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Kresge Foundation awards millions in racial justice grants to Metro Detroit groups

The Detroit News

The Kresge Foundation announced Thursday more than $8 million in grants to support racial justice in Metro Detroit.

The effort helps boost 20 groups and institutions "that range from frontline activism to strengthening economies in neighborhoods of color to supporting small businesses owned by people of color," the foundation said in a statement.

Kamilia Landrum, executive director, Detroit Branch NAACP

“These are the organizations that are working deeply in our neighborhoods. They’re working on the ground to bring greater equity and justice for our community,” said Wendy Lewis Jackson, managing director of Kresge’s Detroit Program. “These are organizations with representative leadership, that are primarily led by people of color. And these are organizations that need greater access to grants and capital, to long-term equitable support.”

The Kresge Foundation works to expand opportunities in America’s cities through grantmaking and social investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services and community development, according to its website. 

The grants are part of a pledge to advance Kresge committing $30 million in new grants lasting up to three years to organizations across the country, the foundation said Thursday. Additional grants are expected for Detroit groups.

“The Black Lives Matter movement makes crystal clear the stakes of justice in our community and in our nation,” Jackson said. “This is the time where we’re going to meet the movement, to deepen our investments related to racial equity and racial justice in the city of Detroit. The expansion of opportunity that we seek cannot come without racial and economic justice. We must redouble our commitment to provide the next generation a more equitable city.”

The grants range from $1.5 million to $150,000 to support groups such as the Detroit Branch NAACP as it worked to push forward during the pandemic with programs such as "Take Your Soles To The Polls,” which pushed voter registration, said Kamilia Landrum, the executive director. “It has not been an easy task, but we remained vigilant in our ongoing quest for social justice and equality.” 

Among the largest grants: $1.5 million for Detroit Future City, which last year sharpened its focus on racial justice with the creation of the Center for Equity, Engagement and Research; the New Economy Initiative received $1.25 million to build a network to support small businesses in key commercial corridors; Michigan Justice Fund, which works to address to criminal justice reform, received $1 million.

The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network received $500,000 for its planned Detroit Food Commons, a proposed North End complex expected to include a cooperatively owned grocery store, an incubator kitchen for culinary artists and food entrepreneurs, a café and community gathering space.

Other grant recipients include New Detroit; the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, or ACCESS; and FORCE Detroit, which gathers leaders through a coalition to tackle complex community issues such as water shutoffs and regional transportation, Kresge officials said. 

“... The grantees span a range of unique histories and strategies that converge in the cause of advancing equity and racial justice within the city, from working on the ground for the support of African American entrepreneurs to improving community safety with a through-line of community self-determination," Jackson said. "The impact of these organizations will be far greater than the simple sum of their efforts.”