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‘Don’t Meet Us in the Suites, Meet Us in the Streets:’ Former Chicago School Official Demands Billion Dollar MacArthur Foundation Do More for Black Youth 

The Black Star Project

Recently, MacArthur Foundation offered $100 million to anyone in the world who can solve any problem in the world.  This competitive grant for one person was announced the same week that 70 people were shot on Memorial Day weekend in Chicago. $100 million for anyone in the world, but not one penny did MacArthur offer to address the senseless violence in its own backyard, Chicago. 

We are not here to fight with the MacArthur Foundation, but we will not let it continue treating Black people in Chicago as fools.

MacArthur having $7 billion in the bank and paying few taxes, while the blood of Black and Latino children is running in the streets of Chicago, is completely unacceptable!

MacArthur cannot relax upstairs in its air-conditioned, palatial office, sipping tea, while most Blacks and many Latinos in Chicago exist in squalid, struggling, violence-ridden communities.

No MacArthur employee should have a job that pays $2 million a year while 90 percent of young men in some Black communities are unable to become gainfully employed.

The Black Star Project

The Black Star Project

We want to work with MacArthur, but MacArthur has got to want to work with us.

We want MacArthur Foundation to:

1)   Take a leadership role by convening all Chicago foundations and key businesses in partnership with community- and faith-based organizations, civic entities, universities, social service agencies and the media to help create an action-oriented results-based master plan to effectively and expeditiously reduce violence in Chicago.

2)    Be a role model for foundations everywhere by stepping up with integrity and putting together a permanent “Stop the Violence” management team to daily strategize and operationalize violence reduction in Chicago and to monitor and frequently report on this initiative’s progress.

3)    Provide the financial resources by underwriting this entire initiative including funding small, effective organizations already doing this work as well as providing a pathway to funding for organizations working on stop the violence campaigns not usually considered for funding.

5)   Work with other foundations to develop more nuanced ways to measure grantees’ success since quantitative metrics alone don’t tell the whole “results” story.

6)    Invest in capacity building and general operations, not just particular programs and inspire other foundations to do the same.

The Black Star Project

The Black Star Project

Out of $325 million given worldwide in grant-making in 2015 by MacArthur, $56 million in Chicago, Black organizations working to improve the Black community in Chicago were awarded $375,000.  Thirty-three percent (33%) of Chicago’s total population is Black.  If that is what MacArthur thinks of us, it can keep its $375,000 and leave Chicago.   We can make that much selling illegally “loose squares and bootlegged DVD’s,” but maybe that is what MacArthur wants us to do. MacArthur Foundation, don’t meet us in the suites; meet us in the streets.  That is where the effort to reduce violence and bring peace to the streets of Chicago will be won.

Phillip Jackson is former Chief of Staff for Chicago Public Schools and Chief For Education for the City of Chicago.  He is the Founder and Executive Director of The Black Star Project.

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