Kresge Foundation Commits $8M to Local Organizations for Racial Justice Initiatives

The Kresge Foundation in Troy has committed $8.2 million in grants over the next three years to support racial justice in southeast Michigan.
Kamilia Landrum
The Kresge Foundation has committed $8.2 million in grants to area racial justice organizations, including the Detroit branch of the NAACP. Pictured is Kamilia Landrum, executive director of the branch. // Photo by Lon Horwedel, courtesy of The Kresge Foundation

The Kresge Foundation in Troy has committed $8.2 million in grants over the next three years to support racial justice in southeast Michigan.

The commitment brings funding to 20 organizations and institutions of various sizes and ages that range from frontline activism to strengthening economies in neighborhoods of color.

“These are the organizations that are working deeply in our neighborhoods,” says Wendy Lewis Jackson, managing director of Kresge’s Detroit Program. “They’re working on the ground to bring greater equity and justice for our community. 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 foundation began to focus on the city when it was founded in 1924.

The grants are part of a pledge to advance Kresge’s long-term support of racial justice and opportunity with a commitment of $30 million in new grants to organizations working nationally as well as place-based organizations in New Orleans, Memphis, Fresno, and Detroit. They are mostly three-year, no strings attached grants for general operating support.

Additional grants totaling several million dollars are pending for Detroit organizations with an announcement expected in early 2021.

“Place is where the dynamics of accountability are possible, where issues of race and justice and injustice are so clearly manifest that you can name them and spot them,” says Rip Rapson, president and CEO of Kresge.

Detroit Future City, which last year sharpened its focus on racial justice with the creation of the Center for Equity, Engagement, and Research, was granted $1.5 million.

The New Economy Initiative will receive $1.25 million to build a network to undergird small businesses in key commercial corridors, with an emphasis on small businesses owned by people of color. Michigan Justice Fund, which support community-driven solutions to criminal justice reform, will receive $1 million.

Enterprise Community Partners, a national organization, will receive $684,500 to support about two dozen community development organizations in Detroit. The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network will receive $500,000 for its Detroit Food Commons, a complex planned for the North End, to include a cooperatively owned grocery store, an incubator kitchen for culinary artists and food entrepreneurs, a café, and community gathering space.

Other organizations receiving support include the city’s chapter of the NAACP, one of the oldest chapters (founded 1912) of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization (founded 1909). Also included are New Detroit (founded in the wake of Detroit’s 1967 rebellion), ACCESS (the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services founded in 1971), American Citizens for Justice (founded in 1983 in the wake of the fatal, racially motivated beating of Chinese American Vincent Chin a year earlier), Live6 Alliance (formed in 2014), and FORCE Detroit (founded in 2017).

“Perseverance in the midst of a pandemic that is greatly impacting our members and the Detroit community … has not been an easy task, but we remained vigilant in our ongoing quest for social justice and equality,” says Kamilia Landrum, executive director of the Detroit branch of the NAACP. The group has helped Detroit Public Schools Community District distribute tablets to students for virtual learning, registered people to vote, and pushed leadership at major corporations to expand diversity and equity initiatives.

Some $7 million is being committed to national racial justice grantees to lend their expertise to local organizations in areas such as policymaking, power building, legal assistance, data gathering and analysis, community organizing, and strategic communications. Those grantees include the Movement for Black Lives, comprising the ecosystem of organizations leading today’s modern racial justice movement, and the Black-Led Movement Fund, the primary grantmaking vehicle by which philanthropy can learn about and invest in on-the-ground racial justice nonprofit organizers.

Other local organizations receiving funds include the American Civil Liberties Union, Black Family Development, Wayne State University’s Detroit Equity Report, the Detroit Hispanic Development Corp., Detroit Justice Center, DLIVE, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, Mothering Justice, and Theaster Gates Studio (working with Marygrove Conservancy).