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Newsroom Press release

Open Society Foundations Announce $220 Million for Building Power in Black Communities 

NEW YORK—To support this nation’s historic movement towards racial justice, the Open Society Foundations today is announcing investments totaling $220 million in emerging organizations and leaders building power in Black communities across the country, placing a bet on their ability to carry today’s momentum toward a better tomorrow. 

The largest share of this support—$150 million—will be through a set of five-year grants to Black-led justice organizations that helped to create and now sustain the momentum towards racial equality. Open Society’s response reflects our conviction that real progress requires sustained support over many years and letting leaders accountable to impacted communities shape the path forward. 

“It is inspiring and powerful to experience this transformational moment in the racial justice movement,” said Open Society Foundations’ President Patrick Gaspard. “We are honored to be able to carry on the vital work of fighting for rights, dignity, and equity for oppressed people the world over started by our founder and chair, George Soros.

“We recognize that the struggle to dismantle systemic racism is an ongoing one; it has existed from the dawn of the republic to the present day, and is embedded in every level of government and in our penal and justice systems. But the power-surge of people who have taken to the streets to demand that this nation do better—people of all ages, from all backgrounds, and in every corner of this country—gives hope to us all.”

“The success of this movement, the largest in U.S. history, will be measured over years, not weeks, and we cannot say that Black lives matter and not make a multi-year commitment to a strategy set by and centering Black leaders and organizations who changed America’s sense of what is possible,” said Tom Perriello, executive director of Open Society-U.S.

Recipients of this set of investments range from emerging groups to more established forces for civil rights. Among them: Black Voters Matter, Circle for Justice Innovations, Repairers of the Breach and the Equal Justice Initiative. Some are fighting for an end to policing as we know it, and others are fighting for access to the ballot. Collectively, these organizations make up a vital ecosystem of justice, one that’s poised to harness the extraordinary energy of today and ensure it results in meaningful reform. 

“This is the time for urgent and bold action to address racial injustice in America,” said Alex Soros, deputy chair of the Open Society Foundations. “These investments will empower proven leaders in the Black community to reimagine policing, end mass incarceration, and eliminate the barriers to opportunity that have been the source of inequity for too long.”

Open Society will also make a series of substantial investments, totaling $70 million, in more immediate efforts to advance racial justice. These initiatives will include the following:

  • Investments in a set of cities as they reimagine public safety, moving beyond the culture of criminalization and incarceration, and aiming to create safe, healthy, and racially just communities. We will fund bold and promising strategies to these ends. Through financial support, advocacy, and technical assistance, we will partner with local governments and local organizations—seeking, among other things, to strengthen local expertise in understanding and navigating municipal budgets.  
  • A further set of investments will go toward nurturing the civic engagement of young people, many of whom have engaged in activism for the first time in response to this extraordinary political moment in the history of our country. With summer internships cancelled in a job market ravaged by COVID-19, and high schools and colleges uncertain whether they’ll be able to welcome students back to campus in the fall, Open Society’s funding will create opportunities for students to enroll in internships and fellowships that focus on racial justice, democracy, organizing, and mentorship. 
  • Support for ongoing efforts to fight voter suppression and disinformation, and ensure safe and secure elections, in the midst of the pandemic. 

In the coming weeks, Open Society will be providing further information about these and other areas of investment, including support to emergent efforts to establish truth commissions and other tools to promote racial healing—as well as funding to improve conditions particularly for Black workers and other workers of color—as labor, racial, and social justice organizations prepare for a national “Strike for Black Lives” later this month. 

“Sustaining this extraordinary momentum toward centering justice for Black lives is fundamental to getting our democracy on track,” said Gaspard. “We need to combine long-term commitments to this movement with near-term opportunities, to ensure that the millions who have stepped up to take action can see enough results to stay engaged.”

The Open Society Foundations has been working to advance racial justice in the United States for more than two decades. Founder and Chair George Soros began his philanthropic work in the United States in the 1990s, by challenging drug laws that unfairly target African Americans. Open Society launched its Racial Justice Initiative in 2003 and has steadily grown support for those addressing systemic inequality experienced by historically marginalized communities of color.

In subsequent years, the Foundations helped launch the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, investing nearly $20 million over several years, and gave $50 million to help the ACLU’s campaign to reduce mass incarceration. Last year, Open Society-U.S. invested $25 million in multiyear grants to state organizations led by, and accountable to, people of color, as well as $15 million to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

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