December 10, 2021
We write to you heartbroken over the loss of our beloved founder, the incomparable Marty Nathan, who died on November 29th, 2021. Many of you knew and loved her. We’re with you in your grief. Like you, we’re thinking of the grace and force with which she lived and acted in this unjust world. And we miss being with her. We miss her counsel. We miss her laugh.
One week before she died, Marty wrote a draft of our end-of-year fundraising letter, a version of this letter you’re reading. She was already hooked up to oxygen. She urged us to get this letter out as soon as possible, reminding us that our grantees need money.
In 2021, the Markham Nathan Fund for Social Justice (MNF) gave $42,000 to 16 grassroots groups working for justice in western Massachusetts. In her letter, Marty highlighted the phenomenal work of two of these groups, Springfield No One Leaves and Out Now, and then, as she often did, she connected this work to a larger context.
“And yet as we ask you to help us support these groups, we recognize that the very fundamentals of our democracy are being challenged. Murder goes unaddressed in Kenosha, WI. Voting rights are being destroyed across the country. A coup was orchestrated at the top levels of government. This violence – racist and frankly fascist – cannot be separated from the ongoing struggle for survival in Springfield. What values will guide this country? Will Trumpian schemes bolster the billionaire class, leaving everyone else to fight for survival in the face of pandemic and climate chaos as our housing, education, and healthcare systems crumble? Or will the champions of the right to housing and to life as a queer person be allowed to grow and flourish – with the support and unity of a broad, moral movement?”
Marty was always reminding us that the future of our country depends on the work done at the local level. It depends on the workshops Voices from Inside offers in Western Massachusetts prisons. It depends on Manos Unidas in Pittsfield and The Compost Cooperative in Greenfield. “It is a dangerous time,” Marty wrote last week, “but with potential for real breakthrough.”
She always maintained this optimism. Working for justice was never just work to her, it was joyful; it was the only hopeful way to live.
Marty and Arky Markham started our Fund in 2009 as a form of grieving, a way to turn pain into community. Arky was grieving her husband George who tirelessly worked to create a better world. Marty was grieving her first husband Mike, who was killed by white supremacists in the Greensboro Massacre. At first, Marty said, she wasn’t sure they’d be able to make a difference in this liberal, affluent place. And then she learned how deeply oppression and poverty mire the cities and rural areas of western Mass, how anomalous Northampton and Amherst are in their comparable wealth and privilege. We make a huge difference, she told us. Now, as we grieve Marty, we look to the future of MNF.
Over the past four years, as Marty grew sick with cancer — even as her energy seemed ever high, her light inextinguishable – she urged us to make changes to ensure the Fund remain vital without her. We expanded and trained our Board, and all of us took on additional jobs that Marty had once done alone. We added an advisory council. And we hired a coordinator, Sabine Merz, whose labor allows us to give more grants each year. The deadline for our next granting cycle is March 1, 2022, and we can’t wait to read the applications and work with our grantees.
Marty was always encouraging us to stretch, to grow, to be bolder in our support of the movement. Four years ago, she asked the Fund to start offering two granting cycles a year. Three years ago, at her urging, we increased the amount of our grants to $3,000. And at the end of our October board meeting, a month before she died, Marty suggested we increase that amount further — to $4,000. At this crucial, dangerous moment, with the pandemic depleting the most vulnerable and the threats to justice and the biosphere growing more powerful and frightening, these groups need more, she said, and we need to ask our donors for help.
That’s what we’re doing now. We’re asking you to help. To join us in grief and in community, in work and in joy, in the only hopeful way to live.
The Markham Nathan Fund for Social Justice Board
Heather Abel, Trevor Baptiste, Hector Figarella, Elliot Fratkin, Jim Levey, Sabine Merz, Mary Siano, Gary Tartakov, Jon Weissman
Donate online (monthly sustainers welcome)
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PO Box 943
Northampton, MA 01061