A feminist and actively anti-discriminatory organization, the Amazon Foundation challenged unjust systems that prevent women and girls from reaching their full potential. Through risk-taking grants and thoughtful community-building in Southern Arizona, they formed beneficial grantee partnerships and inspired others to join with us in creating progressive social change.
"The Root of Our Work" by Nancy Mairs, from the Amazon Foundation 2002 Biennial Report
The Amazon Foundation is a radical organization in the pure sense of the word, which derives from the Latin radix, meeting root. That is, it seeks not merely to modify social institutions -- a few or even a great many more female professors at the University of Arizona, a lesbian or two or 200 in public office -- as important as those modifications may be. Rather, it devotes energy and resources to promote the transformation of the very roots of those institutions -- indeed, the soil in which they sprout -- into a nontoxic and nurturing medium for all people based on the principles of equal access, economic justice and nonviolence.
A sweeping and, many might say, far-fetched vision. But we cannot and do not seek to alter the entire world's foundations overnight. On the contrary, we recognize that true radical change begins with the individual, whose empowerment inevitably begins to work upon the communities of which she forms a part, whether these are familial, professional, religious, educational, or political. Thus, we award scholarships to individuals and small grants to organizations in southeastern Arizona, believing that the developments we foster locally can reverberate throughout the state, the country, and even the world.
What might the world, or even our corner of it, look like in the wake of the kind of feminist progressive social change Amazon Foundation seeks to encourage? On the basis of the awards made so far, it would be a lively and diverse place, commingling people of all abilities, ethnicities, gender identities, and sexual orientations, none of them very rich, nobody in want. In it, workers on both sides of the border would earn a living wage at socially responsible companies whose stockholders are kept well informed about corporate values and the ways in which these are implemented. At home and in public spaces, straight people and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people would carry out their lives without fear for their jobs, their children, or their personal safely. Above all, this world would sparkle with the creative energies of painters, photographers, performance artists, writers, dancers, filmmakers, musicians. Here, people could feel and express joy freely.
Whether such a world will materialize is anybody's guess. One thing is certain, though: it will not unless a great many of us dream that it will and then take action to reify our dream. The power of feminist progressive social change is visionary as well as radical: it works at the heart's root.