A new racial equity fund led by prominent Black and brown executives in Boston is receiving its first round of major gifts, including $5 million each from the charitable foundations of Eastern Bank and State Street.
The New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund, which launched in July, focuses on supporting Black- and brown-led organizations that are working on issues such as policing and criminal justice reform, health care equity, economic empowerment, and youth civic engagement.
Eastern and State Street are each committing $1 million for each of the next five years, and will match employee contributions to the fund.
Eastern Bank CEO Bob Rivers described the inaugural set of gifts as “merely a start” and called on the biggest companies in Massachusetts to support the fund. New Commonwealth has set a fund-raising goal of more than $100 million.
“Consider that if each of the largest 100 companies in Massachusetts makes at least a $1 million commitment over four years to the fund, a historic amount will be raised to tackle systemic racism in Boston and across our Commonwealth,” Rivers said in a statement. “We urge businesses and CEOs to unite with us on this issue.”
State Street CEO Ron O’Hanley, in a statement, applauded the leaders behind the fund and their approach to dismantling systemic racism.
“Massachusetts has a long history of being at the vanguard of change and innovation, and I believe this fund not only has the opportunity to look at the issue of race and inequality with a fresh perspective, but will also truly address key issues that, as a Commonwealth, we can all benefit from,” O’Hanley said.
Executives from Eastern and State Street helped create the New Commonwealth fund, including Eastern president Quincy Miller and State Street chief diversity officer Paul Francisco. They are among 19 prominent Black and brown business leaders who are tapping their companies and networks to grow the fund.
Other organizations that are making contributions in this round include DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement and its subsidiaries ($2.5 million) and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts ($1 million).
DentaQuest Partnership CEO Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, who is among the 19 members who founded the fund, said there has been a tremendous response.
“People are excited, people are energized and very interested in stepping up as allies,” she said. “This is not a one time Band-Aid being proposed ... If we can garner the collective strength and expertise in this state, we can create a new pathway forward.”
The fund is starting as the country undergoes a racial reckoning after the killing of George Floyd in May by a white police officer in Minneapolis who kept his knee pressed on Floyd’s neck until he stopped breathing. In the aftermath, corporate America has wrestled with its role in closing racial inequities.
The City of Boston has also launched the Boston Racial Equity Fund with money that will be privately raised. Emerson College president Lee Pelton is heading the city fund’s steering committee and Karilyn Crockett, the city’s new chief of equity, will oversee the fund.
Shirley Leung is a Business columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.