At Dogwood, we are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, and these values inform our purpose, our strategic priorities and our decisions. We seek to advance racial equity in all aspects of our organization, from our culture to our interactions with partners and our grantmaking decisions. We support organizations that seek to build awareness of and find solutions that build a more racially just world through innovative ideas, compelling information, just practices and transformative work. Our commitment to racial equity is part of our deep commitment to equity in all forms. This commitment underscores our purpose to dramatically improve the health and wellbeing of all people and communities in Western North Carolina – no exceptions.
Black, indigenous and people of color have played key roles in the history of Western North Carolina, but history hasn’t been so kind in return. Systems and policies that have benefitted many in our society have simultaneously prevented others from sharing in the opportunity and prosperity that our region can provide. These circumstances have pervaded every part of WNC life for centuries, and we can start to address them in ways that create permanent, positive change. We embrace racial equity as a factor across all of our grantmaking, and also designated $5 million in 2020 in funding specifically for communities of color in our efforts to help create a more equitable system.
Racial Equity Community Grants were designed as a way to infuse capital into historically underfunded organizations whose primary purpose is serving Black, indigenous and communities of color, and whose leadership is representative of the communities they serve. Our goal was to recognize and support the great work and leadership that is already taking place, and help to solidify or expand that work. More than $2.8 million in grants from this fund were awarded in November 2020 for immediate needs, program support, general operating support – whatever applying organizations believed would best support their work and increase their impact. Although the Racial Equity Community Grants program is concluded, we still maintain a dedicated pool of funding specifically for organizations primarily led by and serving Black, indigenous and people of color.
Some big wins for WMCF have come in the form of policy changes, including a citywide adoption of a minimal housing standard, and a new county public transportation system. Snow says the “secret sauce” to the WMCH approach is relationships formed among a circle of women of different backgrounds, races, ethnicity.
In 2020, in response to the death of George Floyd, many people within the Hendersonville Community took to the streets to peacefully voice their pain, frustration and thirst for a more peaceful world that is free of racism and discrimination. Those peaceful demonstrations sparked a conversation about finding a lasting way to honor Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). Multiple community members suggested a museum to honor BIPOC. As an established cultural arts organization and major educational destination for children and families, Hands On! became the natural home for this cultural resource. The People’s Museum and Walk of Fame exhibits will be located within the museum’s West Wing, will be free to the public and will feature exhibits showcasing BIPOC history and contributions to Henderson County and WNC.
A public charter school focused on providing a culturally relevant curriculum and high expectations for young learners regardless of race or socioeconomic class, PEAK Academy will open its doors in West Asheville in the Fall of 2021. Dogwood provided start-up funds to help prepare the school for its first classes of kindergarten, first and second graders, intending to add new grades each year through grade eight.