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Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund empowers RI's Black community
By Chris Barnett / January 31, 2018 /   Loading Disqus...

To mark Black History Month, the Rhode Island Foundation has awarded more than $130,000 in grants and scholarships to serve the state’s African-American community through its Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund.

“Providing the Black community with the resources to thrive goes to the core of commitment to equity and our vision for ensuring that the future is bright for a changing Rhode Island,” said Adrian Bonéy, the Foundation’s program officer for special programs, who oversees the fund.

This is the first round of grants and scholarships since the former Black Philanthropy Initiative and the former Bannister House nursing home in Providence came together to create the $2.5 million Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund at the Foundation.

The grant program supports nonprofits that offer 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. Fourteen nonprofits are sharing more than $90,000 in grants.

AS220 in Providence was awarded $5,000 to support the AS220 Youth and the Futureworlds programs. AS220 Youth strives to empower young people to be leaders and educators in their respective communities, and to dismantle the pipeline to prison by finding sustainable financial solutions for beyond-risk and incarcerated youth.

“Futureworlds is AS220 Youth's pedagogy and annual collaborative arts showcase that empowers a youth led vision of a world free from today's systems of oppression. Success in today’s world relies heavily on one’s ability to understand, utilize and manipulate various forms of technology,” said Seth Tourjee, AS220 Grants Manager.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ocean State of Cranston received $5,000 to support community-based and site-based mentoring programs for the children it serves.

“This has the potential to turn children facing adversity to strong, confident, successful young adults. Providing our children with positive adult role models will foster positive social behaviors, enhance self-confidence, competence and caring; promote pro-social behavior and help these children recognize and build upon their strengths,” said Katje Afonseca, executive director.

The Boys & Girls Club of Newport County was awarded $5,000 to provide scholarships for at least 10 Black children and youth in Newport County so that they can attend the Kids Clubhouse after-school program.

“This funding is critical as it allows us to serve minority families with financial need and provide a place where they can find an abundance of resources and support to help them achieve academic, social and emotional success,” said Joseph Pratt, executive director and CEO. “We offer enrichment activities, including music, athletics, dance, homework assistance and a computer lab, that put young people on the path to great futures.”

The Boys and Girls Club of Providence received $10,000 to support staffing and program supplies for the Boys & Girls Club University at Teen Nights. Approximately 150 teens are expected to participate in activities ranging from computer science classes to financial literacy training.

“We provide teens with positive adult role models who can guide teens toward greater self-confidence, sense of service to the community and higher aspirations towards college and career pathways,” said Nicole Dufresne, CEO.

The Choir School of Newport County in Newport received $7,500 to recruit low-income children and their support network of parents, guardians, teachers, and social service providers.“For some low-income children, participating in the Choir School may be one of the few anchors of stability in their lives,” said Peter Berton, founding executive director. “This new initiative will empower the adults in their lives to support these children’s choral education as we form lives of character and service.”

The grant will also enable the school to begin organizing the archival materials of The Zabriskie Memorial Church of St. John the Evangelist in order to document its history as an institution founded by African-American layman Peter Quire, who prior to moving to Newport worked with Quakers on the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia. 

The Choir School was founded in 2014 at St. John's, Newport, and has been an independent 501(c) 3 since 2017. "Maintaining the historic connection between St. John's and the Choir School, particularly with regard to our roots in the African-American community, is extremely important to the distinct identity of each institution," said Fr. Nathan Humphrey, rector of St. John's and founding chairman of the board of the Choir School.

The Everett: Company, Stage & School in Providence was awarded $7,000 to support mentoring and classes in the performing arts to at-risk youth.

“Our work is filling holes in our community and our students’ lives by providing positive activities for young people, adult mentors, employment and support in areas such as succeeding in school and solving social and emotional conflicts,” said Aaron Jungels, executive director.

The Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence in Providence received $7,500 to support the “Let’s Make this Work!” program. This partnership with Mentor Rhode Island enables the Institute to serve hard-to-reach, at-risk young people by providing workforce training toward better employment opportunities.

The program, which focuses on young adults of color living in Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls, will help participants to gain the skills to practice of a nonviolent lifestyle and to obtain and retain employment.

“We will provide 10 months of workforce training, enrichment, mentoring and respectful accountability to young adults who are living in poverty and are victims of their environments,” said PJ Fox III, executive director.

“These young people have barriers to employment such as lack of formal education, criminal history, under developed life skills and unstable housing,” said Fox. “All of our participants have had personnel experience with violence either directed at them or someone they cared about.”

The National Coalition of 100 Black Women – RI in Providence received $7,500 for its Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) program. The after-school program will work with community mentors to serve approximately 25 Black girls beginning in the sixth grade.

Weekly activities address educational and leadership goals by having participants express their opinions on a variety of topics; read and respond to articles; write journal entries; give oral presentations; explore issues such as cultural identity and peaceful conflict resolution and learn how to advocate effectively for themselves and their community. 

“LEAD provides guidance and instruction to adolescent Black girls to assist them socially, emotionally, intellectually and culturally in becoming strong, successful young women,” said Adrienne T. Newsome, LEAD Mentoring Program Coordinator.

New Urban Arts in Providence received $5,000 to support its Youth Mentorship in the Arts program, which gives students access to a 6,000-square-foot art studio with resources for painting, drawing, screen-printing, music, digital media, creative writing and other artistic media.

Facilitated by a mix of staff and volunteer artists, the program offers young people as much flexibility as possible in how they use the space. Students can display their work in the gallery and performance program, which includes a fashion show, poetry readings, exhibitions and a student-edited publication.

“This program enables students to develop their artistic voices and acquire artistic skills through regular contact with experienced artists,” said Sophia Mackenzie, development director.

The Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) in Providence was awarded $9,620 to expand its workforce development programs to include young people age 16 to 18. The goal is to see 20 young people placed in jobs or job training programs or earn GEDs.

“There is a need for workforce development initiatives for young people that allow them the space to grapple with their ethnicity and how they interact within the workplace. We seek to marry our successful workforce development pipeline with youth development to improve outcomes in Providence,” said Chace Baptista, director of community engagement.

“This work is an outgrowth of OIC’s strategic plan, which seeks to challenge the traditional notions of workforce development and to extend our brand to young people,” he said.

Providence Promise received $5,000 to encourage Providence public school and public charter school students to pursue post-secondary education and earn a credential beyond high school. The funds will provide $100 incentives to encourage up to 50 Black/African American students from Providence and their families to open and contribute to a CollegeBound Saver account, Rhode Island’s 529 plan.

“We believe in the potential of each student and their families here in Providence. By increasing access and equity to resources that support families in under-served communities, our students can reach their full potential and achieve their personal goals and dreams,” said Richard Lappin, chairman and executive director.

Rhode Island Black Storytellers in Providence was awarded $5,000 to support programs such as Funda Fest, OurStoriesMatter and Community FlavorsRI. The organization expects to reach more than 5,000 people through its activities in 2018.

“We need Black people telling Black Stories and interpreting our experiences for ourselves and others. We need to know and tell our stories if we are to survive and thrive. We need stories other than the violent ones we see on TV and hear in the news,” said Valerie Tutson, executive director.

Youth In Action in Providence was awarded $5,000 to support the organization’s CORE and Immersion programs for disadvantaged teens. The focus is on developing critical thinking skills and learning strategies for social change, which is followed by projects that enable students to apply their new knowledge.

“Young people of color, and especially those in poor communities, are often branded with stereotypes that determine their futures more so than their actual strengths. Our model engages youth to be full participants in their communities and agents of social change,” said Pegah Rahmanian, executive director.

The YWCA Rhode Island in Woonsocket received $6,100 to document the voices, stories and portraits of 10 amazing Rhode Island Black women. The work will be incorporated into the YWCA’s Girls Circle programming.

“We will provide Black girls the space they need to make sense of the representations of Black girls and women available through the media and to provide spaces for Black girls to accept, resist, reorient or negotiate such depictions as they develop their own identities,” said Deborah Perry, president and CEO.

The Girls Circle, which is offered after school and during the summer, offers structured support groups for girls 9-to-18 years old.

“Our goal is to counteract social and interpersonal forces that impede Black girls’ growth and development by promoting an emotionally safe setting and structure within which girls can develop caring relationships and use authentic voices,” said Perry.

In addition to the grants, the Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund awarded $43,000 in scholarships to Black students who are pursuing or advancing a career in health care at an accredited institution and are Rhode Island residents who demonstrate financial need.

The new fund is guided by an advisory committee comprised of Linda Newton, Edward Clifton, Jason Fowler, Brendan Kane and Beverly Ledbetter.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.

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