Editor-in-Chief Lauren Kahme met with Associate Vice President for Student Life Ixchel Rosal to discuss Columbia’s new grant program, the Racial Justice Mini-Grant. 

The Racial Justice Mini-Grant program, a grant funded by the Office of University Life, was first implemented for this school year, 2020-2021. The grant supported 26 different grantees this past year across ten different projects that all work toward the goal of advancing racial justice.

Bwog had the opportunity to speak to three of the grant recipients who all work on different projects to advance racial equity and justice. 

We spoke with Lexi Young, who studies Human Rights and Sociology at Columbia about the workshops she organizes to educate the public on issues of racial inequities. Young hosts these workshops with the Rho Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, a historically Black Greek organization. The inaugural workshop covered the topic of historical activism compared to modern activism, and Young shared that she hopes future events can cover topics like anti-Blackness in tech and medical racism. These workshops are open to the public, are meant to engage local community organizations, and are reliant on the efforts and labor of Black activists and workers, whose work is compensated with the money this grant provides. Young hopes that this grant will continue to give monetary support to projects that actually benefit the communities they intend to serve. 

Next, Bwog spoke with Lauren Ritchie, a junior at Columbia College studying Sustainable Development and Political Science. Ritchie held a virtual Q&A panel entitled “Small Island Sustainability” which focuses on the intersection of climate change and racial justice. Ritchie, who grew up in the Bahamas, hopes to incorporate native Caribbean voices into the conversation on climate change in the region since native Caribbean citizens know about their land and ecosystems in great detail. This panel also featured Caribbean climate activists and one scientist who specializes in the Caribbean. The grant money went toward securing the speakers for this panel and adequately compensating them for their time. Ritchie is holding one more Columbia Climate Conversation focused on the issue of ableism in activism. 

Finally, we spoke with Brendane Tynes, a Ph.D. Candidate studying Anthropology at Columbia and co-host of the podcast entitled “Zora’s Daughters.” Alyssa A.L. James, another Ph.D. Candidate studying Anthropology at Columbia, is the editor and designer of Zora’s Daughters, and Tynes and James write the script together. The podcast is inspired by conversations between these friends on issues about which they wish to see change in the world, including colorism, transphobia, climate change, violence against Black women and girls, and police brutality. The grant money is not going toward the co-hosts, but instead supports two transcriptionists, two Black women, which supports part of the podcast’s mission to be inclusive and accessible to all. The grant money also goes toward compensation for an intern hired from Spellman College. 

When asked how these projects would occur without the grant, the activists explained that scrambling for other grants or other funding sources would be necessary, and paying for labor, specifically for the efforts of people of color, would be less feasible without this grant. 

The Office of University Life at Columbia and the interviewed recipients all hope to see this grant continue into the future and hopefully grow and expand to support more projects dedicated to advancing racial justice and equity.

Racial Justice Mini-Grant program via Office of University Life