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New grant fund to distribute $50m to descendants of slaves

(Courtesy of Nexus Community Partners)

The Bush Foundation has committed $50 million to build intergenerational wealth in Black families and has charged Nexus Community Partners, a Black-led community nonprofit, with distributing the funds.

Called the Open Road Fund, the money will be divided into $50,000 grants to 100 people each year over the course of eight years.

Bush Foundation Grantmaking Director Jackie Statum Allen said that the foundation is seeking to bridge the gap in familial wealth between white and Black families.

“Wealth is generational, So much of the wealth that one can accumulate is the result of the wealth that was or was not present in one’s family in generations before them. So the idea here was that we could – through this community trust fund – be able to help these individuals, these families, take the first step in building that generational wealth.”

Nexus CEO Repa Mekha said that the grant is supposed to be transformational, not just for those who receive the Open Road Fund grants, but for those who sign those grants away.

“[The Bush Foundation] took it upon themselves to do internal work that led them to a $50 million commitment to the Black community.” Mekha said. “What we’ve called for all along is for foundations like Bush to examine their own policies and practices and make significant changes.”

The Open Road Fund is aimed at creating generational and community wealth. The money can be used to buy homes, to start businesses and co-ops, and pay off debts. Recipients can expect to see $50,000 before taxes, and they have the ability to share some of the money with other recipients.

“Everyone who receives a grant award will receive $50,000,” Project Lead Danielle Mkali said. “We have created an option within our funding process so that an awardee, if they choose to, they can review the rest of the group, and if they see ‘look, this group is looking to buy a fourplex for single moms, this is really important, I only really need $40,000 to do what I need to do, I can share $10,000 of my grant and give it to another effort that I believe in.’”

Applications for the grant open on June 19, and while the grant is aimed at the descendants of slaves, Nexus is aware that family records are not always intact. The nonprofit aims to verify all applicants before they are notified that they qualify. Genealogy tests or government records are not needed to apply but applicants must be above 14 and reside in Minnesota or North and South Dakota.

The Bush Foundation also recently launched a similar program called the Collective Abundance Fund with another $50 million for Native American residents of the Dakotas and Minnesota. That fund is being distributed by the NDN Collective. Registration for the Collective Abundance Fund ends on July 7.

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