Racial Justice Cohort: One Year Later

It’s been one year since the Racial Justice Cohort (RJC) convened for the first time. During this time, the cohort has embraced a spirit of collaboration that has led to shared resources, and advancement opportunities for its participants as they work toward the aspirations and goals that were set.

The inception of the Racial Justice Cohort began with the Community Foundation of Louisville shifting its grantmaking process for the very first time to a trust-based philanthropy model. Reflecting upon the policies that created barriers for Black- and Brown-led organizations receiving grant funds, the Foundation enlisted community members who came together to design the intent, approach, and selection process for the cohort. In June 2021, 12 Black-led social change organizations accepted an invitation to form the Racial Justice Cohort (RJC), each receiving $40,000 renewable, multi-year, unrestricted grants.

Following, we look at the cohort’s aspirations and goals and the reflections of some of its members.

Identifying Aspirations and Goals

To understand what these organizations wanted to achieve, the Community Foundation of Louisville staff collaborated with the cohort to shape “key learning questions” and then had conversations with each organization to collect baseline data. There were three aspirations for their organizations and the Black community:

  • Organizational Self-Sufficiency
  • Thriving Black Community
  • Authentic Relationships

Organizational Self-Sufficiency

People may ask, what does “organizational self-sufficiency” mean? This means sustainable operations, ownership of safe spaces for Black people, and impactful programming. “We’ve been pretty good at getting local grants, and had one national grant, but they aren’t sustainable,” said RJC member Stacy Bailey-Ndiaye, Executive Director, Bridge Kids International. “We had to build our individual donors and build a social enterprise to generate our own income in addition to grants. In order to take things to the next level, we need to be able to sustain staffing and grow in depth and quality.”

Thriving Black Community

In this next phase of RJC, their continued hope is to instill community nourishment, trust, and thriving Black children, families, and schools within our region. “The legacy I want to leave behind is an understanding within the Black community that education and nurturing the gifts of our children is a priority…up there with food, shelter, and justice,” said RJC member Eboni Cochran, Executive Director, West Louisville Math and Science Project, Inc. As the cohort explores what it means to be a thriving Black community, they intend to expand programs to serve more people and serve new geographies, add new programs, and increase resource and referral sharing.

Authentic Relationships

To connect with all members of our community, the cohort organizations must stay authentic, mission-aligned, and have supportive partnerships with each other to respect each organization’s values and approaches. Although the RJC has grown stronger over the past year, they aim to build stronger relationships with organizations in the cohort, as well as stronger, authentic relationships with local mission-aligned funding organizations and individuals. “If we think the work that we do is as important as we say, how do we rally enough community champions or national champions, financially, and non-financially? How do we build a bigger village around our mission?” said RJC member Latoya Whitlock, Executive Director, Decode Project.

Progress Reflection

As we reflect on the first year with the Racial Justice Cohort, the Community Foundation of Louisville has more to understand about the work of these organizations. Through the continuance of multi-year grants, the Foundation looks to learn more about how to best provide resources beyond funding to our local organizations. As the Foundation works toward a greater Louisville, barriers to resources must be removed to truly advance opportunity for all.

There is power in shared, cultural experiences. Cohort members are advancing solutions based on their shared cultural experience and are open to learning from other organizations’ experiences to achieve shared aspirations.

Supporting the Racial Justice Cohort

The Community Foundation of Louisville is grateful to those who provided financial support for the Racial Justice Cohort. Your financial support continues providing the resources and support necessary for these organizations to implement solutions, creating space for healing, and is a reminder that no single organization or leader can achieve their aspirations alone.

To learn how you can support the Racial Justice Cohort in achieving its goals, contact Ramona Dallum at RamonaD@cflouisville.org.