Northwestern’s Racial Equity and Community Partnership grants impact local communities


Daily file photo by Kelsey Carroll

The Arch. Since the start of the Racial Equity and Community Partnership grant program, NU has allocated more than $500,000 each year to furthering racial equity in Evanston and Chicago.

Andrés Buenahora, Reporter

The Black Metropolis Research Consortium is increasing the capacity of its Chicago-area Black archives and projects that amplify Black histories.

History Ph.D. student Alexandrea Keith said one of the focuses of BMRC is its graduate assistantship pilot program, which matches Northwestern doctoral students with projects at BMRC member institutions. 

NU’s Racial Equity and Community Partnership grant program was established in 2020 to help organizations like BMRC fund their initiatives and advance their progress with racial equity in both Evanston and Chicago.

These grants have impacted multiple organizations including Black Administrators in Child Welfare of Illinois, Evanston Scholars and Kids Create Change, according to a University news release.

Executive Director of BMRC Marcia Walker-McWilliams said the grant has been effective in supporting BMRC’s members. Since the start of the program, NU has allocated more than $500,000 each year to furthering racial equity in Evanston and Chicago.

“Funding from the (grant) helps the BMRC fulfill its mission and support the important work of ensuring that historical collections that document Black experiences receive the care that they need and are accessible to the communities they document and the broader public,” Walker-McWilliams said.

Organizations such as WIND: Women Initiating New Directions have received funding for key community-driven projects. According to WIND board member and McCormick Professor Emeritus Penny Hirsch, WIND is a nonprofit devoted to helping previously incarcerated women transition back to the workplace.

Hirsch said WIND plans to pilot a Bridge program, which will pay women to receive workshop co-facilitator training.

This process involves working with women in reentry to co-design curricula, recruiting women to take part in the program and having them complete the training. Hirsch said it will help formerly incarcerated women develop useful working skills and an employment record as well as reduce racial and social inequity.

“(These women are) on their own without a lot of support, especially women of color who are most at-risk with the justice system,” Hirsch said.

The RECP grant program’s partners include the Child Language Lab, which focuses on early language development. The lab focuses on the intersection between language development and social environment, prioritizing working with Spanish-speaking families and children from bilingual homes, Communication Prof. Adriana Weisleder said.

Weisleder said the organization’s goals involve exploring the inequities in language development.

It also aims to improve early-childhood education for dual-language learners and inform clinical practices for bilingual children who have language impairments, Weisleder said.

“(The RECP program has) really had a great impact,” Weisleder said. “This grant was an opportunity to strengthen one of our community partnerships … (and) create programs that would help the community through resources that Northwestern was providing.” 

During the 2022-23 academic year, RECP project proposals will focus on areas like social and economic empowerment, health equity and youth learning, according to the news release.

The Racial Equity Incubator grant program will start accepting applications in the spring of 2022. 

Walker-McWilliams emphasized the importance of these types of programs for communities of color.

“Too often, the histories, perspectives, stories and contributions of people of color are misrepresented, unknown or devalued,” Walker-McWilliams said. “We believe it’s important to support Chicagoland organizations and institutions that document Black experiences in their complexity and truth.”

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Twitter: @andresbuena01

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