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Boston's New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund

By Nicholas Conley, Jul. 31, 2020
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Color & Capital For Good

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Boston's wealth gap is disturbing: White households have a median net worth of $247,500, Latinx households have $1,907, and Black households have merely $8. Now the COVID-19 pandemic and recent protests have highlighted these inequities. During Eastern Bank's recent Color & Capital For Good virtual town hall, CEO Bob Rivers framed the path forward, saying, "The most important action that we can take is to first listen and learn from our Black colleagues and others of color in our community and follow their lead."

The New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund, founded by nineteen Boston-based leaders of color, seeks to address these problems head-on and make real change.

White-Led Organizations Usually Give to White-Led Nonprofits
By and large, Boston's corporate landscape is overwhelmingly white. Even when it comes to nonprofits, organizations led by people of color have experienced "philanthropic redlining," as a Bridgespan Group study demonstrated—the revenues of Black-led nonprofits are 24 percent smaller than those of white-led ones.
This largely happens because white-led businesses tend to fall back on making charitable donations to the same organizations they've always given to rather than taking a risk on newer organizations led by people of color. Because of this, even well-meaning organizations that seek to address the wealth gap have often simply put Band-Aids on problems that require more significant, structural change.

New Fund Directs Support to Where It's Needed
What makes the New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund unique, and primed to have a real, lasting impact, is that it puts leaders of color, including Eastern Bank president Quincy Miller, Rapid7 CEO Corey Thomas, Berkshire Bank executive vice-president Malia Lazu, and General Electric global government affairs president Mo Cowan, in the driver's seat. Instead of focusing on charity alone, the fund aims to bring about systemic change that will work from the bottom up and rewrite the rules so racism within institutions across Massachusetts will be dismantled.
The fund is driven by executives of color who will issue grants to organizations led by people of color who have a firsthand understanding of the problems these communities struggle with and know where funds are most desperately needed. Some of the areas the fund will target include youth education, economic empowerment, criminal justice reform, and healthcare equity.

"There is something about cultural competency, a shared story and narrative," says Myechia Minter-Jordan, the CEO of DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement and part of the fund’s leadership team. "It allows people of color to represent the needs of people of color." Those who have experienced the systemic racism, oppression, and inequalities of American society possess the knowledge and background to address these problems in a truly effective manner.

Eastern Bank Supports the New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund
During Eastern Bank's June 2020 Color & Capital event, a panel of local leaders that included Segun Idowu of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, Jessicah Pierre of Queens Company, and Bernadine Desanges of Know Your Truths. Speak Your Truths. agreed that there needs to be deeper structural changes rather than quick patch jobs. They all also stressed the need for immediate action to counteract the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has worsened existing inequalities. The New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund is a first step in moving beyond these important conversations and toward action.

Eastern Bank, its board, and the participants of its Color & Capital event are proud to provide support for the fund as it reshapes Massachusetts's landscape so the state can truly provide opportunities for all. As Quincy Miller told the Boston Globe, "So many people have asked: 'What can I do? How can we make real change?' ... This is one of the ways we believe we can truly be revolutionary.''

Donate to The New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund to help close the wealth gap in Massachusetts, and take Eastern Bank's wealth gap pledge to show your support for the movement.

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