California Black Freedom Fund: $100m to fight systemic racism

The 25 US funders will provide resources to Black-led organisations to address a ‘history of underinvestment’.

The California Black Freedom Fund is a five-year $100m initiative aimed at eradicating systemic racism, with donors including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan - as well as JPMorgan Chase and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs [File: Jeff Chiu/AP Photo]

More than two dozen United States philanthropic organisations and corporations on Thursday launched the California Black Freedom Fund, a $100m, five-year initiative that they say will provide resources to Black-led organisations in the state that are seeking to eradicate systemic racism.

The 25 funders include the philanthropic groups of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs and JPMorgan Chase.

The bank’s involvement in the initiative follows its prior commitment to provide $30bn to combat what it called systemic racism against Black and Latino people. That announcement had followed a wave of donations to racial equity groups after global protests against racism and police brutality in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd.

This group said the new fund is intended to address a “history of underinvestment” by philanthropists in Black-led and power-building organisations. It currently holds $32.4m, with the rest of the money to be raised and distributed within the next five years to groups engaged in advocacy and other types of mobilisation.

The fund says it plans to support Black-led organisations that are “focused on stopping police violence, promoting education equity, improving health outcomes, championing voter registration and civic engagement and crafting policies around increasing access to housing”.

The head of the Oakland-based Akonadi Foundation, which is part of the effort, said she hopes the fund can continue well beyond five years, with a focus on supporting “Black leaders who are visionary and courageous”.

“The idea is not simply a reaction to the George Floyd killing,” Lateefah Simon, the foundation’s president, told The Associated Press. “These foundations have always had an explicit mission and focus of advancing equity.”

Although racial equity funds have been introduced in cities like Boston, the California fund’s focus on “Black-led organisations is unique,” said Una Osili, a professor at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Doing it at the state level with many funders also creates “an infrastructure and community around this work,” she added, noting, “I think that’s very important.”

The money will be donated in rounds of giving. More than $6m was given to three networks of more than 50 organisations in the first round. They include groups focused on maximising the participation of hard-to-count Black communities in California’s redistricting process and others pushing police reform.

Three more rounds are expected this year. The next round, Simon said, will be informed by an advisory committee made up of activists and organisers.

In addition to supporting the groups through the grants, the fund will also provide assistance in research, data and other areas.

“Philanthropy is the least accountable sector of all sectors,” Simon said. “We really wanted to make sure we were honouring Black freedom fighters by making sure we were making the right grants at the right time.”

Source: AP