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Northwestern funds 21 projects to advance racial equity in Evanston and Chicago

Racial Equity and Community Partnership grantees announced
Evanston aerial photo

Northwestern University announces the 2021 recipients of the Racial Equity and Community Partnership grants program. Ten organizations will receive partnership grants, and 11 organizations will receive incubator grants.

Through the Racial Equity and Community Partnership grants program, Northwestern provided $500,000 in funding to support ideas which seek to solve the systemic problems of racial inequity in local neighborhoods. Additionally, an anonymous alumnus donated $100,000 in funding for each of the next five years, bringing the total funding support for this program to $600,000 this year.

“We could not be more excited to announce the inaugural grant recipients of the Racial Equity and Community Partnership Grant. We launched this program in the midst of a reckoning with racial injustice in this country, and we acknowledge that the process of healing is far from over, but today, we wish to rejoice in the next chapter of equity in our community,” said Dave Davis, executive director of the Office of Neighborhood and Community Relations at Northwestern.

“Today, we are proud of the commitment the community has made: to acknowledge the harms done to communities of color, to reshape our institutions and practices, and to create opportunities for all of the people who call this place home.”

Northwestern is committed to becoming a national model for how a major research university engages with the communities where it resides. To reach that goal, the University intends to expand strategic, meaningful partnerships between community-based organizations and Northwestern. These partnerships aim to build the capacity of local neighborhoods to develop and grow community-driven solutions to structural problems and advance the University’s academic and research mission.

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We believe that our work as a community is part of a larger movement, and in committing ourselves to the goals outlined in this program, we are helping to move forward on the long arc of justice.

Dave Davis
Executive Director, Office of Neighborhood and Community Relations

The Racial Equity and Community Partnership Grant program was developed by an advisory committee of Northwestern faculty and staff and local community leaders in Evanston and Chicago.

“Seldom are people of color asked to assist in the actual design of funding mechanisms aimed at improving their own communities,” said Melvin Thompson, executive director of Endeleo Institute and advisory committee member. “But that was exactly what I had the privilege to do, and I am truly grateful for the deference shown by an enlightened institution seeking to make inroads in increasing equitable strategic partnerships. Hopefully, there’s more to come.”

Partnership grants will support projects that work to dismantle structural racism with mutually beneficial partnerships between a community-based organization and Northwestern faculty, students and staff. Organizations that will be part of the incubator program will receive coaching and support from Northwestern’s Center for Diversity and Democracy (CSDD) to develop project ideas that address racial inequity and prepare the organization to build mutually beneficial partnerships which would attract further philanthropic investments.

“When I started the CSDD four years ago, I hoped that it would be a conduit for translating knowledge from the University to projects that would have a real social impact,” said Alvin Tillery, director of the CSDD and associate professor of political science in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “Working with Dave Davis and the Office of Neighborhood and Community Relations to develop the racial equity incubator program is just the kind of project that I envisioned.

“Our goal is to help social entrepreneurs in Evanston and Chicago bolster their efforts to move the needle on racial equity in our communities. We are extremely excited to have a hand in the important work that will be done by our grantees.”

The University selected projects that seek to address racial equity through structural change in Evanston and Chicago. The funded projects are representative across three different focus areas: four in health equity, seven in social and economic empowerment and ten in children and learning.

"From Star Farm's perspective, this is not just a grant opportunity: this opens up a lifeline between the Back of the Yards neighborhood and Northwestern,” said Stephanie Dunn, executive director of Star Farm and grant recipient. “So often it's difficult for small non-profits to access the expertise and world-class personnel from an institution such as Northwestern, but it is so needed to advance a holistic and equitable approach to bringing health, wellness and equity to the Back of the Yards residents.

“Some of our partners have been operating for decades to advance health and racial equity in the neighborhood: with the support from this collaboration, I know we will advance our missions using our collective knowledge and the latest evidence-based research." 

This grant program is part of a larger series of commitments to social justice presented by senior University leaders in a June 14, 2020, message to the Northwestern community.

“There is no single solution for undoing the legacy of systemic racism in our country and in our backyard,” said Davis. “The projects chosen for the racial equity partnership and incubator grants represent the cutting edge of social justice work, and together, they create a broad network of support. These projects will uplift our most marginalized populations who are beginning their journeys as young readers, artist, physicians, and activists while preparing the foundation for future efforts in justice work.

“We believe that our work as a community is part of a larger movement, and in committing ourselves to the goals outlined in the program, we are helping to move forward on the long arc of justice.”

Partnership grants

Among the inaugural recipients of the Racial Equity and Community Partnership Grant, 11 are centered in Chicago, eight in Evanston and two recipients have projects that span across both Chicago and Evanston. All of the projects are listed below.

Center for Civic Engagement

Partner: Black Metropolis Research Consortium
Project title: Supporting Chicago’s Black Archives: CCE-BMRC Fellowships
Project description: Increase capacity at Chicagoland’s Black archives and support projects that preserve and amplify Black histories & legacies.

Chicago Learning Exchange

Partner: Office of Community Education Partnerships
Project title: Supporting and Seeding Leaders
Project description: Deepen current and future mentors' efforts to catalyze critical education in youth learning.

Evanston Early Childhood Council

Partner: The Family Institute at Northwestern
Project title: Responding to Trauma with Evanston Early Childhood Programs
Project description: Making trauma-informed care equitably accessible in early childhood can help improve health, educational and life outcomes for our youngest learners.

Howard Brown Health

Partner: Evaluation, Data Integration and Technical Assistance Program
Project title: Opportunity Us: Research Project for and by Black and Latina Women of Transgender Experience
Project description: Launch participatory research examining COVID-19’s impact on Black and Latina women of transgender experience.

I Am Abel Foundation

Partner: Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, Department of Gastroenterology
Project title: Chicago Summer Institute for the Development of Physicians and Researchers
Project description: An innovative mentoring, immersion pipeline program that prepares underrepresented students in STEM, MCAT Prep and Pre-Clinical Readiness

James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy

Partner: Bluhm Legal ClinicCenter for Negotiation and Mediation
Project title: Evanston’s Restorative Justice Community Court
Project description: Lay the foundation for Evanston’s Restorative Justice Community Court as an alternative to the (in)justice system for emerging adults.

Northwestern University Settlement

Partner: Child Language Lab
Project title: Project LEAP: Literacy Empowerment Access Partnership
Project description: A new multi-generational model of parent-school collaboration that will bridge early literacy home and school practices for Black and Latinx children.

Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine-NUGoKidney

Partner: Endeleo
Project title: A Desert Oasis: Prescribing Healthy Food and Education to Improve Kidney Health in Black Communities
Project description: Mitigate a perfect storm of food deserts and kidney disease in Black communities with informed choices that improve kidney health.

STEM School Evanston

Partner: Department of African American Studies
Project title: Amplifying Black Voices on Educational Equality in Evanston
Project description: Amplify the voices of Black Evanston residents in devising community-directed redress of ongoing racialized educational harm and inequities

Youth Job Center

Partner: Kellogg School of Management
Project title: Entrepreneurial Bridge and Small Business Incubator Program
Project description: Engage youth in an entrepreneurial program that serves as a catalyst to increase racial equity and wealth building locally. 

Incubator Grants

Black Administrators in Child Welfare Illinois

Project Title: Child Welfare Leadership Training Institute
Project Description: Provides mentoring to child welfare leaders. Program components include a leadership practicum and seminars.

Environmental Justice Evanston, Citizens' Greener Evanston

Project Title: An Interactive Geographic Information System (GIS)-based Map and Inventory of Environmental Justice Areas in Evanston, Ill.
Project Description: Develop a pilot GIS-based mapping tool and inventory of Evanston's environmental assets and liabilities to help address environmental injustices. 

Evanston Scholars

Project Title: Black Male College Completion
Project Description: Seek to better understand the unique barriers to college completion for young Black men in order to empower more Black men in Evanston to graduate.

Gads Hill Center

Project Title: Societal and Community Awareness Learning Exercises to Unleash Power (SCALE-UP) Project
Project Description: Develop a scalable, trauma-informed social justice-focused curriculum for Black and Latinx school-aged youth.

Harmony Community Cares (HCC)

Project Title: HCC Community Arts Program
Project Description: Provide academic enrichment and the arts to youth in North Lawndale Chicago via dance, spoken word/theater, music, and summer cultural enrichment.

Kids Create Change

Project Title: Kids Create Change: Studio 3
Project Description: In Spring 2021 Kids Create Change is opening Studio 3, a community art studio & gallery that will center the art & stories of BBIPOC and young people.

Monster Education Foundation

Project Title: Empowerment Through Financial Literacy
Project Description: Mentor underserved inner-city students on financial literacy through a collaboration with business experts.

Open Communities

Project Title: Restorative Housing Justice and Advocacy
Project Description: Aims to address racist housing policies and acknowledge racial harm. A restorative justice lens will lead this community-driven process.

Star Farm

Project Title: Co-Creating a Local and Resilient Food System on Chicago's Southwest Side
Project Description: Grow and distribute culturally relevant produce to communities without access through fun and informative pop-ups.

WIND: Women Initiating New Directions

Project Title: Partnering through a Bridge Program to Empower Formerly Incarcerated Women
Project Description: A Bridge program, co-designed by WIND & Northwestern University, will help formerly incarcerated women achieve independence and learn to empower others like them.

Young, Black & Lit

Project Title: Young, Black & Lit's Lit Year Program
Project Description: Partner with schools to provide students with 15 books with Black characters per school year to help build home libraries.

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