April 10, 2017

Grand Rapids Racial Equity Initiative will advance racial equity

The City is launching the Grand Rapids Racial Equity Initiative – announced in Mayor Rosalynn Bliss’ State of the City address in March – with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The City is launching the Grand Rapids Racial Equity Initiative – announced in Mayor Rosalynn Bliss’ State of the City address in March – with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is providing a three-year $300,000 grant for the initiative, which will accelerate efforts by the City of Grand Rapids and others in the community around racial equity. The initiative will convene stakeholders to create specific action steps that increase equitable employment and reduce racial disparities in the city, create a digital Racial Equity Dashboard for community transparency and accountability, and identify ways for community stakeholders to work together for communitywide impact.

“We are grateful for the Kellogg Foundation’s support of this critical initiative,” Mayor Bliss said. “The Grand Rapids Racial Equity Initiative will bring together the many individuals, groups and organizations working to advance racial equity in our community so we can leverage these efforts for the greatest impact.”

Other specific goals of the initiative include:

Increase job creation in W.K. Kellogg Foundation, or WKKF, neighborhoods of focus in Grand Rapids – neighborhoods in 17 census tracks that are home to roughly one-third of that city's population, have 48 percent of their residents living in poverty and are more racially and ethnically diverse than the city as a whole 
Increase employment among residents in WKKF neighborhoods, which have low-median household incomes and high unemployment
Create group and individual action steps for targeted interventions for immediate and long-term community impact  

Dr. Bill Pink, vice president and dean for workforce development at Grand Rapids Community College who will take over as the school’s president on May 1, will serve as co-chair of the Grand Rapids Racial Equity Initiative with Mayor Bliss.

“I am honored to partner with Mayor Bliss and others in our community on this important work,” Pink said. “This initiative is focused on action and change, and that excites me. We have a tremendous opportunity to make significant progress toward equitable opportunities for everyone in our community.”

The WKKF funding will cover such costs as hiring a facilitator for the initiative and hiring an evaluation and data partner to track and publish program outcomes. It also will cover the costs associated with trainings, meetings and strategic planning sessions for Grand Rapids Racial Equity Initiative members as well as community roundtables and other community outreach.

Mayor Bliss made racial equity a priority of her administration in her inaugural State of the City address in February 2016. Since then, the City has been selected as one of five cities across the nation to participate in the first-ever Racial Equity Here cohort with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity. The City also is working with the National Equity Project to provide training to the City's top management to advance racial equity outcomes in every department.  About 40 employees are participating in this initial training. 

“The Grand Rapids Racial Equity Initiative will strengthen our efforts to eliminate racial disparities in our city,” Mayor Bliss said. “We know that without racial equity we cannot be prosperous as a community.”