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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + FAQ (pinned post)

Tsai Foundation announces first 5 grants ($20K-$50K), to Black leaders in Brooklyn, from $50M Social Justice Fund. (But let's not forget arena project's social-justice history.)

Yesterday, after first gaining publicity with a strategically placed article (12/16/20) in the New York Daily News headlined Brooklyn Nets owners score points with social justice fund, the owners announced in a press release, JOE AND CLARA TSAI ANNOUNCE FIRST FIVE BLACK LEADERS TO RECEIVE GRANTS FROM SOCIAL JUSTICE FUND.
Such worthy philanthropy--supporting work in healthcare, education, and climate justice, among other things--also deserves scrutiny, since it can help with marketing, as I wrote in September when the social justice fund was announced at $50 million over ten years. (That could make the fund one of the largest philanthropic efforts in Brooklyn, if the grants are concentrated here; the announcement notes a "priority focus on Brooklyn.")

Also, as I discuss below, it can help distract from the extravagant but unfulfilled promises associated with the Barclays Center and larger Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project, notably the Community Benefits Agreement, or CBA, which was supposed to "to encourage systemic changes in the traditional ways of doing business on large urban development projects."

Consider transparency: while the $50 million total was highlighted in Tsais' press release, the dollar value of each grant was unmentioned. I couldn't get an answer when I inquired, but the BK Reader reported that the grants range between $20,000 and $50,000--which suggests a total of perhaps $200,000. (That implies potentially 25 more announcements, or rounds of grants, over the year, and significant cumulative impact.)

In seemingly coordinated fashion, the NBA Foundation yesterday announced larger grants, $2 million in inaugural grants to support Black communities to seven organizations, part of a league-wide commitment of $30 million a year--$1 million per team--over the next ten years. See full press releases at bottom.

Tsai Foundation grants

The recipients (with hyperlinks, below, in news release):
  • Dr. Uché Blackstock, CEO of Advancing Health Equity, which partners with healthcare organizations to combat bias and structural racism in the healthcare system, who will support the Brooklyn Movement Center and Ancient Song Doula Services, two Brooklyn, Black-led organizations.
  • Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, founder of the think tank Urban Ocean Lab, focused on equitable climate policies, whose work includes Red Hook.
  • Natasha S. Alford, a journalist and storyteller for TheGrio, who will use her grant to start a scholarship fund for student journalists of color in her hometowns of Syracuse and Rochester and in her current borough of Brooklyn.
  • Rafiq Kalam Id-Din II, founder of Ember Charter Schools, a Black-led charter school in Bed-Stuy focused on African and African-American culture and dedicated to anti-racism and justice for Black students.
  • Michael “Zaki” Smith, who works to dismantle the barriers in employment, education, and housing faced by formerly incarcerated people like himself, focused on East New York, Brownsville, and Bed-Stuy, where his work as a barber has sparked his activism.
The $50 million may be "transformational," as Kalam Id-Din told NY1, and the $20,000 to him (as NY1 reported) should amplify his work, but it's not enough, for example, to even hire a full-time teacher. Also see coverage in Bklyner.

Some context, and past social-justice promises

Consider that the Barclays Center still has a taint in many Brooklynites' eyes--even as others consider the arena a sign of Brooklyn's renaissance.

We shouldn't ignore the lingering social-justice issues associated with the arena and the larger Atlantic Yards project, which promised construction careers, housing affordable to low-income people, and MWBE contracting--all of which have fallen way short, even as the project has likely contributed to significant indirect displacement in gentrifying Black Brooklyn.

In one irony, impoverished sections of Black Brooklyn were gerrymandered into maps to create artificial zones of high unemployment, thus enabling the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park developers to get $577 million in cheap financing from immigrant investors, likely saving more than $200 million (at 5% savings per year, over seven years).

None of that was Tsai's doing, as he became majority owner of the Brooklyn Nets and owner of the arena operating company in 2019. He deserves credit for paying the employees of the arena--$6 million through June, and likely more since then, though we'll wait for confirmation.

That said, Tsai's ownership, as with previous arena company ownership, never delivered on the CBA promise to offer the arena to nonprofit groups for ten events a year, at low cost.

As I wrote in September, the Taiwanese-Canadian Tsai, whose fortune has been made in China with Alibaba, is surely mindful of his shifting press coverage. In fall 2019, he generated pushback when, in response to Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey’s tweet “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” he vigorously defended China’s line.

Given that, Tsai’s donations of ventilators and personal protective equipment, at a time when New York City faced shortages, could be seen as not only generous but also strategic. More clearly strategic was Tsai's belated endorsement of peaceful protests at the Barclays Center, which, as one activist put it, had been "totally appropriated."

After all, the arena belatedly offered a Martin Luther King Jr. quote at the arena's oculus, after many noticed the disconnect between advertising and protest, and has since returned to advertising, sometimes disruptively so. It's a business.

Still, as I wrote in September, even if the Nets don't deliver a championship, the Tsais’ relatively adroit response to recent events, and willingness to spend a significant but affordable (they're billionaires) sum on community initiatives, has so far helped reframe his reputation. And it might help attract future free agents, especially compared with the New York Knicks.

Behind the grants

From the Daily News:
“Dollars always matter,” said Kalam Id-Din, 46. “We didn’t even apply for this grant. They found us. We’ve been doing the hard work with few resources.”
Behind the grants is the Black Voices for Black Justice Fund, which counts the Tsai Foundation as a sponsor and lists, among grant recipients, the five announced yesterday. From the BSE Global press release:
The Brooklyn awardees’ work will be amplified via The Black Voices for Black Justice Fund to support Black leaders addressing systemic racism at the national and community level. The Tsai Foundation’s Social Justice Fund will focus on programs for BIPOC and women-owned small businesses; skills training to improve job mobility; mentorship of young women and men of color; and immediate needs of the Brooklyn community created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the fund does produce meaningful progress regarding skills training and small business, it could belatedly fulfill some of the promises in the Atlantic Yards CBA.

The BSE Global press release, 12/17/20

JOE AND CLARA TSAI ANNOUNCE FIRST FIVE BLACK LEADERS TO RECEIVE GRANTS FROM SOCIAL JUSTICE FUND

BROOKLYN, NY — Today, Clara Wu Tsai and Joe Tsai, owners of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, the WNBA’s New York Liberty, and Barclays Center, announced the first grant recipients of the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation’s Social Justice Fund as part of the couple’s five-point action plan to support social justice and equality initiatives that benefit Black, Indigenous and People of Color. The Tsai Foundation’s Social Justice Fund has committed $50 million over ten years to drive economic empowerment and address the systemic imbalances that produce racial gaps in education, health, and wealth, with a priority focus on Brooklyn. All five of today’s recipients are Brooklyn-based Black leaders tackling the root causes of racial disparities in healthcare, climate policy, education, journalism, and the criminal justice system.

The first awardees of the Tsai Foundation’s Social Justice Fund are:
  • Dr. Uché Blackstock (@uche_blackstock) is an ER doctor who worked out of a Brooklyn urgent care center at the height of COVID, and the founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, which partners with healthcare organizations to combat bias and structural racism in the healthcare system. Dr. Blackstock will use her grant to support the Brooklyn Movement Center and Ancient Song Doula Services, two Brooklyn, Black-led organizations committed to reducing racial health inequities.
  • Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (@ayanaeliza) is a Brooklyn native, the founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank dedicated to advancing equitable climate policies in coastal cities, policy expert, and author of the Blue New Deal. Named one of Elle’s 27 Women Leading on Climate and called “the most influential marine biologist of our time” by Outside Magazine, Dr. Johnson’s work focuses on reimagining the future of coastal cities and how to handle the risk coastal communities like Red Hook in Brooklyn face from sea level rise.
  • Natasha S. Alford (@NatashaSAlford) is a journalist and storyteller committed to amplifying untold stories impacting Black America and is the Senior Correspondent and VP of Digital Content for TheGrio. Natasha will use her grant to start a scholarship fund for student journalists of color in her hometowns of Syracuse and Rochester and in her current borough of Brooklyn.
  • Rafiq Kalam Id-Din II (@Rafiq610) is the founder of Ember Charter Schools, a Black-led charter school in Bed-Stuy focused on African and African-American culture and dedicated to anti-racism and justice for Black students. He is a leader in the charter school movement and founder of the #BlackLedSchoolsMatter initiative.
  • Michael “Zaki” Smith (@Zakithebarber) is an activist and policy expert who works to dismantle the barriers in employment, education, and housing that prevent formerly incarcerated Americans like himself from fully reintegrating into society. Focused on East New York, Brownsville, and Bed-Stuy, Zaki is also a barber whose social justice work was sparked by conversations with patrons at his barbershop.
“When it comes to dismantling systemic racism and economic inequality in our communities, we want to lead by example. That’s why it is so important to us to invest in the Black leaders combating racial injustice from every angle right here in Brooklyn,” said Wu Tsai. “They are on the ground day in and day out — working to eliminate racial disparities in our healthcare system, advocating for environmental justice, amplifying the untold stories of Black Americans, mentoring young people of color, and fighting on the front lines of the most pressing social justice issues of our time. We are honored to support their anti-racist work and to invest in creating a more just and inclusive Brooklyn through scalable, proven initiatives.”

The Brooklyn awardees’ work will be amplified via The Black Voices for Black Justice Fund to support Black leaders addressing systemic racism at the national and community level. The Tsai Foundation’s Social Justice Fund will focus on programs for BIPOC and women-owned small businesses; skills training to improve job mobility; mentorship of young women and men of color; and immediate needs of the Brooklyn community created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This award has immense value when it comes to advancing racial equity,” said Dr. Uché Blackstock. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated pre-existing racialized health disparities, and I will use these funds to support two Brooklyn, Black-led organizations advocating for food sovereignty and looking at the impact of COVID-19 and racism on access to birthing care. To achieve health equity, we need to confront the ways structural factors and structural racism influence health outcomes.”

“As a Brooklyn native, marine biologist, and climate policy nerd, I understand that addressing our climate crisis and addressing injustices are inextricably linked,” said Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. “Unsurprisingly and unfortunately, it is communities of color who are often most at risk from climate impacts, such as rising sea levels and pollution. The Tsai Foundation’s grant will benefit Urban Ocean Lab’s work to shape policy for coastal cities that are livable and just.”

“At Ember Charter Schools for Mindful Education, we work primarily with low income Black and Brown children and youth to transform the racist and ineffective ‘test prep’ public school experience into one focused on their holistic human development. Our work is laser focused on confronting and disrupting systemic racism and the gargantuan equity gap it produces and continues to expand. Sadly, like most Black-led organizations, despite our innovative and successful efforts, we’ve struggled to achieve equitable funding with our White-led peers. That is why this investment from the Tsai Foundation is so impactful — finally we have a large foundation willing to invest in the voices, vision and leadership of Black people on our terms.” said Rafiq Kalam Id-Din II, founder of Ember Charter Schools.

“As a formerly incarcerated person, I know what it’s like to deal with ongoing collateral consequences due to your past with the justice system even after you serve your time,” said Michael “Zaki” Smith, a criminal justice reform activist and policy expert. “This is the silent life sentence that many people in Brooklyn suffer through. It denies them a fair second chance and restricts access to employment, education and housing. My grant will go towards exposing the racialized history of how we got here and how legal discrimination keeps New Yorkers from restarting their lives.”

“Too often, the media industry is seen as a difficult field to break into and financially unviable for students from low-income and working-class families,” said Natasha S. Alford, Senior Correspondent and VP of Digital Content for TheGrio. “As a result, many of the stories and issues in these communities tend to be overlooked in an industry that has an essential responsibility to highlight racial inequity. That’s why I plan to start a scholarship fund for student journalists of color, which will target youth in my hometowns of Syracuse and Rochester and my current borough of Brooklyn.These young people deserve the support to enter an industry that desperately needs their voices, talent, and diversity.”

The Social Justice Fund is part of the Tsai Foundation’s five-point plan to promote inclusiveness, justice, and equal opportunity. The other parts of the plan include supporting player voices; creating a more inclusive culture; leveraging league-wide influence; and community engagement. The full plan can be viewed HERE.

The NBA press release, 12/17/20

NBA Foundation announces $2 million in inaugural grants to support Black communities
Seven organizations have been selected as the recipients of the first grants from the Foundation.

December 17, 2020 11:04 AM

NEW YORK – The NBA Foundation today announced a total of $2 million in inaugural grants that will drive economic empowerment in Black communities through employment and career advancement. Seven organizations – exalt, Management Leadership for Tomorrow, Marcus Graham Project, Operation DREAM, TEAM Inc., The Knowledge House and the Youth Empowerment Project – have been selected as the recipients of the first grants from the Foundation. The organizations align with the NBA Foundation’s mission to provide skills training, mentorship, coaching and pipeline development for high school, college-aged, job-ready and mid-career Black men and women in communities across the United States and Canada. These inaugural grants aim to increase education and employment access in Black communities, as well as enhance and grow the work of these national and local organizations. Below is a full list of the grantees:

exalt

exalt is an organization based in New York City that elevates expectations of personal success for court-involved youth through a culturally relevant curriculum that emphasizes Critical Pedagogy, 1-on-1 support and paid-internships, and ensures they have an opportunity to advance in the areas of education, employability and criminal justice system avoidance.

Management Leadership for Tomorrow

Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) is an organization that is changing the face of leadership across employer America and driving breakthrough results for individuals and institutions by providing a high-performance playbook, sports-like professional coaching and an accelerating network of peers and mentors for more than 10,000 students and professionals of color.

Marcus Graham Project

The Marcus Graham Project (MGP) is a national organization focused on developing the next generation of diverse leaders in advertising, media and marketing through training, mentorship and professional development opportunities to ensure the industry is more inclusive and better reflects the diverse world we live in.

Operation DREAM

Operation DREAM provides developmental opportunities, mentoring and employment readiness support for more than 250 young men of color in Milwaukee through programs that correspond to the age-appropriate development needs of participants.

TEAM Inc.

Tech Exposure & Access through Mentoring Inc. (TEAM), based in Oakland, Calif., is focused on empowering students using their passion for sports to build new STEM skills and expand opportunities for their futures.

The Knowledge House

The Knowledge House (TKH) is a New York City-based organization that builds an education-to-employment pipeline in underserved neighborhoods by empowering young people with the 21st century skills needed to launch careers or ventures that will have an uplifting impact in their communities.

Youth Empowerment Project

Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) is a New Orleans-based organization that annually serves more than one thousand children and young adults through community-based education, mentoring, employment readiness and enrichment programs.

The NBA Foundation will continue to collaborate with all 30 teams, their affiliated charitable organizations and the NBPA to support national and local organizations in communities across the U.S. and Canada. Over the next 10 years, the 30 NBA team governors will collectively contribute $30 million annually in initial funding, and the Foundation will work strategically with marketing and media partners to develop additional funding sources.

To learn more about the NBA Foundation, please visit www.nbafoundation.com.

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