Public Voices Fellowship
THE FORD FOUNDATION joined the Public Voices initiative in 2013 with a two-year grant. Over these two years, 42 social justice leaders across the country convened in New York City fostering fellowship around knowledge, meaning and community; and testing what it takes for underrepresented voices to become influential on a large public scale. The impact of the pilot Ford Public Voices Fellowship cohorts also went far beyond media—as we envisioned. Fellows amplified critical social justice movements at critical moments, led demonstrations, brought hidden information to the public eye, and framed headline news. Fellows came together to discuss and collaborate on some of the most difficult conversations of our age, from some of the most important vantage points. They brought critical movements—Black Lives Matter, Marriage Equality, and the Transgender movement, among others—into the public conversation in poignant ways. Ford awarded The OpEd Project a second grant in 2016, which will include two more cohorts of Ford Public Voices Fellows, and support for a larger impact evaluation project, in partnership with MIT Media Lab.
On June 25, 2015 Kate Kendell (Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Year 2 Fellow) stood on the steps of the Supreme Court to address the crowd directly following the announcement of the decision that legalized same sex marriage across the United States. Her speech became the basis for a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, “LGBT Community Should Now Turn to Fight Against Racism.” Another of Kendell’s op-eds was taken up by the New York Times Editorial Board, which quoted Kendell in an editorial.
Kris Hayashi (Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center, and Year 2 Fellow) used Caitlyn Jenner’s debut on the cover of Vanity Fair to expose the gap in access to support between Jenner and the average transgender person living in the United States. His op-eds in The Hill and in the San Francisco Chronicle were widely cited. Hayashi and his colleagues were selected to be the Community Organizational Grand Marshall of the San Francisco Pride Parade.
Becca Heller (Director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, and Year 1 Fellow) wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post advocating that “The U.S. should not abandon those who helped in Iraq.” Heller and her staff were contacted by several senate offices, met with the staff of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and participated in a Congressional briefing. As a result of that hearing, Congress signed onto a bipartisan bill to sustain the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program. The New Yorker then ran a feature article inspired by Becca’s op-ed, “Trapped in Iraq,” and two of Becca’s refugee clients were featured on John Oliver’s TV show, “Last Week Tonight.” The Department of Homeland Security posted copies of Becca’s op-ed around their offices, as well.