Charlotte corporate leaders announce $250 million investment in racial equity pledge

By Lauren Lindstrom, The Charlotte Observer

Some of Charlotte’s biggest corporations and government leaders have launched a $250 million initiative for racial equity.

Mayor Vi Lyles last year tapped the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council, made up of prominent chief executives, to tackle issues such as education and economic mobility, to create a corporate response to decades of laws and policies that disadvantaged Black and brown residents.

On Monday they announced the Mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative, the largest investment in Charlotte history intended to address racial disparities, during an event on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University.

Lyles called it “a defining moment” in Charlotte’s history.

“This challenge is going to be with us a very long time,” she said. “These issues that we’re trying to address today are longstanding and deep.” But the donations announced Monday, she said, will tackle them “with accountability and abundance.”

Many of the philanthropic and corporate contributions, which will be paired with taxpayer money, have already come in. About $80 million in the $250 million campaign will come from public funds from the city of Charlotte ($72 million) and library system ($8 million). So far, nearly $97 million has been raised from private philanthropy, including many of Charlotte’s largest businesses.

“The weight of this responsibility of knowing the history and living through the history has long been carried by many of our residents that are Black and brown, by the many grassroots organizations, and often by local government,” Lyles said.

“In my opinion, to address systemic inequity, corporate America has to be at the table,” she said.

An additional $19 million in low-interest debt and equity is being gifted through the campaign for business and other economic development in specific parts of the city.

The Duke Endowment made a $40 million gift, the largest announced Monday, that will specifically go to Charlotte’s only historically-Black college, JCSU. The total fundraising goal for the university is $80 million.

Officials outlined three other broad areas of investment: bridging the digital divide, diversifying leadership of Charlotte’s biggest companies and the city’s six Corridors of Opportunity, historically neglected areas now targeted for public and private money.

The plans cover a five-year period, and could involve things such as grants to small businesses and providing computers and internet to families who lack access to technology. Other specific details have not been released.

Read more at The Charlotte Observer

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