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By The Skanner News
Published: 15 July 2020

PORTLAND, OR. — Meyer Memorial Trust today announced the launch of a five-year, $25 million initiative aimed at making strategic investments in Black lives in Oregon. 

Justice Oregon is the largest initiative in Meyer’s 38-year history

“Justice Oregon for Black Lives” is the largest initiative in Meyer’s 38-year history, created in the wake of nearly two months of demonstrations protesting the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others that have awakened a national movement for structural justice and an end to systemic racism. Meyer’s board of trustees approved the commitment in recognition of the urgent opportunity to transform institutions, systems and narratives in Oregon, a state founded on stolen lands and explicit in its constitutional exclusion of Black people. A long-term effort, the initiative will be co-created with Black communities working to advance racial justice and equity in Oregon. 

“Justice is not simply an ideal.

"It is something Oregonians should expect to see in our everyday lives,” said Michelle J. DePass, president and CEO of Meyer Memorial Trust. “In a state founded on anti-Black and anti-Indigenous bigotry, Meyer is explicitly acknowledging the history and present conditions that foster injustice by targeting strategic investments in the lives of Black Oregonians.” 

The dedicated funding will deepen support for Black-centered organizations, uplift a just system of public safety and community well-being, and invest in long-term lasting strategic change across the state. Meyer announced the first round of general operating grants, 11 awards totaling nearly $1.3 million aimed at Black-led and Black-serving organizations.  

Study: Black-led organizations under-funded

Groups run by people of color have long been underfunded, a kind of philanthropic redlining. A recent study found Black-led organizations that work to improve the lives of Black men had budgets 45 percent lower than those led by whites. 

In the wake of extrajudicial and vigilante murders around the country, Black leaders and advocacy and service organizations in Portland immediately stepped up to demand local changes. The first wave of Justice Oregon grants focus on leaders in the current mobilization efforts and in support of Black resilience. Oregon is rich with organizations that have built deep, trusted credibility while working on the priorities of Black Oregonians. Five initial Justice Oregon grants of $200,000 each were awarded to Black United Fund, KairosPDX, Portland African American Leadership Forum, Self Enhancement, Inc. And Urban League of Portland. Six additional organizations were granted smaller grants, totaling $290,000.  

“Oregon is at a tipping point for real change,” said Meyer board chair Toya Fick. “Meyer Memorial Trust is an institution with equity at the heart of its work.

"We stand ready to meet the moment by supporting Black resilience in Oregon.”

The initiative is still in its early development, but future Justice Oregon grantmaking will likely include reimagining public safety, prosecutorial reform efforts, wealth-building, sustained cross-racial and cross-issue progressive movement, and the transformative work of changing hearts and minds by countering hate, injustice and dismantling anti-Blackness. 

New hires planned for managing initiative

Meyer plans to hire staff with lived experience to build and manage the initiative, said Kaberi Banerjee Murthy, Meyer’s director of program and strategy.  

“I believe it is possible for philanthropy to show up differently and to push toward the alignment of actions and values rooted in racial justice,” said Banerjee Murthy. “Now feels like a once-in-a-lifetime moment when the momentum has built thanks to the work of so many and the change that we’ve been pushing for is possible.”  

Meyer Memorial Trust, established from the estate of Fred G. Meyer in 1982, is among the largest private foundations in Oregon, with current assets of roughly $828 million. Over its lifetime, Meyer has awarded grants and program-related investments in excess of $814 million to more than 3,470 organizations. Today, Meyer is driven by the notion of equity, notably the existence of conditions where all people can reach their full potential. The foundation focuses on four areas Oregonians have identified as vitally important in the state: housing, education, the environment and stronger communities.  

To discover more about Meyer’s efforts to make Oregon flourish as an equitable state to all of its residents, visit mmt.org

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