The Community Foundation of St. Clair County is furthering its work in community journalism and equity and inclusion to provide a pathway for a consistent voice and diverse perspectives in its local media and from the region’s communities of color.
The community foundation, with the support of two donor advised funds (DAFs), is funding a new position for a diverse local freelance writer who will cover stories for the local online publication The Keel, on transformative projects, social justice, neighborhoods and more from the Thumb region’s communities of color.
“Our organization and board felt that it was important to bring a local lens to the growing and important national movement to increase diverse media voices and bring more positive attention to our communities of color,” Jackie Hanton, vice president of the Community Foundation of St. Clair County said. “This is a way for us to say we are dedicated to telling the stories from here, from our communities of color and from someone who is a person of color.”
The community foundation’s work in community journalism began four years ago when they connected with Issue Media Group, a media company that runs several online publications throughout the state, at CMF’s Annual Conference in 2016 to discuss a regional online publication that would highlight local talent and share positive community stories. Through that partnership the community foundation helped to launch The Keel, a local online publication to serve as an outlet to tell local stories with a local lens.
Randy Maiers, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of St. Clair County, said the recent national conversations on racial inequities led the foundation to take a closer look at their work.
“You have to be introspective and ask are we doing what we can? Is our grantmaking and community investment platform truly representative of all the voices? And for us we said ‘you know there’s a lot more we can do in that space. We’re not satisfied with our work in that space.’ We have to be comfortable criticizing our own work and admitting that there’s room for improvement,” Maiers said.
The community foundation saw an opportunity through their existing partnership with The Keel to begin to address a lack of representation of diverse voices in the media.
“We don’t want to be a foundation that only talks about the need to have these kinds of conversations. We don’t want to be a foundation that rolls out a policy or a statement about equity and inclusion. We want to be a foundation that’s putting our money into the community and advancing these causes locally,” Maiers said.
The support for the new correspondent builds on some of the community foundation’s other efforts that have launched in response to the pandemic and the emerging conversations on racial inequities.
The community foundation hired a consultant to work with small businesses that are owned by women or people of color and they have funded a mini grant program for small businesses owned by women and people of color, among other initiatives.
“Instead of waiting for a system to be fixed, we’re doing what we can to take steps towards doing better in our communities,” Hanton said. “Place-based philanthropy can make a difference in addressing inequities.”
Check out The Keel.