After the racist chaos of Charlottesville earlier this year, many leaders said something needed to change, that we needed to go beyond words to action. I was one of those people, pointing out that we can and must do more. The fact is, this call to action is true not only for Lumina but for every philanthropic organization seeking to drive social change. Ensuring fair and equitable results in a country sullied by an enduring legacy of systemic racism and oppression is not just a part of our collective work in philanthropy. It is the work.
Since August, I have worked with the Lumina staff and board of directors, along with several of our key partners, to develop a plan to support racial justice efforts that demonstrate, concretely, our resolve to do more. Today we are announcing the first results of that work with the awarding of $2.5 million in new grants for community-building programs and initiatives to address these issues at colleges and universities across the country and in our sector of philanthropy.
The image of angry, torch-bearing white nationalists and the many other incidents seen over the course of the last year on college campuses has been a stark reminder of the stubborn tenacity of racism in our nation. I wish we could say this fierce, toxic bloom of hate were a surprise, but it’s not. The persistence of our country’s racism continues to fester despite decades of well-intentioned social policy. It afflicts the nation today in a new, more virulent form, fed by the power of social media and websites devoted to exploiting racial divisions.
Charlottesville was merely one instance—an eruption that confirmed a growing pressure beneath the surface. This is why, for the first time, our board has approved a special budget allocation for grants to help improve the racial climate on campuses and enable philanthropy-serving organizations to elevate efforts to teach about race and racism in our nation’s history and contemporary life.
We want to heighten our focus on racial justice and equity—going beyond Lumina’s longstanding commitment to improving educational outcomes for African-Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians. Foundations such as Lumina typically aren’t the first responders to crises, but in this historic climate, we believe the time to act is now.
The first of our special investments will take place this year in Indianapolis, where Lumina is based and has a leadership responsibility to make itself heard on the issues of racial justice and equity. We have awarded a grant of $200,000 to support Christian Theological Seminary’s Faith and Action Project, which works to advance social justice in Indianapolis and is hosting events that will highlight solution-driven approaches to community problems rooted in racial bias and inequity.
Lumina has a unique role as a leader in the philanthropic community as well, and we share a deep concern about the nation’s equity climate with many of our peers. We will add significant support to the efforts of three national philanthropy-serving organizations—the Council on Foundations, Grantmakers for Education, and Independent Sector—that are working to improve philanthropy’s outcomes when it comes to racial justice and equity. They will host webinars, training, and meetings—with the help of expert partner organizations—to improve philanthropic practice in furtherance of racial justice, and each has received a grant of $100,000.
With our partners at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, we’ll also be making leadership grants to colleges and universities that are working to improve education about race and racism and the campus climate around race. We’ll use smaller gifts to catalyze community conversations and education efforts facilitated by colleges and universities.
This work must be focused on race relations and must push toward equity through the closing of educational attainment gaps across race and ethnicity. This will include education and training for faculty, staff, and students. For example, we hope to see campus and community forums, new learning and student support approaches, speaker series, and student mobilization.
Several levels of support will be available to colleges and universities, based on the strength and scope of their plans. Grants of up to $100,000 will support schools that already have made significant efforts to improve educational equity and advance anti-racism education on their campuses, with programs in place to create lasting change. Smaller grants will help schools improve or expand plans for campus-wide engagements to promote racial justice. We’ll target these resources to schools with a commitment to helping students of color complete their degrees and to expanding programs meant to examine and learn about our nation’s racial history.
Finally, working with Rockefeller, we will award $1 million to launch a national study of the racial climate on campuses.
To help increase the numbers of Americans with degrees and other credentials beyond high school, which is Lumina’s mission, we must join others in doing more at this pivotal moment. We recognize that these investments, on their own, will not solve the deep issues that plague our nation. We make these investments with humility. We don’t have all or most of the answers, but we can play a role as a partner to others in shaping the national landscape.
For several years, Lumina has been motivated by an imperative to pursue fair and just educational outcomes for racial and ethnic groups that providers of education beyond high school have poorly served or left behind. Looking forward, we plan to sharpen the focus of our convenings on the topic of fair and just educational outcomes, educational attainment, and income inequality, working with other foundation leaders, educational experts, and leading social thinkers. We also will continue to work to build our skills and knowledge to better address issues of racial justice.
We know the challenge isn’t just to do the right thing—it’s also to bring others along. So, our decision to act—and to join a growing choir of university, student, philanthropic, and community voices in this effort—is an embrace of optimism. Outrage won’t make this better. Anger won’t help us heal. We must strengthen our nation’s natural bonds, face up to the legacies of historical racism, and rediscover the idea that shared commitment and resolve can lead to greater prosperity and harmony for all Americans.
In the Wake of Racial Violence, Funding is Still Flowing to Promote Tolerance | Inside Philanthropy | Nov. 5, 2018
“Do the Right Thing.” Why This Top Higher Ed Funder Is Getting Behind Racial Justice Work | Inside Philanthropy | Dec. 19, 2017
Lumina Foundation Awards $2.5 Million to Address Racism on Campus | Philanthropy News Digest | Dec. 11, 2017
Lumina Foundation to Award $2.5 Million in Grants for “Addressing Hate” | Diverse Issues in Higher Education | Dec. 5, 2017