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Trinity Wall Street Grants Millions for Racial Justice

Trinity Church Wall Street is on a philanthropy spree.

On June 23 the church announced nearly $7 million in grants to 57 organizations dedicated to ending systemic racism in New York City. Of the grants, $500,000 are specifically designated for re-entry support programs for the Rikers Island jail complex.

The church normally announces two grant cycles each year, and the $6.86 million in total grants represents the largest grant cycle ever. It comes on top of nearly $5 million in off-cycle and in-cycle grants and loans this year:

  • $2 million in loans to sustain New York-area non-profits, and $425,000 in emergency grants to 17 organizations, announced earlier this spring;
  • $1.5 million in grants to international organizations, including $500,000 announced earlier in June and a $1 million grant, not previously announced, to Episcopal Relief & Development.
  • $956,000 in grants, also not previously announced, “to support financial capacity building in churches in Africa and South America.”

Neill Coleman, the chief philanthropy officer at Trinity, told TLC the nearly $12 million announced this year already exceeds the church’s previous annual record for giving of just under $10 million, which occurred in 2019. “It reflects both the urgency and the need of responding to COVID, and also the reality that money has been freed up from other areas because of things that we’re not doing due to COVID,” he said.

“The fall cycle will be smaller,” he said, although the church does intend to make additional grants in the fall of 2020.

The church earmarked $1 million for Episcopal Relief & Development’s COVID relief efforts because “we were looking to give a significant amount of funding to a partner that had global reach and expertise in disaster response,” Coleman said, adding that the grant will be formally announced soon. Episcopal Relief & Development spokespersons could not immediately be reached for comment.

“Trinity established racial justice and homelessness as our New York City funding priorities last year.  Now COVID-19 is magnifying the inequities in our city – the very inequities that our grants are designed to address,” said the Rev. Phillip A. Jackson, priest-in-charge and vicar of Trinity Church Wall Street, in the news release. “The pandemic has strengthened Trinity’s calling and commitment to end the cycles of mass homelessness and mass incarceration.”

“The pandemic is magnifying the pernicious interconnection between cycles of incarceration and homelessness,” Coleman said in the news release. These connected cycles were created – and continue to be driven – by systemic racism, and at this moment of national uprising against racism, we hope Trinity’s support can break these cycles and advance new visions and just alternatives that can heal our city.”

Five of the grantees – Exodus Transitional Community, Brooklyn Defender Services, Bronx Defenders, Legal Aid Society, and Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) – are working to bail people out of Rikers Island and provide housing, medication, food, and other services to recently released individuals. During the pandemic, BAJI has provided vital support services for individuals leaving Rikers, including two-week hotel stays that allow for quarantining before returning home.

Trinity also funded 32 grantees whose work centers on racial justice, including 10 grants that are for a large collaborative of organizations working to scale restorative justice as a survivor-led alternative to the criminal legal system. “We’re pleased to support organizations whose work is critical to disrupt the cycles of incarceration. It is only through community organizing, advocacy, and alternative models that we can end the perpetual punishment of Black and brown New Yorkers, and enable them to access the three keys to upward mobility: housing, education, and employment” said Susan Shah, managing director for racial justice at Trinity.

Shah cited grantees such as Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, whose work supports the premise that access to college in prisons leads to greater success and lower recidivism for incarcerated people, and Alliance for Quality Education, which organizes parents to advocate for ending to policies that fuel the “school-to-prison-pipeline” and racial inequality in New York’s public schools.

Trinity also provided 19 grants as part of its housing and homelessness initiative, including 17 grantees that are being funded by Trinity for the first time. “Trinity is proud to support organizations that directly work with people facing housing insecurity in New York City. The grants in this cycle focus on three areas: promoting efforts to increase low-income housing and support homelessness prevention; supporting organizations helping women with justice-system involvement; and aiding organizations engaged in advocacy and policy.” said Beatriz de la Torre, Trinity’s managing director for housing & homelessness.

The complete list of grantees can be found on Trinity’s website.


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