By Jessica Dortch
AFRO News Editor

The Rockefeller Foundation recently added the City of Baltimore to its list of hotspots for economic empowerment. The foundation conducted a deep analysis of the racial wealth gap, environment and local leadership throughout the country and out of hundreds of cities, Baltimore was selected. 

The foundation launched its equity and economic opportunity initiative in February, with a primary focus of providing aid and support to low-wage workers and people of color. In June, that vision gave birth to the Rockefeller Foundation Opportunity Collective (ROC), made up of 12 cities around the country including Baltimore, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, El Paso, Jackson, Miami-Dade County, Houston, Louisville, Newark, Norfolk, and Oakland.  

Although the coronavirus pandemic has caused many nonprofits and social organizations to focus primarily on assisting families, the Rockefeller Foundation has stayed the course. “For us, we didn’t need to pivot or create a racial justice fund, we just needed to double down in the work that we were doing and try to make sure that we were being unapologetic. The data supported the fact that the communities, our cities, our state or our nation cannot prosper if we continue to cut off a significant portion of our population, particularly African Americans, from access to capital and credit,” Otis Rolley, senior vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative, told the AFRO.

The ROC will invest a total of $12 million, including $7 million in specific grants for those hit hardest by COVID-19, to these 12 locations to promote inclusive growth. 

Nonprofit organizations and businesses in Baltimore won’t be receiving grants directly, but rather through community organizations like CLLCTIVLY. “We trust the leadership within the communities we are in to know those communities best,” said Rolley. 

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott expressed his gratitude in a statement saying that small businesses are the “heart of the city.” “This opportunity is another step in the right direction to ensure that our businesses are developed and operated through a lens of equity, ensuring economic growth and equal opportunity for all in Baltimore City,” Scott added. 

Rolley said that the ROC will not expand beyond the 12 cities they selected. Instead, they will continue working with local organizations to support and invest in the community. “We started doing this work before COVID-19 and we plan to continue this work after COVID-19,” Rolley added. For more information, visit www.rockefellerfoundation.org