INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — There’s a $100 million opportunity on the table to improve the quality of life for African Americans living in Indianapolis/Marion County. Lilly Endowment Inc. announced the grant money last August for the National Urban League.
This money will allow significant funding opportunities to address long-standing issues and challenges facing the African American community.
“We do know that community violence is something that is of concern,” Marshawn Wolley, leader of the Indianapolis African American Quality of Life Initiative, said. “We know that food insecurity, our housing is an issue, education, these are topics that could all be addressed as a part of the quality of life initiative.”
While the grant was made to the National Urban League, the Indianapolis Urban League and the African American Coalition of Indianapolis will determine who gets the money locally.
“In essence, I will then carry forward to the National Urban League, recommendations that have come from our community about the efforts, initiatives and projects that should be supported with the funding,” Tony Mason, President & CEO of the Indianapolis Urban League, said.
While the grant funding was announced last August, the past year has been filled with conversations with many community members.
“We’ve had a really extensive community conversation that’s ranged from one-on-one interviews with everyone from high school students to senior citizens to business leaders to grassroots leaders,” Wolley said. “We’ve done community conversations, Facebook Lives sessions. We’ve engaged experts and we’re also right now doing a community survey.”
The community survey is available online until Friday. They want to hear from all residents.
“We want to hear from the community so there’s buy-in to the ideas that move forward and that come out of this effort,” Wolley explained. “It’s a hundred million dollars. It’s a once in a generation kind of situation and we want to make sure that as we move, we move together.”
Mason said those leading the initiative said they will likely update the community on the priorities in August.
“The first area that we may focus on could be housing because it’s so critical at this time as far as the housing shortage that we’re facing here in this community,” Mason explained.
Following the announcement, they will discuss the proposal process with groups in the community who could assist in addressing the priorities.
“We anticipate that we will be allocating checks in this community by the holiday season,” Mason said. “That’s our goal.”
Mason said this grant period is for five years. He hopes the community can look back after this period and see the progress made.
“In a perfect world, we will look back five years from now and we will say that because of this grant, we were able to leverage $100 million worth of investment into what, $150 million, $200 million, $250 million,” Mason said. “We will be able to hopefully look back at outcomes that we, we made some strides in addressing the achievement gap from an education standpoint, that there is more affordable housing in the community for Black families or for families that are struggling. We hope to be able to look at health disparities and have we made an impact in making sure the families have access to quality health and care?”