Living Cities Launches New Multi-City Initiative To Improve Racial Equity

Living Cities Launches New Multi-City Initiative To Improve Racial Equity

Albuquerque, Austin, Grand Rapids, Louisville and Philadelphia comprise first cohort of Racial Equity Here; will assess systemic racial disparities with focus on people of color aged 16 to 24

New York, NY, May 25, 2016: Living Cities today launched Racial Equity Here, an initiative that will support five U.S. cities committed to improving racial equity and advancing opportunity for all. Living Cities will work with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a project of the Center for Social Inclusion and the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, to provide technical support and coaching for the first cohort of cities – Albuquerque, Austin, Grand Rapids, Louisville and Philadelphia – as they analyze how their operations impact people of color and devise actionable solutions.

People of color in U.S. cities disproportionately and historically lack access to opportunities – from education to employment – and many of the issues tied to racial inequality are within the power of city government to change. Racial Equity Here resulted from a Living Cities Task Force convened in response to Freddie Gray’s death, which brought together cross-sector leaders to create a new vehicle for action against the still-present effects of structural racism in U.S. cities. Through Racial Equity Here, the cities will complete a racial equity assessment of their core government operations with an intentional focus on opportunity youth – adults and youth of color aged 16 to 24 who are disproportionally out of school or work.

“Cities participating in Racial Equity Here will be part of a leading national network of jurisdictions embracing racial equity in a systemic and structural way,” said Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities. “This is one of the most important issues of our time and these five cities have made an important commitment not only to their residents, but also to advancing racial equity across the country. The 20 foundations and financial institutions that make up Living Cities are thrilled to be supporting this work.”

Over a two-year period, Racial Equity Here will provide Albuquerque, Austin, Grand Rapids, Louisville and Philadelphia with tools, resources and training develop an action plan and implement racial equity solutions. By understanding how and where municipal operations affect young people of color, governments will not only better understand their role in perpetuating these disparities, but will also begin addressing them in transformative ways.

“Talent and ambition don’t know if you’re rich or poor but opportunity certainly does,” said Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry. “Access and opportunity need to be provided for all, regardless of race. Albuquerque is proud to partner with Living Cities, GARE and the other cohort cities to develop resolutions.”

“The City of Austin has played a role in creating and maintaining racial inequity, beginning with master plan policies of who could live where,” stated Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “Government policies have driven inequities and have been sustained by historic legacies that reinforce patterns of exclusion. In this regard, the City of Austin has been no different from other cities in this country. As Austin’s Mayor, I think my role is to advance racial equity to close wage and health disparities. I’m proud that we were able to create an Office of Equity last year, and I look forward to all the work that remains ahead of us.”

“Among and woven throughout our city’s top priorities is addressing racial disparities and inequitable access to opportunities,” said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. “We are committed to making our city a more welcoming and inclusive place for everyone. This initiative will strengthen our efforts and learning so we can increase racial equity through structural and systemic change for long-term impact, particularly for adults and youth of color who experience disproportionate negative unemployment and graduation rates.”

“Louisville is a compassionate city, dedicated to offering each and every individual the opportunity to reach their full human potential,” stated Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “We have taken many steps to improve our city through innovation and regular analysis of our daily work and are focused on systems-wide change. Racial Equity Here gives us even more tools to address deficiencies that seriously affect individuals across our community. We look forward to further advancing racial equity here in Louisville and taking a lead in closing the opportunity gap.”

“The City of Philadelphia is committed to closing opportunity and achievement gaps for young people of color and to advancing racial equity and inclusion across our city. Racial Equity Here allows us an opportunity to critically examine issues of race and equity and how they impact our residents,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

Beyond the city-led initiatives, Racial Equity Here will focus on changing systems and shifting the national dialogue around racial equity. GARE Director Julie Nelson stated, “GARE is excited to partner with Living Cities on this project. We expect the Racial Equity Here cohort to be a national leader in making transformational change toward racial equity within government and to achieve equitable outcomes for our youth. We look forward to working with this cohort and are excited to see what changes will happen.”

Contact: Dennis Chin, Director of Communications, Center for Social Inclusion, 212-248-2785 x1450, 609-954-2111

About Living Cities

For 25 years, Living Cities has harnessed the collective power of 20 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions to develop and scale new approaches for creating opportunities for low-income people and improving the cities where they live. Its investments, research, networks, and convenings catalyze fresh thinking and combine support for innovative, local approaches with real-time sharing of learning to accelerate adoption in more places. Additional information can be found at

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