Media release

Nonprofits receive nearly $110,000 in grants for services to RI’s Black community

Support from the Foundation’s Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund comes as Rhode Islanders celebrate Black History Month

Nonprofits serving the state’s Black community have received nearly $110,000 in grants through the Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation. The 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. As COVID-19 has underscored, it is clearer than ever that we must work together to eliminate disparities and close achievement gaps in order to promote a better future for all Rhode Islanders,” 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 African Alliance of Rhode Island, Oasis International, Sankofa Community Connection and Youth Moving Forward are among 19 organizations that received grants.

The African Alliance will use its grant to increase sales at its farmers markets by training farmers, vendors and consumers to utilize electronic benefit cards and debit and credit cards to purchase food online and in-person. The plan includes purchasing laptops and software as well as investing in outreach and promotion. The goal is to increase sales by 15 percent year over year.

"The need for the project is urgent. Our African farmers recognize the need to be able to accept electronic payments and want to make sure they do everything correctly. We will provide culturally and linguistically appropriate specialized training to ensure they will be successful. The project will increase sales revenue for the farmers and increase the use of electronic benefits cards to purchase locally sourced fresh, healthy food in neighborhoods where there are high numbers of Black and African residents," said Julius Kolawole, executive director.

Oasis International will use its grant to support its youth mentoring and development program. The year-long program will train 150 youth, ages 10 - 20, about life skills, health and fitness, education, leadership and diversity.

"The Black and African American, immigrant community is handicapped by limited access to information, facilities and other valuable resources that can help transform their lives immensely. Our community and youth-oriented programs bring these resources closer to them to improve their social and economic lives," said Muraina Akinfolarin, executive director.

Sankofa will use its grant to improve the health of children in the city's North End by connecting them with adult mentors through the "Sankofa Village: Coming together for Our Youth" initiative.

"By creating nurturing and supporting relationships with trusted adults we can decrease the damaging impact of challenging environmental conditions on children. Encouraging their learning of essential emotional wellness skills will help them be better prepared for life in general, including navigating the systemic biases and social devaluation that they as Black or Brown children experience almost daily. The things that they experience compound the toxic stress. If we take the time to pour into our children and show them how valuable they are, it would make so much difference. It’s time to show up for them.” said Niko Merritt, executive director.

Youth Moving Forward will use its grant to support its "Empowering a Leader Within" mentoring program, which provides mentoring, entrepreneurial workshops, tutoring sessions and field trips to museums, colleges and other locations in order to expose Black youth to new, empowering experiences.

"By promoting qualities such as a strong core of self-confidence, critical thinking and empathy, we intend for youths to gear toward academic excellence and entrepreneurship. We provide an environment of care that will help Black youth become future leaders in the community. The goal is to decrease the rates of incarceration, homicide, substance abuse and all-around struggle in the Black community," said Darnell Albury, executive director.

The other recipients are:

  • AS220
  • Everett: Company, Stage & School
  • Inspiring Minds
  • MAP Behavioral Health Services
  • New Bridges for Haitian Success
  • New Urban Arts
  • Power Up RI, Inc.
  • Rhode Island Black Storytellers
  • Rhode Island for Community & Justice
  • Rhode Islanders Sponsoring Education
  • Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts
  • Urban League of Rhode Island, Inc.
  • Stages of Freedom
  • WattsNatural Tutoring
  • Youth In Action

The fund also offers scholarships for Black students who are pursuing or advancing a career in health care in college or a technical school. Last year, the fund awarded $54,500 to 25 recipients. The deadline to apply for 2023 scholarship assistance is April 10.

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. Recent initiatives include creating a capacity-building program to support nonprofits led by Asian, Black, Latino or Hispanic, Indigenous or multi-racial executive directors or other decision-makers within an organization; and launching a grant program to help nonprofits create anti-racist organizational cultures.

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.