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National Urban League receives grant from Lilly Endowment

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NEW YORK (August 5, 2020) – The National Urban League today announced a newly formed Indianapolis African American Quality of Life Renewal Initiative. This extraordinary place-based effort will provide a unique funding opportunity to address challenges facing Indianapolis’ African American community. This initiative is made possible by a $100 million grant from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. to the National Urban League.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the nation’s health and economic systems and disproportionately harmed African Americans, it has illuminated decades of disparities and unequal access to multiple life-essential resources.

The Initiative will encourage collaboration and resource maximization between the National Urban League, the Indianapolis Urban League and the African American Coalition of Indianapolis and its member organizations, community groups, faith-based organizations, corporations, foundations, local and state public agencies and individuals already engaged in addressing challenging conditions facing African Americans in Indianapolis.

“This initiative represents an historic opportunity to build a model for other communities to emulate,” said National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial. “The economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought unprecedented destruction on Black urban communities, many of which never recovered from the Great Recession, and it will take an unprecedented approach to rebuild and revitalize them. This initiative will seek to combine the resources, infrastructure, expertise and passion of the Indianapolis public, private and civic institutions in a way that could have a profound effect not only on Indianapolis’ economic future, but the national recovery.”

Lilly Endowment made the grant to the National Urban League because of the financial and administrative capacity it will bring to the Initiative and because of its national connections to efforts around the country to address similar challenges. The Indianapolis Urban League and the African American Coalition of Indianapolis will lead the Initiative locally, working with a broad cross section of Indianapolis’ African American community to establish objectives and priorities, and advise the National Urban League about which Indianapolis organizations will receive funding.

“The pandemic has laid bare how the quality of life for African Americans has been diminished by generations of systemic racism, which has limited their access to educational and economic opportunities that others often take for granted,” said Lilly Endowment’s Chairman, President and CEO N. Clay Robbins.  “The Endowment invited this grant request from the National Urban League because of the Endowment’s positive experiences with past grants to it and the Indianapolis Urban League and because of the strong commitment of both organizations to equality, education, economic empowerment, and health and wellness in the African American community.  We hope that the efforts funded through this initiative, which will supplement the Endowment’s ongoing support of the efforts of several Indianapolis organizations that strive to improve the quality of life of African Americans, will materially enhance the future prosperity of significant numbers of African Americans in our community.”

The first months of the Initiative will be devoted to seeking input from a broad cross section of the Indianapolis’ African American community to refine definitions of community needs and priorities; exploring local and national results-based models and best practices to address the priorities; and establishing a quality team that will guide the initiative. Thus, there will be limited grant making in 2020.

The funds may be used for programs and direct services and also for planning, programmatic and policy research and development, capacity building, leadership development, evaluation, encouraging collaborations, promoting best practices, developing needed organizational infrastructure, various community projects and so forth.  Both secular and faith-based organizations will be eligible to receive grant funds to support initiatives that are collaborative, align with the priorities jointly established by the Indianapolis Urban League and African American Coalition of Indianapolis, and other community participants.

“The African American Coalition of Indianapolis (AACI), a collaboration of more than 20 African American civic, religious, social, professional and human service organizations, appreciates this unique opportunity to deepen our partnership with the Indianapolis Urban League and the National Urban League to mobilize against persistent conditions that destroy hope and promise for individuals of all ages and their families within the African American community,” said African American Coalition of Indianapolis Chairman Willis K. Bright Jr.

The Initiative will also seek additional corporate, government, educational and philanthropic partnerships to best achieve short-term and long-term goals in creating permanent improvement in the quality of life within the Indianapolis African American community.

“We are excited to work alongside the African American Coalition in administering this generous place-based grant, provided by Lilly Endowment to the National Urban League. This grant will ignite, strengthen, and build upon numerous established collaborations while affording newly discovered opportunities within our community – all grounded in a common goal of improving the quality of life of African American residents in our community; from strengthening  education (early childhood to life-long learning), individual growth and family stability, public health, access to affordable housing, workforce development and employment to Black business development and entrepreneurship, and renewed civic engagement – as big as we can collectively dream,” said the Indianapolis Urban League President and CEO Tony Mason.


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