CINCINNATI — The protests, anger and anguish of the past two weeks feel like déjà vu for Delores Hargrove-Young.
But there’s an important difference between what Hargrove-Young felt then -- as she was growing up in the South -- and now.
“In the ‘60s, I was 16. I really felt hopeless because I didn’t have a voice,” she said. “I didn’t have people that were supportive of making sure that everyone experienced the American dream and everyone was treated equal.”
Now Hargrove-Young is a prominent Cincinnati businesswoman and chair of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation governing board. The 18-member board voted unanimously this month to create a new Fund for Racial Justice, which she said will be “laser-focused on giving people hope.”
“It’s given me hope,” she said. “I have a voice now, and I’ve got people that are really like-minded and really do want to change and change what people of color are experiencing from a racial inequity standpoint.”
The foundation will use existing resources and reserves for an initial commitment of $5 million for the fund and has committed to work with members of the community to determine how the money will be spent. Hargrove-Young said she expects the total amount to grow as more people in the community hear about the work and want to help.
“Fundamentally as a community foundation, we exist to respond to the greatest needs and opportunities in our community,” said Greater Cincinnati Foundation CEO Ellen Katz. “This is the call, nationally and locally.”
This is far from the first time the foundation has committed resources to the region’s quest for racial equity.
Greater Cincinnati Foundation invested in the Cincinnati Community Action Now initiative in 2001 following a police officer’s fatal shooting of Timothy Thomas, an unarmed black man, and the civil unrest that resulted. The foundation also invested in the development of the Collaborative Agreement in 2002, community-oriented policing in 2003, the Better Together Cincinnati initiative in 2003 and the creation of the Minority Business Accelerator in 2003.
More recently, the foundation formed the group All-In Cincinnati in 2017, the Racial Equity Matters series in 2018, released the Giving Black: Cincinnati report in 2018 and worked with LISC of Greater Cincinnati to create an affordable housing strategy for the region that was released in May.
“The fund will just continue to magnify what we’ve done with the CAN Commission and what we’ve done with the MBA,” said Hargrove-Young, vice chairwoman of d.e. Foxx & Associates, one of the region’s largest minority-owned firms. “It’ll be another building block to get us to a place where we’re all sitting on the same side of the table, and the playing field has been leveled, and everyone can be prosperous.”
Katz added that the foundation’s “stake in the ground has been around racial equity.”
“Really, there can be no racial equity,” she said, “without racial justice.”
It will take some time to work with members of the community to figure out the types of organizations, efforts and activities the fund will help pay for, Katz said, and the $5 million will be spread over five years.
“We wanted to make it clear that this was not a one-year project,” Katz said. “We recognize it’s not enough. But it’s meaningful in terms of our own resources, and we know that that matters.”
Hargrove-Young said she would like to see the fund grow much bigger, but she called it “a great start.”
“I think that there is some low-hanging fruit as it relates to being able to do community healing, and I think that this fund will be the jumpstart for us to get there,” she said. “It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.”
It’s a marathon that Hargrove-Young had hoped would be over by now.
When her oldest grandson was a little boy many years ago, she said, he found an 8-track tape in her basement and asked her what it was.
She did her best to explain the outdated recording and remembers hoping that the need for diversity, inclusion and racial equity would be as foreign to him someday as that old 8-track tape.
“Well it didn’t happen for him,” Hargrove-Young said of her grandson, who is now 26.
Now she’s hoping her 5-month-old great granddaughter will see that kind of progress in her lifetime.
“I won’t be here to see it, but I’m hopeful,” she said. “I have to have that hope. Otherwise, if you don’t have hope, then you can’t make a difference.”
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. To reach Lucy, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.