Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Easton leaders launch new African American Coalition to address racial inequality

By Hayden Mitman  January 11, 2021
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley has been helping neighbors thanks to an emergency fund. After delivering more than $400,000 to support nonprofits throughout the community, organizers realized they might be missing something important. 

Using the pooled contributions from dozens of area organizations throughout the past year, the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley has been able to help nonprofit groups feed those in need, support the homeless and help locals who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. But, Jill Periera, a vice president at the United Way says that, after seeing the impact that the murder of George Floyd had on society, the group realized they could be working in a more equitable way.

“We were taking a look at our own makeup of our strategic response team, and recognizing we were still pretty much a bunch of white folks that were making decisions, well-intended, on behalf of communities of color that were being disproportionately affected by covid,” Periera says.

So they reached out to Pastor Phillip Davis from Easton’s Greater Shiloh Church for help.

“As they did their own research, they realized they were doing things for the African American Community backwards,” Davis says

And he says the United Way realized that there was a problem if there weren’t any Black voices at the table.

“We felt it was supporting issues of white supremacy and they acknowledged that themselves,” he says.

The United Way took a step back and allocated about $90,000 to be shared among community leaders and groups in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton.

“Our team identified who are leaders that we know that are not at the table in these three communities,” Periera says.

In Easton, the funding led to the creation of the African American Coalition of Easton. Davis and Judie Dickerson, director of Easton’s Cops ‘N’ Kids community program, are two founding members.

“I, along with several others, had been contacted to help advise how that money could be used to specifically address racial inequalities,” Dickerson says.

The group’s first move after receiving a $30,000 grant was to create the website BlackConnectionsOfEaston.com. Davis says the site’s intended as a way to connect the community and provide grants to be used towards initiatives aimed at addressing racial inequality.

“We discovered that when African Americans moved into our community, there’s no connectivity so there’s no central clearing house for, you know, where do you go to get your haircut, where’s the churches, where are the non-profit organizations for the African American community. And so, out of our meetings comes the African American Coalition of Easton,” Davis says.

The group’s first grant was delivered to the Boys and Girls Club of Easton where they regularly film videos of basketball instruction that they then share online.

Dean Young, CEO, says they used the, nearly $3,000 grant to provide gifts of hats, blankets and masks to a hundred kids.

“Due to COVID-19, our families have faced more hardships than ever before, so, we reached out to the coalition and, it was unanimous in their vote to bestow a grant on the Boys and Girls Club of Easton to be able to provide gifts to all of our young people,” Young says.

Grant applications are available on the African American Coalition of Easton’s website. The group is now working to secure non-profit status in order to help it grow. Read more here:

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