Foundation for Black Communities seeks $ 200 million from federal budget to support black-led charities

Foundation for Black Communities seeks $ 200 million from federal budget to support black-led charities

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Eugenia Addy remembers what it was like as a young black girl at The East Mall in Toronto, trying to envision her future.
“I grew up in one of the communities we work in, and I really couldn’t see myself portrayed anywhere on TV. [or] in my textbooks, ”Addy said. So really believing that I could be a scientist or an engineer was something I literally had to dream about, because I couldn’t see it in reality. ”

While pursuing her doctorate in chemistry, she met Francis Jeffers, the founder of Visions of science, an organization that offers interactive science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs to children in marginalized communities. Now as CEO, Addy aims to open doors for others like her.

“A lot of STEM engagement is typically locked inside institutions. So if you don’t have proximity to these institutions, you won’t be able to engage in all the amazing things you could do, ”Addy said.

Supporting nonprofit groups like Addy’s is the goal of a Foundation for Black Communities (FFBC) initiative.

As the federal government prepares to table its first budget in two years on April 19, the CBFF lobbied for $ 200 million to start an endowment that would help support nonprofits working with black communities. The goal is for black-led organizations to apply for grants from a foundation created especially for them.

Liban Abokor is a member of the FFBC working group. Such a fund “would be a game changer,” he said.

“This means you don’t have to justify why you are focusing on black communities,” Abokor added.

“This means that if you have an issue that is affecting your community and you want to fix it, you don’t have to think about” Will anyone support this work? “”

As CEO of Visions of Science, Eugenia Addy said it can be extremely difficult to get the funding she needs to help kids access their STEM programs. (Ousama Farag / CBC)

In addition to what it asked the federal government, the CBFF is already working to raise an additional $ 100 million from the private and philanthropic sectors. He recently received $ 1 million from the MLSE Foundation to fund sports and wellness programs for black youth.

It comes after a report published in December by the Network for the Advancement of Black Communities and Carleton University revealed that of every $ 100 awarded in grants by the country’s top 40 foundations in 2017 and 2018, less than 30 cents went to black-led organizations.

Abokor was one of the report’s authors and he says he was not surprised by the results.

“The reality is [that] philanthropy in this country works on the basis of relationships. If you look across the country, there are over 10,000 foundations, all of which are predominantly white led, from staff to board members to executive directors, ”said Abokor.

A graph illustrating the findings of a December 2020 report that found that only 30 cents of every $ 100 awarded in grants by Canada’s top 40 foundations in 2017 and 2018 went to black-led organizations. (Source: Network for the Advancement of Black Communities / Carleton University)

CBFF’s plan is to appeal for programs to apply for grants, and then a committee made up of members of the community from which these programs operate would review the applications.

“We want to empower certain members of the community to make these decisions. And that’s what we are talking about when we talk about self-determination, ”Abokor explained.

The idea of ​​self-determination for black communities has been a goal for organizers and civil rights leaders for decades, but Abokor said now was a great time for a concerted effort to start something like this.

“We have just had the privilege of truly enjoying the moment we are with the global Black Lives Matter movement, this important recognition that we need to fight racial injustice in this country. “

Addy says that a black-focused foundation would take away the fear that as interests and news cycles evolve, support and funding for organizations like hers will disappear.

“With all the events of the summer, I think a lot of black-led organizations have seen a surge of support. But I know a lot of leaders like me are also holding our breath, because we don’t want this to be just a trend. ”Said Addy.

While he’s been successful in growing Visions of Science from a team run mostly by volunteers to one that employs over 100 people and serves 28 different communities, Addy says finances can still be tight.

“I think for a job like ours we always knock on doors. It will never be such a situation. And really, it’s about being able to gain support in a way that allows us to remain nimble and responsive to our communities. . ”

Liban Abokor is one of the members of the Foundation for Black Communities task force, which is asking the federal government for $ 200 million to help support black-led and black-serving organizations. (Ousama Farag / CBC)

Visions of Science was founded using a model based on intimate hands-on workshops, and when the pandemic hit, it had to adapt quickly and find ways to keep students participating from home. The organization assembled STEM kits with all the materials needed for their projects and delivered them directly to community members.

But it didn’t stop there. Many young people involved in the program needed other types of support as well, so Addy and her team put families in touch with ways to access food and helped ensure that every young member who had need a laptop to participate get one.

“We’re not just tackling issues of under-representation in STEM. When you think of the populations we serve, you think of housing insecurity, of food insecurity, ”Addy said. “There are so many levels when it comes to working in our communities. “

For Jean Claude Munyezamu, executive director of Umoja Community Mosaic based in southwest Calgary, being able to apply for grants from a foundation like FFBC, also run by blacks, is an opportunity to see and understand his work.

“They know how we do things. It’s easy for them to assess what we’re doing, ”Munyezamu said.

For the past 11 years, Munyezamu has organized a football camp for young people in his neighborhood, many of whom are new to the country. He made it into an organization that caters to a number of needs, from tutoring to women’s support groups.

As the pandemic left many in his community even more vulnerable, he has also started delivering food to more than 800 families on a regular basis. He says being in the community he serves has helped him understand what needs to be done.

“We were already serving vulnerable people. You know, we are based in social housing, ”Munyezamu said. “So yes, there was emergency aid, but how many days did it take people to get the benefits from the government?” Plus, how many people know how to claim these benefits? “

Munyezamu has also gone to great lengths to help those struggling to make ends meet a bit further by tailoring food baskets to the cultural backgrounds of those who receive them and, in turn, helping to support the town’s ethnic grocery stores.

“It’s wonderful to see food from home. You know, it’s a comfort. “

After starting with a football program, Jean Claude Munyezamu expanded his work with Umoja Community Mosaic to address a number of needs, including support for those suffering from food insecurity. (Dave Rae / CBC)

Umoja operates with just three staff members and a dedicated team of volunteers. Munyezamu says the organization is struggling financially to meet so many responsibilities.

“One thing I do every day is fundraising, fundraising, fundraising. Each month. We don’t know where we’re going to get the money for next month, ”Munyezamu said.

He adds that one of the challenges he faces when applying for grants or appealing for donations is the desire of others to lock him up.

“You are disqualified for not being Black enough. Here in the west, many blacks are first and second generation, ”Munyezamu said. “We don’t have a lot of black professionals who can help build capacity. “

Federal government was criticized in january after Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) rejected hundreds of applications for a program for black organizations because they did not meet the identification threshold of two-thirds of their board members and senior leaders like blacks.

FFBC is still working on defining criteria for groups eligible for its funding, but plans to have a “sliding scale approach” that will be formed in the coming months after community consultations.

In the meantime, says Abokor, whether or not they get the funding they’ve requested from the federal government, the Foundation for Black Communities will continue to fundraise and plan to issue grants for the fall.

“I think in a few years, when everything is set up and done, and we see the amazing work that black organizations are able to do with these resources, I think it’s a time for reflection. At the moment there is a lot of work to be done. ”

For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians – from anti-black racism to successes within the black community – check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project of which black Canadians can be proud. You can read more stories here.


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