$6 million raised for Inland Empire’s Black-led organizations

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The IE Black Equity Fund, which was created in 2020, focuses on helping the region’s Black community

Greg Archer | Contributing Writer

Nonprofit organizations and vital initiatives led by and serving the Inland Empire’s Black community will benefit from this huge achievement. The IE Black Equity Fund has raised more than $6 million since 2020, when it started.

It’s a historic feat and its importance is not lost on Pastor Sam Casey, BEI-IE co-founder, and executive director at Congregations Organized for Prophetic Change, or C.O.P.E. Casey points out that Black-led and Black-empowering organizations of the Inland Empire play a strategic role in the transformation and the revitalization of the community. “The failure for far too long to fully fund and capacitate these organizations has hindered, I believe, a more progressive forward progress for the overall community in the Inland Empire,” Casey said. “The fund is a testament to what can be done when organizations are given the opportunity with resources being given in a way that allows them to reclaim for themselves opportunities that outside of that would not be created.”

News of the funding was announced in early November at an event in Riverside. More than 200 attended, including representatives from nonprofits, philanthropists, funders, and local officials committed to fostering Black community empowerment in the region. Assemblymember Corey Jackson, D-Perris, announced the allocation of $1 million to the fund, bringing the total to $6 million to help close equity gaps in education, health, employment, and housing for the region’s Black community. Investments from the California Endowment, the Weingart Foundation, and the James Irvine Foundation and others contributed to the milestone. Dr. Bob Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment, or TCE, the program’s guest speaker, encouraged guests to honor the past sacrifices of others and consider giving back. TCE was the first organization to invest $1 million into the fund. “The original goal we set for ourselves was $5 million,” Casey said. “Here’s the reality. That’s a drop in the bucket to what can be given.”

Grantees and committee members with Assemblymember Corey Jackson. (Courtesy of Inland Empire Community Foundation)

It shows there are resources out there to not only extend this fund, but also to make sure the “endowment is set up so that these resources can be around even after we’re gone.” The concept came from a unique partnership. The Black Equity Initiative-Inland Empire, or BEI-IE, created the fund with support from IE Funders Alliance and Inland Empire Community Foundation. BEI-IE is a coalition of nonprofit leaders whose work is focused on ending systemic racism and building political and economic power for the Black community in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. “This is a terrific milestone for the Inland Empire and our Black-led nonprofits,” said Brie Griset Smith, senior VP of charitable giving at IECF. “We are so appreciative of those who gave generously to support the Black Equity Fund at IECF, and to BEI-IE who created this inspiring opportunity to benefit our region.”

The fund recently granted more than $1 million to 71 organizations across the Inland Empire. The fund has also sponsored projects in its second round of grantmaking. The fund’s grants promoting racial equity in the region have reached $1.7 million. Understanding the issues affecting the Inland Empire’s Black community is key. The region’s Black community comprises 7.3% of the population. The IE Black Equity Fund partnered with Mapping Black California to publish the “Black Equity Fund Report” to help identify where funding would have the most impact. But there’s still work to be done. “The one thing I want people to know is, let us not rest here,” Casey said. “There must be a continuous fight as a priority shift within the state and community, and there must be continuous vigilance” on what’s happening in the lives of Black people here. “We must remain intentional about making sure this fund remains invested in for the long haul.”

The celebration of the IE Black Equity Fund, which was held Nov. 3, 2023. (Courtesy of Inland Empire Community Foundation)

For information about the IE Black Equity Fund and its mission, visit iegives.org/ieblackequityfund. For more information about BEI-IE, visit blackequityie.org. Inland Empire Community Foundation works to strengthen Inland Southern California through philanthropy.

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