The Gift Foundation, Inc. and The Protest Review Since 2020 began January 2020 when CEO and Founder Mary Anne Rojas, a poet-Nepantlera, cultural mediator, educator, and community organizer from the Bronx, New York, recognized a gap in the conversation of what makes people healthy. Observing that what the community envisions as “healthy” is not always what the globe understands as “health”, so it is important to facilitate a new, multidimensional landscape of how communities access information, distribute information and apply information that impacts building healthy communities. Intentionality facilitates a collection of processes that expose the opportunities and limitations a community has when it comes to gathering knowledge for radical social change.
Both The Gift Foundation, Inc. and The Protest Review Since 2020 are born from contemplations about where knowledge comes from, who creates it, and who decides what to do with it? Inspired by profound and, at times, unsettling questions of our complex world, The Gift Foundation, Inc. intersects the strategies in community organizing with the radical transformations that take place in the classroom. With the observation that people and places are a co-creative process, The Protest Review Since 2020 amplifies the connections between knowledge production and the archiving of joy, belonging, and community building as an unlimited source of knowledge dedicated to lifting communities from dis-ease. People create places and places also create people. Who are people without a home? What is a place without people? Therefore, intentional literacy builds healthy communities.
At the root of The Gift Foundation, Inc. literacy is central to the wellbeing of an evolving and dynamic community. Racism is deeply seeded in the history of continued racial disparities and it is still prevalent and driving how we engage with the community. Utilizing the knowledge accessed, produced, and intersected, community engagement is a measurement of how proximity to varying social factors can impact experiences and effects of racism and silence in socially vulnerable communities. Zooming into the social and cultural factors that impact the growth of literacy within and across communities can ensure that the health and optimal wellbeing of a community is given attention.
An interdisciplinary and intersectional framework enables the elasticity of the individual and collective creativity that expands the magnitude of what is possible for not just reimagining a healthy community, but to also eliminate racialized health disparities in literacy rates among marginalized and vulnerable communities. For optimal health, intentionality is key. With the growing and urgent need to navigate conflicting and fast information, we expand our application of personal and collective stories to acts of social change; The Gift Foundation, Inc. nurtures a platform that destabilizes the segregation and isolation of knowledge to bridge intentionality with social change by the focus of critically inquiring about the processes that produce social change with the people who directly live it.
Being an agent for change in both education and community organizing projects, Mary Anne saw the urgent need to bridge multiple literacies to expand the ideas we have about where knowledge is being produced, by who, and for what purposes. Occupying multiple intersections in her personal life influences her purpose to bring clearer connections between what could seem as unparalleled, distant, and of no significance to each other. The Gift Foundation, Inc. is the result of a metaphor coming to life.
When we are navigating isolated knowledge, information that has been hidden from the general view or understanding of the community in context, access to shared resources that can transform personal and collective experiences are limited or non-existent. Compartmentalizing knowledge serves systemic and structural agendas that continue to permeate conscious bias in the classroom and in spaces that engage community building. In turn, serving homogenous frameworks that apply systems of thinking that continue to silence communities.
Bringing educators and community organizers together evolves our practices of belonging and engagement. Both agents of change question the role of community in a specific setting, cultivate spaces of intention and purpose to improve the health of the community, help others find solutions to problems in the world, and develop relationships with people in different social circles to engage learning in meaningful ways. Agents of change share the power of influence and outreach, practices of empathy, and act as leaders, mentors, and advocates for change. Bringing agents of change with intentionality will explore avenues of power relations to influence how we engage in the world. Educators and community organizers engage people in intentional literacy opportunities to bring about change, influence change, and define change. The world is our text.
Reading becomes a primary process in any stage of learning. Reading the world as our text amplifies what reading is truly about, connection. Learning how to impact change calls for learning how to read our environments, interconnect ideas with current events, locating information and context, apply problem-solving strategies to potential outcomes, and identify our place in the world and how they shift with action. Reading, requiring the reader to step outside of themselves, encourages emotions to travel outside of what we know, engaging what we learn with critical inquiry. Reading helps increase empathy, helping readers develop an ability to sense and relate to emotions in other people. Students can step into the in-between world of navigating intentionality and information and then translate that experience into personal discoveries for achieving a relationship-centered practice of transformation and change. Demonstrating an indebtedness appreciation for reading is our commitment to nurture intentional literacy cultivation through co-creative processes that highlight meaningful participation in community building.
How else do we create a sense of radical belonging in a community with multiple literacies? When we learn how to build connections between complex ideas and information, we become agents of change with a purpose. The Gift Foundation, Inc. believes that literacy is central to the wellbeing of an evolving and dynamic community. The Protest Review Since 2020 puts at the center the voices that highlight learning to address racialized disparities in literacy.
Mary Anne Rojas