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Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (CDM) is a transnational organization that advances migrant worker rights in Mexico and the United States. We recently caught up with Rachel Micah-Jones, CDM’s Executive Director, as well as Marí Perales Sanchez, Communications Coordinator of Policy & Campaigns. We discussed how COVID-19 has increased migrant worker vulnerabilities and the federal government’s failure to provide meaningful and enforceable protections. We also talked about how the current momentum around social injustices in the United States serves as fertile ground to create new legislation for immigrant communities, as well as how they hope to engage. 

As if the climate surrounding migrant worker rights under the Trump administration were not tense enough, Marí Perales Sanchez says that “their vulnerabilities have augmented since COVID-19.” 

During this time, the CDM team has worked tirelessly to counter the spread of misinformation in Mexico. Rachel Micah-Jones shares that many migrant workers are still waiting to find out if they will be coming to the United States this season. There are also recruiters capitalizing on heightened uncertainty, demanding payments for false medical exams, employer tests and more. “It’s a big concern for our team, so we’re working hard to intervene before migrant workers pay money,” she says.                        

Additionally, CDM’s legal team has been taking on cases related to complaints from migrant workers subjected to unsafe working conditions across the country. One such case takes place in Louisiana, where H-2B visa workers in the seafood industry recently got fired for going to the hospital. Despite the heightened risk of COVID-19 in production plants, many immigrant workers continue to work because the $2 trillion CARES Act excludes them from accessing pandemic relief funds. “That’s an area where the government is deliberately failing undocumented workers nationwide,” Marí says.

When asked what is working about the current COVID-19 relief effort, Rachel emphasizes that when it comes to migrant workers, “the government could be doing so much better.” She continues by adding that “we’re missing out on opportunities to build out worker support, ensure safe housing and transportation, infectious disease standards [and more].” Most of the policies being issued are guidelines at best–they do not create enforceable legal standards and remedies in the case that migrant rights are being abused. 

Black Lives Matter, DACA Win for Dreamers, and Restoring Hope in America

Yet with increased momentum around the Black Lives Matter movement and other social injustices in the United States, both Marí and Rachel are hopeful that more inclusive laws and regulations for migrant workers will develop. “People are paying attention in a way that they weren’t before,” Rachel says. “Whether that’s going to translate as changed behavior is another story, but it’s encouraging to see action happening on the ground.”

For Marí, the Supreme Court decision concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program restored some hope. She was one of the plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits filed against the Trump administration for suspending the program, putting thousands of undocumented immigrants at risk.

In early June, Marí had returned to her childhood home in Houston, Texas, to be with her family. She leaned into her support system and talked with Rachel to prepare for the Thursday release of the decision. “I was in shock,” Marí says as Rachel forwarded the full Supreme Court opinion. “The decision came out better than we expected. It’s still more of a starting point than a solution, but it’s better than what we had imagined.” 

How did she spend the following day? Celebrating on a Zoom call with more than 70+ people that were also involved in the case, and similarly “elated, yet still in shock.” 

Marí reminds us that she comprised one part of the bigger picture. She also emphasizes “the Supreme Court win should be attributed to the immigrant community, and not solely to the decision of the court.” The lawsuits were made possible because of a dedicated coalition of DACA recipients, named plaintiffs, lawyers, institutions and more. “It’s wonderful to see a community of people wanting to step in to prevent Trump from attacking immigrant communities.”

Right now, the CDM team continues to balance immediate priorities related to COVID-19 and long-term opportunities beyond the horizon. They are even thinking as far as the 2026 FIFA World Cup tournament–set to take place in North America–and the possible opportunities it can bring with an expressed commitment to human rights standards. Until then, they are thinking about how to financially sustain their work so they can continue advocating for migrant workers in the absence of transformative legislation.

HostHome believes healing begins at the home. Using an online software platform, HostHome seeks to foster public-private partnerships to provide affordable, short-term housing. We connected with Ava Pipitone, HostHome’s Founder & CEO, to learn how their model is supporting individuals testing positive for COVID-19, as well as explore their belief that housing is the basis of healing self and humanity at-large. 

There’s a beautiful flow to how Ava Pipitone manages their multiple projects. For Ava, productivity is intuitive and nonlinear–they focus on doing work that gets them energized. “I’m cultivating myself to constantly stay in a state of heart-centered excitement,” they share.

For Ava, that looks like doing work that involves the intersection of housing, healing, and humanity. They are the Founder & CEO of HostHome, a software platform that fosters public-private partnerships to run affordable, short-term housing programs. 

In recent weeks, the global pandemic presented an opportunity for HostHome to partner with the COVID ALLIANCE, a coalition-building nonprofit focused on bringing together nationwide experts across policy, science, and healthcare. HostHome was enlisted to lead housing efforts and develop a solution for individuals that have tested positive for COVID-19 and are struggling to find housing for proper quarantine. Through this partnership, HostHome has expanded their regional scope beyond Maryland to Texas and California, assisting individuals seeking short-term housing at this critical time. 

The global pandemic has enabled HostHome to iterate and refine its technology platforms, as well as collaborate with other housing-focused organizations within days versus months. Their hope is that the rapid response needed at this time will inform the development of a stronger model, streamlining HostHome’s ability to match people with housing for the future. “My hope is that users can have access to [housing services] that might have taken 2-3 months to gain within current, bureaucratic social service systems,” Ava says.

At the heart of their work is a strong belief that “the future of housing is in community.”

When asked what they see emerging from the global pandemic, Ava emphasizes the shift from individual home ownership to democratized and sustainable living. They also see the definition of family expanding beyond biological to instead include–if not, center–chosen familial connections. Accordingly, Ava sees real estate adjusting to those designs, building assets facing communities and tribes versus the longstanding idea of the singular, nuclear family living in the suburbs. 

Ava believes that housing provides people a safe space to heal. Referencing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Ava adds that when individuals have access to secure housing, we can then move into how we can adorn our bodies and look to biometric data to help heal us, and more.* 

Beyond new ideas around housing, Ava envisions a more introspective and interconnected global community. They say that right now, we’re all having to sit in our caves. “We’re connecting [in a different way], going inwards, and finding each other through ourselves,” they say. And on that note, Ava’s wish for everyone is this: “I hope you’ve reached a point of peace with who you’re looking at.”

*Among other things, Ava is also the Co-Founder of Suyana, a company that creates wearables to “design hope through data and adornment.” Learn more about Suyana’s work and available products here.

CLLCTIVLY seeks to create an ecosystem which fosters collaboration among black-led social change organizations in Baltimore. We recently caught up with Jamye Wooten, CLLCTIVLY’s Founder, to discuss the barriers to support that black businesses and organizations are faced with during COVID-19, as well as the power of collective care and community ownership.

It’s about solidarity, not charity.

Growing up in Baltimore, Jamye Wooten watched his family bootstrap their way to success. His father–who Jamye describes as an amazing entrepreneur–operated five dry cleaners and several night clubs across the city. His mother, an evangelist by practice, ran a florist, and his older sister also eventually went on to open two pizza delivery stores. To launch her businesses, his sister bought housing to use as collateral and finance both locations. 

His family were ultimately able to achieve success on their own terms. Nonetheless, Jamye still wonders what it might have looked like had they had greater access to capital and support in the first place.

Jamye’s drive to shift narratives and realities for black entrepreneurs and changemakers centers the work that he does today. He is the Founder of CLLCTIVLY, an organization that seeks to create an ecosystem which fosters collaboration among black-led social change groups in Baltimore. As the global pandemic heightened, it served as a catalyst for the advancement of CLLCTIVLY’s mission. “[We went] full steam ahead with work we were already doing and how we wanted to serve the community,” Jamye shares. 

In January 2019, CLLCTIVLY launched the first phase of their asset directory which maps 100+ black-led organizations across the Greater Baltimore area. They also rolled out their Fund for Black Futures video contest at the same time. This monthly microgrant opportunity invites black-led organizations to submit a short video to share how their work intersects with principles from the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa. Community members can then vote on the recipient of the $1K no-strings-attached microgrant, which is intended to honor their work in the community. 

Reimagining the Fund for Black Futures as the Black-Led Solidarity Fund during the COVID-19 era was a natural and easy transition. Although CLLCTIVLY typically focuses on social change organizations, they saw a critical need to also reach and empower the city’s abundance of black-owned businesses. 

“We recognize that black-owned businesses–from barbers, beauty salons, and restaurants–are more than just where goods and services are exchanged. They really are community anchors too,” Jamye emphasizes. As black businesses continue to face multiple barriers to federal support, owners like Baltimore’s own Terence Dickson of Terra Cafe are left feeling rightly frustrated. 

When speaking of the Black-Led Solidarity Fund, Jamye emphasizes that “it’s about solidarity, not charity.” It is an opportunity to boost morale and remind small business owners, community leaders, and organizations alike–many of which have a long track record in the community–that their impact does not go unnoticed. 

To date, CLLCTIVLY has awarded over 40 microgrants ranging from $500 to $1K to black-led businesses and organizations across the city. They are well on the way to reaching their goal of making fifty $500 grants, and are currently working toward scaling to 100 awards by mid-June.

Each time a grant is awarded, CLLCTIVLY fosters new relationships across the city as their fund is introduced to more networks and communities. It creates a positive feedback loop where the more black businesses and organizations are honored, the larger the pool of prospective awardees that CLLCTIVLY can empower and collaborate with during and beyond present challenges.

Yet Jamye recognizes that these efforts alone will not close racial wealth disparities. “There’s still a lot of work to be done on how we qualify people for support,” Jamye notes. He points to credit score requirements as an ongoing barrier for many black businesses. “If you’re an entrepreneur who maxed out on credit cards because you couldn’t get loans in the first place, your credit is probably shot which doesn’t put you in position to qualify for most loans.”

In a place like Baltimore with 63 percent Black or African American residents, such inequities curb the economic potential of the entire city. 

When asked what is currently working, Jamye praises the power of mutual aid. “We’re connecting in ways that communities are moving faster than institutions,” he says. And this sentiment is echoed in how Jamye sees the way forward: less focus on creating vast but low-paid jobs, and more on worker cooperatives and community ownership. “It’s something very near and dear to the model we’re looking at.” 

How can you help?

Dent Education teaches design thinking, making, and entrepreneurship to empower students to discover and develop their innate creative potential to shape the world around them. Rajan Patel is Dent Education’s Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder. He shares details on Dent’s Made@Dent Program, which is currently engaging students to build personal protective equipment (PPE) at home.

Build stuff. Create value. Make a dent.

Over the past few weeks, Rajan Patel, Dent staff, and volunteers have been stopping by their students’ doorsteps, delivering packages. 

These packages contain the building blocks of protective face shields, which have fallen in short supply in the ongoing pandemic. Dent has engaged 51 students to build these shields for Baltimore’s healthcare providers and other essential workers. In just over one month, they have already made over 8,000 units.  

Not only will the PPE keep frontline workers and our community safe, but students earn $1 for each unit they produce, offering a valuable source of income in this challenging time. For some of these students, making face shields is their household’s only source of income. Many of them have parents who have been laid off due to COVID-19. Others have family who are healthcare providers or other essential workers. 

Rajan said that when he first checked in with students as schools closed, many shared that their mental health had suffered. Some shared that they felt “trapped.” Not only were they grappling with new challenges and responsibilities at home, but they were also disconnected from their peers and friends.

“Students were feeling anxious, disconnected, and even hopeless,” he says. “Those are all feelings many of us have felt.” 

The Dent Education team sees building PPE as a way to help students regain a sense of vitality. The more face shields that students build, the more impact they create and the more income they earn. This model ensures that Dent can stay true to their core value of economic empowerment during a time where many Americans are experiencing unemployment or job insecurity. Students also have a team and cohort that they are now a part of, as they build out the operation and combat COVID-19 together.

At home, Rajan posted a sticky note next to his desk. “Build stuff. Create value. Make a dent,” it reads. That sums up Dent Education’s mission–give students across the city a platform to use their creative potential to address pressing issues in the Baltimore community. Students create impact and value, and can be empowered to earn and capture that value at the same time. 

As the demand for PPE grew nationwide, Dent Education applied to multiple funding mechanisms intended to support organizations building face shields with varying levels of success. But to rapidly respond to the city’s growing demand, the team could not afford to wait–they had to tap into their limited existing budget and launch a Facebook fundraiser to get supplies and rapidly ramp up operations. Generous support from the COVID-19 Response Funding Collaborative of Greater Baltimore and the federal Paycheck Protection Program has since enabled them to scale their efforts, although the latter came after significant delay. 

In early April, the city established the PPE Manufacturing Fund. This initiative administered in partnership with the Baltimore Development Corporation delivers the promise of a more innovative and responsive system, as well as sustainable economic opportunity over the long-term. What began as a $50K pilot program allocating funds for the procurement of locally-made PPE for city staff and agencies has since increased tenfold; now dedicating $100K for additional operational grants and $400K in procurement. 

In early April, the city established the PPE Manufacturing Fund. This initiative administered in partnership with the Baltimore Development Corporation delivers the promise of a more innovative and responsive system, as well as sustainable economic opportunity over the long-term. What began as a $50K pilot program allocating grant funds for the production of locally-made PPE has since increased tenfold–now dedicating $100K for additional operational grants and $400K in procurement for city staff and agencies. 

In late May, Dent Education was named one of ten manufacturers and organizations awarded grants in the city’s second round of funding. They were also recently charged with producing 2,500 face shields for the city’s fire department at a unit price of $4 per shield. The team quickly created and delivered the units earlier this week. With greater operational funds and local procurement opportunities from the city, the Dent team is able to engage a greater number of students in its program, as well as direct the funds straight to more families and communities experiencing financial difficulties at this time.

“I feel important when I’m making face shields because I know that I’m creating something that will help someone save a life. Even though I’m young, I feel helpful knowing we’re all fighting this together,” says Liz Gomez-Peña, one of the many remarkable students engaged with Dent’s Made@Dent Program.

How can you help?

Teachers’ Democracy Project (TDP) supports Baltimore City Public School teachers, families and school communities in building just and  sustainable schools. We’ve highlighted TDP’s organizing work in the past, but recently reconnected with Rebecca Yenawine, TDP’s Executive Director, to learn more on how they have since had to reimagine their mission to address the digital divide illuminated by COVID-19.

It’s an opportunity to create digital equity for the future

As schools closed in mid-March, TDP’s typical organizing took a back seat. “It threw everything we were working on up in the air,” says Rebecca, TDP’s Executive Director. “How do you engage parents right now when they have so many difficult changes in their lives?”

Amidst the challenges faced is the real challenge of students not having suitable devices, if at all, to continue their education. Many homes across Baltimore also lack internet access, shining a light on the digital divide across the city. Rebecca says that while many students are using  phones, research on academic outcomes affirms that this is not the best way to engage with learning. Students need computers, but they are costly and schools have not given enough out to meet the need. 

Rebecca emphasizes that the need is immediate—TDP has been pooling gently used devices ever since the school district’s closure announcement. Thanks to the support of concerned citizens across the city, they managed to quickly redistribute 87 devices to students. However, as the waitlist grows to 300+ requests, the demand is quickly outpacing available supply.

TDP’s device drive represents a broader movement of community leaders and grassroots organizations rallying around digital access disparities in Baltimore. Rebecca shares that TDP recently joined Baltimore’s Digital Equity Coalition which strives to work on issues of connectivity, access to devices, and digital education. TDP also continues to host weekly podcasts. Right now they are focusing on a multi-city comparison of how districts are handling COVID-19. They also host Thursday Zoom meetings to check in with parents across the city. 

As a parent herself, Rebecca is still concerned that “we might be losing kids.” Not all kids are logging on. “When your home is faced with food insecurity, school may not be the top priority,” While TDP’s device drive has enabled them to serve 130 kids, there are still many more without devices. 

How can you help?

Concerned citizens can email Rebecca at [email protected] to arrange for device pickup. All devices are welcome as nonfunctional ones can be refurbished.

Rebecca also encourages small businesses and/or organizations with strong wifi to research the mesh network technology. Mesh networks can allow a business to project its signal to homes roughly within a mile radius of their location, allowing for greater wifi access across neighborhoods. “This is a time where lots of folks are working towards expanding digital access,” Rebecca emphasizes. “If COVID-19 passes sooner than later, we may lose sight of it as a necessity—it’s an opportunity to create digital equity for the future.”

MOMCares provides postpartum doula support to black mothers with a NICU experience. We previously highlighted the growth of MOMCares’ services within the last year. We have since reconnected with Ana Temple Rodney, MOMCare’s Founder & Executive Director,  to learn more on how the team has extended their services more broadly to mothers experiencing multiple vulnerabilities as a result of COVID-19.

 We need to know what the financial fallout looks like for our families and ways in which we can be prepared to support them

Fridays are an especially busy time of the week for Ana: it’s when MOMCares opens their mini scholarship to support single mothers in need of financial assistance and household essentials, as well as virtual healing circles for yoga and stress alleviation. This is on top of daily care packages deliveries to mothers across the city and continued online mothership support groups.    

Though MOMCares typically focuses on supporting moms in the NICU, Ana quickly realized that their services were now needed by mothers at all stages of motherhood. They received over 50 inquiries for support during the earliest weeks of the pandemic. Since then, MOMCares has connected mothers in the 21217 community with more than $1,000 worth of diapers, wipes, and baby formula, and donated $1,500+ in immediate financial support to 31 mothers through their ongoing grants program. 

As a mother to a medically-sensitive five-year old, Ana finds herself in an intricate situation. “I have to balance being there for the community [while] also keeping myself and my son protected,” she shares. On that note, Ana expresses gratitude for her team who are working to ensure MOMCares distributes information and resources, matches the needs of the community, and sustains support efforts at this challenging time. 

The power of community is a broader silver lining that Ana has observed in recent weeks—”More people are caring for each other,” she says. “People are dialing in on how to support their neighbors and communities.” A new partnership with the Mera Kitchen Collective to deliver hot meals to moms and families is a prime example of rapid and meaningful collaborations that Ana hopes to continue cultivating as the weeks unfold. 

Yet Ana also stresses the importance of looking closely at the reasons underlying the uneven impact of the pandemic. “We need to be talking more about medical bias, institutional racism, and sources of health disparities,” Ana emphasizes. She adds that there are large disparities in access to information and resources provided by organizations like her own, and urges for groups to come together to undo them. 

Looking beyond this period, Ana says she is worried about the financial recovery that is going to have to happen. “We need to know what the financial fallout looks like for our families and ways in which we can be prepared to support them,” she says. “But the assistance to neighbors is [nonetheless] an amazing byproduct [of the pandemic].”

How can you help? 

SOCAP365’s Radical Collaboration series elevates stories of partners coming together in unconventional ways to solve for critical issues and drive impact. This series will highlight examples that inspire and offer insights, tools, and ideas where market-based solutions are busting open silos and working across sectors in new ways. Irene Bantigue, Events & Communications Manager at Impact Hub Baltimore, shares key learnings and updates from the series’ opening conversation centered on response efforts in Baltimore, Maryland. (more…)

Dear Impact Hub Community,

In response to recent updates re: COVID-19, Impact Hub Baltimore will be unhosted effective today, Monday March 16 through Friday March 27. 

Impact Hub will significantly scale down operations during this period. Members can access offices and coworking spaces as needed with limited staffing and supports. Members should also reconnect with us on Slack (see here) for the latest space updates. Events and meetings will be postponed to June, unless granted special permission. Our team will reassess policies on a weekly basis and share updates via newsletter and social media.

While we scale back physical contact during this period, we plan to scale UP information exchange and resource sharing via online platforms. Now more than ever, we are committed to connecting you and peer entrepreneurs and community leaders to important resources and opportunities. Although we cannot be together, we can still come together. We can still combine our knowledge, share our experiences, and offer our help. 

We can still COLLABORATE. 

Alongside our regular feature Opportunities for the People, we will be maintaining a listing of resources and opportunities for entrepreneurs, artists, small businesses and freelancers to maintain your work, livelihood, and mission from the safety of your home:

COVID-19 Response at Impact Hub Baltimore: Relief for Small Businesses, Artists, and Freelancers

If you know of any more great resources, please email Irene, IHB Events & Communications Manager at [email protected] and/or add links directly into the document. With the rapid developments we are seeing, we will keep this document updated as we get more information, so keep coming back! You might find new information, links of examples, and new resources.

More details to come. In the meantime, take care of yourselves, your neighbors, and your local businesses and entrepreneurs.


– Your Impact Hub Baltimore Team

Dear Impact Hub Community,

Our team has been continually monitoring the public health landscape and best practices over the past several weeks. As COVID-19 cases rise in Maryland, we are amplifying our attention on keeping our community and city healthy and safe.

We recognize the serious nature of the current situation, while also acknowledging that the important work people do in our space everyday contributes to the health and wellbeing of our city over the long-term. For the time being, our coworking operations will continue so that the entrepreneurs and grassroots organizations can continue to operate and advance their missions. Our practices and policies will be reviewed on a weekly basis, and are subject to change in response to guidance from public health agencies, as well as recommendations from other Baltimore community spaces and peers in the Impact Hub Global Network.

The Impact Hub team has been implementing prevention practices to minimize the risk to our membership, teams, and guests. In addition to daily and weekly cleaning practices, we are taking these additional precautions:  

Each of us plays an important role in keeping our community safe and healthy. We have a responsibility not only to our work and our missions, but also to each other. We strongly encourage all members and guests to follow these practices (from the CDC):

Further, we recognize that many independent creatives and freelancers may be especially impacted during this time and encourage you to check out this great resource listing (here). We will continue to add to these resources in our recurring newsletter as opportunities within our networks unfold. 

Now more than ever, please be safe, check in with one another, and offer your support to small local businesses that make up our thriving city.

Best regards and stay healthy!

– Your Impact Hub Baltimore Team



A passionate advocate for minorities and women in business, Kieta Mpolo Iriarte-Amin founded Mpolo Business Solutions in 2012. By providing technical assistance as well as grant and project management consultation, she has been a critical supporter for women entrepreneurs and educators, schools and nonprofit organizations in Baltimore. Kieta’s also a teacher, a Board Approved Business Manager for Baltimore City Public Schools and a mother of three. 

Straight after getting her master’s degree in nonprofit management, Kieta was managing grants full-time at Baltimore City Public Schools. Five years in, however, she began to find her 8-5 job constraining.

“The type of culture is very heavy; you’re not free to do what you want,” Kieta says. “I also had a high-risk pregnancy at the time too. It was very stressful. All those things tied together.”

So Kieta quit her full-time job as a grant manager and founded Mpolo Business Solutions. This Minority-Owned Business Enterprise provides business management, technical assistance, and financial administration support for nonprofits.

Since then, she’s managed and reported on over $300 million in federal and state grants and has supported about 50 nonprofits and 25 schools in Baltimore City, walking them through entire grant fund cycles.  Kieta has been a consultant for the Baltimore Children and Youth Fund (BCYF) over the past eight months. She also manages the funds for all Judy Centers.

Kieta joined Impact Hub as a Community Lead six months after the space opened its doors in 2014. She saw IHB as an opportunity to gain visibility in the community.

“I joined a family,” she says. “Everybody here is so encouraging of you, they want to see how you’re doing, they support you. Whatever type of support I needed here, they were able to offer.”

Describing herself as an “inside the house type person,” she says that the space encouraged her to get outside of her comfort zone.

“It forces me to be that person who’s the face of the organization, who’s able to start a conversation,” Kieta says. “Just practicing that everyday made me comfortable talking with people. There are a number of people here who I’ve met and I’ve worked with that I still work with to this day, years later. I see them out and about, there’s always a hug or ‘how’s everything? how are you?’ Definitely long-standing relationships.”

Kieta’s eager to continue growing her network with other women and minority-owned businesses, and aspiring entrepreneurs. Through her new initiative BMore Empowered, Kieta works with her co-founder, Nazaahah Amin, a yoga therapist and former IHB member, to teach girls of color aged 10 through 16 both business management and self-care.

“If my mind isn’t straight, if I’m not taking time for myself and doing self-care, there’s no way I can think about my business,” she says.