How Bloomberg Philanthropies Is Working to Build Black Wealth – The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Foundations have increasingly stepped up their giving to racial-justice causes. But one area that hasn’t received as much dedicated focus is the creation of Black wealth.

An exception is Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative, which launched two years ago and has provided $250 million, largely to tackle one of the thorniest problems for Black Americans — the accumulation of medical debt.

It has awarded a total of $100 million to four historically Black medical schools to provide debt relief to students, so that more Black doctors will be available to provide care, which is a factor in both promoting health and erasing debt burdens among Black people. It also gave $150 million to the Johns Hopkins University, Michael Bloomberg’s alma mater, to create additional slots for students of color pursuing Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering, and math fields and to promote the opportunity at colleges that primarily serve people of color.

In May, Bloomberg also assisted with an initiative led by the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, a nonprofit that helps mayors create programs to provide financial stability for low-income people. That effort aims to help three cities develop strategies and programs to help residents, especially Black residents, achieve financial stability.

As August marks the beginning of Black Philanthropy Month, the Chronicle asked Garnesha Ezediaro, who leads the Greenwood Initiative to talk about what Bloomberg has done and why it hopes other grant makers will focus on building Black wealth.

Courtesy of Bloomberg Philanthropies

Garnesha Ezediaro says the Greenwood Initiative is always looking to collaborate with other organizations to work on wealth-building strategies for Black people.

What is significant about the Greenwood Initiative’s mission being focused on supporting the creation of Black wealth?

There are a tremendous amount of people focused on racial equity broadly, but we really saw an opportunity to join those efforts by introducing the Greenwood Initiative, which, one, had a specific equity lens and an articulated focus on Black people. And then, secondly, our work has dual outcomes. We were not only focused on wealth accumulation but also looking at the extraction of wealth out of Black communities. We wanted to make sure that we were focused on both the symptoms and the underlying root causes. Wealth is a function of ownership, and we were drawing the line and saying we were not going to sit around working in income generating efforts per se without there being consideration of ownership.

On ownership, can you explain what that looks like in practice?

We look at wealth as it relates to Black individuals and families. We want to help spread equitable access …….