Better Together Grants: Advancing Racial Equity and Bringing People Together Across Racial Divides
In April 2022, The Walton Family Foundation seeded a $50,000 grant pool which was matched 2:1 by the Lexington Black Prosperity Initiative and Blue Grass Community Foundation (BGCF) to create a total of $150,000 for Better Together grants to support projects that advance racial equity in Fayette County. In September 2002, ten grants ranging between $5,000 and $50,000 funded projects that address the themes highlighted in Heather McGhee’s book, “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We can Prosper Together.”
The grant program was guided by BGCF’s Lexington Black Prosperity Initiative (LBPI) advisory board.
Uniting Voices Lexington received $50,000 to develop a new choir in Lexington to unite youth in grades 6 – 12 across geographic, racial and identity borders through culturally responsive music education and performance. One hundred youth participating under the direction of music educator Michael Preacely inspired thousands of audience members at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Through high-impact workshops and performances, Uniting Voices Lexington provides local youth with the opportunity to experience excellent music education while building relationships with diverse youth across the city.
The Ed Brown Society, which celebrates the rich history of African Americans in the equine industry and creates opportunities for young people of color to become successful professionals in all aspects of the industry, received $50,000 to provide professional development and 6 academic scholarships for students in an equine-related program, to aid minority students who wish to pursue a career within the Thoroughbred industry.
University of Kentucky Research Foundation received $10,000 for the Turner-UK Construction Diversity Accelerator (CDA) program to help minority-owned, women-owned, and other underrepresented businesses to be more competitive in the construction industry. The 10-week CDA program is specifically designed to benefit diverse contractors in construction-related businesses. By helping underrepresented businesses thrive, the CDA program contributes to the overall economic growth and prosperity of our region.
The Fayette Education Foundation received $10,000 for Teachers for Tomorrow to create a pipeline for equitable access to an effective and diverse education workforce. In partnership with Fayette County Public Schools, The Fayette Education Foundation recruited minority educators from its high schools to promote a more diverse teaching force with the potential to help minority students attain greater educational success.
American Spiritual Ensemble received $5,000 for Singing in the Spirit: American Spirtual Ensemble Camp for children, adolescents and adults designed to foster a community of talent interested in the performance, preservation and understanding of the American Negro Spiritual. At a time when our country is reevaluating its colonial practices, this workshop sought to deepen the understanding and appreciation of the music of Black Americans and particularly the American Negro Spiritual. Dr. Everett McCorvey served as musical director and conductor.
Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning received $5,000 for The Kentucky Black Writers & Readers Reclamation Project to establish space at the Carnegie Center for Black writers and readers with a featured bookcase, a launch event, and free books that celebrate Black Kentucky Authors. During the Carnegie Center’s past when the building was Lexington’s original public library, Black readers were not always welcome, and at times, they were only given access to one small room in the building called the “Colored Reading Room.” This project has allowed the Kentucky Black Writers Collaborative to reclaim the building as a place where Black writers and readers are welcome, supported, and celebrated as we make amends for the past.
CivicLex, which builds civic health through education, transformational projects, and relationship building, received $5,000 to address long-standing barriers to outdoor equity. In partnership with the Trust for Public Land, CivicLex hosted 6 in-person workshops and 3 community gatherings to examine how local public policy over the past 200 years has led to present-day inequitable policies impacting our local parks, green spaces, and public transportation. This project is part of a larger effort by CivicLex, Seedleaf, LFUCG Divisions of Parks and Recreation and Planning, and the Trust for Public Land to support effective, resident-led advocacy for equitable park, greenspace, and public space access and quality.
Lexington Public Library Foundation received $5,000 for the Grow With Google Initiative, to offer free resources for jobseekers looking to improve their marketable skills, including free training to learn Google/Android app development and payment of the cost to take the certification exam. The program recruited graduating students of color from local schools to help young adults achieve economic success and access to high-paying employment without the financial burden of a post-secondary education.
Living Arts & Science Center (LASC) received $5,000 for Kinkeadtown to Now: Tales from Past and Present, to host a series of programs for local school students at Lexington Traditional Magnet School focusing on the African American history of its racially diverse neighborhood. The project celebrated the history of Kinkeadtown, a Lexington neighborhood of freed African Americans established after the Civic War and now home to LASC, through the arts and a series of classes and field trips.
Rafiki Center received $5,000 for Swahili Day, an inclusive community event to create cross-cultural interactions between the African immigrant community and Lexington neighbors. On June 3, 2023, the Center hosted a festive day of music, dance, and cultural representation, connecting Lexington’s Swahili community with Lexington neighbors to build bridges of diversity. In addition to 380 attendees, Vice Mayor of Lexington Dan Wu attended, and a proclamation by the Mayor’s Office recognized Swahili Day as the premiere cultural celebration of the African, Swahili-speaking community in Lexington.