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Commemoration Fund Announces $1M In Inaugural Grants To Address Problems Caused By Systemic Racism


A charitable trust focused on supporting nonprofits that serve Tulsans of color has announced its first slate of grants — a total of $1 million.

The Commemoration Fund picked 20 organizations out of around 75 applicants for awards ranging from $5,000 to $160,000. They’ll help pay for things like increased access to healthy food, out-of-school education programs and even an original album performed entirely in Cherokee.

Program Officer Clarence Boyd said the Commemoration Fund’s mission is to address disparities rooted in white supremacy and systemic racism.

"While we think that none of these programs are going to fix the issues overnight, I think what we’ve focused on were sustainable projects that were going to grow and develop over time and have exponential impact in the future," Boyd said.

More than 65% of the applications received came from organizations with executives of color, and the Commemoration Fund Advisory Board is made up entirely of people of color. Chair Glenda Love Williams said that helped the selection process because they know those community leaders.

"And being able to put that on the table and say, ‘Look, these people have been doing this forever,’ like the Reed Community Foundation. Keith Reed has been working with these kids, who nobody else wants to work with, for 30 years, and he has never been given a real chance at doing it at a different level and having support," Love Williams said.

The Reed Community Foundation received $100,000 for its renovation of Ben Hill Community Center, which will be its new home. The community center was slated for demolition until the foundation and the City of Tulsa announced a partnership in 2019 that would see the city fix up the outside of the building and the nonprofit overhaul the inside.

"We’ve self-performed virtually everything that’s been done so far, and … their thoughts to us was that ‘We really want you to really finish this well.’ And we’re just thrilled, thrilled to have that partnership," Reed Foundation Vice President Andy Coe said about the Commemoration Fund award.

The Reed Foundation offers after-school programs for kids and evening boxing for troubled youths. They hope to have the renovation done by September. 

The Commemoration Fund is expected to award at least $6 million in grants over five to seven years. Zarrow Foundation trustees converted a family fund into the Commemoration Fund last June.

The next application cycle will open in early 2022.

2021 Commemoration Fund grant recipients

  1. Reed Community Foundation — Facility renovation campaign for this north Tulsa summer and after-school program serving youth, predominantly of color, with physical fitness, tutoring, and activities that champion self-discipline.
  2. Block Builderz — Professional services to strengthen the legal and governance structure at this criminal justice advocacy effort led by survivors of mass incarceration who are predominantly women of color.  
  3. Phoenix Rising Alternative School Foundation — A trauma-informed student restorative justice program that will teach justice-involved youth in Tulsa County, predominantly teens of color, to more effectively advocate for themselves.
  4. Green Country Habitat for Humanity — Incubation of a new Community Development Financial Institution focused on affordable housing and governed by a majority board of color in partnership with north Tulsa leaders.
  5. Horton Records — Production of an original music album performed entirely in the Cherokee language, aiming to correct the policies of white supremacy that attempted to eradicate the Cherokee language.
  6. Crossover Community Impact — Personal technology tools for the Fresh RX ‘Food is Medicine’ pilot program aiming to reduce uncontrolled diabetes in north Tulsa.
  7. La Cosecha — A new refrigerated truck to expand access to fresh, nutritious food for underserved Latinx residents in Tulsa.
  8. Tulsa Dream Center — Expanding distance learning, after-school tutoring, and STEM programs, plus new individual and family counseling and conflict resolution support.
  9. South Peoria Neighborhood Connection Foundation, Inc. — A new strategic plan focused on expanding resources for nutrition, financial stability, and workplace skills with on-site partners.
  10. Community Health Connection — Healthcare services at this comprehensive medical clinic serving economically disadvantaged Latinx patients.
  11. Illuminative — A multi-disciplinary media project that will center on Tulsa and the interwoven history, erasure, and racism that impacts the present-day lives of Black and Native communities.
  12. Theatre North — A long-established north Tulsa, Black-led theatre program that stages and presents plays reflecting the African American experience.
  13. Tulsa Coalition of 100 Black Men — Expansion of the Summer Y.E.S. Program, pairing students with Black business owners and professionals for internships and a business plan competition to grow long-term, generational wealth among Black youth.
  14. Tulsa Honor Academy — Programs at a high-performing and minority-led charter school, with a predominantly Latinx population.
  15. Meals on Wheels of Metro Tulsa — Expansion of a food delivery and healthcare prevention program in north Tulsa, to reduce hospitalizations and skilled nursing stays.
  16. Met Cares Foundation — Capacity building to expand community engagement work around individual wealth building and economic development initiatives.
  17. Revitalize T-Town — Safety and security repairs for low-income homes, contributing to improved housing values in north Tulsa neighborhoods.
  18. Sherwin Miller Museum — Student tours to a new exhibit that explores the role of white supremacy in the Jewish Holocaust and the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
  19. Touch - Tulsans Operating in Unity Creating Hope — Academically enriched daycare and after-school programs for students from north Tulsa neighborhoods.
  20. Urban Coders Guild — A creative after-school tech-training program targeting middle and high school students of color to develop a more inclusive tech ecosystem.
Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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