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Black-Led Projects in Greater Cincinnati Receive $600,000 From United Way for Anti-Poverty Efforts

Black Empowerment Works is the first program designed by United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s Champions of Change.
January 8, 2021

Nearly 30 projects led by Black entrepreneurs will soon receive more than $600,000 in Black Empowerment Works grants to launch or strengthen anti-poverty initiatives.

Black Empowerment Works is the first program designed by United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s Champions of Change, a group of local leaders focused on equitable outcomes in our community. This effort invests in ideas, programs and projects that are Black-led, grassroots-generated and aimed at addressing poverty.

The group awarded $600,544 to 28 Black-led initiatives (listed below) as varied as multi-media education for youth to workforce development centered on gardening and promoting healthy lifestyles. Focus areas included education, from early childhood to post-secondary; employment; financial stability, education and empowerment; health and community connectedness.

Grants ranged from $8,500 to $25,000. Grantees will connect with other beneficial resources to support their ideas, including access to volunteers and mentors, trainings and opportunities to share their knowledge with others.

“Small businesses don’t have access to resources such as these, they simply can’t afford them,” said Steven Easley, owner of the Easley Blessed Foundation, which received a $25,000 grant to provide multi-media education that helps people and non-profits voice their stories. “When United Way steps in and fills that gap, that is generational change, because these are the seeds of something that will grow this community. When you invest in me, the return is so much greater because I am here, my kids go to school here, my wife goes to work here – I am invested in this community. You are helping me to do more.”

Easley’s Foundation will provide multi-media training in software, photography, videography, content creation and more with goals of building career pathways and producing more content created by Black people.

Jena Bradley, Community Impact manager at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, said the Black Empowerment Works pilot project invested in several great organizations, but there were many more left out because of limited funding.

“Too many Black families and individuals in our region are experiencing poverty, and too few Black-led ideas, programs and projects receive funding and resources to address it,” she said. “While the systemic trend of underinvestment in Black-led ideas is national in its scope, we knew there was work we could do to address it here at United Way.”

Bradley said the project was conceptualized in 2017 and the 13 community leaders in Champions of Change put in over 900 hours of work designing the program; during this time, they intentionally engaged with and learned from the experiences of other Black community members.

Moira Weir, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Cincinnati, said her organization is committed to investing in ideas traditionally left out of other grant processes.

“We are addressing a systemic problem in philanthropy at a local level – this is not something unique to United Way, but we are driven to address it and know united is the way to address it,” she said. “The work doesn’t stop here – we have more that we can and will do to be a more equitable and inclusive organization. This is a step in the right direction. This is a part of an overall equity strategy.”

Weir and Bradley said investing in more Black-led ideas, programs and projects brings:

  • Greater diversity of solutions and thought leadership

  • A better understanding of the unique strengths, opportunities and challenges within communities

  • Collaboration on strategies that work to reduce racial disparities in outcomes

“At every phase of the process, we intentionally turned over power to the people who would have the most to gain from a successful program and the most to lose from an uninformed one - Black people,” Bradley said.

For example, 87% of volunteer grant reviewers identify as Black. They consisted of business professionals, retirees, public servants and artists. They varied in age, education level, expertise and interest areas. They made final decisions on programs that received grants.

Here is a complete list of 2020-2021 Black Empowerment Works grantees:

  • Agricademy ($25,000), for the Black Empowerment Works through Agriculture program which aims to increase access to healthy food and awareness around careers in the farming industry.

  • Cincinnati Music Accelerator ($8,500), for the CMA Community Music Tour program to provide free concerts in predominantly Black neighborhoods while employing Black artists and vendors.

  • Cozy Home Childcare and Learning Center ($18,000) to provide support in opening their quality childcare center in Avondale, greatly expanding their capacity to serve families.

  • Culture Curator ($25,000) for their ELEVATE program, providing training to youth in building soft skills through voluntarism and arts exposure.

  • DevonshireSmith Diversity and Education Solutions ($25,000) for the Pathways to Success College Access Program, developing and empowering Black high school students of lower incomes to achieve post-secondary readiness and success by providing comprehensive training, enrichment, and academic prep.

  • Easley Blessed Foundation ($25,000) for the Multimedia & Live Stream Production program, which provides hands-on training in software, photography, videography, content creation and more to youth and young adults with the ultimate goal of building career pathways and creating more media content developed by Black people.

  • Empire Consulting ($13,405) for the Establishing Generational Wealth program, providing community-based workshops to equip participants to build generational wealth through financial planning.

  • Envision Children ($25,000) for their Catch Every Child program which provide out-of-school educational programs and private tutoring to increase academic performance.

  • Extreme Clean Auto Detailing LLC ($25,000) to provide employment and training opportunities for community members considered hard-to-employ.

  • Filling the Gap ($20,000) for the Prison to Professional: College Readiness and Leadership Development Program, providing training and peer coaching to individuals returning to the area from incarceration.

  • Gourd-geous Sacred Vessels ($25,000) to channel the creativity within the community into an income-producing arts and craft manufacturing venture.

  • High Achievers Aim High ($25,000) for the HUSTLE Academy program, a leadership training and entrepreneurship program in partnership with Cincinnati high schools (Oyler, Shroder, Taft, West High, Winton Woods and Woodward) and MORTAR.

  • Hodge-EDU LLC ($25,000) for the ALPHA-Male program, which aims to close the academic achievement gap for school-aged African American males at Silverton Paideia by providing math enrichment.

  • iCan Health LLC ($9,889) to provide self-management resources to support individuals with a diagnosis of Pre-diabetes and Diabetes Type 2.

  • Isaiah 55, Inc ($5,000) for the Breaking Generational Cycles program, which aims to teach participants how to break cycles of poverty with education in the areas of nutrition, growing food and healthy behaviors.

  • Ladies of Leadership LLC ($25,000) to sustain and expand their mentorship programming for girls grades 2-12.

  • Laundry Love Cincinnati ($25,000) for the Love-In-Action program, providing access to basic needs and services to individuals and families with lower incomes and those experiencing homelessness.

  • Madisonville Mission Ministries ($18,350) for the Financial Stewardship Program, addressing financial literacy and providing practical tools for improving the economic quality of life among African Americans.

  • Mentoring Young Men ($25,000) for the Summer Enrichment Program, centered on African American male students grades 3-6 at Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy.

  • New Prospect Baptist Church ($25,000) to support opening and operating their shelter for women experiencing homelessness.

  • Parents for Public Schools of Greater Cincinnati ($25,000) to implement a comprehensive, research-based approach designed to provide parents and community members with the information and leadership skills to build educational partnership that lead to improve academic performance.

  • Q-KIDZ Dance Team ($25,000) to support general operating expenses required to fulfill their mission of engaging kids through dance and educational programming.

  • Queen City Foundation ($20,000) for the Bridge to Excellence program, a new year-round educational enrichment program focused on youth grades 6-12.

  • SuperSeeds ($25,000) for the Options Day Program, aimed at disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline by providing alternate resources for discipline with a focus on youth development and restorative practices training for school administrators, law enforcement, and parents.

  • Sweet Sistah Splash ($10,000) for the Cincinnati Youth Entrepreneurs Camp and Business Fair, encouraging economic stability, business creation and retention by providing entrepreneurship education to youth ages 7-18.

  • The Green Store ($20,000) for ThatGreen.Life, equipping Black Millennials with the tools to live an eco-conscious and healthy lifestyle through a series of micro-courses, coaching/consulting and content creation.

  • Triiibe Foundation ($20,000) for Triiibe Works, a workforce development program centered on gardening and promoting healthy lifestyles.

  • West End Art Gallery ($22,400) to support a workshop series that provides access to art as a means of building healthy behaviors and community cohesion.

  • Youth at the Center ($15,000) for the Youth Leadership and Civic Engagement Academy, providing leadership education and training opportunities to youth grades 7-12.

Learn more about Black Empowerment Works

Black Empowerment Works promotes Black self-determination, social mobility and economic prosperity by resourcing and funding grassroots-generated, Black-led ideas, programs and projects. It is an equity-focused grant program addressing poverty.

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