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PRESS ROOM: Community Bank Launches Innovative Friends & Family Fund to Support Entrepreneurs of Color

CHICAGO DEFENDER — There is no shortage of great business ideas among communities of color but what they have historically lacked is the access to seed capital to launch their businesses. The most common funding path for burgeoning business owners begins with asks of support from family and friends, but a stark wealth gap exists that limits minority entrepreneurs’ ability to access significant capital—for example, white households in the United States have a median household wealth of $142K while Black households have a mere $11K in wealth.

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Berkshire Bank Takes Aim at the Growing Racial Wealth Gap with New Loan Fund

By The Chicago Defender

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts—Yesterday, Berkshire Bank announced the launch of their new Friends & Family Fund powered by The Runway Project aimed at helping entrepreneurs of color access the seed capital necessary to fund their dreams and spur economic growth in underserved communities. The fund is one of the first offerings under Berkshire’s new Be First initiative, the bank’s social impact strategy.

There is no shortage of great business ideas among communities of color but what they have historically lacked is the access to seed capital to launch their businesses. The most common funding path for burgeoning business owners begins with asks of support from family and friends, but a stark wealth gap exists that limits minority entrepreneurs’ ability to access significant capital—for example, white households in the United States have a median household wealth of $142K while Black households have a mere $11K in wealth.

This racial wealth gap can be traced to the long history of discrimination in America, including discriminatory “redlining” practices through which the federal government and banks conspired to block Black homeownership (and access to other lines of credit and banking services), thereby stunting the community’s ability to build and transfer generational wealth. And it persists today because many banks are still unwilling to lend to, or invest in, communities of color. Yet despite this lack of access to capital Black entrepreneurs, particularly Black women, are starting businesses at a rate that far outpaces the majority.

Berkshire Bank’s new Friends & Family Fund powered by The Runway Project is designed to bridge the gap in access to capital by providing early stage loans to seed big bold ideas and invest in promising new minority-owned businesses. Key features:

  • The fund is fueled by a specialty Certificate of Deposit that provides a safe, NCUA and FDIC insured and certified, market-rate return on investment while providing liquidity for the loans.
  • Loan applications will be reviewed through a community-based underwriting process designed to eliminate historical barriers like an over reliance on credit scores, personal collateral, or historical tax and financial reporting as an indicator of futures success.
  • Trusted advisors provide holistic business support and ongoing financial coaching to entrepreneurs as they build their companies.

“Our strategy at Berkshire Bank is to be a bank of and for the community. We recognize that all too often banks have been seen as an obstacle rather than a partner—we want to change that. Our new Friends & Family Fund will serve as a model of how banks can expand access to capital in communities that have traditionally been boxed out of the investments needed to help spark economic growth. We are doing our part to invest in our communities because we know that banks can’t continue to grow future profits unless we help to grow wealth across the board. We anticipate that the seed loans we provide to entrepreneurs of color will help generate wealth that returns dividends for decades to come,” said Richard Marotta, CEO of Berkshire Bank.

“Our positive social impact is our strategic advantage,” says Malia Lazu, EVP and Chief Experience Officer of Berkshire Bank who is the architect of the Be First initiative and will oversee the new Friends & Family Fund. “We thrive when the people we serve thrive, which is why we are committed to doing our part to help close the racial wealth gap rather than perpetuate it. Berkshire Bank recognizes the responsibility we have to invest in the communities we serve. We are a community bank; which means our products and programs have to be focused on helping our neighbors build businesses, generational wealth and thrive. There are plenty of reasons why new businesses fail, but the lack of access to seed capital shouldn’t be one of them.”

“We are excited to partner with Berkshire Bank to administer the Friends & Family Fund. This virtually risk-free community investment will be a great win-win for everyone and go a long way towards bridging the seed funding gap for minority entrepreneurs,” said Jessica Norwood, founder of The Runway Project.

The Friends and Family Fund was launched at an event today hosted by lawyer and real-estate executive Richard Taylor on Martha’s Vineyard, a historic vacation hub for African American business, political, and community leaders.

This article originally appeared in the Chicago Defender

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Carolyn’s Kids Foundation Honors Graduates

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Each 8th-grade student received a $100 gift card to go towards their high school fees. Additionally, two high school seniors received the CKF HBCU-Jackson State Bound Scholarship. Jamari White and Kevin Barber Jr. both received $1000 each. Two $500 scholarships were awarded to mothers who are continuing their postsecondary education.
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On Sunday, June 5, 2022, the Carolyn’s Kids Foundation honored 140, 8th-grade students across Chicagoland areas. Hosted at Visions Events Chicago at 11901 S. Loomis, parents, students, and schoolteachers participated in the 6th Annual CKF Scholarship Luncheon.

HBCU Bound Scholars-Jackson State University Carolyn Griffin Palmer, CKF-CEO, Kevin Barber Jr., Jamari White, and Brendolyn Hart-Glover, President of the Jackson State University Chicago Alumni Chapter

HBCU Bound Scholars-Jackson State University
Carolyn Griffin Palmer, CKF-CEO, Kevin Barber Jr., Jamari White, and Brendolyn Hart-Glover, President of the Jackson State University Chicago Alumni Chapter

HBCU Bound Scholars-Jackson State University
Carolyn Griffin Palmer, CKF-CEO, Kevin Barber Jr., Jamari White, and Brendolyn Hart-Glover, President of the Jackson State University Chicago Alumni Chapter

Each 8th-grade student received a $100 gift card to go towards their high school fees. Additionally, two high school seniors received the CKF HBCU-Jackson State Bound Scholarship. Jamari White and Kevin Barber Jr. both received $1000 each. Two $500 scholarships were awarded to mothers who are continuing their postsecondary education.

Carolyn’s Kids Foundation has awarded over $50,000 in the past 5 years, and this year $17,000 was distributed to the Class of 2022. To support the Carolyn’s Kids Foundation and learn more, please visit their website: www.ckfchicago.org and follow them on FB @ckfchicago.

The post Carolyn’s Kids Foundation Honors Graduates appeared first on Chicago Defender.

The post Carolyn’s Kids Foundation Honors Graduates first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Justice Department Announces Investigation of the Louisiana State Police

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Every American, regardless of race, has the right to constitutional policing,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Based on an extensive review of publicly available information and information provided to us, we find significant justification to investigate whether Louisiana State Police engages in excessive force and engages in racially discriminatory policing against Black residents and other people of color.”
The post Justice Department Announces Investigation of the Louisiana State Police first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a pattern or practice investigation into the Louisiana State Police (LSP) to assess whether the law enforcement agency uses excessive force and whether it engages in racially discriminatory policing.

According to a news release, the investigation will include a comprehensive review of LSP policies, training, supervision, and force investigations, as well as LSP’s systems of accountability, including misconduct complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition, and discipline.

“Protecting the civil rights of all Americans and building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve are among the Justice Department’s most important responsibilities,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in the release.

“This investigation, like all of our pattern or practice investigations, will seek to promote the transparency, accountability, and public trust that is essential to public safety.”

The DOJ said it’s conducting the investigation pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which prohibits state and local governments from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of rights protected by the Constitution or federal law.

The statute allows the DOJ to remedy such misconduct through civil litigation, and law enforcement practices under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as under the Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Officials called the investigation separate from any federal criminal investigation of LSP troopers.

Before the announcement, DOJ officials informed Governor John Bel Edwards, Colonel Lamar Davis, and Deputy General Counsel Gail Holland of the investigation.

According to the news release, each pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

As part of the investigation, DOJ officials will reach out to community groups and members of the public to learn about their experiences with LSP.

The Special Litigation Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts of Louisiana are conducting the investigation jointly.

“Every American, regardless of race, has the right to constitutional policing,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

“Based on an extensive review of publicly available information and information provided to us, we find significant justification to investigate whether Louisiana State Police engages in excessive force and engages in racially discriminatory policing against Black residents and other people of color.”

Clarke continued:

“The Justice Department stands ready to use every tool in our arsenal to confront allegations of misconduct and to ensure legitimacy during encounters with law enforcement.”

The DOJ ask that anyone with relevant information to contact them via email at Community.Louisiana@usdoj.gov or by phone at (202) 353-0684.

Individuals can also report civil rights violations regarding this or other matters using the Civil Rights Division’s reporting portal, available at civilrights.justice.gov.

The post Justice Department Announces Investigation of the Louisiana State Police first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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PRESS ROOM: 81 Grassroots Organizations Awarded a Total of $750,000 in Grants through Industry’s ‘Make Golf Your Thing’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The grant program is part of the industry’s broader commitment to making the sport more inclusive for all. Last month, a new Make Golf Your Thing search directory was launched for consumers, consisting of more than 8,400 registered golf programs and organizations across the U.S.
The post PRESS ROOM: 81 Grassroots Organizations Awarded a Total of $750,000 in Grants through Industry’s ‘Make Golf Your Thing’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – 81 grassroots golf organizations will receive a total of $750,000 in funding to further their efforts to engage underrepresented populations of the sport. These groups (*full list below) are being awarded with a grant through Make Golf Your Thing, the industry’s commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in making the sport more welcome for all.

Initially introduced in 2021 (by the Make Golf Your Thing youth & adult player development work group), the grant program to date has provided 155 grants to 111 unique grassroots organizations, totaling more than $1 million overall (May 2021: 43 grants totaling $150,000; Jan. 2022: 31 grants totaling $150,000).

The program was established to support organizations dedicated to increasing participation among golf’s underrepresented populations (i.e., Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous communities, as well as women, LGBTQI+ individuals, veterans, and individuals with disabilities).

“When the game comes together and pools every resource to grow and broaden the reach of the game, only great things can happen,” said Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA and executive sponsor of the youth & adult player development work group for Make Golf Your Thing.

“This unifying movement is helping to make a difference in communities across America and advance the game in ways none of us can do alone.”

“Access to golf in a business context is a pathway to opportunity,” said Anna Alvarez Boyd, co-founder of FairWays to Leadership (one of the 81 grant recipients).

“Our group’s mission is to increase diversity in business and in golf by teaching college students from diverse backgrounds the skills they need to become effective leaders. The financial commitment of the grant program to organizations like ours will only further golf’s collective efforts to bring new and diverse audiences into our sport.”

The grant program is part of the industry’s broader commitment to making the sport more inclusive for all. Last month, a new Make Golf Your Thing search directory was launched for consumers, consisting of more than 8,400 registered golf programs and organizations across the U.S.

The directory allows individuals to search for programs and events using filters such as location, age, ability, gender, etc., giving new and diverse audiences an opportunity to become more engaged in the sport through programs in their own community.

Formally launched in May 2021, Make Golf Your Thing is the industry’s movement to make golf accessible to individuals from all backgrounds.

Led by six cross-industry work groups, the initiative is specifically focused on: education & skill development, talent acquisition, procurement, human resources, youth & adult player development, and marketing/communications.

Funding for the grant program is being administered by the American Golf Industry Coalition, a partnership among golf’s leading organizations to promote and advocate for the collective interests of the sport.

Financial support for the program is led by a contingent of industry supporters committed to making the sport more welcoming and inclusive for all.

About Make Golf Your Thing

A multi-faceted, multi-year movement, Make Golf Your Thing is a collaborative effort across the industry to invite more people to golf from all backgrounds.

Six cross-industry work groups are committed to making the sport more diverse, equitable and inclusive, with a specific focus on: education & skill development, talent acquisition, procurement, human resources, youth & adult player development, and marketing/communications. For more, www.makegolfyourthing.org.

About the American Golf Industry Coalition

The American Golf Industry Coalition advocates on behalf of golf’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts; environmental and sustainability initiatives; contributions to the economy (local and national); health and wellness benefits, as well as charitable giving.

The organization unites the golf industry in pursuit of goals designed to enhance the vitality and diversity of both the business and recreational levels of the sport. The American Golf Industry Coalition is a division of the World Golf Foundation.

To learn more, visit www.golfcoalition.org.

Grassroots Organization City/Town State
A Perfect Swing Foundation Inc. Charlotte NC
Adaptive Golfers North Myrtle Beach SC
Annika Foundation Orlando FL
Be Counted On Foundation Gahanna OH
Black College Golf Coaches Association Vestavia AL
Button Hole Providence RI
Cameron Champ Foundation Citrus Heights CA
CitySwing Foundation Washington D.C.
County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation Alhambra CA
DC on the Green McKinney AL
Edu-Sports Academy Willingboro NJ
El Dorado High School Golf Team El Paso TX
Excel Youth Academy Lawrenceville GA
FabNewport, Inc Newport RI
FairWays to Leadership, Inc. Orlando FL
First Tee – Central Florida Orlando FL
First Tee – Central Mississippi Flowood MS
First Tee – Greater Charleston Mt. Pleasant SC
First Tee – Greater Richmond Richmond VA
First Tee – Greater Sacramento (Sacramento Area Youth Golf Association) Sacramento CA
First Tee – Greater Trenton Trenton NJ
First Tee – Greater Tyler Bullard TX
First Tee – Greater Washington, DC Washington D.C.
First Tee – Greater Wichita Wichita KS
First Tee – Indiana Indianapolis IN
First Tee – Jersey Shore Point Pleasant NJ
First Tee – North Florida (Rising Leaders of North Florida, Inc.) St. Augustine FL
First Tee – Omaha (Hogan’s Junior Golf Heroes) Omaha NE
First Tee – Pittsburgh Pittsburgh PA
First Tee – Southeastern New Mexico Roswell NM
First Tee – Tennessee Knoxville TN
First Tee – Triangle Raleigh NC
First Tee – Tulsa (Youth Development of Tulsa) Tulsa OK
First Tee – West Michigan (Lake Michigan Junior Golf Association) Kentwood MI
Fore Life Inc. Lauderhill FL
Fore the Ladies Sylvania OH
Future Successors Atlanta GA
Gator Junior Golf Association Gainesville FL
Girls Golf of America, Inc. Greensboro NC
Golf. My Future. My Game. Washington D.C.
Greater Cleveland Junior Golf Scholarship Fund Bedford OH
Harris Park Midtown Sports & Activity Center Kansas City MO
Hi-Tee Junior Little League Golf Program Renton WA
Hit It Straight Golf Academy Homewood IL
I AM a Golfer Foundation Dallas TX
iGolf4VETS, Inc. Riverview FL
Inland Golf Academy Riverside CA
Inner City Youth Golfers’ Inc. Palm Beach Gardens FL
Inspiring Greatness In You Covington GA
Jackson Park Golf Association Chicago IL
Ladies of Futurity, Inc West Palm Beach FL
Latina Golfers Association Foundation Los Angeles CA
Little Linksters Sorrento FL
Matrix Human Services Detroit MI
Michigan Women’s Golf Association Detroit MI
Midnight Golf Program Bingham Farms MI
Milwaukee Area Youth Golf Academy, Inc. Glendale WI
Moore-Myers Children’s Fund Jacksonville FL
My Vision Golf Fayetteville GA
New Jersey Golf Foundation Inc. Bedminster NJ
Next 18 Fox Point WI
Northern Texas PGA Foundation – Fairway to Success Dallas TX
One Hundred Black Men, Inc. New York NY
Par Excellence Youth Development Huntsville AL
Range Fore Hope Foundation Blythewood SC
Rose Hill Schools Rose Hill KS
Southern California Golf Association – Junior Golf Foundation Studio City CA
Southern Area Youth Program, Inc. Los Angeles CA
Special Olympics Connecticut Hamden CT
SwingPals, Inc. Durham NC
Ted Rhodes Foundation, Inc. Chicago IL
The Caddie & Leadership Academy Kenosha WI
The Darby Foundation Lafayette LA
The Glove Foundation Mobile AL
The Honors Junior Golf Program Corona CA
The Pinkney Foundation Pittsburg CA
Upstate-Carolina Adaptive Golf Greenville SC
Western States Junior Golf Association Las Vegas NV
Women Golfers Give Back Plymouth Meeting PA
Women in Golf Foundation, Inc. Ellenwood GA

The post PRESS ROOM: 81 Grassroots Organizations Awarded a Total of $750,000 in Grants through Industry’s ‘Make Golf Your Thing’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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