Non-profit organizations and vital initiatives led by and serving Inland Empire’s Black community will benefit from a milestone achievement. The IE Black Equity Fund has raised more than $6 million since its inception in 2020.
It’s a historic feat, considering the organization launched three years ago, and its importance is not lost on Pastor Sam Casey, BEI-IE co-founder, and executive director at Congregations Organized for Prophetic Change (C.O.P.E.). Casey quickly points out that Black-led and Black-empowering organizations of the Inland Empire play a strategic role in the transformation and the revitalization of the community.
“The failure for far too long to fully fund and capacitate these organizations has hindered, I believe, a more progressive forward progress for the overall community in the Inland Empire,” Casey says. “The fund is a testament to what can be done when organizations are given the opportunity with resources being given in a way that allows them to reclaim for themselves opportunities that outside of that would not be created.”
News of the funding was announced in early November at a celebration event in Riverside. More than 200 attendees attended the event, including nonprofits, philanthropists, funders, and local officials committed to fostering Black community empowerment in the region.
Assemblymember Dr. Corey A. Jackson announced the allocation of $1 million to the Fund, bringing the total to $6 million to help close persistent equity gaps in education, health, employment, and housing for the region’s Black community. Investments from the California Endowment, the Weingart Foundation, and the James Irvine Foundation along with numerous individual donations also contributed to the $6 million milestone.
Dr. Bob Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment (TCE), the program’s guest speaker, vigorously encouraged guests to honor the past sacrifices of others and consider giving back. Ross has been instrumental in creating a sea change in the region—TCE was the first organization to invest $1 million into the Fund.
“The original goal we set for ourselves was $5 million,” Casey notes. “Here’s the reality. That’s a drop in the bucket to what can be given. But this shows that there are resources out there that should be and can be secured to not only extend this fund, but as Dr. Corey Jackson stated, the endowment is set up so that these resources can be around even after we’re gone.”
The genesis of the endeavor stems from a unique partnership. The Black Equity Initiative-Inland Empire (BEI-IE) created the Fund with support from IE Funders Alliance and Inland Empire Community Foundation. BEI-IE is a coalition of nonprofit leaders whose work is focused on ending systemic racism and building political and economic power for the Black community in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
“This is a terrific milestone for the Inland Empire and our Black-led nonprofits,” says Brie Griset Smith, Sr. VP of Charitable Giving at IECF. “We are so appreciative of those who gave generously to support the Black Equity Fund at IECF, and to BEI-IE who created this inspiring opportunity to benefit our region.”
To be sure, the ripple effects of the Fund stretches far and wide. It recently granted $1.027 million to 71 organizations across the Inland Empire. Additionally, the Fund has fiscally sponsored projects in its second round of grantmaking. Since its inception, the Fund’s grants promoting racial equity in the region have reached $1.7 million.
Understanding the issues affecting the Inland Empire’s Black community is key to the initiative. The region’s Black community comprises 7.3 percent of the region’s population. The IE Black Equity Fund partnered with Mapping Black California to publish the “Black Equity Fund Report” to assist with identifying where funding would have the most impact.
There’s still work to be done, however.
“The one thing I want people to know is, let us not rest here,” Casey shares. “There must be a continuous fight as a priority shift within the state and community, and there must be continuous vigilance on what’s taking place in the lives of Blacks within the Inland Empire. We must remain intentional about making sure this fund remains invested in for the long haul.”
For more information about the IE Black Equity Fund and its mission, visit iegives.org/ieblackequityfund. For more information about BEI-IE, visit blackequityie.org.
This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, November 2023.
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