Grassroots International

Janet Axelrod

As a young graduate of Barnard College, Janet Axelrod became the first employee at the Haymarket Peoples Fund in Boston, where she began her fundraising and grantmaking career. She was a producer of Amandla, a 1979 concert featuring Bob Marley and the Wailers for the benefit of southern Africa liberation movements, including the African National Congress, later the first ruling party of a free South Africa.

In 1981, she went to work in a business setting as the first employee at Lotus Development Corporation, where she worked for 10 years, mostly as Vice President for Human Resources. Lotus’ Human Resource policies and benefits were groundbreaking in the emerging software industry, setting new standards which continue to resonate today at companies like Google and other startups. At Lotus, Janet also created the company’s employee -directed foundation, whose primary mandate was to fund anti-racist work.

In 1986 Janet joined Blackside, the producers of “Eyes on the Prize,” consulting there on human resources and other business-related issues. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, she has raised two children, chaired the board of the Cambridge Public Library’s trustees as the city built a new $95 million public library, co-founded and served for 10 years on the board of South Africa Partners and continued to consult to many progressive groups and organizations regarding funding and the management of resources, including the Highlander Center, the Workmen’s Circle, Libraries for the Future, Jewish Women’s Archive, The Progressive Archive Project, the Cambridge Arts Council and the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center. For the past six years, Janet has been playing and singing in Sheboom, a band of women drummers.