Queens Queening: $1 Million Black Fund Launches

Black Fund Co-Founders (left to right) Shuronda Robinson, Meme Styles, Kendra Garrett, Pamela Benson-Owens and Terry P. Mitchell.

A new fund aimed at helping Black-led organizations in Austin, founded by five Black women,  has raised its first $1 million, with plans to begin awarding the first block of grants totaling $350,000 early next year.

The Black Fund is an effort organized by leaders of several Black-led groups. The Austin Community Foundation handled much of the administrative and support duties necessary, in addition to contributing $200,000. Other initial donors to the fund include Notley, Google, and Indeed.

Pamela Benson Owens, a co-founder of the fund and CEO of Six Square, said Black-led organizations tend to receive a quarter less donor revenue than equivalent white-led organizations.

The reality is historically, Black-led organizations have been underfunded.

“The reality is historically, Black-led organizations have been underfunded. The resiliency level and the ability to do a lot with a little is phenomenal,” she said. “The challenge becomes there’s not an awareness of the organizations and the work being done, and in Austin, everyone gets in their own bubble and does not realize there is not an equitable distribution of funds and support for these organizations.”

Pamela Benson Owens announcing launch of the Black Fund at City Hall.

The first grant applications for the Black Fund will open in September, and the money will be awarded to organizations working in four specific categories next February. Those categories are:

  • Education
  • Health and wellness
  • Power building, organizing, and advocacy
  • Wealth Building

 

The entire spectrum of our existence has been unfortunately stripped away with so many disparate outcomes

Meme Styles, another co-founder of the Black Fund and president of Measure Austin nonprofit, said she regularly works with Black-led groups that struggle to handle basic business and administrative steps because they lack the staffing or other resources needed to operate at full capacity. She said the initial goal of the fund is to create a sense of unity among the more than 100 Black-led organizations in the Austin area.

“We’ve seen so many issues that have shed light on the disparities that Black-led organizations and entrepreneurs face every single day,” she said.

“The entire spectrum of our existence has been unfortunately stripped away with so many disparate outcomes, and my thought was, why don’t we come together as Black folks to create a collective giving circle where we’re truly supporting each other to be sustainable in Austin.”

To learn more about the Black Fund and how you can donate or apply for a grant, visit their website.

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