Cleveland Black Futures Fund provides hope for tomorrow

By Briana Oldham, Cleveland Foundation Equity Communications and Engagement Fellow

There is no time like the present. If anything, 2020 has taught us nothing is more important than living in the now. Focusing on today while planning for tomorrow can prove challenging, but since 2020 is doling out lessons left and right, it’s also taught us this: we can face our fears and overcome any obstacle if we do it together. During a time with so much uncertainty, we are compelled to create joy and find hope where we can.

The Cleveland Black Futures Fund is the perfect example of doing just that. It is the embodiment of being intentional about supporting the efforts to dismantle racism. It was created with the goal in mind to invest in and strengthen Black-led and Black-serving social change organizations. The fund will do this by providing resources to allow organizations on the ground in the Black community the ability to move their community forward with equity at the center.

Recently, the Cleveland Black Futures Fund announced an advisory committee will help steer the ship in relation to the application and grantmaking process:

  • Courtenay A. Barton, Program Director for Arts & Culture and Racial Equity Initiatives, Cleveland Foundation
  • Carrie Carpenter, Board Member, Cleveland Foundation
  • The Rev. Dr. Robin Hedgeman, Board Member, Cleveland Foundation
  • Constance Hill-Johnson, Board Member, Cleveland Foundation
  • Treye Johnson, Regional Outreach Manager, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
  • Shanelle Smith Whigham, Vice President, Sustainability & Social Impact, KeyBank
  • Timothy L. Tramble Sr., President & CEO, Saint Luke’s Foundation

I was fortunate to be on the call with this group of community leaders and foundation representatives the first day they met to discuss an outline for the Cleveland Black Futures Fund. Being in the room with people who were poised with intention and convening around community was truly an inspiration and got me excited about how the Cleveland Black Futures Fund is going to transform lives. The tone was genuine and hopeful energy bounced from person to person. They held each other accountable when considering all facets of the fund and asked the hard questions. That afternoon, I was a witness to the thoughtful collaboration that is needed at the beginning of philanthropic initiatives.

With all that is going on around us, from adjusting to the new normal as a result of a global pandemic, to the resurgence of the civil rights movement of this millennium, it is beyond important for Black people to feel seen and heard. It is equally imperative that Black people are not made to feel bad for wanting better, for wanting more. The idea that the future could change for so many Black people is one contingent on the success of the fund, but one that I believe is an idea that will come to fruition. What I’ve gathered so far is that the Cleveland Black Futures Fund will create realistic opportunities for the communities that need them the most and will empower people in the process to make sure they have the tools they need from start to finish. This is something that will revitalize the region and help paint a brighter future. The careful craftsmanship of the Cleveland Black Futures Fund signifies how a moment can turn into a movement. For more details and to learn what’s next, visit