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Envisioning a better Mohawk Valley for everyone

Many of our partners, donors and community residents have heard about the Community Foundation’s $10 million, 10-year initial investment in racial equity and social justice.

Some are excited, and many are curious about our plans. How will this all unfold over the next decade and beyond?

Our vision is “a vibrant region with opportunity for all.” Making this happen starts with our ongoing funding — $90 million in the last 70 years — of nonprofit partners working to make families healthier, neighborhoods brighter and the entire community a better place for everyone.

In recent years, we’ve transitioned from grants to larger community investments, starting with a multi-million dollar commitment to combat childhood lead poisoning, an ongoing coalition-driven effort.

And we are advancing an impact center concept to help nonprofit partners serve high-needs neighborhoods in both counties. Childcare, educational support, mentoring, career development, recreation, senior services — helping nonprofits meet those needs is a must for us. Like the lead initiative, impact centers are part of our newly announced commitment to racial equity and social justice.

Local and national data show that persons of color wherever they live, in or outside high-needs neighborhoods, are much less likely to have the same quality of life as others.

People will argue about exact causes, but it’s clear that race (and ethnicity, national origin, and other groupings) is a common factor for family stability, housing, education, job and career opportunities, income, childcare, healthcare, childhood lead-poisoning, chronic disease, substance abuse, domestic violence, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent events resulting in a national focus on race and racism have prompted a closer examination of the challenges people of color face not just “someplace else,” but here.

Our increasingly diverse community, beginning with neighborhood leaders and residents of color, deserves a level playing field in terms of power, policy, practices and organizational structure in the public and private sectors.

The community’s equity initiative recognizes that real “opportunity for all” depends on:

  • Closing persistent equity gaps defined by race, ethnicity, gender, etc.
  • Acknowledging and addressing historical oppression, discrimination, criminalization, and economic disparity
  • Encouraging, facilitating and funding efforts to bring about broad social change

A growing group of community leaders of color are developing a collaborative that will mobilize and work with the entire community to bring about policy and system changes.

As many of our partners have pointed out, this is already an amazing community in many ways — but one that can be improved by making it more inclusive. And, yes, acknowledging the persistent effects of racial inequality and social injustice is a necessary early step to addressing them.

The Community Foundation’s long-term support for the community’s equity initiative includes:

  • Dedicated engagement with and empowerment of residents and leaders of color
  • Community guidance plus outcomes-supported evidence to determine funding
  • Outreach and education to improve community understanding of race and its systemic, historical and structural impacts
  • Research and analysis to inform long-term system changes

Our organization has made a commitment, but that doesn’t mean we have the answers. That’s why we call this effort the community’s equity initiative.

The Community Foundation will provide funding, facilitation, guidance — but the people of color now building a collaborative model for change, along with a wide array of community partners and stakeholders, will drive an inclusive effort.

The Community Foundation will use its resources and reach out to many stakeholders to grow financial support, and we will track the numbers and tell the stories to show where the community has made progress — and where we fall short.

Even as these things take shape, you can act now to make a difference.

Take the Mohawk Valley Equity Pledge at mvequitypledge.org and commit to helping create a vibrant region with opportunity all. Your promise to encourage diversity and challenge injustice will help to inspire others to make the same commitment.

Through grassroots support, and simple acts like diversifying our circle of friends and acquaintances, we can begin to make meaningful change. Just talking about these longstanding challenges won’t fix them — but it’s where we must start.

Significant change will take time, but we and many others are determined to see results. Join us at mvequitypledge.org.


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