Lumina Foundation to devote $15M to dismantling systemic racism

by Mason King, IBJ News Editor/Multimedia Producer

The Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation plans to spend $15 million over the next three years to help fund programs and initiatives targeting systemic racism and how it affects access to post-secondary education.

Founded in 1991, the Lumina Foundation focuses on expanding access to high-quality secondary education for all people. The new initiative is focused on racial justice and equity, and in particular structural barriers that impede people of color from continuing their education after high school.

The purpose of the $15 million commitment is “to help realize the American ideal of ‘a more perfect union,’ in which educational achievement and other measures of health and civic participation are no longer determined by an individual’s race or ethnicity,” said Danette Howard, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for Lumina, in a media release.

The $15 million will replenish Lumina’s Fund for Racial Justice and Equity, which was created in 2017 to help colleges address issues related to race relations. The fund awarded $2.5 million in grants and other support.

That total included a $200,000 grant to the Faith in Action Project at the Indianapolis-based Christian Theological Seminary. The project brings together faith communities, not-for-profits and business and government leaders to address poverty in the city.

Howard told IBJ on Monday that about 25% of the $15 million would be allocated to organizations and initiatives in Indiana, and that Faith and Action likely would again be a recipient.

As part of the $15 million initiative, Lumina already has committed $500,000 to the creation of the Central Indiana Racial Equity Fund, in partnership with Eli Lilly and Co.’s corporate foundation.

The fund will be used to support organizations that seek to explore the racial history of Indiana and the rest of the nation; support efforts to address racial inequities, especially those related to the criminal justice system; and advance data-driven approaches to fighting racism on the local level.

“We know that to establish a just and fair society, we have a moral responsibility to take on the nation’s sordid past—and to push for the conversation and action we will need to resolve racial challenges,” Howard said.

Lumina is among the nation’s top 100 private foundations, with an endowment of $1.2 billion. Its general grant-making budget is about $60 million annually, but it reached $75 million in 2019.

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