An eastern Iowa City looks to make its community more equitable for everyone through financial assistance.
For the last two years, the city of Iowa City has given out $25,000 for its Social Justice and Racial Equity grant. For its third year, that number tripled to $75,000 after the city council voted to increase it.
“It’s a big sisterhood,” RaQuisha Harrington said, with a laugh. “In so many ways, it’s a sisterhood.”
Harrington is the president and one of the founding members of Sankofa Outreach Connection.
“Our mission is to create safe places for women of color to freely come together, to express themselves, to grow in whatever area it is whether it is educationally or to business owners,” Harrington said.
Sankofa Outreach Connection was one of the first organizations to benefit from the grant. The organization was given $13,500 in the first year of the grant.
Harrington said it was the jumpstart they needed and one that helps a group often marginalized and overlooked.
“We wanted them to be apart of the larger community and just not be on the outskirts complaining about what wasn’t available but make it available,” she said.
The city’s human rights commission oversees the grant and chooses who will be selected from the applications.
“Getting started is always a real challenge when you got a good idea and can meet the requirements there. That’s what we’re really looking for,” Joe Coulter, human rights commissioner, said.
Coulter said more than 20 applications were submitted last year. Only three were able to be awarded money. He said the increase is good and it catches up with the needs of the growing community.
“The diversity in our community has increased dramatically. Especially over the last 15 years,” he said.
Coulter said he hopes and expects the grant will increase to $150,000 in the near future, too.
The grant, Coulter said, is to be used to encourage or empower those that struggle with equality. It channels that through six categories; education, building community, housing, criminal justice, health and employment.
For Sankofa, the grant gave them an opportunity to grow its community which is now up to 600 members.
Harrington said the money allowed them to provide outings like cooking and yoga lessons when some may have otherwise not have been able to afford to partake.
“Go to things that are available in your own community. Be apart. Have a presence. Let people see that we are here,” she said on the importance of the outings.
So far, eight organizations have received money from the grant. The organizations range from helping the homeless to immigrants to those re-entering society after serving prison time.
Applications can be submitted for the grant starting Dec. 3 until Jan 2 at icgov.org/SJREgrantapplication.