Originally shared on The Washington Post on Oct. 11 2022, click here to read.
Racial equity is an idea that’s top of mind for many, both in the United States and globally. Rather than simply considering it, in honor of its 90th anniversary, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation launched the Racial Equity 2030 Challenge to amplify this ambitious goal, partnering with organizations that are scaling meaningful change in their communities. The bold challenge echoes the foundation’s long-standing mission to improve the lives of children, families and communities.
“The dynamic and multi-layered work proposed by each of these awardees will change norms, address the root causes of racialized outcomes and help create sustained conditions in which children can thrive,” said the Kellogg Foundation’s president and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron. The challenge is a call to action, an opportunity to build a future where racial equity is a reality.
The foundation is making a long-term commitment, granting $80 million over the next eight years to five innovative organizations, each of which takes a community-centered approach to tackling the obstacles they face. “We see this challenge as one way to sustain the growing movement for racial equity,” Tabron said. “By changing systems of inequity today, we can create a brighter future for children around the world.”
The five grantees were selected from more than 1,400 applications representing 72 countries. Learn how these visionaries will use these resources for long-lasting impact.
Breaking Hawai’i’s Indigenous youth incarceration cycle
Hawai’i boasts picture-perfect landscapes, but the state also has stark disparities. Native Hawaiians account for approximately 20 percent of the state’s population but represent half of incarcerated individuals and have a recidivism rate that is more than double that of non-Native Hawaiians. Partners in Development Foundation (PIDF) leads a collective called Opportunity Youth Action Hawai’i, which is working toward a Hawai’i where youth incarceration is eradicated by leveraging time-honored Native Hawaiian traditions and approaches that strengthen communities.
“Our vision is a world where Indigenous peoples are leaders of social justice rather than victims of justice systems,” said PIDF president and CEO Shawn Kanaʻiaupuni. The Kellogg Foundation support will help the organization to expand the work of its healing sanctuary, Pu’uhonua, on the 500-acre Kawailoa Youth and Family Wellness Center campus. There, PIDF partners with organizations that support homeless and trafficked youth as they engage in nature-based activities, learn about farming and work with local kūpuna, or honored elders, who create a sense of family; all of which helps remove young people from the prison pipeline.
The funds will allow PIDF to serve 100 percent of currently incarcerated Hawaiian youth of all backgrounds, train 100 stakeholders annually and engage more policy makers, all with an Indigenous-led approach. “The Native community understands our youth,” said Kanaʻiaupuni. “Racial equity is about having the latitude to create our own solutions to the issues that exist in our community.”
Shaping laws to stamp out environmental racism in Kenya, Sierra Leone and the United States
The challenges of environmental injustice look different around the world. Namati actively addresses environmental racism and exploitation by knowing, using and shaping the specific local laws and systems at play. “We help people fight land grabs, pollution, deforestation and environmental destruction,” Namati CEO Vivek Maru said. “These things threaten people’s lives, health, ability to feed their families, earn a livelihood and their well-being.”
The organization works with community paralegals who pair knowledge of the local laws and government with the skills of an organizer. A recent legislative win exemplifies the opportunity: Sierra Leone-based Namati directors were instrumental in two policy changes that will transform communities’ ability to protect their lands. These 2022 laws could serve as a model for other countries around the world. Namati sees the fight for climate justice as one that is inextricably linked to addressing structural racism. Over the next eight years, the Kellogg Foundation grant will support 12,500 frontline community leaders to aid an estimated 1.7 million people who are most impacted by environmental harm.
Securing land ownership rights for Indigenous communities in Mexico and Central and South America
For many Indigenous people, land is life. Though they’ve occupied and stewarded the land for centuries, Indigenous people often don’t have the titles that provide security and autonomy. The Indian Law Resource Center ensures that Indigenous communities in Mexico and Central and South America secure land ownership rights through free legal aid. “If the communities are able to gain control over their lands and resources, they will have an opportunity to develop economically and to prosper and thrive,” said Leonardo Crippa, senior attorney for the center. The opportunity for impact is enormous: Estimates show that Indigenous and communal territories comprise more than 50 percent of the world’s land, but only 10 percent is legally titled.
“For us, racial equity for Indigenous people is linked to gaining recognition, respect and protection of their lands, territories and resources,” Crippa explained. “Healing in this particular situation requires major and lasting changes.” The foundation’s grant will help expand the land title initiatives to up to 100 communities across eight countries, impacting tens of thousands of Indigenous people. In addition to supporting sustainable development and the livelihoods of the communities served, the center’s work will protect biodiversity and reduce deforestation and carbon loss—all helping to reduce climate change.
A youth-led strategy for healing through justice in Chicago
Chicago-based Communities United operates on the understanding that healthy, empowered young people are key catalysts for positive social change. The organization launched the youth-led Healing Through Justice movement to strengthen young people’s mental health support in the Chicago area. What sets Communities United apart? “It’s the way that we approach organizing to make change,” said Communities United coordinator Laqueanda Reneau. Healing Through Justice, in partnership with the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, takes a youth-centered approach that embraces and celebrates the assets young people bring and validates their lived experience. For example, young men of color ages 14 to 21 conducted recent study interviews, focus groups and surveys, allowing them to learn and heal through their leadership roles.
Over the next eight years, with Kellogg Foundation support, Communities United will engage 3,000 young people as community leaders, host six community and health Learning Labs and expand to impact more than the 20,000 Chicago families already served by the program. Organizers believe this healing-focused approach will motivate and equip young leaders who will become advocates in systems from education to government. “In the long run, [this will help] change our systems,” Reneau said.
Building an anti-racist education system in Brazil
Education is a powerful tool for transformation and social mobility, but access is often hindered by discrimination. “The quality of education that children receive in Brazil is deeply segmented by racial and social-economic status,” said ActionAid program director Ana Paula Brandão. The foundation’s grant to ActionAid is a major step toward the goal of building an anti-racist education system in Brazil, especially by growing the program in the Black, Indigenous and Quilombola (an Afro-Brazilian minority) communities.
The award represents a huge opportunity: ActionAid plans to use the funds to train 740,000 educators across the country’s 49,000 public schools, reach 50 million people through communications and train 19,000 student leaders to lead racial equity processes in their own schools. “This is the first opportunity for a long-term project focused on this theme [of creating an anti-racist education system],” Brandão said. “We hope… [to] inspire the dissemination of good practices and culminate in the deep restructuring of this national educational ecosystem.”
The five awardees and the projects they’ll launch and expand over the next eight years exemplify the belief of the Racial Equity 2030 Challenge. “Racial Equity 2030 is a chance to reimagine and build a future where racial equity can be realized,” Tabron said of the ambitious initiative. “The relentless work of these communities around the world is narrowing the distance between our present and the ideal future of equitable opportunity for all.”
Learn more about the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the transformative work of the Racial Equity 2030 Challenge awardees here.