Thanks to a $2.4 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Detroit Equity Action Lab will be able to continue its goals of promoting racial equity and fighting structural racism, as it did at its 2015-16 cohort retreat, pictured.

Thanks to a $2.4 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Detroit Equity Action Lab will be able to continue its goals of promoting racial equity and fighting structural racism, as it did at its 2015-16 cohort retreat, pictured.

Photo provided by Aysha Jamali

Kellogg Foundation supports racial equity program with $2.4 million grant

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published March 2, 2018

DETROIT — The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has reaffirmed its support for the Detroit Equity Action Lab — an initiative of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University Law School — with a $2.4 million grant.

The grant will be distributed between November 2017 and 2020. This contribution follows a similar grant of $1.5 million from the Kellogg Foundation that supported the DEAL program between 2014 and 2016.

The purpose of the DEAL program is to advance the cause of racial equity.

“DEAL just finished its first three-year cycle, and it’s beginning its second phase, which the (new) grant coincides with,” explained professor Peter J. Hammer, the director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. “The first three years were good building years, and we assembled a lot of good people and resources, but we need to look to the long term. The larger goal is increasing racial equity in the region.”

Specifically, the DEAL program hopes to use this support to increase the capacity and connectivity of those involved, change the way that people frame and understand issues of race and racism in southeast Michigan, and research how structural racism functions.

“It’s a collaborative process where we recruit cohorts of people to try to create a better society through improving equity and justice,” said Hammer. “The most important thing is to attract good people, and we have found some great people to go on this journey. We have three cohorts of 25 to 30 people. We try to get people of many different backgrounds, and we bring them together for nine-month periods. We meet once a month for all-day sessions, although there are other events in between.”

While DEAL currently has three cohorts of people working within the organization, DEAL hopes to expand that to six or seven in the next three years.

The relationship with the Kellogg Foundation developed due to similar goals and mutual admiration between the two groups.

“Our activities in the community had common goals and objectives with the Kellogg Foundation. We were running into each other in the community and would work with members of their group in the community on projects, and eventually we started working more directly with one another, including through their grant program. They are involved in a number of racial equity programs, such as the National Day of Healing, and they have shown how important they find this issue.”

The cause of racial equity is an important one to the Kellogg Foundation, and one the organization has been particularly focusing on since 2007.

“We want to partner with communities who are working to meet the needs of their most vulnerable populations,” said Edward Egnatios, the Kellogg Foundation’s program officer in Detroit. “We see racial equity needs to be understood better, and we need to build toward a real vision and decide how to take measurable steps toward making improvements.”

The support the foundation has for the DEAL program stems from the potential for success. The Kellogg Foundation leaders see the program as a group that is trying to take action and produce results.

“What it does for Detroit is it develops leadership; it helps individuals in leadership positions in Detroit to develop a racial equity lens and how to apply that lens in the community,” said Egnatios. “We know what a fair and equitable system looks like, but there are lots of children not thriving, so we were looking at how to change that. DEAL also (is using this support) to institute a lab that can help others, including our foundation, work on projects and put them in action.”

Both groups hope their continued partnership will result in strides toward creating more opportunities for underserved populations and combating what they say are often overlooked instances of institutional racism present in society.

“We are working toward providing results in ending disparities in educational opportunities, job availability and resource availability,” said Egnatios. “Equity isn’t just equality of opportunity, it’s asking what needs to take place to change the structure so all Americans, all Michigan residents and all Detroiters can find success. It’s a commitment to fairness and justice, but with more mind toward institutions so there are real results.”