In 2017, the Iowa City City Council created the Social Justice and Racial Equity ("SJRE") Grant to assist community-based organizations in building capacity to address social justice and racial equity needs.

Seventy-five thousand dollars has been allocated yearly for the SJRE Grant since fiscal year 2019. For 2023, the allocation has been increased to $100,000. The grant is available to for-profit and non-profit Iowa City based organizations to fund programs, activities, or services that help eliminate inequities in the community. The grant lists six priority service areas: education, building community, housing, criminal justice, health, and employment. Organizations whose programs, services, or activities address one or more of these priorities are considered first for funding. 

Grant submissions are reviewed by the Human Rights Commission, which then makes a recommendation to the City Council as to which organizations should be funded. Typically, applications exceed available funding.

SJRE Grant Program Allocations for Fiscal Year 2022

The following organizations were selected for grant funding in FY22. Their project proposals are as follows: 

Multicultural Development Center for Iowa (MDC Iowa): MDC Iowa has developed a BIPOC Business Accelerator program (INCubate) that provides an intensive training program designed to accelerate the growth and development of new and existing minority-owned businesses in Iowa City. MDC Iowa believes that representation matters and continues to lead by example as an organization with Black leadership, and staff and training delivered by Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Participants in the INCubate program learn business fundamentals, assess an existing business model or create a new business model canvas, learn about supply chain management, competitive landscapes, identify distribution channels and partnership opportunities, practice presentation skills, develop a marketing plan, as well as build a 30-60-90-120-day strategic plan. The entire 16-week program is designed to give the participants the tools required to self-actualize their business dreams.

Open Heartland: Through participation in the “We Belong” project, participants will build self-esteem and a sense of belonging to a new culture and community. The majority of the adults served by Open Heartland were not able to finish school in their home countries due to lack of access, the necessity to go to work at a very young age, or poverty. The project programs and activities, all with free childcare provided, will be accessible to clients in their native Spanish language at no cost to increase access. The program activities will impact families by allowing adults and teens opportunities to: improve their abilities to speak and understand English, participate in community conversation groups with native English speakers, become computer literate, gain understanding of US culture, earn their GEDs, learn new skills to contribute to their economic stability and ability to care for mobile homes that are in disrepair, and improve their mental health with active involvement in support groups. All "We Belong" programs are free and will be facilitated during evenings and weekends when kids are not in school.

Center for Worker Justice: The Center for Worker Justice's program involves the development of a public computer lab for community members. The computer lab will have seven computers for public use, as well as a printer. The lab will offer assistance with filling out/printing forms and applications, and basic computer literacy training and English classes. The lab also will assist users in accessing government assistance programs that contribute to reducing illiteracy, which is a key factor of social inequalities.

Great Plains Action Society: The Great Plains Action Society will do a one-day Indigenous People’s Day celebration to be held in Downtown Iowa City to promote an Indigenous worldview through a community event that includes traditional music and dance, first foods, and cultural activities. This celebration will highlight Iowa City’s multicultural initiatives through a collaborative effort that aligns with existing organizations and businesses . It will also encourage city-based efforts to improve the visibility of Native American and Alaskan Native populations and issues. The event will increase community cultural awareness and connectedness through activities, education, and conversations. It also takes the first step to truly celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day in Iowa City, provides important historical and anti-racism education, and benefits the well-being of Indigenous People in the area.

IC Compassion: IC Compassion will create a training café within their facility. The café, the Jabez Café, will provide a place for young adults with disabilities and mental health challenges to work and gain the skills they need for future job opportunities. Adults with an intellectual disability often struggle to find work. Many are under-employed or not working at all. The Jabez Café will train individuals 16 years or older, teaching them to live independent lives. It will stimulate a positive environment which does not focus on the things that they cannot achieve, but those that they can. As with IC Compassion’s mission, the mission of the Jabez Café is to work with people from multi-cultural backgrounds. The café will not only impact the trainees, but also the community in which it serves. The café will help to provide awareness of the barriers people with disabilities face and stimulate the local economy through purchasing and selling of food and coffee.

Houses into Homes: Houses into Homes will host a Youth Volunteer Academy that will bring together a diverse group of students from across the community to volunteer, get to know each other, and learn about social justice. Weekly volunteering will be accompanied by a monthly learning experience (i.e., Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) or restorative circle (i.e., reflecting on your experience today). Students will have a unique opportunity to participate in learning activities with students from different schools, different racial and ethnic groups, and different socio-economic backgrounds. Together students will examine historic and current structures and causes of systemic racism and injustice. The development of the curriculum will be a collaborative effort. Over the summer of 2022, Houses into Homes will form a steering committee of school and community leaders to develop the curriculum and select speakers for each monthly workshop. School sponsors and Houses into Homes staff will be responsible for the mini-lessons and reflections.

Iowa City Area Chinese Association: The Iowa City Area Chinese Association will host a Lunar Year Gala. The Gala performance consists of about 12 pieces, including music performance and dances, a professional saxophone duet, violin duet, youth string ensemble, Children's Chorus Club, Chinese Classic Dance Group, Chinese Folk Dance Club, and Qipao Club. The celebration will benefit not only Asian families, but also help stop hatred or misunderstanding in the community. The Lunar New Year Gala is a brilliant artistic celebration of Asia's largest holiday. The rich cultural heritage will be displayed at the annual Lunar New Year Gala to bring good luck to the audience in the year of the tiger.

Date of publication

Tuesday, April 26, 2022