Episcopal Church of Maryland Awards Reparation Funds to Nonprofits

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Nearly two years after establishing a fund to redress systemic racism and slavery, the Episcopal Church of Maryland on Thursday awarded $180,000 in grants to its first class of organizations tasked with “restoring African-American communities and black”.

The six organizations, awarded $30,000 each, include nonprofits, church-affiliated initiatives and youth centers committed to providing economic, educational, housing, environmental and healthcare resources to black children and families.

The winners included the Samaritan community, St. Luke’s Youth Center (SLYC) and The following, based in Baltimore City; Calvert Concept Charitable Corp., a Calvert County startup; I believe in myself to Frederick; and Anne Arundel Connecting Together in Anne Arundel County.

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Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton, the first black bishop in the Diocese of Maryland, said racial justice and the Episcopal Church’s restorative work in the state began more than 15 years ago when leaders began to document how the institution had benefited from slavery.

Leaders also studied how the Church continued to benefit from systems that oppressed or marginalized black people even after slavery was abolished.

“It didn’t sit well with us,” Sutton said during his introductory speech at Thursday’s awards ceremony. Rather than the church “delaying”, the bishop said there was a collective feeling to “take the lead”.

“Let’s put our money where our mouth is,” he said.

The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland voted at its general convention in 2019 to study the topic of reparations, which included a finding that most, if not all, of its churches built before 1860 included labor or materials made by slaves.

A year later, the reparations fund was established at its annual convention with $1 million in seed capital, which was to be reinvested in Maryland communities shackled by the legacy of slavery and persistent systemic racism. . The fund is now over $1 million due to additional contributions in the two years since its inception.

“A lot of people in the United States wonder why reparations? I didn’t own slaves, and maybe my family didn’t own slaves, and I love everyone,” Sutton said at the awards ceremony. “Today is part of that answer.”

“The legacy of more than 350 years of discrimination against people of African descent has taken its toll on this nation. And it touched all of us,” the Bishop continued. “None of us may have been guilty, but we all have a responsibility. Today is an indication of the responsibility we are taking.

The Diocese of Maryland established a Reparations Task Force to develop the grant program and choose the first class of recipients. The process was open to any organization operating within the geographic region of the Diocese of Maryland – which includes the central, western and southern portions of the state. The Maryland suburb of DC were not eligible because they are part of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

Representatives from Calvert Concept said the Diocese’s investment felt like an ‘expression of confidence’ in their startup idea to help build generational wealth for Black families through home and business ownership. .

Shel Simon, deputy CEO of Next One Up in Baltimore, echoed that sentiment, thanking the church for supporting the work his group is doing with the city’s young men.

“When I think about the painful history of our country and how often it is ignored or swept under the rug, it needs to be acknowledged so that we can move forward as a community,” he said. he declares.

St. Luke’s Youth Center, a collaboration of West Baltimore families, plans to use its grant money to hire an arts and public education coordinator.

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“We will use the funds to help continue to give voice to people who have been silenced and unable to speak out,” said Amanda Talbot, SLYC’s Executive Director. “It’s really important to us. Our families and parents have a lot to say.

Aje Hill, the founder and executive director of I Believe in Me, accepted his organization’s grant with a speech on the importance of believing. He served eight years in prison for crimes he committed as a ‘threat to society’, he said, before walking out and realizing he had the power to give back and make amends honorable to Frederick, where he grew up.

“I know what it’s like to be in pain. I know what it’s like to be sad. I know what it’s like to be broken,” Hill said. “We aim to keep children out of this darkness.”

The grant money, he said, will be used to set up after-school programs that provide mentoring, academic tutoring and life skills development.

He said he made the trip to the ceremony from Frederick because he wanted to see the faces of the people who had chosen his organization for the restorative grant.

“These are the people who believe in us,” Hill said. “Thank you so much for believing in us.”

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