B’more Invested announces first round of grants to 10 organizations led by people of color to support restorative approaches to community safety and healing

Featured in Baltimore Justice Report
New grantmaking strategy relies on community members and funders to make decisions on grants

BALTIMORE, MD – Launching an innovative approach to community-driven grantmaking, the B’more Invested initiative is awarding $1.5 million in grants to 10 nonprofit organizations that are led by people of color and involved with promising efforts to promote community safety and healing and create stronger communities. An additional $300,000 will be made available to grantees in the form of capacity-building opportunities to support their work over the grant period.

The grantees are offering a wide array of programming – from yoga and biking to promoting healthy birthing and fighting blight – serving adults and young people.

B’more Invested is a new initiative and demonstration pilot anchored by OSI-Baltimore and Baltimore’s Promise that focuses on core values of racial equity, justice, community transformation, and collaboration. Several philanthropic institutions have invested in the initiative, which is designed to support promising community programs and leaders working at the grassroots level.

Unlike the traditional grantmaking approach in which foundation staffers decide on grants, B’more Invested grant decisions were made by a Grant Advisory Team made up of 23 members of the community and 11 representatives of the institutions that have invested in the initiative. B’more Invested allocated an additional $175,000 to support the participation of the 23 community leaders in this process through honoraria and small grants. The facilitation of the initiative’s initial grantmaking pilot was provided by the W. Haywood Burns Institute and Art in Praxis.

“B’more Invested represents an emergent way of making grants in Baltimore – with people directly representing impacted communities and populations making the decisions about how philanthropic funds are invested,” said Danielle Torain, Director of Open Society Institute-Baltimore. “For too long, Black- and brown-led organizations have been overlooked or grossly underinvested in by philanthropic institutions, and B’more Invested is working to change that by intentionally supporting organizations led by talented people of color.”

A key goal of the initiative is to provide new, flexible funding to promising organizations that have lacked adequate resources to expand their programming and reach more people. A secondary goal is to learn from and uplift local models that reimagine approaches to community safety. Grants will average $150,000 and will be disbursed over an 18-month period.

“Baltimore has some incredibly talented community leaders and organizations that have exciting strategies for advancing community safety,” said Baltimore’s Promise CEO Julia Baez. “Our Grant Advisory Team has identified 10 that have promising approaches but have not always had the resources they need to maximize their impact.”

“This was certainly not business as usual,” said Shawna Murray-Browne, a member of the Grant Advisory Team and community healer at Kindred Wellness, a Baltimore consultancy. “It was truly collaborative, with each community advisor coming from different walks of life, all holding true to their commitment to the people of Baltimore. For the first time in this philanthropic space, I felt heard. We began with tough, authentic conversations and ended with an out-of-the-box strategy to celebrate and fortify Black-led initiatives. We are communicating something powerful about what it can mean to reimagine community care, safety, and healing.”

B’more Invested has pooled investments from the following organizations:

Baltimore Community Foundation, Baltimore’s Promise, Blaustein Philanthropic Group, Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Elbow Fund, France-Merrick Foundation, Goldseker Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, Lerner Family Foundation, Open Society Institute-Baltimore, T. Rowe Price Foundation, and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation

“Being a part of B’more Invested offered an opportunity for us to participate in an innovative approach to grantmaking,” said Kate Essex, Program Officer at the Goldseker Foundation. “By partnering with and learning alongside community leaders and philanthropic peers, we were able to make collaborative investments in local leaders of color who are working to make Baltimore more safe, just, and equitable.”

Along with the grants, B’more Invested will devote additional funding for evaluation, as well as grantee capacity-support to help grantee organizations build up their internal infrastructure and promote long-term sustainability.

The grants are focused in three areas related to community safety:

  •       Shifting Crisis Response:  Community-based alternative systems and interventions that respond to personal, group, or community crisis in an equitable and restorative manner.
  •       Stabilization:  Community-based alternative systems and interventions that facilitate the stabilization and holistic growth and development of people.
  •       Healing and Restoration:  Community-based alternative systems and interventions that ameliorate the intergenerational trauma and harm experienced by communities at the hands of unjust and inequitable systems.

“I’m excited about the partnership between Out for Justice and B’more Invested, given our shared values addressing racial equity and economic inclusion through a framework of community-based solutions,” says Nicole Hanson-Mundell, Executive Director of Out for Justice, a B’more Invested grantee. “This mutually beneficial relationship will begin to transform the way we tackle the most pressing issues facing our communities by equipping   those directly affected by these problems to lead the way in reimagining the approach to real reform and having the power to control the development and decision-making processes that govern these programs.”

“There is so much to be thankful for with the recent B’more Invested grant, and one of the most promising factors is the engagement with both grantors and the team-building aspect of the grantee cohort,” said Changa Bell, Founder of the Black Male Yoga Initiative, another grantee. “We get to come together equally as a valued cohort. I have been a part of a fellowship like this before and we all became family. The bond is truly unmatched.”

B’more Invested Grantees 2021

A Revolutionary Summer
Founded: 2015
Founder: Andria Nacina Cole

A Revolutionary Summer (ARS) is a critical reading and writing program dedicated to shifting harmful and traumatic narratives about Black women and girls through literature, art, self-inquiry and self-empowerment. The organization presents Black girls with authentic representations of themselves and simultaneously encourages them to look beyond those representations and to see the power and limitations of story. Working with Black girls ages 15 and up, ARS specifically supports girls connected to punitive systems, foster care, the justice system, and Black girls who spend time in predominantly white institutions, helping participants realize their individual power and potential.  Focused around relationship building, restorative practices and trauma-informed care, ARS empowers Black girls through literacy, while building the political, economic, spiritual and social power of the girls and their communities.

Black Male Yoga Initiative
Founded: 2015
Founder and Chief Yoga Officer Changa Bell

The Black Male Yoga Initiative (BMYI) envisions a future where race and gender are no longer social determinants of health, affecting physical, mental and emotional health, and where individuals can take paths of self-determination, self-optimization and self-empowerment. BYMI supports healthy self-development through the LifeForce Development (LFD) Process, which integrates skills, principles and practices of yoga, mindfulness, meditation and life coaching as means of personal improvement. Founder Changa Bell uses LFD to enhance corporate, academic, personal and professional culture, in groups that range from just over a dozen people to more than 400. The work drives health equity and establishes self-motivated action to support health and mental well-being, with a focus on people of color and members of the African diaspora. BYMI respects and meets community-defined needs, tailoring services and programs to the culture and language of each group.

The Black Yield Institute
Founded: 2015
Servant-Director Eric Jackson

The Black Yield Institute (BYI) is a Pan-African power building and social movement institution in Baltimore’s Cherry Hill community. Its two-fold mission includes mitigating the immediate impacts of food apartheid in poor Black and brown communities and building movement towards Black Land and Food Sovereignty. The organization serves as a think tank and collective action network to address these issues and aims to be an incubator for ideas and projects. Founded in 2015, BYI is working to expand and develop enterprises that build power, provide food and ownership opportunities, and create a model of Black Land and Food Sovereignty at the hyper-local, community level. Its multi-tiered approach includes investments in infrastructure for food production, retail and distribution in Cherry Hill and South Baltimore.

Bloom Collective
Founded: 2018
Diverse network of founders

The Bloom Collective is a liberation-focused network of health and wellness practitioners grounded in birth and reproductive justice, womanism, human rights, holistic care and healing justice. The Bloom Collective provides services including: preconception counseling, fertility care, breastfeeding/chest feeding/body feeding support, childbirth education, herbalism, psychotherapy, parenting support, postpartum care, coaching, consultations and trainings. In addition to health and wellness care needs, the Bloom Collective works to galvanize mothers, birthing persons and communities to build political, social, economic and spiritual power.

Bmore Empowered
Founded: 2017
Co-Directors Kieta Iriarte-Amin and Nazaahah Amin

Bmore Empowered is dedicated to empowering women and girls of color through mindfulness and entrepreneurship. Created after the co-founders identified a lack of impactful programming for Black and Brown girls across Baltimore City, the organization started with camps, training and yoga therapy – and expanded as mothers of participants as for similar programming. In 2019, Bmore Empowered opened an office in Harlem Park that offers co-working space and a yoga studio for women, and broadened supports for nonprofits led by Black and Brown women. Empowerment is a key tenet of the organization’s approach. It builds social power by bringing women together to support each other within a sisterhood, spiritual power by focusing on mindfulness and yoga, and economic and political power by establishing a model to equip women of color with the knowledge, skills, tools to effectively grow and sustain their communities, serving nonprofit organizations and small business enterprises.

Founded: 2014
Executive Director Jasper Barnes

The Baltimore Youth Kinetic Energy (BYKE) Collective started after its founder noticed young people of color trying to access a local bicycle workshop, and consistently refused entry — at times leading to violent interactions. By 2016, BYKE launched a youth-centered drop-in bicycle workshop in Greenmount West with a focus on providing mentorship, restorative practices, and workforce development for youth from disinvested communities. BYKE also runs an out-of-school time program called Golden Fleet and a summer program called Rise Up and Ride Out. The program responds to a local bike culture dominated by white, cisgender men, the astronomical costs of bike repairs, and the lack of access to most bike shops. BYKE, which serves a population that is 98% Black/African American, celebrates youth being active, learning skills, and building social and emotional intelligence through a passion for riding.

Fight Blight Bmore
Founded: 2016
Founder and COO Nneka N’namdi

Fight Blight Baltimore’s (FBB’s) mission is to remediate blight through community projects and programs that are envisioned, directed and owned by the community.  An economic, environmental and social justice organization, FBB believes that blight – vacant, abandoned, dilapidated, underutilized and misutilized properties – arises from impacts of systemic racism, including disinvestment and depopulation, thus significantly decreasing taxable properties in historically Black neighborhoods across the city, while destroying community continuity, damaging wealth creation and generational transfer, and eroding property rights and responsibilities. FBB’s work includes: informing individuals about blight and its impact; co-creating and implementing a mobile application, with community, to identify, report, track and analyze local blight data; providing a space (the Hack Hub) for community members to co-create and build skills that can ameliorate community blight and build individual and community power; and supporting the development of real property that is visioned, led, implemented and owned by the community’s existing residents.

Founded: 2016
Director Ana Temple Rodney

MOMCares provides birth and postpartum doula care to black women who are characterized as high risk or have had a birth resulting in Neonatal Intensive Care involvement. Focused on Black mothers in Baltimore City, MOMCares aims to address disparities due to implicit bias in the medical and care systems that contribute to a large percentage of preventable deaths of Black women and babies. The organization provides birth and postpartum doula care including one-to-one care, birth planning, baby care essentials, delivery, advocacy and mindfulness and wellness support to healing mothers. MOMCares takes a mom-centered approach in our care for families in Baltimore City. MOMCares has also begun to provide implicit bias training to medical institutions and community organizations and has also begun to train doulas in the community with the help of the Doula Trainings International Curriculum. 

Organizing Black
Founded: 2015
Co-Founders Michaela Brown, Ralikh Hayes and Tré Murphy

Organizing Black is a grassroots, member-led organization with the ultimate goal of Black liberation. The organization builds local power through transformational Black direct action organizing, political education, and participatory governance practices. OB was co-founded [in 2015] by three young Black community organizers who believe that the path to Black liberation and a just, fair, equitable democracy can only exist through the hard work of redefining the systems that give way to oppression and racism. Having identified the police as one of the most threatening barriers and impactful targets for the well-being of Black people in Baltimore, OB has focused on limiting police power, authority and budgets in order to redirect investment into Black communities. Involved in various local and national spaces, OB also works to strengthen the social justice infrastructure in Baltimore and to create a network and build power for Black people locally and nationally.

Out for Justice
Founded: 2006
Executive Director Nicole Hanson

Out for Justice, Inc. (OFJ) was started by a group of formerly incarcerated individuals who recognized they didn’t have meaningful opportunities to successfully reintegrate due to ever-present challenges related to obtaining jobs, housing, and education – systemic barriers that increase the likelihood for recidivism, especially for women and Black community members. OFJ places individuals affected by the criminal justice system at the forefront of policy-reform efforts that directly impact them, their families and their communities, accomplishing its mission through engagement, education and empowerment. Through an intake process, OFJ identifies the needs of incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals, then provides educational workshops tailored to their needs, training on the legislative process to understand the root causes of barriers and what can be done to address them, and a trusted community network. Membership support includes a housing referral program, drug treatment, legal services and more.