Heinz Endowments commits $12.1 million in grant funding to make Pittsburgh more equitable for Black residents | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Heinz Endowments commits $12.1 million in grant funding to make Pittsburgh more equitable for Black residents

click to enlarge Heinz Endowments commits $12.1 million in grant funding to make Pittsburgh more equitable for Black residents
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George Floyd protesters in East Liberty, June 1, 2020
The Heinz Endowments is focusing on improving the quality of life for Pittsburgh's Black community with $12.1 million in grants, a major portion of which will go to local Black-led nonprofit organizations.

The philanthropic organization made the announcement today, specifying in a press release that $9.2 million is already earmarked to “target systemic issues and barriers that affect Black communities and strengthen nonprofit programs that support African American families in the Pittsburgh region.”

The initiative also includes $1.3 million that will go towards the Endowments' Restoration Project, a three-year, $10 million criminal justice reform initiative that launched at the end of 2018. The Endowments' chief equity officer, Carmen Anderson, says this will support the Endowments' work to confront “the challenges of those whose lives have been upended by contact with law enforcement and to advocate for improvements in policy and practice within both the adult and juvenile system.”

This issue has gained a lot of traction in Allegheny County, where, in 2018, experts found that Black teens are 20 times more likely to be charged as adults compared to white teens.

“Because the impact of inequity and injustice permeates so many areas of our region and country, this equity agenda addresses a broad range of important issues,” says Anderson. “Moving forward we intend to work with community partners and other stakeholders to reimagine what’s necessary for an equitable Pittsburgh and the role of philanthropy in supporting the Black community and other marginalized citizens.”

The criminal justice reform grants will go to programs like Duquesne University's newly established Youth Advocacy Clinic, which provides legal representation for Allegheny County youth.

The remaining $1.6 million will help the Sarah Heinz House Association launch a multi-year program aimed at making the North Side-based community organization more inclusive and diverse.

In addition to addressing equity issues, the grants were also given in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which, according to studies, has disproportionately affected the region's Black communities. In July, data indicated that Black people in Allegheny County were more than twice as likely to contract COVID-19 compared to white people in the county.

“If we are to advance our vision of creating a community that is fair and welcoming for all, we need to address deep-rooted issues of injustice and inequity that afflict our region,” says Heinz Endowments president, Grant Oliphant. “This is an especially important moment to invest in programs that focus on the health, wellbeing, and success of Black families and individuals who experience injustice and disproportionate hardship that has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A large portion of the $9.2 million will be divvied up and distributed to a number of local nonprofit organizations providing funding to arts organizations and media programs, including Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh, a joint program of the Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation, and The August Wilson African American Cultural Center. The arts and activist group 1Hood Media will use its $320,000 grant to fund the development of BlackPGH.com, an online media platform focused on news and topics relevant to local Black residents.

Other recipients include the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh and the Homewood-Brushton YMCA, Black ACH Clear Pathways, Hill Dance Academy Theatre, and the Afro-American Music Institute.

Other grants will address issues facing Black families and children, specifically racial disparities in infant mortality, as well as Black business development programs, neighborhood revitalization, education, and more.

The grant program also continues the Endowments' continued financial commitment to making the region more equitable. In September, the group joined a $156 million national effort to support “Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous arts organizations in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has devastated America’s arts and culture landscape,” according to a press release.

The Endowments has funded efforts to study instances of racial bias in the region, including a report in April that found harmful portrayals of the Black community in local news media.

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By Mars Johnson