Howard University, REFORM Alliance Among Warner Music / Blavatnik Foundation Grant Recipients

Jem Aswad
·3-min read

As part of its mission to invest $100 million in organizations focused on achieving social justice, the Warner Music Group / Blavatnik Family Foundation Social Justice Fund has announced its initial six grant recipients: Black Cultural Archives, Black Futures Lab, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), Howard University, REFORM Alliance and Rhythm & Blues Foundation.

The WMG/BFF SJF was established in June 2020 in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many other Black people. The Fund is intended to serve as an acknowledgement of the contributions Black culture has made to the profitability of today’s music industry. Over 10 years, the Fund will invest in organizations around the globe that build more equitable communities and create real change in the lives of historically underserved and marginalized populations, with heightened attention to Black communities.

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“We have been intentional in structuring the Fund as a separate legal entity to support organizations that are on the front lines of advancing equity and justice for all people,” said Camille Hackney, President of the WMG/BFF SJF and Chief Partnerships Officer at Atlantic Records/Head of Global Brand Partnerships Council at Warner Music Group. “Our Fund intends to not only work to effect structural change through our contributions, but also support Black-owned and led businesses as a core way of operating.”

As part of that purpose-driven structure, the Fund has chosen OneUnited Bank – the largest Black-owned bank in the U.S. – as its banking partner, and Moore Impact – a division of a Black woman-owned start-up Moore Philanthropy, led by Yvonne L. Moore – as its fiscal sponsor. Moore will play a key role in the distribution of the funds. The Advisory Board includes five external members whose counsel and expertise in social justice have been invaluable to defining the Fund’s mission and strategic direction.

Tanya Coke, WMG/BFF Advisory Board member and the Director of Gender, Racial and Ethnic Justice at the Ford Foundation, said: “Over the past eight months, we’ve crafted a grantmaking strategy focused on three key pillars – education, criminal justice, and cultural and performing arts – that promote narrative change about the Black experience. This first tranche of grants – to organizations providing a range of needed services and advocacy to effectuate meaningful change – reflects these guiding principles, as well as the values of Warner Music Group and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.”

Howard University, for example, will receive a multimillion-dollar grant over the course of five years that will go toward the launch of a new music business center at Howard University School of Business. A first-of-its-kind at any historically Black College or University (HBCU), the center will create curriculum development, internship opportunities, executive-in-residence and certification programs, as well as a new recording studio. With the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, the funds have helped over 40,000 returning citizens (i.e., formerly convicted persons) become eligible to vote by paying their remaining legal and financial fees. For the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, the grant will help provide financial and medical assistance to legacy R&B artists who have been confronted with unprecedented economic challenges due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“Providing opportunities for underserved communities in education in the arts paves the way for equal opportunity and representation in the music industry and beyond,” said Len Blavatnik, Chairman of the Blavatnik Family Foundation. “The Fund’s commitment to a sustained effort to achieve change and results will have a lasting, positive impact.”

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