Diverse Commemoration Fund Awards $1 Million

ADVISORY BOARD AND STAFF: The Commission Fund Advisory Board and Staff includes, from left back row, Wilson Pipestem, Partner at Pipestem Law; Hannibal B. Johnson, Author, Attorney and Consultant; Moises Echeverria, President of Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice; Frank Haith, Head Basketball Coach at The University of Tulsa and Commemoration Fund program officer Clarence Boyd. Seated from left are Ashley Philippsen, Senior Director of Engagement and Advocacy at ImpactTulsa; Advisory Board Chair Glenda Love Williams, Ret. President/CEO., Ronald McDonald House and Nonprofit Consultant; and Eunice Tarver, Provost of Tulsa Community College Northeast Campus.

The Commemoration Fund announced its first ever grant recipients recently totaling $1 million in funds. One of the first organizations of its kind, a fund run entirely for and by people of color, selected 20 diverse organizations .
“It has been an honor and privilege to lead the Commemoration Fund,” said Glenda Love Williams, advisory board chair and retired president/CEO., Ronald McDonald House and nonprofit consultant, “We took our grant-making role with optimism but also respecting the impact we could make: our board members were intentional and strategic in selecting initiatives that truly meet our mission to correct social, political and economic injustices impacting people of color.”
In the first grant cycle, more than 75 applications were received with approximately $6.5 million in grant requests. More than 65% of the applications were from organizations with executives of color. The requests ranged from $5,000 to $500,000, showing a significant demand in the community for this assistance. Over the course of two months, the board and staff created an innovative process to vet applicants and provide due diligence for this competitive process.  
 “It has been a joy serving on the board of the Commemoration Fund board and working collaboratively with my BIPOC colleagues on targeted grant-making. Our example and our investments will make a long-term positive difference in Tulsa,” said Hannibal Johnson, board member and author, attorney and consultant.
The Commemoration Fund board, including Black, indigenous, and Latino board members, aimed to mobilize funding for sustainable solutions to systemic race issues. In addition, they wanted to create better understanding, acceptance – and ultimately respect – of different cultures. The Board aimed to be unafraid to take chances, viewing their work with a different lens to make the most impact, and to be a transparent model for sharing authority and trust. 
“It was especially rewarding to identify powerful initiatives to invest in, which will have a profound impact to BIPOC communities in our region,” said Moises Echeverria, president of Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice, “It was a difficult process as there were so many worthy projects. I am eager to see the completion of the initiatives the Commemoration Fund supported on its first grant cycle and the lives changed for the better because of them. This is truly a visionary and innovative structure which I hope inspires national and global philanthropic efforts.”
Grants ranged from $5,000 to $160,000. To maximize the impact of these awards on social, political and economic injustices, the funds were balanced among entities focusing on community building (30%), informal education (25%), health equity (20%), and wealth-building (20%).
“Working for the Commemoration Fund has been an enriching experience. We have had the ability to make a positive impact on our local communities, not just through grants, but also listening to and sharing the stories of perseverance in our communities,” said Frank Haith, board member and Head Basketball Coach at The University of Tulsa, “The board has been very forward thinking and it has been an extremely rewarding process giving back to those making great change in and around the City of Tulsa through the Commemoration Fund. I am proud of what we have accomplished and cannot wait to see what is achieved next.”
Learn more at zarrow.org/commemorationfund.

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