Charlotte Executives Invest $ 250 Million in Racial Fairness Promise
Some of Charlotte’s biggest businesses and government leaders have launched a $ 250 million racial equity initiative.
Last year, Mayor Vi Lyles called on the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council, made up of prominent CEOs, to tackle issues such as education and economic mobility, to create a corporate response decades of laws and policies that disadvantaged black and brown residents.
Last Monday, they announced the Mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative, the largest investment in Charlotte’s history to address racial disparities, at an event on the campus of Johnson C. Smith.
Lyles called it a “defining moment” in Charlotte’s story.
“This challenge is going to be with us for a very long time,” she said. “These problems that we are trying to solve today are long standing and deep.” But the donations announced Monday, she said, will approach them “with responsibility and abundance.”
Numerous philanthropic and corporate contributions, which will be matched with taxpayers’ money, have already been made. About $ 80 million of the $ 250 million campaign will come from public funds from the City of Charlotte ($ 72 million) and the library system ($ 8 million). . So far, nearly $ 97 million has been raised from private philanthropy, including many of Charlotte’s biggest companies.
“The weight of this responsibility of knowing history and living history has long been borne by many of our black and brown residents, by many grassroots organizations and often by local government,” said Lyles.
“In my opinion, to address systemic inequalities, American businesses need to be at the table,” she said.
An additional $ 19 million in low-interest debt and equity is being offered as part of the campaign for business development and other economic activities in specific parts of the city.
The Duke Endowment has donated $ 40 million, the largest announced Monday, which will go specifically to Charlotte’s only historically black college, JCSU. The total fundraising goal for the university is $ 80 million.
Officials described three other major areas for investment: bridging the digital divide, diversifying the leadership of Charlotte’s largest companies and the city’s six Corridors of Opportunity, historically neglected areas now targeted for public and private money. .
The plans cover a five-year period and could involve things like grants to small businesses and providing computers and the internet to families without access to the technology. Other specific details were not disclosed.
The Carolinas Foundation is leading the fundraiser and will host the philanthropic fund. Officials said they will form two governance councils.
Among the other major donors:
Bank of America has pledged $ 25 million for the mayor’s initiative, including $ 10 million for JCSU, as part of the bank’s $ 1.25 billion racial equity plan.
Lowe’s will contribute $ 10 million.
Truist donates $ 8 million.
Atrium Health will contribute $ 6.1 million.
$ 5.7 million will come from Queens University Charlotte.
Ally Financial and Ric Elias, CEO of Red Ventures, are each donating $ 5 million.
Novant Health and Duke Energy have each committed $ 3 million.
Donations of $ 1 million were announced by the CLT2020 host committee set up for the Republican National Convention held in Charlotte last year; EY (formerly Ernst & Young); the Michael Jordan Family / Charlotte Hornets Foundation (a combined donation); National Gypsum / CD Spangler Foundation (a combined donation); and Trane Technologies. Additional contributions come from Mary and Mike Lamach ($ 500,000) and Bloomberg Philanthropies ($ 220,000).
Together, $ 196 million of the target of $ 250 million has been committed.
WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING?
Investments in JCSU from different donors will create five new programs, including pre-medicine, data analytics and computing, as well as scholarships and campus health services.
“For too long, we have approached fairness in our various silos, reducing the jolts,” said university president Clarence Armbrister. “This public-private partnership has the potential to turn Charlotte into a ‘standard bearer’ for cities seeking racial equity and upward mobility. “
He said his university was ready for the changes to come.
Officials said funding the digital divide would create a center for digital equity housed at Queens University. Lyles said the pandemic had raised awareness among households that did not have internet access, recalling stories of students having to scan for Wi-Fi in fast food restaurants to do their homework.
Some 55,000 households lack the internet locally, she said.
“Something as fundamental as technology is fundamental to all of us,” said Kieth Cockrell, president of the Charlotte Market for Bank of America.
Lyles said efforts to diversify leadership in the city’s businesses were to push companies to have their senior executives and boards better reflect Charlotte’s racial makeup.
The Corridors of Opportunity program invests in six areas – the Beatties Ford / Rozzelles Ferry, West Boulevard, Freedom Drive / Wilkinson Boulevard, Central Avenue / Albemarle Road, Sugar Creek / I-85 and Graham / North Tryon Streets routes – aimed at improving the quality of life measures such as business investment, housing and improving public safety.
Investments in the corridors will include loans, grants and assistance in acquiring land for the inhabitants of these areas.
HISTORY OF DISCRIMINATION
That effort has been underway for over a year, Lyles said, following the murder of George Floyd by police and protests across the country and in Charlotte.
In August 2020, she read an apology at a city council meeting, acknowledging the city government’s role in destroying black neighborhoods such as Brooklyn through the urban renewal program of the 1950s and 1960s.
Along with the apology, the leaders announced their intention to create a public-private partnership for racial equity.
But the effort has been criticized by members of Restorative Justice CLT, which called for significant financial investment in communities affected by urban renewal and other racially discriminatory policies.
Restorative Justice CLT said these investments must be specifically for the descendants of the displaced residents of Brooklyn, as well as the black community at large.
The group, which has called on the city to apologize for razing Brooklyn, is seeking investments in housing, education, criminal justice, mental health, jobs and religious communities to atone for churches, schools , houses and businesses destroyed.
But members of the group had previously told The Observer they were being excluded from discussions about the mayor’s efforts and raised doubts about the business community, which has long benefited from the policies, deciding how to spend millions of dollars. to remedy.
Reverend Willie Keaton, of the restorative justice group and pastor of the Mt. Olive Presbyterian Church, said on Monday he wanted to see more accountability and transparency for these public-private partnerships, as well as clear metrics to measure the success.
“Just because you’re a business owner doesn’t mean you have to be an authority on how money is spent to fight racial equity,” he said. “This is my concern.”
Charlotte business and philanthropic leaders have managed to raise significant sums in the past to match public funds, including $ 20 million for the arts earlier this year and more than $ 50 million for affordable housing to use. with the city’s Housing Trust Fund.
But the metrics for how success will be measured with this $ 250 million effort have not been revealed.
Two oversight boards will be created to decide how to spend the money and monitor its progress, said Michael Marsicano, President and CEO of the Foundation for the Carolinas, and will report publicly on the progress.
Lyles told reporters on Friday that she hopes this is a critical moment in Charlotte’s story.
“I hope I can look back and say, you know, look at how we’ve grown and changed in a very short time; where people from other communities will look at us and say, “Look at the work Charlotte is doing,” she said. “It’s meaningful, accessible, and we will be responsible for it. I still have high hopes.