During this extraordinary moment in history, our communities must contend with two pandemics. The first is a deadly novel coronavirus that confounds experts. The second is systemic racism—an infliction that led to the murder of George Floyd. The convergence of the coronavirus with the senseless police killings of more Black Americans has forced our country to reckon with the brutal reality that systemic racism permeates every aspect of our society. These present-day racial disparities stem from policies and systems that have failed Black Minnesotans and our Indigenous and communities of color for hundreds of years.
Nationally, Covid-19 has especially impacted Black Americans, who are dying from the infection at more than double the rate of white, Latino, and Asian Americans, according to analysis from the nonpartisan American Public Media Research Lab. This inequity in health outcomes links to the many structural and interdependent inequities evident across housing, employment, wages, wealth, and other areas.
The McKnight board and staff are reflecting on the Foundation’s role during this time and have reaffirmed our core value of equity—which McKnight sees as mission-critical—and remain committed to working inclusively with community partners to build a more equitable Minnesota.
“As a place-based foundation, McKnight takes a long view, and we are committed to standing by our communities now and in the future,” said Debby Landesman, McKnight board chair. “As always, we are grateful to our grantees and partners, who have had to respond to multiple crises in recent months. They anchor and uplift our communities and set the collective course to recover, reimagine, and rebuild.”
The East Lake Business Reopening Fund will support the rebuilding of Minneapolis’s East Lake Street district, home to many small family and immigrant-owned restaurants and food shops. Photo Credit: Lake Street Council
Second-Quarter Grants Total Nearly $16 Million
In McKnight’s second-quarter 2020 grantmaking, the board awarded 103 grants totaling $15.8 million. Of that sum, $2.7 million went to Covid-19 response grants across program areas. We highlight five of these grants below. Visit our pandemic response page for a complete list, including $1 million in relief funding to Minnesota’s arts sector. The full list of second-quarter grants is available in our grants database.
Lake Street Council—$100,000 to support the East Lake Business Reopening Fund. Minneapolis’s East Lake Street district is home to many small family and immigrant-owned restaurants and food shops that closed or were severely restricted during statewide Covid-19 lockdown measures. Dozens of businesses were damaged or destroyed in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing, which further compounded the adversity. The funds will support the rebuilding of this beloved and culturally significant district.
Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON)—$50,000 to support its general operating budget. NEON strives to broaden economic development opportunities and build wealth for low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs in north Minneapolis. Many north Minneapolis businesses suffered significant financial losses from the state’s Covid-19 shutdown. The area endured further hardship when the West Broadway business district was damaged in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd. NEON will be instrumental in helping businesses rebuild and restore the dynamic and diverse north Minneapolis community.
Housing Justice Center—$250,000 to respond to housing access and stability issues in Minnesota. The coronavirus pandemic has profoundly changed the housing system in ways that will have lasting implications. Housing advocates and community organizations led by and for Black, Indigenous, and people of color are currently engaged in a triage response to the Covid-19 housing crisis. The funds will support a cross-sector network of organizations to develop community-centered strategies for short- and long-term housing stability and justice.
“As a place-based foundation, McKnight takes a long view, and we are committed to standing by our communities now and in the future.”—DEBBY LANDESMAN, McKNIGHT BOARD CHAIR
Great Plains Institute for Sustainable Development—$250,000 to support the Midwest Energy Collaborative federal stimulus and equitable recovery efforts with the goal of building back better after Covid-19. This funding will help to develop statewide economic recovery plans to mitigate climate change, create jobs, and advance a more equitable and inclusive Minnesota and Upper Midwest.
New Venture Fund—$250,000 for the Trusted Elections Fund to support nonpartisan efforts to ensure free and fair 2020 elections. Covid-19 has demonstrated how unanticipated emergencies can threaten the integrity of our election system. The pandemic has already disrupted the 2020 election cycle, with many states postponing primary elections and others struggling to establish mail-in and absentee voting. The Trusted Elections Fund will support nonpartisan organizations throughout the country to plan for, mitigate, and respond to election threats, including domestic or foreign interference, viral misinformation, voter suppression, and contested election results.
The pandemic calls for increased urgency to ensure free and fair elections. The Trusted Elections Fund will support nonpartisan organizations throughout the country to plan for, mitigate, and respond to election threats.
A Warm Welcome to New Colleagues
In other Foundation news, we are pleased to welcome two new staff members this month. DeAnna Cummings joined as Arts program director, and Kelsey Johnson is our new program team administrator, supporting the International and Midwest Climate & Energy programs. Robyn Browning will join McKnight in July as program and grants associate for the Arts team. Former Arts team administrator Latosha Cox left the Foundation in April to become director of learning for Public Allies Twin Cities. The full staff continues to work remotely due to Covid-19 and can be reached via email.