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The Root Spotlights New $1 Million Investment in MBK Communities from MBK Alliance

By Michael Smith, Executive Director, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance

A group photo of people handing out food at a food drive.

For the past two years, MBK Alliance has been proud to champion the work of our Impact and Seed Community partners, and today announced an additional $1 million investment to support their response to the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice. These organizations—19 nonprofits in 15 cities that won our inaugural MBK Community Challenge Competition—work to expand evidence-based initiatives that reduce youth violence, grow effective mentorship programs, and measurably improve the lives of boys and young men of color.

In the wake of the disproportionate effect that COVID-19 and ongoing racial injustice is having on under-resourced Black and Brown communities, these high-performing organizations continue to meet their core operational goals to reduce barriers and expand opportunity for boys and young men of color and their families—but they didn’t stop there.

In the face of so much uncertainty and overwhelming obstacles they took on even more. They began serving meals, delivering food, handing out personal protective equipment (PPE) and literature, creating mutual aid networks, helping to organize and support calls to action against police violence, and responding to increases in street violence this summer.

While MBK Alliance had completed our funding to these organizations, it was important to us to do whatever we could to support their extraordinary response. We immediately removed restrictions from our original grants last spring so the organizations could have as much flexibility as possible to use funds to respond to the moment. We compiled information on funding from corporations, government agencies, and philanthropy that could help them meet programmatic and operational goals. We used every channel and platform available to us to shine a spotlight on their heroic efforts. But we knew we had to do a little more. Without plans for grantmaking at the time, we reallocated some of our grant funding as well as dollars that would have been spent on travel and meetings to create a $1 million investment fund.

The African American Empowerment Network’s MBK work is focused on addressing gun violence and reducing unemployment. Since last March, the organization has partnered with well over 200 organizations, churches, non-profits, small businesses and neighborhood leaders to coordinate efforts including food and PPE distribution; organize and promote testing efforts; created an online interactive tool for the community to connect to food, employment, housing, faith communities, neighborhood groups, and other resources and opportunities; and partnered with housing organizations to help prevent evictions and foreclosures.

BUILD (Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development) is one of Chicago's leading gang intervention, violence prevention, and youth development organizations. BUILD mentors have been connecting with hundreds of young people, helping them stay safe while also struggling with their own feelings of injustice and trauma; defusing conflict on the streets; and hosting safe summer programs, while its Community Violence Support Services (CVSS) team is responding to crises, providing therapy to youth and families impacted by violence and trauma, and connecting families with resources and support for their basic needs.

With the new funding, BUILD will grow its capacity to respond to community violence by bringing trauma-informed mental health care directly to those who need it most, through the addition of a Mobile Counseling Center. The retrofitted minibus will become a traveling center for the organization’s mental health team to respond to crises, deliver resources, and bring mental health services to those who cannot travel or are in distress.

In addition to the African American Empowerment Network and BUILD Chicago, Impact and Seed Communities will leverage this new funding to deploy additional violence interrupters and street outreach workers, support social justice advocacy, supplement lost income for youth workers, provide emergency stipends to families in need, launch virtual mentorship platforms, expand anti-racism training, and more.

A June 2020 survey from Independent Sector (Opens in a new tab) noted that the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn has had significant effects on the “services, operations, and the people working in the nonprofit sector.” Of note, 83 percent of organizations reported a decline in revenues, affecting the organizations’ ability to fulfill their missions. This new funding attempts to not only help these organizations meet this dire moment, but also to supplement unexpected needs that have arisen as a result—and to raise awareness about the impact they are having. We hope individuals and institutions from across the nation will consider supporting these impact-oriented nonprofits, and others like them. Learn more and support here. Grants were issued in increments of $25,000, $50,000, and $100,000, based on need for the following purposes:

  1. Providing direct support to program participants amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, which could include but is not limited to supporting basic needs for youth and families (meal distribution and WiFi hotspots), grants to partner organizations, direct cash assistance, rent relief, etc.;

  2. Response to Police Violence and Protests, such as new programming to support local efforts to review and reform law enforcement and public safety policies, or providing meals or other assistance to protestors.

  3. Response to Summer Violence, such as additional staff or staff hours, new programming, or advocacy efforts; and/or

  4. Leveraging funds to bring on additional support and staff capacity or seek out additional technical assistance opportunities for staff to support your ongoing pandemic response.

We’re grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies, Goldman Sachs, the Walton Family Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for their contributions to the fund.