of electronic monitoring on the lives of people throughout Chicago. The national campaign, Challenging E-Carceration, is seeking groups to sign onto a ten point list  which would create a common set of standards for how electronic monitoring is used around the country. This initial campaign is designed to significantly reduce the immediate harms that a person on electronic monitoring experiences. The organizations involved are exploring possible policy and legislative interventions to reduce the harm and prevalence of electronic monitors. 

If you're interested in learning more about the campaign or have any questions, please feel free to contact Ed Vogel at

Tue, Jul 31, 2018

Crossroads Fund is excited to announce that our 2018 Giving Project cohort - a multi-racial, cross-class, intersectional group of 25 people - raised $109,777 from 425 donors!



This amazing amount of money, which, combined with a $50,000 match from Crossroads Fund enabled us to grant out over $144,000 to 29 grassroots groups in Chicago!

Over the course of six months, the cohort participated in deep conversations on race and class; made individual monetary donations that were significant to them; raised funds from their network through a process of "donor organizing;" and practiced participatory grantmaking to support strategic, necessary, and underfunded social justice organizing work around the city.

“I gained a solid understanding of radical giving and why mobilizing even a smaller amount of money can be incredibly impactful. I also gained a diverse network of people I feel comfortable asking hard questions, which I feel will support me as I continue to organize and fundraise.” – Giving Project participant


We want to lift up the commitment each member made to be part of this transformative journey. Through staff-facilitated trainings that explicitly named anti-blackness, white supremacy and centered the experiences of people of color, the group had in-depth and nuanced discussions on the realities of structural oppression in our society and how our race and class show up in fundraising and grantmaking. Join us in congratulating them on their boldness and determination to fund groups fighting on the front lines for change.

Pictured by row from top left. Deepa Arora, Bronwen Schumacher, Cristina Guerrero, Samantha Asofsky, Deb Kim, Sawyer Hopps, Jessica Ratchford, Laura Botwinick, Armando Santana, Mac Grambauer, Jordan Maze, Alyson Hankwitz, Kim Hunt, Lynn Meissner, De'Ronnius Young, Mollie Anderson, Brenda Hernandez, Irina Zadov, Elisabeth Jansen, Megan Murray Cusick, Mauricio Roman, Taryne Moore, Jazmin Martinez, Leah Greenblum, Andrea Meza.


Since 2015 the Giving Project program has raised more than $370,000 from over 750 donors.


The Crossroads Fund’s Giving Project is an innovative model for blending philanthropy and grassroots organizing. Through political education that explores race and class, alumni of the Giving Project are equipped with fundraising and grantmaking skills, to be stronger advocates for raising money for progressive movements.


Crossroads Fund is a public foundation that supports grassroots organizations for racial, social, and economic justice.


Interested in joining a Giving Project? Conact Emmanuel Garcia at


The groups below received funding through the Giving Project

Autonomous Tenants Union

Pilsen Alliance

Black and Pink Chicago

R.A.G.E. - Resident Association of Greater Englewood

Black Lives Matter Chicago

Raise Your Hand for IL Public Education

Brave Space Alliance

Sister Survivor

Chicago Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Centers          

Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL)

Chicago Housing Initiative

Srewolf & Nitram Foundation H.E.A.R.T.S.


St. Kateri Center of Chicago

For the People Artists Collective


Healing to Action

Ujimaa Medics

Illinois Birth Justice

UNION Impact Center


United Taxidrivers Community Council (UTCC)

Live Free Chicago

West Side Historical Preservation Society Inc.

Love & Protect

Westside Justice Center

Lugenia Burns Hope Center

Working Family Solidarity

Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration

Thu, Jul 26, 2018

Cultivate: Women of Color Leadership project (Cultivate) is  partnering with the Rockwood Leadership Institute to offer a week-long training exclusively for alumni. The week-long residential “Art of Leadership” is Rockwood’s fundamental training workshop.  Rockwood was founded in 2000 to fill a specific niche within social change movements by providing powerful and effective leadership training to nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, their organizations, and networks. Rockwood was founded on the idea that leadership can be taught and that anyone can exercise leadership, regardless of organizational title or role.

Deadline to apply is Thursday, August 30 at 5pm. Please apply below.

The training will be September 24-28 at Loyola University Chicago Retreat and Ecology Campus: 2710 S. Country Club Road Woodstock, IL 60098

If you have further questions, please contact Jane Kimondo at

Please note that this opportunity is exclusively for alumni of Cultivate: Women of Color.

Tue, Jul 24, 2018

Executive Director, Jeanne Kracher reports on the success of the Big Change Endowment campaign at annual benefit Seeds of Change.

At Seeds of Change in April, Executive Director Jeanne Kracher led those gathered in the theater in a rousing calland-response to convey Crossroads Fund’s basic mission: We raise money! And we give it out! Since Crossroads Fund’s beginnings in 1981, the core of our work has been just that. Each year we raise funds from people and then turn it over, strategically, to grassroots groups who are fighting for racial, social, and economic justice in and around Chicago. For more than 25 years, our grantmaking worked more or less this way—each year we raised the entirety of our budget from a dedicated network of donors and in short order distributed it to social justice groups through our participatory community grantmaking process.Today, Crossroads Fund still operates largely according to this model.

This began to change for the first time in 2007 when Crossroads Fund received the assets of the Synapses Foundation, which was established by the estate of activist and Chicago Public Schools teacher Donald F. Erickson. This historic gift continues to provide investment income to Crossroads Fund for grantmaking each year, and perhaps more importantly, taught us how an endowment can augment and provide stability for our work. In 2013, Crossroads Fund’s board of directors voted to embark on a five-year campaign to raise $2 million dollars in cash for a general endowment—the Big Change Fund—to deepen our commitment to social justice. The Big Change campaign is comprised of the general endowment, the Lisa Fittko Internship Fund, which endows our internship program in memory of the anti-Nazi resistance hero and social justice activist, as well as the Lynda J. Tipton Memorial Award for Social Justice, which honors a grantee organization each year at our Seeds of Change benefit.

Compared to the staggering size of some endowments in Chicago, our aspirations may seem modest. However, for Crossroads Fund and for the grassroots groups we partner with, the Big Change Fund will meaningfully affect the way we go about powering local movements for social change. Endowment income will allow Crossroads Fund to offer multi-year grants for the first time, guaranteeing our grantees stability that enables them to focus limited resources on mission-related work. One thing many of our partners consistently request are additional opportunities to collaborate with others within and across issue areas. The Big Change Fund will enable Crossroads Fund to organize strategic convenings for grantees, as well as to provide increased technical assistance funding for this type of work. An endowment will also allow Crossroads Fund to continue to respond quickly and even more effectively to urgent needs with critical response funding. Current Critical Response Fund recipients include our immigrant rights partners who are fighting the adminstration’s hateful tactics.

We have been humbled by the community’s outpouring of support for the Big Change Fund. Comprised of gifts big and small, more than 160 donors have already joined to contribute $2.2 million dollars, exceeding our original goal of $2 million. To our donor partners in the Big Change Fund, we offer our deepest gratitude for your vision for a better future and your confidence in our work. It truly is “The People’s Endowment,” and in that spirit we continue to invite Crossroads Fund’s community of supporters and friends to join our effort.

The Big Change Fund is now a permanent part of our work, and even broader participation only increases our power to help propel local social movements forward. Please join us with a one-time or multi-year pledge to the Big Change Fund endowment, or consider leaving a legacy for social change through a planned gift as a Crossroads Fund Visionary.

Big Change can lead to big victories, so become a part of it.  

Wed, Jul 11, 2018