Last June, Warner Music Group and the Blavatnik Family Foundation announced the formation of a joint $100 million Social Justice Fund to support charitable causes related to the music industry, social justice and education, along with campaigns against violence and racism. Now, the Fund has announced its first six grant recipients: Black Cultural Archives, Black Futures Lab, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), Howard University, REFORM Alliance and Rhythm & Blues Foundation.
“We have been intentional in structuring the Fund as a separate legal entity to support organizations that are on the front lines of advancing equity and justice for all people,” said Camille Hackney, president of the Fund and chief partnerships officer at Atlantic Records/head of global grand partnerships council at Warner Music Group. “Our Fund intends to not only work to effect structural change through our contributions, but also support Black-owned and led businesses as a core way of operating.”
The Fund also announced that is has chosen OneUnited Bank — the largest Black-owned bank in the U.S. — as its banking partner, and Moore Impact — a division of the Black woman-owned start-up Moore Philanthropy, led by Yvonne L. Moore — as its fiscal sponsor. As part of the deal, Moore will play a “key role” in distributing the funds.
“Over the past eight months, we’ve crafted a grantmaking strategy focused on three key pillars – education, criminal justice, and cultural and performing arts – that promote narrative change about the Black experience,” said Tanya Coke, an Advisory Board member of the Fund and director of gender, racial and ethnic justice at the Ford Foundation. “This first tranche of grants — to organizations providing a range of needed services and advocacy to effectuate meaningful change — reflects these guiding principles, as well as the values of Warner Music Group and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.”
Howard University — one of the country’s most esteemed Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) — is slated to receive a multimillion-dollar grant from the Fund over a five-year period, with the money going toward the launch of a new music business center at Howard University School of Business. The center, the first of its kind at any HBCU, will house a new recording studio and create curriculum development, internship opportunities and executive-in-residence and certification programs.
The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition — a membership organization dedicated to ending the disenfranchisement and discrimination against people with criminal convictions in the U.S. — has already used the grant funds to help over 40,000 formerly convicted individuals become eligible to vote by paying their remaining legal and financial fees.
The Rhythm & Blues Foundation will use the grant money to provide financial and medical assistance to legacy R&B artists who have suffered economic hardship due to COVID-19. The foundation is committed to the historical and cultural preservation of R&B music and offers financial support, medical assistance and educational outreach to R&B artists who recorded music between the 1940s and the 1990s.
REFORM Alliance aims to dramatically reduce the number of people who are “unjustly under the control of the criminal justice system,” starting with probation and parole. The organization was co-founded by Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin; artists and criminal justice reform advocates Meek Mill and Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter; Kraft Group CEO and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft; Brooklyn Nets co-owner and philanthropic investor Clara Wu Tsai; Galaxy Digital CEO and founder Michael E. Novogratz; Vista Equity Partners founder, chairman and CEO Robert F. Smith; Arnold Ventures co-founder Laura Arnold; and CNN host, author and activist Van Jones. It recently helped win passage of California’s AB 1950 law, which limits adult probation sentence maximums to one year for misdemeanors and two years for felonies.
Black Cultural Archives (BCA) was founded in 1981 to “collect, preserve and celebrate the histories of people of African and Caribbean descent in the UK and to inspire and give strength to individuals, communities and society.” It runs gallery exhibitions, educational programs and public engagement events out of its London headquarters and offers free access to its archives, museum objects and reference library.
Finally, Black Futures Lab “works to build Black political power and change the way it operates – locally, statewide, and nationally” by engaging Black voters and encouraging them to wield their political muscle year-round.
“Providing opportunities for underserved communities in education in the arts paves the way for equal opportunity and representation in the music industry and beyond,” said Len Blavatnik, chairman of the Blavatnik Family Foundation. “The Fund’s commitment to a sustained effort to achieve change and results will have a lasting, positive impact.”
The grant recipients announced today are only the first round; over the next decade, the Fund plans to invest in organizations that “build more equitable communities and create real change in the lives of historically underserved and marginalized populations – with heightened attention to Black communities.” Recipients will be announced twice a year by the Fund’s Advisory Board, with the next tranche to be revealed this fall. Each grantee will meet with Dr. Maurice Stinnett — WMG’s head of global equity, diversity and inclusion and an Advisory Board member of the Fund — and other key WMG executives to explore further partnership opportunities.
In addition to Stinnett and Coke, the Fund’s advisory board includes Live Nation Urban president/Maverick partner Shawn Gee; San Francisco Department of Police Accountability executive director and former chief prosecutor Paul Henderson; 1063 West Broad social impact agency founder and chief impact officer Alencia Johnson; and The Vistria Group LLC private equity firm senior advisor Mona Sutphen, who served as the White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy under former president Barack Obama.
Aside from the Social Justice Fund, WMG’s diversity, equity and inclusion endeavors include the creation of a Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, employee resource groups and more.
You can find more information about the fund here.