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Rapson: Racial justice commitment represents a pivotal milestone for Kresge

From the President, General Foundation News

Today, Kresge unveiled $30 million in new grant commitments to nearly 60 local and national organizations working to advance racial justice.

This marks a pivotal institutional milestone. The scale and scope of this suite of grants underscore Kresge’s belief that the Foundation’s efforts to expand opportunity in American cities require that we directly, unambiguously, and strategically address longstanding and insidiously persistent systemic racism and inequality. By adding to the Foundation’s existing portfolio of anti-racism efforts – both inside and outside the building – these grants represent a sharpened focus and intensification of the Foundation’s longstanding racial justice and racial equity grantmaking.

Kresge is uniquely positioned to work in two dimensions. These grants seek both to fortify the ecology of national organizations working to advance racial justice and to strengthen the ability of community-led organizations in Detroit, New Orleans, Memphis, and Fresno to confront racial inequities in-place.

Approximately $7 million of the $30 million will fund national racial justice organizations that provide resources to on-the-ground nonprofits for community organizing, communications, leadership development, research, data compilation, and state and federal policy change. The other two-thirds – $23 million – is focused on direct support for those local organizations. These latter investments seek not only to augment community capacity to engage in this work over the long-term by providing no-strings-attached general operating support, but also to create a network of local racial justice organizations capable of sharing their efforts with one another and with national racial justice organizations.

Through the leadership of our American Cities and Detroit teams – and with the considerable contributions of our Arts & Culture, Education, Environment, Health, and Human Services teams – we have grounded our package in four principles.

First, we will focus on organizations working on the ground.

Even our grants to national organizations are predicated on these entities’ ability to provide support to those working in place and in community. We recognize the historic under-capitalization of front-line organizations working toward racial justice and seek to provide the kind of scaffolding support they need to translate the organizing energies of the current environment into fortified and enduring capacity to forge change.

Second, we will concentrate our resources on organizations led by people of color.

The table of community problem-solving responsibility must not only include people representative of the cities in which we work but must also be set and governed by them. You will see in the itemization of the grants – all available on this landing page – Black-led organizations, Latinx-led organizations, Asian and Pacific Islander-led organizations, and Native-American-led organizations.

Third, we will place a particular emphasis on supporting wealth creation and small business development in neighborhoods of color.

Whether through organizations like the New Economy Initiative in Detroit that offer technical and financial assistance to micro-business or through community-based lenders like NewCorp in New Orleans, we will strive to strengthen neighborhood economies, and through them, family economic mobility.

And fourth, we will take a long-term view.

Large-scale, enduring transformation of racially and ethnically inequitable systems is not a one-and-done proposition. We anticipate that Kresge’s support will be commensurate in scale and duration with the magnitude of the challenge.

The work of racial justice begins in community and in place. That is where the current spark of racial justice energies was ignited and where it will continue to take the most tangible, immediate, and powerful form. Our foundation’s commitment to cities is a powerful platform from which to support those energies. The team that has crafted these grants has called on all of our strategies, all of our tools, and all of our institutional capacities to align with those doing the difficult work of community change through the lens of racial equity, justice, and reconciliation.

The Black Lives Matter movement – joined by a vibrant and broad spectrum of racial, ethnic, and social justice organizations of every stripe – has made abundantly clear that progress in our country requires a forthright acknowledgment of the longstanding and deeply entrenched impediments to full equality, justice, and inclusion. But equally clear is that we must move further to dismantle – and substitute for – the insidious policies, practices, norms, and attitudes embedded in virtually every facet of our society, our economics, our politics, our lives. That is the complex, difficult, long-term work to which the organizations we are supporting are unalterably committed.

It is an inspiring inflection point in our organization’s trajectory. But it is also just that – an inflection point, not an endpoint. We have so very much still in front of us. We are called to a historic opportunity – to accelerate the process by which Dr. King’s long arc of history will bend toward justice