Media release

Nonprofits receive over $120,000 in grants for services to RI’s Black community

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

The Rhode Island Foundation is awarding more than $120,00 in grants to nonprofits serving the state’s Black community through its Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund.

“There is no more appropriate time to support the work of organizations that are challenging the historic causes of inequity,” said David N. Cicilline, president and CEO. “Together with our donors, community leaders and nonprofit partners, we can reduce disparities and close achievement gaps in order to promote a better future for all Rhode Islanders.”

The Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund was established in 2007 to address the needs of the Black community. Over the years, more than $1.2 million in grants and scholarships have been awarded. Grants are offered to support nonprofits that provide 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.

Additionally, the Fund is just one way the Foundation supports nonprofits that serve Rhode Island’s communities of color. Recent grants also include nearly $1.2 million to increase the number of teachers of color in urban school districts, $1.4 million to support a racially, culturally, ethnically and linguistically diverse health care workforce and nearly $2.2 million to help dismantle the fundamental causes of systemic racism in Rhode Island.

This year the Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund awarded grants to two dozen organizations, including FirstWorks, Juneteenth RI, Rhode Islanders Sponsoring Education (RISE) and the Southside Community Land Trust.

FirstWorks will use its grant to provide arts-integrated education programing focused on students of color in Providence, Central Falls, Pawtucket and Newport. The programing is designed to boost academic achievement and close the learning gap between students from households with low incomes and other students.

“With an emphasis on our ‘Raise Your Voice’ theme of celebrating difference and diversity, FirstWorks’ programs aim to empower students, thereby boosting engagement and creative problem-solving,” said Kathleen Pletcher, executive artistic director. “FirstWorks tethers the arts to traditional academics and is committed to exposing students to diverse and inspiring creatives of color. FirstWorks’ learning experiences help to broaden perspectives about art forms and about global cultures, building empathy and a vision for future life paths.”

Juneteenth RI will use its grant to stage an exhibit that will focus on the impact of slavery on the individuals who experienced it.

“Priceless and visual objects will give visitors a personal connection to the past. One cannot view them without contemplating the individuals who owned or encountered such objects. Such powerful artifacts will bring to life the stories of inhumanity and terror, and of resistance, resilience and survival. These sorts of presentations will open conversations and dialogue and provide a space for Americans to reach out beyond themselves to recognize a shared past,” said Helen Baskerville-Dukes, president.

RISE will use its grant to provide mentoring and other support services to children of incarcerated parents. The organization expects to be able to serve about 90 youngsters with the funding.

“We embrace children who will benefit from a relationship with a caring adult and supports to help them attend effective and nurturing schools. The goals are high school graduation, good health and having our youth become self-sufficient, contributing members of society,” said Kaitlin Della Grotta, executive director.

Southside Community Land Trust will use its grant to give teens of color practical work experience at its Somerset Hayward Youth Enterprise Farm in South Providence and Galego Court Community Farm in Pawtucket.

“Our program instills universal job readiness skills that prepare these kids to compete for decent jobs by exposing them to the complexity of the local food system and its diverse career opportunities; rigorously training them in core aspects of food systems, such as sustainable agriculture, land management, and nutrition; and helping them move into two- and four-year college degree programs and entry-level positions,” said Raffini, SCLT’s youth program director.

The other recipients are:

  • AS220
  • Center for Women & Enterprise
  • College Visions
  • DownCity Design
  • Everett
  • Genesis Center
  • Habitat for Humanity of Rhode Island - Greater Providence
  • Haus of Codec
  • Higher Ground International
  • A Leadership Journey
  • Mini Entrepreneurs of Rhode Island
  • Oasis International, Inc.
  • Providence Promise
  • Providence Student Union
  • Rhode Island Black Storytellers
  • Rhode Island Slave History Medallions
  • Rhode Island Black Business Association
  • Venture Cafe New England
  • WattsNatural Tutoring
  • Women's Refugee Care

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 $46,100 in aid. The deadline to apply for 2024 scholarship assistance is April 15. For more information about applying for a Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund grant or scholarship, visit the Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund.

Members of the public can support the fund’s work by donating on-line on  the Foundation’s website or by contacting Christine Pellegri at

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Through civic leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is improving the lives of all Rhode Islanders.