United Way Announces 2023 Racial Equity Fund Committing $1M to Community

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United Way for Southeastern Michigan, has announced the year two recipients of $1 million in grant funding. The Racial Equity Fund, designed to help all people experience authentic inclusion and have equitable access to resources and opportunities, now enters its second year. Twenty-six organizations are receiving grants of up to $50,000 to address leadership development, sustainability, and economics in Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC)-led organizations across Southeastern Michigan.

The Racial Equity Fund provides financial support and technical assistance to organizations through flexible and unrestricted grants. It was designed by a diverse and inclusive workgroup of community members in 2021. The objective is to empower those most harmed by systemic oppression to thrive and reach their full potential.

“It is vitally important to support sustainability and leadership development for organizations who have faced barriers to their ability to impact our communities,” said Tonya Adair, Chief People, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “The success of the first cohort of the Fund inspired our continued support of this important work. Thanks to sponsors, supporters, and proactive members of the community, we can extend this impact and continue to close the gap of historic inequities.”

The founding workgroup’s scope was informed by the Centering Community Voice Blueprint – an effort to proactively incorporate lived experience into United Way’s grantmaking process. Every aspect of the decision-making process prioritized the lived experience of the community.

Funded organizations will provide programs and projects that work toward eliminating racial disparities in pursuit of a more equitable and just community for everyone. Last year, a total of 23 organizations were funded and continue their equity development work.

Members of the original workgroup were chosen by United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Team. Local organizations and leaders with close ties to the community made the nine-week commitment to developing the framework for the Fund and selection process.

Here is a representative sample of the 26 funded organizations and a description of their proposed projects/efforts:

  • Autism Support Services Center – They have a deep commitment to providing services to meet the community’s needs through culture humility and creating inclusive communities. Due to COVID-19, many of their programs were impacted, but they have adapted to providing remote and virtual services that have had positive impacts. They would like to expand one of their existing programs, Know Autism, and establish a new program to provide case management services, family engagement, and parenting support groups/autism education and awareness trainings to parents/guardians of children suspected or newly diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
  • Bailey Park Neighborhood Development Corporation (BPNDC) plans to use its grant to provide training opportunities for its leadership staff in organizational development, housing development, and fundraising. The organization recognizes the need for its staff to gain expertise in these areas as it expands and aims to develop its first affordable housing project to support the community and stabilize the neighborhood.
  • Black Male Educators Alliance looks to support schools and educators in creating liberated and intellectually stimulating environments for Black students. They have three programmatic anchors: Teacher and Leader Fellowships, School Partnerships, and K-12 Mentoring. Their professional development and training focus on engaging veteran, novice, and emerging teachers, leaders, and youth in the K-12 space, with a uniquely designed framework based on scholarly research and proven results that emphasizes restorative practices, honoring students’ culture, creating authentic relationships, and creating a safe space for rigorous teaching and learning.
  • CODE313 works to fill the gap in computer science education in primary schools by providing hands-on coding, enrichment camps, workshops, and in-school/after-school programming to youth and families. They offer training and education in various digital technologies such as AR, coding, cybersecurity, drones, and robotics to prepare individuals for the workforce and elevate the nation’s businesses and economy. They also engage youth and families in quarterly activities to teach them 21st century skills to improve their neighborhoods. The grant will help them expand their capability to provide access to digital maker spaces and technology incubators for project-based learning. They will use a two-generation approach to build family well-being by working with both children and adults in their lives and providing STEAM training opportunities for parents as well as incorporating childcare and STEAM curriculum in workforce development programs.
  • Detroit Black Farmer Fund is a coalition of 3 Detroit urban farming organizations working to rebuild inter-generational land ownership for Black farmers in Detroit. They have been building a program to repair and rebuild Black intergenerational wealth through Black land ownership for over five years. Last year alone, they awarded 50 farmers with land and infrastructure support. They are also working toward facilitating Black land ownership and stewardship.
  • Detroit Hives is focused on reactivating lots in strategic locations to bring together community members and improve the overall health and quality of life of their neighborhoods through beautification, sustainability, and urban agriculture. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the disparities and inequities within predominantly Black neighborhoods and reinforced the organization’s mission to combat poverty, crime, blight, and environmental injustice through the power of pollination and urban agriculture.
  • Macomb County Ministerial Alliance is partnering with Advancing Macomb Foundation on a county-wide research analysis that provides context to past and present racial inequities in Macomb County, particularly regarding housing, education, and employment, to guide future decision-making regarding equitable support for community development projects and programs.
  • Developing Despite Distance focuses on addressing, amplifying, and supporting the needs, strengths, and challenges of young men of color with incarcerated parents. They use a racial equity lens in their youth development programming to capture the unique strengths and processes of these young men and provide a culturally responsive, youth-voice centered approach to prevention and intervention. Their Saturday Program provides a safe space for young men ages 13-18 to build community and connections with peers and caring adults. The goal is to empower young men to identify healthy coping strategies to thrive despite the distance of their incarcerated parents.
  • Oakland Forward has a six-month neighborhood leadership academy focuses on providing participants with leadership and organizing skills to understand government operations and create policy change, as well as education on civic engagement and justice topics. The program includes two social and economic justice cohorts per year and offers stipends, access to grassroots organizations, hands-on experience through guest speakers, volunteer opportunities, and a group project. It also includes life skills workshops and specific outreach for BIPOC-owned businesses, and a youth organizing component in collaboration with Black Youth Vote and the Michigan Coalition for Black Civic Participation. Additionally, the organization has a staff retreat to focus on racial justice, systemic racism, and how to dismantle these systems within the organization and create new systems for change in the community.
  • Southeast Michigan IBCLC’s of Color & Michigan Breastfeeding Network focuses on racial inequities that have led to breastfeeding rates of about 30 percent for Black families with infant mortality more than twice the national average in Detroit. They collaborate with organizations and individuals to bring about actionable, system-level changes that are centered on the diverse experiences of Michigan families with young children. Their goal is to meet the unique needs for mentorship, fellowship, and professional growth by IBCLC’s of Color in the region.
  • Tri-Unity Community Development Corporation is a community-based organization that focuses on building community capacity by connecting individuals and families to programs, resources, and information that can have a positive impact on their lives. aims to take healthcare to the community and address physical, mental, and social determinants of health needs through education, empowering clients to take control of their health, and building a network of faith-based partners trained to deliver services.

To learn more about United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s Racial Equity Fund or other United Way initiatives, visit Racial Equity Fund | Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (unitedwaysem.org).


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