On Tuesday, May 28, 2020, the video of a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for eight minutes and 46 seconds was viewed across America. That image will forever be engrained in the soul of this nation along with the cries of slaves, lynched people, and others who have died at the hands of another human being, due to the color of their skin. We all heard Mr. Floyd’s cry. His words echoed the cries of Black America for centuries. Every minute of his struggle represented 400 years of a system that has kept Black people in a consistent cycle of oppression.

George Floyd’s murder moved people of all races to raise their voices in solidarity calling for justice. The Black Future Co-op Fund was formed in recognition of this powerful moment and the opportunity for transformational change. Michelle, Angela, T’wina and Andrea are a part of the founding group of architects — four Black women leaders with long histories working to support the Black community across Washington state: Michelle Merriweather (Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle), Angela Jones (Washington STEM), T’wina Nobles (Tacoma Urban League), and Andrea Caupain Sanderson (Byrd Barr Place).

The creation of this new philanthropic vehicle to support the Black community in Washington state has been a dream of ours, and we’re inviting you to be a part of this dream with us.

The urgency of this work is evident not only in tragic instances of lethal police brutality, but in the deeply entrenched systemic inequities that are causing Black people to be disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. From March to June 2020, Black unemployment rose to rates that rival the Great Depression. Black youth—who were already disproportionately falling through the cracks of our education system due to systemic racism—were unable to continue their studies due to a lack of Wi-Fi access in their homes. Black people nationwide continue to disproportionately contract COVID-19, and to disproportionately die from the virus. All of these inequities are due to overwhelming system failure and racial disparities that are related to structural racism.

In the months ahead, we have plans to visit and listen to Black communities around the state to understand their needs and craft the Fund’s grantmaking approach, supported by a $150,000 capacity grant from Seattle Foundation. The first grants will likely be made in early 2021. While the Black Future Co-op Fund came together in a specific moment of history, our goal is to provide ongoing support statewide for years to come.

About the Black Future Co-op Fund:  The purpose of the Black Future Co-op Fund is to acknowledge the harm that systemic racism has done to the Black community in Washington state. The Fund will be a collective hub for efforts to eradicate poverty, build generational wealth, preserve Black Culture, and celebrate the incredible resilience of the Black community. It will uplift the Black community across Washington through intentional investments in the areas such as health, housing, education, art, criminal justice reform, and civic engagement. The Fund will also invest in technical assistance, “back-of-house” support, and administrative support to the under resourced nonprofits and community-based organizations that have worked for decades in support of the Black community, providing the infrastructure they need to sustain their critical efforts. It will invest in land, property, and educational and entrepreneurial opportunities that prepare Black families for generational wealth and sustainable, economic prosperity. It will invest in future generations of Black children born in Washington state—so that they may have an opportunity to not only survive, but to thrive.

By supporting the Black Future Co-op Fund, which we have decided to house at Seattle Foundation as we launch, donors will have the opportunity to invest in both the hope of the present and the promise of the future for the Black community in Washington state. The Fund aims to raise $25 million, with over $1.45 million secured to date, including support from the Ballmer Group, Microsoft, Seahawks Charitable Foundation, Virginia Mason Health System, Zillow, and Jill and Rajeev Singh. Leveraging a match from Mr. Jeff Bezos through All In WA, the Fund has nearly $3 million secured in early support and donations to the Black Future Co-op Fund will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $1 million per unique donation. More details will be coming soon.