St. Louis Regional Racial Healing + Justice Fund Announces Inaugural Grant Recipients

After a four-month community-led grantmaking process, the St. Louis Regional Racial Healing + Justice Fund’s Community Governing Board — which UCC-related Deaconess Foundation helped establish — selected the first set of community grant recipients to lead capacity and infrastructure development efforts in the racial justice movement through community organizing and healing arts. The targeted investment in the 13 organizations chosen aims to: 1) heal individual and community trauma, (2) engage a broader range of residents in systems change work, (3) prepare leaders of color to organize for healing justice, (4) build local capacity to nurture support and cultivate healing assets, and (5) align resources for long-term sustainability. 

“Throughout the course of dozens of individual and committee meetings, virtual town halls, and phone banks, based on their lived experiences Black and Brown St. Louisans identified specific investment priorities that would lay the foundation for a transformed and healed region undergirded by the Racial Healing + Justice Fund,” said David Dwight IV, executive director and lead catalyst of Forward Through Ferguson. “This initial round of grant partners consists of grassroots healers, creatives, and community organizers who play a central role in moving our region toward healing.” 

The inaugural grant distributions total more than $160,000 of the Racial Healing + Justice Fund’s $1.69 million. Recipients include: Brownpreneurs, Communities First, Dream Builders 4 Equity, Documentary Film Project, produced by Brittney Ferrell (Jamaa Birth Village – fiscal sponsor), Good Journey, NLJ Counseling Services (Kabila Heart – fiscal sponsor), Peace Weaving Wholeness, Rustic Roots Sanctuary, Sistakeeper Empowerment Center, The Collective 314, The Justice Fleet, The Nehemiah Program, and YourWords STL. Funding will support efforts that include providing outlets for processing community grief, deep storytelling on Black history and Black future, youth capacity building in real estate ownership, and community organizing for public policy change. The efforts align with the funding priorities community members identified, which are:

  • Youth at the Center – Opportunities for children and young people to process trauma, build power, and grow to be engaged members of the community; 
  • The Sustainability of the Community – Capacity building within communities that drive holistic growth while dismantling systems of racial oppression, and which connect the people and the causes that promote continued growth, development and wellbeing; 
  • Storytelling and Sharing the Work – Cataloguing, widely distributing, and building awareness of racial healing justice work to facilitate the engagement, leadership, and activation of residents most impacted by systemic racism. As well as teaching community members how to share their personal stories to activate others for systemic change; 
  • Education and Training – Knowledge-sharing and -building opportunities for community members most impacted by systemic racism to access information on racial healing, power-building, and community advocacy as well as liberation practices and supports;
  • Supporting Healers and Organizers – Infrastructure and initiatives that support Structural, emotional wellbeing, and capacity-building support for racial healing practitioners and community organizers; and 
  • Direct Impact, Accessible Wellness Services – Expansion of impactful existing racial healing services as well as the development of innovative new healing justice programs or services.

The priorities were identified by residents, community organizers, and healing practitioners and affirmed by the Fund’s Community Governance Board.

The Community Governance Board is made up of Black and people of color community members across St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and St. Clair County who guide the distribution of funds. The Community Governance Board is comprised of two work groups 1) Grants & Allocation work group and 2) Community Voice & Learning work group. The full Community Governance Board is charged with voting on the recommended slate of grants in each cycle and refining priorities of the grantmaking process.

“With the Racial Healing + Justice Fund, the pool of funders are striving to leverage a holistically healthy, racially equitable, and justice-based grant-making approach that distributes financial resources across the St. Louis region in support of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color-led organizations, community members, and project ideas,” said Cheryl D.S. Walker, interim president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation. “Deaconess is honored to serve as the Fund’s grant administrator, providing grant process support for the award disbursements made through the community participatory process.”

The next grant cycle opens on March 21, 2021. Organizations and initiatives that focus on healing individual and community trauma are encouraged to apply by the April 16, 2021 deadline. Individualized technical assistance opportunities will be provided to initiatives and organizations to strengthen grant proposals as needed. 

Deaconess Foundation, Forward Through Ferguson, and Missouri Foundation for Health, collaborated to establish the St. Louis Regional Racial Healing + Justice Fund to invest in healing community trauma and changing the conditions that reinforce systemic racism. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported the launch of the Fund with a matching grant, and 17 local and national foundations have joined the pool of participating organizations. Please visit https://forwardthroughferguson.org/healingjustice for more information on the Fund. 

For more information on becoming a Funding Partner, contact Kiesha Davis, director of partnership and capacity building for Deaconess Foundation at [email protected]

Deaconess Foundation is a grant making organization building power for child well-being through philanthropy, advocacy and organizing for racial equity and public policy change. A ministry of the United Church of Christ, Deaconess has invested more than $85 million to improve the health of the St. Louis community since 1998. The Foundation’s advocacy and grant making footprint includes St. Louis City, St. Louis, Jefferson, St. Charles and Franklin Counties in Missouri and Madison, St. Clair and Monroe Counties in Illinois. For more information, visit www.deaconess.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter and Instagram @deaconessfound and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/deaconessfoundation

Forward Through Ferguson (FTF) is a catalyst for lasting positive change in the St. Louis, created as an independent entity to provide continuity for the calls to action outlined by the Ferguson Commission Report, Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity. FTF centers impacted communities and activates community advocacy to advance racially equitable systems and policies that ensure all people in the region can thrive. For more information, visit www.forwardthroughferguson.org. Follow FTF on Twitter at www.twitter.com/stlchange and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stlchange.

Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) is building a more equitable future through collaboration, convening, knowledge sharing, and strategic investment. Working in partnership with communities and nonprofits, MFH is transforming systems to eliminate inequities within all aspects of health and addressing the social and economic factors that shape health outcomes. To learn more, visit www.mffh.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mofoundhealth and Facebook at www.facebook.com/mofoundhealth

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