Nonprofits from Newport and Tiverton are among the organizations that will share $660,000 in grants from the Rhode Island Foundation. Sankofa Community Connection in Newport and Movement Ground Farm and Pocasset Pokanoket Land Trust in Tiverton will receive $60,000 apiece over the course of a two-year capacity-building program.

Only nonprofits led by people identifying as Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous or multi-racial were eligible. “Structural racism is a growth barrier to many organizations. Our grants give them the resources necessary to break the ‘starvation cycle’ that limits their ability to maintain or grow their programs,” said Angie Ankoma, executive director of the Foundation’s Equity Leadership Initiative and a vice president at the Foundation. 

Sankofa Community Connection in Newport will use its grant to support its programs and annual cultural events, such as the Day of Renewal, Juneteenth and Kwanzaa Celebrations as well as continuing to address the community’s post-pandemic needs.

“This grant is game changing for us. We use our knowledge, lived experiences, and ability to connect with the community on a deeper level to build a powerful coalition,” said J. Niko Merritt, Sankofa’s founding executive director. “It will allow us to continue our work which addresses the need for residents, community members and participants alike to see people that look like them leading and offering services. In this way, we are different from many traditional, larger non-profits; we look like the people we support, we share lived experiences, and we can provide personal empathy in tough situations.”

The organization currently hosts about seven community-wide events each year, as well as summer camps for middle school students and high school students. During the pandemic, Sankofa shifted a little to meet the needs of the community during the pandemic. 

“Our distinctive capacity is exemplified in the way the community has come to trust us and see us as family. With Sankofa, many community members, particularly those of color, express that they feel uniquely safe, empowered and supported,” said Merritt. “We will continue to follow along with our mission to educate, celebrate and empower.”


Movement Ground Farm operates a 10-acre farm off Puncatest Neck Road that gives people of color the opportunity to work the land in a communal effort to raise vegetables, fruit and meat birds for sale and their own consumption. 

“In order to straddle giant leaps forward in organizational growth and expansion of critical farm infrastructure, we are looking inward to build the leadership capacity to carry out the work. We will use the grant to build sustainable, perennial, BIPOC-leadership in our farm organization by developing a cooperative model of leadership and commit to practices that invest equitably in the organization, the land, and its workers,” said Kohei Ishihara, executive director. “This grant is just what we needed – a flexible and unrestricted source of income to meet us in this dynamic moment of growth.”


Pocasset Pokanoket Land Trust will use its grant to build up its fund development and programming teams. The organization was founded in 2017 to protect the tribal lands in Tiverton during construction of the Twin River Casino.  


“This grant is important to our tribal organization on multiple levels. First, the funds will allow us to build our small funding and programming teams, increasing our overall capacity to serve our people. Second, the two years of training provided by the Foundation will help us in growing our tribal organization. Third, we look forward to connecting and collaborating with the impressive group of nonprofits in the cohort,” said Chief George Spring Buffalo, the organization’s founder and CEO. 


“The resulting increase in capacity will directly translate into an increase in services through the organization’s core programs of land sovereignty, agricultural diversity, and economic development for our tribal and Indigenous People of Rhode Island,” he said. All 11 grant recipients will co-create the learning curriculum, which will cover topics such as good governance, fundraising, communications planning and financial planning. In addition, consultants of color will provide workshops and technical assistance. 

The other recipients are A Leadership Journey in Providence, Mixed Magic Theatre and Cultural Events in Pawtucket, Movement Education Outdoors in Woonsocket, Reentry Campus Program in Providence, Sunrise Forever in Providence, Women’s Refugee Care in Providence, Mount Hope Community Center in Providence and Youth in Action in Providence.
 

The capacity-building program is just one facet of the Foundation’s broad, 3-year, $8.5 million plan to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and access – with a first focus on racial equity – above and beyond its traditional yearly grant-making. Recent work includes launching the Equity Leadership Initiative to develop a pipeline of leaders of color for positions of influence throughout Rhode Island and creating a grant program to help nonprofits create anti-racist organizational cultures. 

“Eliminating disparities and inequities is among our core values, and is a major focus across all of our work in the community. We use a racial equity lens while making decisions about allocating resources to improve health, educational success and economic security among other critical issues,” said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation. 

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $68 million and awarded a record $87 million in grants in 2020. Since its centennial five years ago, the Foundation has awarded more than $284 million in grants and has raised more than $328 million. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit rifoundation.org.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).