Back to News

Heinz Endowments awards additional $12 mil to address equity issues

 PITTSBURGH, Pa., November 5, 2020 –The Heinz Endowments has approved more than $12.1 million in grants to support its ongoing major focus on the region’s equity issues. 

Funding includes over $9.2 million to target systemic issues and barriers that affect Black communities and strengthen nonprofit programs that support African American families in the Pittsburgh region. A further $1.6 million will help support diversity and equity practices at the Sarah Heinz House Association on Pittsburgh’s North Side, and $1.3 million will help fund continuing criminal justice reform initiatives.

The grants address a range of equity issues while providing increased strategic investment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional support goes to Black-led nonprofit organizations to address systemic injustice and racism. 

This new slate of equity-related grants follows those totaling $7 million approved by the Endowments in May this year. 

“If we are to advance our vision of creating a community that is fair and welcoming for all, we need to address deep-rooted issues of injustice and inequity that afflict our region,” said Grant Oliphant, President of the Endowments. “This is an especially important moment to invest in programs that focus on the health, wellbeing and success of Black families and individuals who experience injustice and disproportionate hardship that has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

The $9.2 million supporting local Black communities and families includes over $7.2 million to nonprofit organizations providing funding to arts organizations, media programs and a range of community and economic development initiatives. Another $2 million addresses issues facing Black families and children, in particular, such as reducing racial disparities in infant mortality.

The $1.6 million grant to the Sarah Heinz House Association will be used to launch a comprehensive, multi-year diversity, equity and inclusion initiative to enhance programs and practices throughout the organization. The organization’s goal is to better provide programming and enrichment activities for children and families of diverse backgrounds and needs. 

The $1.3 million for criminal justice reform efforts is part of the Endowments’ three-year, $10 million reform initiative, the Restoration Project, which launched at the end of 2018. 

The funding continues the Endowments’ work to confront “the challenges of those whose lives have been upended by contact with law enforcement and to advocate for improvements in policy and practice within both the adult and juvenile system,” said Endowments Chief Equity Officer Carmen Anderson.

As part of the Endowments’ strategy to help bridge racial disparity gaps in the Pittsburgh region, the foundation is supporting different forms of Black cultural expression that include both arts initiatives and media programs that elevate Black voices. Among the examples of this funding approach is $1 million to help support Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh, a joint program of the Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation, and $800,000 to The August Wilson African American Cultural Center. A $1.4 million grant for both the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh and the Homewood-Brushton YMCA includes support for the Lighthouse Project, an after-school media arts program housed at the Homewood-Brushton Y, which serves a predominantly Black community. 

In addition, a grant of $320,000 to 1Hood Media will fund the development of, an online media platform to communicate news and topics relevant to Black residents. And, the Endowments is giving operating support grants to several Black-led community arts organizations that work with youth. They include ACH Clear Pathways ($100,000), Hill Dance Academy Theatre ($75,000) and the Afro-American Music Institute ($50,000). 

The Endowments also is targeting African American business development from early stage inception to more mature contract procurement and growth. Grants include $175,000 to the Bible Center Church, Inc., to help continue its efforts to revitalize the main commercial strip of Homewood by launching its business development center and entrepreneurship academy.  A $150,000 grant to the Northside Industrial Development Company will support its work with a variety of partners to support, grow and drive Black business enterprises in large-scale redevelopment activity in the region.

Funding of $250,000 will help the Allegheny Conference on Community Development of and its member companies respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the related health, economic, and racial disparity issues. The Endowments is giving Venture For America $150,000 over two years to attract and train a diverse cohort of recent graduate entrepreneurs, place them with local Pittsburgh start-ups, and help those entrepreneurs incubate their own local start-ups.  

Grants to the POISE Foundation, Pittsburgh United, Take Action Mon Valley, and Ujamaa Collective provide resources to advance Black-owned business, and convene residents and organizations to participate in efforts around neighborhood investment and redevelopment. Also, Endowments’ support to Operation Better Block in Homewood and Hosanna House in Wilkinsburg are intended to help community-building projects maintain their momentum during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To reduce infant mortality rates and adverse maternal outcomes, the Endowments is giving $200,000 to Healthy Start to develop a strategy and model for to reverse those health trends. Other Endowments support that addresses issues affecting Black families and children includes $200,000 to Partner4Work for an apprenticeship program to increase the number of early childhood education teachers, directors and center owner/operators who are Black and other people of color. The University of Pittsburgh will receive $200,000 to support its P.R.I.D.E. – Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education – program, which is designed to help adults support Black children’s positive racial identity development.

Also, providing support to a variety of students, but with a special emphasis on African American youth entering their senior year of high school, is the Readiness Institute at Pennsylvania State University. The Endowments is providing $450,000 for the program, which prepares students for attending post-secondary institutions, entering the workforce and serving as involved, well-informed citizens in their communities.

Among the criminal justice reform grants are several of that focus on efforts to end the criminalization of children, a strategic priority within the reform initiative.  They include a $500,000 grant to the University of Pittsburgh to support the Just Discipline Regional Impact Model, an extension of the successful Woodland Hills school discipline program that will expand professional development and policy advocacy across the region.

Grants also will be supporting two models of diversion programs to keep youth out of the criminal justice system: $100,000 will be given to Three Rivers Youth for diversion programs in the McKeesport and Sto-Rox school districts, and $200,000 to the Foundation of Hope for a Hill District pilot youth diversion program.  A $150,000 grant is going to Duquesne University to provide holistic legal representation for Allegheny County youth through the newly established Youth Advocacy Clinic.

 “Because the impact of inequity and injustice permeates so many areas of our region and country, this equity agenda addresses a broad range of important issues,” Ms. Anderson said. “Moving forward we intend to work with community partners and other stakeholders to reimagine what’s necessary for an equitable Pittsburgh and the role of philanthropy in supporting the Black community and other marginalized citizens.”

For further information:
Carmen Lee