Media release

Foundation awards nearly $75,000 in grants for services to RI’s Black community

Support from the Foundation’s Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund comes as RI’ers celebrate Black History Month

The Rhode Island Foundation has awarded nearly $75,000 in grants to nonprofits serving the state’s Black community through its Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund. The Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund’s roots go back to 2007, when it was established to address the needs of the Black community.

“We’re grateful for the donors, community advisors and nonprofit partners that join us in addressing the underlying causes of inequity. In the time of COVID-19, it’s never been more clear that in order to promote a better future for all Rhode Islanders, we must work together to provide opportunities to eliminate disparities and close achievement gaps,” said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO.

The fund supports nonprofits that offer youth development and mentoring, promote the history and achievements of Blacks in Rhode Island, preserve the culture of the Black community and strive to uplift low-income Black Rhode Islanders. The 2021 grant program application deadline is September 9. The fund also offers scholarships for Black students who are pursuing or advancing a career in health care in college or a technical school. The deadline to apply is April 9.

Thirteen organizations received grants ranging from $5,000 to $7,500.

Breakthrough Providence will use its grant to support its Middle School Program, which provides rigorous and culturally relevant academic enrichment and leadership development to low-income, first-generation, college-bound Providence public school students.

“The program consists of two symbiotic programs: our middle school program, providing summer and school-year programming, and our Grow our own Teachers program, for the delivery of our “students teaching students” model. It is through the intersection of these two programs that we craft a comprehensive model of academic enrichment, youth leadership, and teacher development,” said Drine Paul, executive director.

The Everett School in Providence will use its grant to support its work mentoring low-income young people through artistic expression and leadership development.

“We provide a rich educational experience to Providence’s inner city young people, offering free classes in the performing arts. As Everett’s young students become deeply committed to their own growth and learning, their world opens to new possibilities of rich employment and further education,” said Aaron Jungels, executive director.

FirstWorks in Providence will use its grant to support its Lifting Urban Youth in Providence and Central Falls through the Arts program.

“Through new partnerships, we are seeking to generate change for students of color in the Providence and Central Falls school districts that will boost students' connection to the arts with the aim of improving their academic achievement and broadening career possibilities,” said Abigail Comtois, development manager.

The Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading Committee in Providence will use its grant to support its “Négritude through the eyes of Nicolás Guillén and Langston Hughes 90 years later” project, which celebrates an artistic movement that communicated about Black Consciousness and railed against racism throughout the African diaspora.

“Together with EcoArts USA, we will host a virtual literary and musical conversation about what Négritude means to the greater community in this now moment. We will center the conversation in the current racial unrest in the United States, ask how do we find our common humanity in the words of the Poet Laureate of Harlem and one of the premier poets of the Négritude movement,” said April Brown and Delia Rodriguez-Masjoan, the program sponsors.

The Mt. Hope Learning Center in Providence will use its grant to support its Tutoring and Enrichment program, which before- and after-school and summer camp STEAM enrichment programming in Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School.

“As an extension of the changes to the school experience and in an effort to continue effectively serving the students and families, MHLC is modifying its programming to accommodate distance learners and the alternating day students with in-person academic supports. These tutoring sessions will be offered to middle school students,” said MJ Daly, executive director.

New Urban Arts in Providence to support its Youth Mentorship in the Arts program, which partners artist mentors with small groups of public high school students who develop powerful mentoring relationships through a free year-long after-school program.

“As opportunities for arts education in the Providence public schools have declined, our enrollment has hit record highs; we are now Providence’s largest free afterschool arts provider for high school students. We foster personal growth and self-discovery through community building and creative arts projects designed collaboratively by mentors and youth,” said Daniel Schleifer, executive director.

The Paul Cuffee School in Providence will use its grant to support a mentoring program that matches adult role models of color and at-risk, upper-school students with leadership potential.

“As a result of these mentorship relationships and the conversations and activities they engaged in each week, these upper school students will learn to see themselves as knowledgeable, competent, and capable stewards of their own destiny,” said Julia Karahalis, director of development.

The Refugee Dream Center in Providence will use its grant to support its Refugee Adult Education and Workforce Development program, which helps resettled refugees attain self-sufficiency and employment through teaching functional English and basic computer skills, workforce skills development, career exploration, job coaching and cultural orientation.

“Depending on the participant’s unique needs and English-speaking level, their training will involve different activities and will progress at different paces. This provides refugees with the assistance, education and resources they need to become independent, self-sufficient and to support their families,” said Omar Bah, executive director.

Rhode Island Black Storytellers in Providence to support its FUNDA All Year Long program, which includes offering Funda Story Camps during school vacations and the summer.,

“The grant will assist with funding the required tech support needed as we adapt our programming from live, in person performances to virtual/digital and hybrid models during this time of COVID,” said Valerie Tutson, executive director.

Rhode Island Slave History Medallions will use its grant to support its work placing 25 medallions across the state in order to raise awareness of Rhode Island’s history with slavery, spark community reflection and dialogue, and support the racial justice movement.

“With the global pandemic and racial justice uprisings of 2020, there has been increased local interest in truly reckoning with Rhode Island’s deep connection with slavery. We have a tremendous opportunity to seize this moment to increase public awareness of the state’s slave history by engaging in research, education and informational activities; by marking pertinent locations with medallions linked to a dynamic, informative website; and by promoting the understanding of the legacy of slavery and how it affects lives today,” said Charles Roberts, founder and executive director.

Stages of Freedom in Providence will use its grant to present ‘The Bannisters: A Life in Art & Social Change,” which will examine the extraordinary accomplishments of Rhode Island Black artist Edward Mitchell Bannister, co-founder of the Providence Art Club; and his wife Christiana Carteaux Bannister, a successful business woman who financed her husband’s career, raised funds to recruit Black troops for the Civil War's 54th-Regiment, and built Bannister House, a safe-haven for elderly Black women.

“The project will serve as a compelling teaching tool for school-age children and the general public about Black life in 19th century Rhode Island. It will also function to inspire and initiate conversations about the importance of Black lives across the racial divide,” said Ray Rickman, executive director.

The Wilbury Theatre Group in Providence will use its grant to produce “God Talks to an Agnostic,” which examines faith, religion and the existence of God in the tradition of Black churches. The 12-part series will employ dozens of Black actors, directors, musicians and technicians.

“Through conversations with God and others, Agonistic explores the impact of religion on race, Black culture and mankind’s need for religion/faith. Agnostic is forced to confront his own beliefs through conversations with God pitted against the backdrop of the race and culture today and throughout history,” said Director Don C. Mays.

Women's Refugee Care in Providence will use its grant for its Women's Empowerment Program which uplifts African refugee women’s rights by providing them with psychological and therapeutic assistance and raising awareness on gender equality.

"The purpose of this grant is to support women while they navigate the socioeconomic and psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that has increased their vulnerability during the process of resettlement to the U.S." said Susana Oliveros Amaya, grant writer. “Inspired by the experience of Aline Binyungu, co-founder of Women's Refugee Care, the program has been centered around acknowledging refugee women's diversity and unique cultural background, while providing the space and support for them to grow personally and professionally into agents of change.”

Since 2016, Women's Refugee Care has been committed in working towards social justice and racial equity, eliminating systemic economic and social barriers by empowering the black refugee population in Rhode Island.

In addition, the Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund previously awarded $40,000 in grants to support COVID-19 response in the community. The recipients are Camp Street Ministries, Community Action Partnership of Providence, Sojourner House, and North End Outreach.

The Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund is just one of the grant programs the Foundation uses to support nonprofits that serve Rhode Island’s community of color. For example, the Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund awarded grants last year to address long-standing racial disparities in health, housing and economic security.

The announcement comes as the Rhode Island Foundation launches a broad, 3-year, $8.5 million plan to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and access – with a first focus on racial equity – above and beyond its traditional yearly grant-making.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information about applying for a Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund grant or scholarship, visit the Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund.