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Minnesota’s first black-led community foundation awards more than $1 million in grants for the first time

Minnesota’s first Black-led community foundation is distributing its first grants to Black-led organizations and leaders to ignite broader change in the state’s philanthropic sector and benefit recipients.

The Black Collective Foundation, established by black philanthropic leaders in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd, is donating more than $1 million in total to 15 charitable and for-profit corporations.

“Minnesota actually needs a foundation dedicated to what we call the genius of Black-led change — a foundation that can survive the moment of insurrection, a foundation that is rooted in our culture and our vision for ourselves and our families can be rooted. said Lulete Mola, president of the St. Paul-based foundation.

After Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers in May 2020, Mola, who worked at the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, founded Nexus’ Philanthropic Collective to Combat Anti-Blackness and Realize Racial Justice Mekha with Chanda Smith Baker of the Minneapolis Foundation and Repa community partners. The goal was to denounce racism and reform the philanthropic sector, while attempting to raise $25 million for Black-run nonprofits and advocacy groups.

Since its inception, the group has raised nearly $5 million, conducted research, and provided training on racial justice philanthropy. She has met with more than 200 community members and philanthropic sector workers and received feedback that drove the name change and foundation’s creation.

“Foundations don’t have to look like the historical model of the rich for the poor,” Mola said. “We, as a diverse community, can actually create a foundation with our vision. We are also givers. We are also reclaiming the narrative of who we are.”

Floyd’s death spurred a global racial justice movement and prompted many Minnesota foundations to increase funding for racial justice work and make grantmaking decisions more inclusive. They brought in community members to help select grantees and had diversified staff, board members, and executives.

Since then, some of that funding has declined, Mola said. But she said the problems will not be solved with one-off commitments.

“We actually have to make decades-long commitments with money … if what we’re really about is tackling the structural virus that is racism and racial injustice,” she said.

The Black Collective Foundation hopes to model this community-centric decision-making. To design the grant program and select the first grantees, the foundation spent six months partnering with 15 Black community leaders: Abena Abraham, Anissa Keyes, Artika Tyner, Bianca Monique Dawkins, Danielle Swift, Del Shea Perry, Hassan Qais As- Sidiq, Jeffrey Aguy, Joy Marsh, Leslie Redmond, Salma Ibrahim, Sha Cage, Teto Wilson, Tracine Asberry, and Victoria McWane-Creek. Each received $10,000 for their work.

As “trusted messengers” in the community, the group knows about local Black-run organizations that may fly under the radar, said Wilson, a Minneapolis barber shop owner.

“There is a black ecosystem that goes largely unrecognized by larger funding agencies,” Wilson said. “That’s quite unlike anything I’ve heard about, the fact that they’re very deliberately aiming for Black-led change to be highlighted.”

Mola said the foundation wants to share decision-making power, something other foundations can do to show their commitment to racial justice.

“Many people in the field of social change have pre-established ideas about what should happen, rather than listening to people in communities who are closest to problems and solutions,” she said.

Each of the Black Collective Foundation’s first grantees received $50,000, and each of its leaders received an additional $10,000 to invest in personal or professional development.

For Ebony Adedayo, it’s the biggest promotion she’s ever received. In 2017, she founded the Aya Collective, a nonprofit organization that offers writing workshops and resources for black women.

“I didn’t even expect it,” said Adedayo. “My dreams have been multiplied five, six, seven times… For an organization that has held things together with spit, water, and glue, that’s a lot.”

The grant will allow her to expand partnerships and projects, she said, and compensate her for the unpaid work she’s done over the past five years.

“There are so many underfunded black-led organizations that are being ignored,” Adedayo said. “It’s a movement they’re building. It is a turning point in the entire philanthropic community and I hope the rest of the philanthropic community takes notice.”

The 14 other organizations and their leaders receiving grants are: ACER, Nelima Sitati Munene; the Cordale Q. Handy in Remembrance of Me Foundation, Kimberly Handy-Jones; the JK movement, Johnny Allen Jr.; Until we’re all free, Kevin Reese; Sweet Potato Comfort Pie, Rose McGee; Voice of Culture, Kenna Cottman; We Win Institute Inc., Titilayo Bediako; Abdur Razzaq Consulting & Social Architecture, Kasim AbdurRazzaq; the Zen Tank, Sierra Carter; Tales of Georgia Fort, Georgia Fort; Reinvestment in Communities and Housing, Vachel Hudson; Intro to Success, Steven Johnson (aka Philli Irvin); and Black Family Blueprint, Ayolanda and Adrian Mack.

Mola, the Black Collective Foundation’s first employee, plans to expand the foundation’s work in 2023 by hiring two employees, distributing an additional $1 million in grants, and establishing a foundation. The foundation also publishes new research on racial justice funding and continues to drive major reforms in Minnesota’s philanthropic sector.

“The goal is not that we collect and distribute money,” said Mola. “The goal is for all philanthropy to recognize the genius of Black-led change.”

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