As part of its ongoing mission to invest $100 million in organizations focused on achieving social justice, the Warner Music Group / Blavatnik Family Foundation Social Justice Fund (WMG/BFF SJF) today announced its initial six grant recipients: Black Cultural Archives, Black Futures Lab, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), Howard University, REFORM Alliance and Rhythm & Blues Foundation.
The WMG/BFF SJF was established in June 2020 in the wake of the brutal killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other Black people. These horrific events heightened awareness about the ongoing systemic issues plaguing Black communities. The Fund serves as an acknowledgement of the contributions Black culture has made to the profitability of today’s music industry. Over 10 years, the Fund will invest in organizations around the globe that build more equitable communities and create real change in the lives of historically underserved and marginalized populations – with heightened attention to Black communities.
“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 WMG/BFF SJF and Chief Partnerships Officer at Atlantic Records/Head of Global Brand 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.”
As part of that purpose-driven structure, the Fund has chosen OneUnited Bank – the largest Black-owned bank in the U.S. – as its banking partner, and Moore Impact – a division of a Black woman-owned start-up Moore Philanthropy, led by Yvonne L. Moore – as its fiscal sponsor. Moore will play a key role in the distribution of the funds. The Advisory Board includes five external members whose counsel and expertise in social justice have been invaluable to defining the Fund’s mission and strategic direction.
Tanya Coke, WMG/BFF Advisory Board member and the Director of Gender, Racial and Ethnic Justice at the Ford Foundation, said: “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. 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, for example, will receive a multimillion-dollar grant over the course of five years that will go toward the launch of a new music business center at Howard University School of Business. A first-of-its-kind at any historically Black College or University (HBCU), the center will create curriculum development, internship opportunities, executive-in-residence and certification programs, as well as a new recording studio. With the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, the funds have helped over 40,000 returning citizens (i.e., formerly convicted persons) become eligible to vote by paying their remaining legal and financial fees. For the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, the grant will help provide financial and medical assistance to legacy R&B artists who have been confronted with unprecedented economic challenges due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“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 WMG/BFF SJF is one expression of Warner Music Group’s ongoing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging efforts, which include the creation of a Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, employee resource groups, and a DEI team led by Dr. Maurice A. Stinnett, who also sits on the Fund’s Advisory Board. Each grantee will meet with Dr. Stinnett and other key WMG executives to explore additional partnership opportunities.
Howard University is a private, federally chartered historically HBCU, comprising 13 schools and colleges in Washington D.C. Students pursue studies in more than 140 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. Howard also produces more on-campus African American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States.
Rhythm & Blues Foundation is dedicated to the historical and cultural preservation of R&B music. The idea for the foundation grew out of royalties discussions in 1987 between artists’ rights attorney Howell Begle, Atlantic Records artist Ruth Brown, and Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. The R&B Foundation’s mission is to provide financial support, medical assistance and educational outreach through various grants and programs. The Foundation is currently supporting R&B artists who recorded music from the 1940s through 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. It leverages resources to change laws, policies, hearts, and minds. The REFORM Alliance was co-founded by Fanatics Executive Chairman Michael Rubin; Atlantic Records artist and criminal justice reform advocate Meek Mill; entrepreneur and business mogul 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.
Black Cultural Archives (BCA) is the home of Black British History, conceived in 1981 as a monument to hold space for the histories of people from across the African diaspora in British culture and history. The organization uses its mission 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. BCA’s HQ is 1 Windrush Square in Brixton, London. At its headquarters, the BCA runs a series of gallery exhibitions, educational programs, and public engagement events. BCA provides free access to its unique set of archives, museum objects and reference library.
Black Futures Lab works to build Black political power and change the way it operates – locally, statewide, and nationally. The organization engages Black voters year-round, encouraging them to use their political strength to build a democracy that works for all of us. It combines culture change and policy change to put more power into the hands of more people.
Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) is a membership organization committed to ending the disenfranchisement and discrimination against people with convictions in the U.S. Made up and led by returning citizens (i.e., formerly convicted persons), FRRC works to create a comprehensive and humane reentry system that will enhance successful reentry, reduce recidivism and increase public safety. The coalition is a respected leader in the effort to register, engage, and mobilize returning citizens and their families into empowered members of the community and passionate voters.
The Board will announce grant recipients twice a year with its second tranche to follow this fall. For more information about the fund, please visit https://www.wmg.com/fund.