Black Lives Matter winner at our 2020 Light a Fire Awards: Black Resiliency Fund 

“I walked home, and I opened the door and I saw the check lying down on the table waiting for me. Holding that check in my hand was the first time that I felt like I could come up for air.” So said just one of the more than 4,000 Black Portlanders who have received money from the Black Resilience Fund this year.

“To be here in the middle of the I Can’t Breathe era, and to hear that coming from a Black man that we served—it really, to me, symbolized what healing looked like for this community, and what it could look like for this entire nation,” says Cameron Whitten, a cofounder of the Black Resilience Fund, along with local activist and policy researcher Salomé Chimuku. “We aren’t just saying Black Lives Matter. We are showing with action that Black lives, and the needs of Black lives, matter.” 

The fund began as a GoFundMe account and mutual aid network in June, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. The goal was to raise $5,000 to help Black Portlanders with immediate needs like rent, food, and utility bills. No long, drawn-out applications or complicated intake processes are required—simply a phone call, followed by a check. 

By mid-October, the Black Resilience Fund had raised more than $1.9 million from some 17,000 donors and distributed over $1.2 million to 4,105 Black Portlanders and counting. The amount distributed to each person—about $300 on average—is modest yet impactful. The fund has also provided mutual aid services and supplies like mattresses, appliances, and yard work to 150 families, and has distributed 2,400 boxes of food to 1,400 families. The fund recently became a part of the Portland nonprofit Brown Hope and is hiring paid staff—necessary steps to continue to make lasting change through financial assistance and policy advocacy.  

“Our hope is that we can end this completely unfathomable wealth gap in our country,” Whitten says. “We are more than just a financial emergency fund. We are a catalyst for healing, we’re a catalyst for resilience, and we’re a catalyst for long-term community change. We will continue, as we are putting dollars into the hands of Black Portlanders, to call for the policy action we know needs to happen so that this work becomes irrelevant.”

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