Black arts organizations in Atlanta receive less funding due to lack of equity from philanthropic organizations

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Photos of the Ballethnic Black Art showcase. (Photo credit: Lenz Capd)

Last year, the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta awarded more than $ 1 million in funding to 28 arts organizations in Atlanta. Over $ 1 million has been awarded to organizations run by people of color.

Prior to that, the organization and other philanthropic organizations like the one in Atlanta had supported predominantly white organizations for 27 years, according to a report by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Why don’t black-led organizations get the same funding as their white counterparts?

“It has always been their practice. They have money that they are sitting on that needs to go to black organizations and they choose not to, ”said Heather Infantry, equity and inclusion expert at Generator and the Transformation Alliance of philanthropic organizations. ‘Atlanta. “From 1993 to 2020, 87% of funding went to white organizations, while black-led organizations received only 11% of funding from philanthropic organizations during this time. These organizations set rules and use requirements where black-led organizations are not eligible for grants. “

Frank Fernandez, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, said the organization had a racial calculation after the death of George Floyd, had taken action with black Americans and admitted the 28-year history of companies like his. to black-run arts organizations in Atlanta.

In 2020, the Metro Atlanta Arts Fund supported small to medium-sized arts organizations, including those that responded with safe and innovative programming to elevate the arts across the region. With support from an anonymous donor, the Foundation was able to provide a third round of additional grants totaling $ 150,000 in December 2020 to support other black-led arts organizations. Throughout 2020, the foundation also orchestrated broader work to better focus racial equity across the organization, which included the appointment of five black board members and two black leaders.

Fernandez said there was a town hall earlier in the month to address the issue of fairness where they got input from the black arts community.

Photos of the Ballethnic Black Art showcase. (Photo credit: Lenz Capd)

“The philanthropic organizations in Atlanta need to apologize to the black-run nonprofits in Atlanta for the way we have handled the grants. We have been looking at equity over the past year, which will bring a strong equity lens to our work and in particular a racial equity lens, ”said Fernandez. “Last year, the Community Foundation began meeting with different nonprofit arts leaders to get reviews of our grant practices. In September of last year, we donated $ 1 million to the arts community. Ninety-one percent of that funding goes to black-led groups. We are currently working on a review of our granting practices and a new strategy for the arts. “

Visual artist Charly Palmer, who currently has a visit to the Hammonds House Museum in Atlanta, has had a successful career but has said that being a black artist is difficult and that many black artists go through a difficult time and that they are late due to lack of opportunities. Over the past year, Palmer said that has changed and that he has seen black people get more opportunities and said that due to the George Floyd tragedy in 2020, white guilt is starting to build. so that people in senior positions begin to make a difference.

“Black is universal. We’ve contributed to the arts globally through theater, music, dance, visual arts, but we don’t often get the credit we deserve, ”said Palmer. “These tragedies have always happened. We are responsible for so many movements. We are here, we are doing it, we just weren’t recognized. “

Nena Gilreath, co-founder of Ballethnic Dance Company in Atlanta and Athens, Georgia, said she has been in business for more than 30 years in Atlanta and wondered where she would be as an organization if she got more funding from the start compared to now.

“When we’re the talent it’s one thing, but there’s a different level of scrutiny when we’re the managers or the leaders,” Gilreath said. “It’s disturbing to see the difference in the way we are helped compared to other organizations. We had this conversation for years before George Floyd. The Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta must have listened. There is a recalculation. Before, I knew something was wrong, but to see the real facts, the facts are there. Hopefully they will listen this time.

Ballethnic Dance Company has been in business for over 30 years in Atlanta. (Photo credit: Lenz Capd)

Gilreath said she hopes there will be a difference in the future as she has seen small changes. Ballethnic recently received funding from the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta and hopes it won’t be the last time.

“When we integrate the arts and cultural expression into the planning process, our planning efforts have more innovative and creative results that are ingrained and reflect a diversity of experiences and perspectives,” said Marian Liiou, Head of Atlanta Regional Commission arts and community engagement program. . “Bringing diverse perspectives and creative energy into the community planning process helps our communities better meet their challenges in a way that improves the quality of life for all residents. “

“Dark art is the path through which we all find redemption and transformation of a troubled history that continues to undermine our humanity and undermine our best intentions,” said Infantry. “Social justice, both in the lived experience and in the expression of black artists, is inherent in their work. Philanthropy misses the mark to advance equity when black voices are excluded, or we relegate black art to just being for black people. “

“Over the past several decades, there has been implicit bias and systemic racism in all areas of public health, youth development, the arts, and public housing in Atlanta. Black groups have not been put on an equal footing. The people who gave the funds weren’t thinking about these things, ”Fernandez said. “Today, we are removing the barriers that prevent people from qualifying and being eligible for our grants. We have made a long term commitment to racial equity. We want to do it right, we listen and we will act as quickly as possible. “

“The vision of a beloved community has been conceived and articulated here in this city and the black art coming out of Atlanta by extension of the movement is the main voice in this urgent call for racial reckoning,” said Infantry.

For more information on the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Greater Atlanta Community Foundation, visit www.atlantaregional.org or visit cfgreateratlanta.org. Visit ballethnic.org and www.charlypalmer.com for blacks in the arts.


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