By Leah D. Hudnall, Director, Ohio Climate Justice Fund
I’ve never felt that the environmental sector was one in which I belonged. And I know I’m not alone. Though, I can tell you which parts of town had (and still have) a bad stench in the air from particulate matter. And many of us, children and grandchildren of steel mill workers, have overheard the environmental horror stories of our elders who worked and retired from local factories and steel mills long before the Cuyahoga River caught fire.
Neither environmental activism nor environmental racism are new to Black, Brown and other communities of color. However, efforts to advance a clean energy future have historically excluded diverse voices. And nonprofit organizations led by people of color have received only a fraction of the philanthropic investment that white-led organizations receive.
Propelled by perpetual social and racial inequities, which seem to have hit a new peak during the summer of 2020, partners at The George Gund Foundation and Energy Foundation began to explore an opportunity to invest in efforts across Ohio that sat at the intersection of racial equity, democracy and climate. The idea has blossomed into a new and exciting initiative that launched last month: The Ohio Climate Justice Fund (OCJF).
Launched with seed funding and support from The George Gund Foundation, Energy Foundation, and the Cleveland Foundation, the OCJF will invest in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) organizations in Ohio, working at the intersection of racial justice and climate action. We will award competitive, one-time grants between $15,000-$30,000 to BIPOC-led organizations across Ohio to host community listening sessions and lead communities in conversations about the best and most effective ways to address climate and environmental justice in their communities.
The OCJF was created to elevate a diverse coalition of advocates that will build power to influence policy change and help move us toward a just and inclusive clean energy economy for Ohio. In addition, the Fund promotes equitable grantmaking and challenges the historically white and patriarchal tenets that are many times still rooted in several institutional and philanthropic practices.
The OCJF is not just for organizations that have climate or the environment specifically mentioned in their missions. It is for any organization in Ohio led by a person of color who has proven their ability to build trust in their community and advocate for change.
We’re excited to see the outcome of what happens when we unite with diverse organizations across Ohio and invest in elevating and honoring the voices of Ohioans. Join with us by applying for our grant opportunity by May 19, 2021, or by sharing this new initiative with organizations in your network who are led by persons of color and have an eagerness to engage in environmental issues.
To learn more about the Ohio Climate Justice Fund, our dynamic advisory board, our values, and the funding opportunity, visit www.ohioclimatejusticefund.org; watch our pre-recorded informational session; and follow us on Twitter (@OhioCJFund), Facebook, and LinkedIn to see the latest updates.