The Greenwood Initiative
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative is a bold philanthropic effort that seeks to accelerate the pace of wealth accumulation for Black individuals and families and address systemic underinvestment in Black communities. This is the first-ever Bloomberg Philanthropies portfolio dedicated solely to advancing racial wealth equity. For generations, systemic racism has prevented Black people in America from exercising their full economic power. The major barriers that Black people faced — including housing, educational, and employment discrimination — hindered their ability to build wealth over time. The lasting effects of this pervasive racism are profound; today, the typical Black family has one-eighth of the wealth of the typical White family. Without bold intervention and a complete reimagination of Black wealth accumulation, this unacceptable status quo will continue to persist.
As a 2020 presidential candidate, Mike presented a policy agenda to tackle this racial wealth disparity. He called the policy agenda the Greenwood Initiative in remembrance of the hundreds killed in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood during the 1921 race massacre there. The name also acknowledges how racism has prevented Black families from building wealth for centuries. When he ended his campaign, Mike decided he’d continue to pursue the aims of Greenwood through philanthropy and asked his team at Bloomberg Philanthropies to identify ways to make a difference. From there, the current iteration of the Greenwood Initiative was born.
The Greenwood Initiative makes innovative investments and fosters strategic partnerships to create the conditions for more Black people to acquire resources, expand community ownership, and increase influence through economic power. Over the past two years, the initiative has formed partnerships and made investments designed to have a far-reaching impact.
Annual Report 2021
The Sacramento Bee: Sacramento among 8 cities awarded grant to study financial wealth gap among Black residents
The Hill: Bloomberg launches database targeting racial economic divide
Forbes: Bloomberg Philanthropies Is Betting That Data Will Help Fuel A Black Wealth Movement
Philanthropy News Digest: Garnesha Ezediaro, Greenwood Initiative Lead: Addressing racism and systemic underinvestment to build a new economic reality
The Chronicle of Philanthropy: How Bloomberg Philanthropies Is Working to Build Black Wealth
AP: Four Black medical schools get $6M to widen vaccine outreach
CNN: Opinion: To save Black lives, we need more Black doctors
The New York Times: Michael Bloomberg to Give $100 Million to Historically Black Medical Schools
CNN: Michael Bloomberg is giving $100 million to help graduates of historically Black med schools pay off their loans
Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Bloomberg Philanthropies Commits $100 Million to Help Increase Number of Black Doctors in U.S.
Using Data to Advance Racial Wealth Equity
In 2022, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative announced the creation of the Black Wealth Data Center (BWDC). It features a Racial Wealth Equity Database that aims to empower decision-makers with reliable data, become the go-to resource for racial wealth data, and raise the national standard for data collection and accessibility. The objective of the Black Wealth Data Center is to help practitioners and policymakers address racial wealth disparities by making relevant data available so they can develop and implement effective programs and policies to increase racial wealth equity.
Fueling Diversity in STEM Fields
The Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative, a $150 million investment, was launched at the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) to address historic underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, and prepare a new, more diverse generation of researchers and scholars to assume leadership roles in tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges. Named for Vivien Thomas, a Black surgical laboratory supervisor at JHU, Bloomberg Philanthropies is endowing this effort to create additional pathways for students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to pursue and receive PhDs in STEM fields. Out of the 20 scholars selected for the 2022 inaugural cohort, all of them are from historically excluded groups, all have graduated from Minority Serving Institutions or HBCUs, and 45% are first-generation college students. This gift will provide permanent funding to add a sustained cohort of approximately 100 new slots for diverse PhD students in JHU’s more than 30 STEM programs.
Increasing COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts to Ensure Equitable Access within Black Communities
In April 2021, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced an investment of over $6 million in support of COVID-19 vaccine operations run by the nation’s four historically Black medical schools – Meharry Medical College, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science – via mobile vaccine services to ensure equitable access in their communities of Nashville, TN, Washington, DC, Atlanta, GA, and Los Angeles, CA. With a clear disparity between white and Black vaccine rates across the United States, the schools’ mobile units reached the most at-risk populations and worked with trusted partners, such as churches and senior centers, to set up temporary vaccination sites.
Providing Debt Reduction to Medical Students at America’s Four Historically Black Medical Schools
In September 2020, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced The Greenwood Initiative’s first major investment, a historic $100 million gift to America’s four historically Black medical schools: Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN, Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, CA. Bloomberg Philanthropies’ gift to the medical schools will allow them to provide debt reduction up to $100,000 to approximately 950 medical students over a four year period.
Supporting Local Leaders’ Efforts to Build Black Wealth
Through Bloomberg Philanthropies’ support of the national nonprofit Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund’s (CFE Fund) CityStart initiative, local governments are prioritizing the economic mobility of residents by creating blueprints that leverage policies, programs, and funding streams to help local families and communities become more financially stable, utilizing a racial equity lens.
In April 2023, CFE Fund in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative announced that a new cohort of eight local governments were selected to participate in the CityStart initiative: Baltimore, MD; Cleveland, OH; Monroe, LA; Newark, NJ; Norfolk, VA; Rocky Mount, NC; Sacramento, CA; and Leon County/Tallahassee, FL. The initial cohort included Cincinnati, OH; Mobile, AL; and South Bend, IN.
Investing in Child College Savings Accounts
In partnership with NYC Kids RISE (NYCKR), Brooklyn Community Foundation, the Gray Foundation, the Mayor’s Office of Equity, the NYC Department of Education, school leaders, families, and students, in December 2022 1,200 first graders in East Flatbush, Brooklyn and Canarsie, Brooklyn received $1,000 in their NYC Scholarship Accounts through a $1.2 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative and Brooklyn Community Foundation’s Donor-Advised Fund.
These scholarship accounts are dedicated to increasing college and career savings — a key way to address the racial wealth divide in New York City neighborhoods where 86% of students are Black — the largest proportion of any geographic school district in New York City.
Top photo: Howard University College of Medicine student Micah Brown is one of the many future doctors who will have had their futures changed by a $100 million commitment to the United States’ four historically Black medical schools.