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W.K. Kellogg Foundation announces $75 million effort to tackle structural racism and promote racial healing


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Nearly 1,000 proposals sought $280 million in funding; urgent need for community healing

WASHINGTON – In an unprecedented effort to address the devastating impact of racial inequities on communities across the country, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation launched today a five-year, $75 million initiative – America Healing – that aims to improve life outcomes for vulnerable children and their families by promoting racial healing and eliminating barriers to opportunities. 

Children of color are over-represented among the 29 million low-income children and families in this country, particularly among families living in concentrated poverty. According to data from the National Center for Children in Poverty, about 61 percent of African American, 62 percent of Latino, 57 percent of Native American, 58 percent of children with immigrant parents, 30 percent of Asian American children and 26 percent of white children live in low-income families.

“The Kellogg Foundation’s vision is for a nation to marshal its resources to ensure that all children in America have an equitable and promising future,” said Sterling K. Speirn, president and CEO. “That is simply not the case in many communities across the country today. The goal of the America Healing initiative is to help make that vision a reality by engaging communities and supporting them in the hard work of racial healing and addressing the effects of historic and contemporary structural issues, such as residential segregation and concentrated poverty.”

During the first phase of America Healing, 119 organizations will receive grants totaling $14,613,709 specifically to support community-based organizations’ healing efforts among racial and ethnic groups that address historic burdens, disparities and barriers to opportunity. Their efforts will focus within local communities to increase opportunities for children in education, health and economic areas.  Grantees represent 29 states and the District of Columbia and all racial and ethnic population groups.  To highlight the desire of communities to work together on racial healing, the foundation created a signature video, which captures the spirit of the initiative. 

“The mission of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is to help communities create conditions that propel vulnerable children to succeed as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society,” said Dr. Gail Christopher, vice president of programs.  “Because children of color are so disproportionately represented in low-income families and impoverished communities, realizing our mission requires addressing historic and current structural barriers to opportunity, such as exposure to environmental toxins and under-resourced schools, which are a direct result of past policies and practices of racialization and privilege.”

Christopher said that the overwhelming response to the initial phase of the initiative – there were nearly 1,000 responses to the request for racial healing proposals from both urban and rural communities – demonstrates that “we have tapped into a movement in this country, a reservoir of good will and eagerness to have the hard conversations, and to do the difficult work of addressing long standing issues that have needlessly divided communities from coast to coast.”

“America Healing seeks to capture the spirit of our times and re-invigorate our country’s historic commitment to ensure that every child, no matter what race or ethnicity, develops their full potential to lead a healthy, educated and economically prosperous life,” said Speirn.

“At a time when our nation shows disturbing signs of becoming more polarized, this courageous effort by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to promote healing within local communities is sorely needed.  It reminds us of our true democratic ideals as a nation and of the inalienable right guaranteed by our founding documents to the free and unfettered opportunity that every human being deserves,” said U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-GA), who spoke at the launch event.

Other phases of the initiative will seek to curtail racism in the media, the environment, education, housing, health and criminal justice systems, with an emphasis on expanding opportunities for all children.

“We have an opportunity to make dramatic progress in healing our nation,” Christopher said. “As a country, just as we as we have done in previous periods in our nation’s history, we must shine a light on racism so that we can put its effects on children and communities behind us.” 

Moreover, the America Healing initiative complements the racial equity approach in all of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation grantmaking directed at supporting vulnerable children, their families and communities.  The new initiative will continue to focus on issues at the core of structural racism and will align with the foundation’s program areas: Education and Learning; Food, Health and Well-being; and Family Economic Security.

Examples of grantees include:

  • The People’s Grocery, a community organization in West Oakland, Calif., that is organizing low-income people from multiple racial groups to work together to build a local food system that provides greater access to fresh produce and nutrition education.
  • Centro por la Justicia is coordinating an effort to connect partners and create a truly “southern” racial equity strategy – uniting east and west working with Latino/Hispanic and African American youth. Southwest Workers Union in Texas, SouthWest Organizing Project in New Mexico, and Southern Echo in Mississippi pooled their strengths and resources to create South x Southwest (SxSW), in an effort to empower historically excluded low-wealth, grassroots communities of color in their states and across state lines. SxSW is working to build sustainable bridges between Latino and African American communities across the traditional barriers that have kept these communities divided.
  • In Minnesota, the Saint Paul Foundation has received funding to build on its track record in the area of promoting diversity and inclusiveness with programs such as Facing Race, a multi-year campaign to give individuals an opportunity to talk about racial issues and work toward changing the nature of personal, organizational and institutional relationships.
  • The National Indian Child Welfare Association will receive funding to help Native American families and children heal the wounds from the decades-old policy of removing Native American children from their tribal people.

“With almost a thousand applicants, there’s no denying that there is a tremendous desire for this kind of work and initiatives like America Healing are urgently needed,” said Speirn.  “Our goal is to breathe life back into the effort to abolish structural racism, and to help America achieve strength and prosperity through racial equity.”

In an effort to showcase the many outstanding grant proposals, and because the foundation could not fund all 1,000 projects, they have created and will publicize a catalog of all proposals, including both the funded and unfunded. The goal is to help connect organizations with potential sources of funding and to help meet the extraordinary demand for racial healing.  To view the catalog, please visit http://www.wkkf.org/racial-equity/racial-equity-catalog.aspx.

To learn more about America Healing, please visit http://www.americahealing.org.

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