St. Louis Regional Racial Healing + Justice Fund Invests $800,000 in Black- and Brown-led Organizations

The Community Governance Board (CGB) of the St. Louis Regional Racial Healing + Justice Fund – co-founded by Deaconess Foundation – announced recently that it is investing an historic $800,000 to support 42 Black and Brown-led organizations in the St. Louis region.

This year’s grants mark several milestones. In 2023, the CGB received a record 212 applications and awarded the largest sum of grants in a single grant cycle. This year’s awards brings the Fund’s total community investment to more than $1.3 million in 75 Black- and Brown-led racial healing and justice intitiatives. Since the first grant cycle in 2021, the number of applications received has increased by five times, demonstrating the significant need for increased regional investment in such initiatives. This cycle’s grants support initiatives in education, arts, racial justice, maternal health, youth mentorship, urban farming, holistic wellness, general capacity building, and more.  

Deaconess Foundation, Forward Through Ferguson, and Missouri Foundation for Health collaborated to establish the Racial Healing + Justice Fund to invest in racial healing as a core component of achieving racial equity and to make space for affected Black and Brown residents to have direct power over the distribution of resources for healing, justice, and transformation. Through these investments, the Racial Healing + Justice Fund aligns local and national philanthropy, community-set priorities, and community-led grantmaking that put racial equity and healing justice at the center, creating a future St. Louis region where all residents have the opportunity to thrive.

The Fund’s unique model of trust-based philanthropy and its anti-racist focus enables community members who are most impacted by racism to redistribute resources and direct investments to initiatives for transformative impact. The CGB exercises complete decision-making power over the allocation of funds. The CGB’s lived experiences and understanding of the many pressing community needs is evident in the awarded grants. Funding supports a diverse set of initiatives that span across the Fund’s footprint.  

“The Community Governance Board has done an exceptional job of thoughtfully weighing the needs of the most invisibilized in our communities to direct resources for the greatest impact,” said Rev. Bethany Johnson-Javois, President and CEO of Deaconess Foundation. “Now in our third cycle of funding, we are not only seeing the desire for community-led decision-making about investments but also the impact a community-led fund has on our community.” 

The grant recipients represent the Racial Healing + Justice Fund’s goal of changing the conditions that reinforce systemic racial inequities and endanger lives and healing the core of the local community. Recipients and their focus areas include: 

Unleashing Potential was one this year’s grant recipients.
  • Racial Equity, Empowerment, and Social Justice: 3 Daughters and 1000 Sons, ArchCity Defenders, Creative Reaction Lab, Missouri Justice Coalition, WEPOWER, Frizzy By Nature, Gentlemen Of Vision, Almost Home, TAG Poetry
  • Healing and Urban Farming: Community Reach, Mama Scraps Incorporated NFP, Rustic Roots Sanctuary CO, The Collective STL, Ujima, Growing Food Growing People Inc., Odds & Ends Farm
  • Youth Programming and Development: Black Girls Do STEM, Bucks AAU Youth Basketball, Dream Builders 4 Equity, Girls Inc. of St. Louis, Queen Camp, Inc., St. Louis Association of Community Organizations (SLACO), CHHSM-member Unleashing Potential
  • Education and Literacy: Navigate STL Schools, Noir Bookshop, LLC, St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature Inc., The Leadership School, Urban Sprouts, Youth Friendly Learning STL
  • Arts: 4theVille, A Red Circle, All Black Creatives, Artists First, Jacob’s Ladder Ministries
  • Maternal Health and Pregnancy Support: Doula Bean Maternal Care, Haven of Grace, Loving Hands Doula Services, St. Louis Area Diaper Bank
  • Community Engagement: North Newstead Association, St. John’s UCC, Touchy Topics Tuesday, Wesley House Association

The CGB for Racial Healing + Justice Fund Cycle 3 consisted of 14 Black and Brown residents residing in St. Louis and Southern Illinois, up from nine in Cycle 1. The CGB carefully reviewed and considered each application received, acknowledging the community’s growing interest and the discernment necessary to make crucial funding decisions in this moment.  

“The CGB received over 20 million dollars of requests for funding this cycle, and with $800,000 to reallocate, it was a tough decision to make,” said Faybra Jabulani, Interim Executive Director + Lead Racial Equity Capacity Catalyst at Forward Through Ferguson. “They reviewed every request with deep attention and loving consideration. They made sure that every single candidate was looked at with excitement and care, and ultimately, they did their best to award support to as many groups as possible. It is clear that the St. Louis region has a strong vision for Healing and Justice. Our local philanthropy has to rise to the occasion and collaborate radically to resource this vision.” 

“One of the biggest challenges I experienced was having to make hard decisions on so many good applicants,” said Tyrean Heru Lewis, Community Governance Board member and Founder & CEO of Heru Urban Farming. “We had an abundance of organizations and businesses who are doing great work in the St. Louis Metro Area and I was genuinely honored to be a part of this decision-making process. I believe that the St. Louis Region is in good hands with these organizations and businesses.” 

Support from the Racial Healing + Justice Fund will enable grant recipients to sustainably engage community members, from children to elders, in community building and healing. 

“The Racial Healing + Justice Fund will have a tremendous impact on our organization,” said Nick Speed, Founder and Executive Director of Ujima. “We are still a startup nonprofit that experiences inconsistent funding throughout the year. This grant will allow us to continue work towards the first phase of development of our urban farm and increase our impact in the greater St. Louis area.” 

“I’m honored and thankful for this opportunity,” added Charity Bean, Owner and Founder of Doula Bean Maternal Care. “It means so much to me to be able to expand my services in a better location so that clients in East St. Louis, Ill., Cahokia Heights, Ill., and even St. Louis can come and receive free baby essentials to help them off to the best start as well as childbirth, lactation, newborn care education and coming soon, perinatal, and postnatal mood disorder counseling. Once in a location closer to those areas I’ll also be able to allow other doulas to utilize the space and see their clients safely and comfortably in a setting that promotes better birth outcomes.”  

Deaconess Foundation, Forward Through Ferguson, and Missouri Foundation for Health originally established the Fund as a three-year pilot. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported the launch of the Fund with a matching grant, and local and national foundations joined the pool of participating organizations. Partners in the Fund are working with community members, philanthropic organizations, and local leaders to develop an endowed Racial Equity Fund for ongoing systemic change in the Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois communities.  

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