Posted on July 21, 2023

Descendants of Enslaved Africans to Receive $50 Million as Part of Wealth-Building Initiative

Niara Savage, Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, July 12, 2023


An ambitious wealth-building initiative will provide 800 Black residents of Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota with $50,000 grants over the next eight years to support economic justice and financial well-being for descendants of enslaved Africans during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The $50 million Open Road Fund, financed by the Bush Foundation headquartered in St. Paul, is intended to address race-based economic disparities and cultivate Black wealth. Indeed, the grants should not be labeled as “reparations” because the funds are simply not enough to repair the generational harms inflicted by the institution of slavery, said Danielle Mkali, senior director of community wealth-building at Nexus Community Partners. The nonprofit is stewarding the funds through community engagement and disbursement.


“What reparations should do and will do is impact every descendant of enslaved African people. It would be a profound and significant apology from our state governments, from our national governments. There would be a profound investment financially, educationally, with all kinds of different resources that attempt to acknowledge what descendants of enslaved African people have endured, and what our ancestors have endured,” Mkali added, noting that the fund will only reach about 100 people each year through 2031.


Recipients of the $50,000 Open Road Fund grants can use the money for a variety of wealth-building projects, including buying a home, paying off debt, estate planning, investing in life insurance, covering tuition costs or starting a business. {snip}

Applicants’ goals must be aligned with one of five categories of wealth-building including housing and housing stability, education, financial well-being, health and healing and ownership and economic justice.

{snip} To be eligible, applicants must be aged 14 or older, a resident of Minnesota, South Dakota, or North Dakota, and a descendant of an African person enslaved during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. There are no income caps or minimums. A separate $50 million trust aims to support Native and Indigenous people in the region.

In a two-part process, applicants will first complete initial registration that confirms eligibility for the grant and then discuss how they hope to use the money to achieve their wealth-building goals. A diverse panel composed of individuals who also meet the eligibility requirements for applicants will review applications.