Mayor London N. Breed joined Board President and District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton and Dr. Cornel West today to discuss the current progress and future of the Dream Keeper Initiative (DKI), which was announced one year ago. The Initiative, an intergenerational effort that aims to improve outcomes for San Francisco’s diverse Black communities by strengthening economic empowerment through opportunity, addresses systematic racial disparities through City-funded programs, ensuring new investments are accessible to families most in need.
Since the launch of the Initiative, DKI has allocated $59.8 million, representing more than 140 awards to more than 70 San Francisco-based organizations that provide direct services and programs to the city’s diverse Black communities. In addition to this funding, the Initiative has been and will continue working over the coming years to implement significant reforms to City policies and processes, including the hiring, retention, and promotion of City employees of color, the distribution of grants through a new Request for Proposal (RFP) selection process that directly engages community-based organizations and non-profits, and bringing City departments together to streamline these processes and maximize impact.
“The Dream Keeper Initiative was launched to address the racial injustices and inequities that exist not just in San Francisco, but across our country. If we are going to make any real changes and be a city that leads, we need action, not just more talk, and I am proud that our Departments have worked to make that happen,” said Mayor Breed. “But the future of this initiative depends on not only making sure that this funding is sustainable, but also that our policies and processes are reformed to prevent these disparities from impacting future generations of Black people in San Francisco. We still have a long road ahead, but having seen the incredible success over the past year, I am excited about the impact this initiative will have for decades to come.”
“During an historical period where we have the first Black man to serve as the President of the Board of Supervisors here in San Francisco, and working with the first Black woman to serve as Mayor of San Francisco, the Dream Keeper Initiative was created at the right time to address the disparities and inequities that exist for the Black community in this city. It has been great seeing community partners and city leaders working together to provide Black folks in San Francisco with opportunities in several areas that will improve the lives of our people, and help us achieve positive outcomes as we focus on decreasing the wealth gap and providing economic viability and stability,” said President of the Board of Supervisors Shamann Walton. “It is an honor to discuss the Dream Keeper Initiative in our own backyard with Dr. Cornell West, as he is a catalyst for creating opportunities for Black leaders like Mayor Breed and me, and in return we can fight for righting the wrongs of the past. We have much work to do, but the Dream Keeper Initiative is providing hope and achieving successful outcomes.”
In the first few months following the initial announcement in February 2021, the city worked with the community to identify key focus areas to direct $60 million annually, both via direct funding to community organizations and by expanding capacity of City programs and initiatives that serve the Black and African American communities. These include:
- Economic Empowerment and Mobility
- Health, Healing and Wellness
- Education and Enrichment
- Arts and Culture
- Narrative Shift
- Community Innovations and Mini-grants
- Technical Assistance and Capacity Building
Additionally, the Initiative worked with community-based organizations and non-profits to launch innovative mini-grant programs to support individuals or smaller organizations to implement community-generated ideas and create the Brighter Futures program, which supports culturally relevant economic, academic, housing, and health services for Black people and their families across generations. DKI also worked with the Office of Contract Administration to pilot a new grant-making process that increases participation from the community.
The San Francisco Human Rights Commission is the core City department for DKI, with a new team of seven staff specifically dedicated to the Initiative. Other City departments involved include the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Children, Youth and their Families, the Office of Early Care and Education, the Department of Human Resources, the San Francisco Fire Department, and the San Francisco Arts Commission.
“Over the last couple of years, there have been marches, protests, and demands to invest and support Black humanity and community,” said Dr. Sheryl Davis, Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. “I am happy to be part of a team of policymakers and systems leaders who moved beyond talk to doing! DKI is a commitment that has put resources to need and is dedicated to investing, repairing, healing, and sustaining San Francisco’s Black community.”
To ensure transparency and accountability, a dashboard was launched to track the ongoing distribution of funding being provided to Black-serving and Black-owned community-based organizations and non-profits. Funding was distributed through an RFP and Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process. Additional opportunities will be available through mini-grants and guaranteed income projects. The next RFP process is expected to begin in the Fall of Fiscal Year 2022-23.
Decades of disinvestment in the African-American community and racially disparate policies in San Francisco have exacerbated disproportionate harm in Black communities, affecting outcomes from health and wellness to housing insecurity and economic mobility. In San Francisco, the average income for a Black household is $31,000, as compared with $110,000 for white families. As many as 19% of African-American children in San Francisco live in poverty. Black and African-American individuals comprise 35% of the city’s unhoused population, despite making up only approximately 5% of the population as a whole. Disproportionally, Black and African-American individuals make up approximately 42% of the City and County Jail population.
This inequality perpetuates the systemic social determinants of health, which have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Black communities in San Francisco have higher rates of diabetes, higher rates of maternal mortality, and are more likely to be hospitalized for heart disease than other races. Yet, the city remains committed to redressing the historical harms that disproportionately impact San Francisco’s Black communities through intergenerational programs such as the Dream Keeper Initiative.
“The Dream Keeper Initiative has been monumental for the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company’s existence. It has supported us to produce productions such as the New Roots theatre Festival and our flagship show: “I, Too, Sing America.” The Dream Keeper vision will allow me and Black brothers and sisters of the San Francisco Bay Area to fully honor Dr. King’s dream,” said Rodney E. Jackson Jr., Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of the San Francisco Bay Area Theater Company.
“I am very excited about this opportunity to promote peace in the Black community. What I do know is that the absence of violence does not constitute the presence of peace so we must be very intentional about our own peace and the peace of others. I look forward to leveraging the Dream Keeper Initiative to create more spaces for peace and healing promotion in our communities,” said Shervon Hunter, Founder of Stand in Peace International.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lend our voices to the reconciliation of many unspoken rules and codes of conduct that have negatively impacted Black San Franciscans for decades. The Dream Keeper Initiative has enabled the community to give voice to our needs and has forced us to dream our way out of how we can heal our own communities. Although it has not been a perfect process, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak, work and positively impact the City's investment to our underserved African Americans. We have to be our own advocates to construct the plans, cultivate clear communication pathways, reach out to those that aren't connected or have been ignored, and be intentional about collaborating to correct the foolery that has occurred for way too long to ensure that our actions have positive implications to our own community,” said Delia Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of The Good Rural, Novation Lab, and Stem Frenzy.
“You can’t lead the community if you don’t feed the community with love, food, education, information, and resources. That’s what Dream Keeper is all about,” said John Henry, Executive Director, Both Sides of the Conversation.