King County invests $25M to address racism as a public health crisis

Jul 27, 2023, 3:59 PM

racism public health crisis...

King County Executive Dow Constantine (File photo)

(File photo)

King County awarded $25 million in grants for community organizations that address racism as a public health crisis.

King County declared racism as a public health crisis in 2020, which inspired the county to directly work with groups that say there have been centuries of harm systemic racism has caused society.

The funds — announced by King County Executive Dow Constantine alongside the co-Chairs of The Gathering Collaborative, Ben Danielson, Ph.D., and Abigail Echo-Hawk —  will be awarded to 123 nonprofits, community organizations, and small businesses throughout the county.

“King County is actively confronting the reality of racism and acknowledging its historic and present-day impacts on marginalized communities,” Constantine said in a prepared statement. “This $25 million investment will help to combat the public health crisis that racism truly presents in our communities while forging a path toward a more equitable and just future for all people.”

More on Dow Constantine: King County Executive Dow Constantine won’t run for WA governor

The Gathering Collaborative, a co-creation effort between the county’s government and the community, will be responsible for distributing the funds to the 123 businesses. The businesses were chosen after nearly 800 applications came in requesting over $230 million – more than nine times the total funding available. 

The Collaborative was created to make strides to “undo the harms of racism compounded by the pandemic, influence the county’s budget cycle and process, and establish a longer-term, multi-generational vision for King County to become an anti-racist government,” according to King County.

“From Day 1, the process of gathering and determining how to distribute $25 million has held special significance that extends beyond the amount of money,” Danielson said in a prepared statement. “Through worthy struggle, hard moments, joyful moments, and everything in between, this collaborative has diligently labored to deliver on an important commitment. I’m deeply inspired by the brilliant folks I’ve watched drive this effort and I celebrate the continued possibilities for transforming the ways governments function.”

Those receiving the funds include health care and mental health support systems; those working to address food access, economic justice, and resiliency; organizations involved with youth mentoring and support; groups working towards increasing housing availabilities, and those who invest in art.

More on racism as a public health crisis: UW race theory scholar explains how racism plays a role in public health

“Indigenous communities have been leading and building the resiliency of their communities, despite a lack in resources,” Echo-Hawk said in a public address. “We know $25 million is not enough to solve racism, but the hope is this funding begins to break apart the structural racism stemming from settler colonialism that most negatively impacts Indigenous and Black communities.

“Our task is to carry forward the knowledge gained through the co-design process with The Gathering Collaborative to other grant processes in King County and philanthropic efforts in our region,” Echo-Hawk continued.

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King County invests $25M to address racism as a public health crisis