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Healing Racism Institute Receives $300,000 Grant from MassMutual Foundation

SPRINGFIELD — The Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley (HRIPV) announced it has received a $300,000 grant from the MassMutual Foundation, serving as lead gift for the launch of a $1 million, three-year capital fund drive for the institute.

The Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley was formed in 2012; since then, more than 1,000 people from Western Mass. and throughout Massachusetts have participated in its signature, two-day Healing Racism program. HRIPV was formed as a result of the City2City of Pioneer Valley visit to Grand Rapids, Mich. in 2011, where area leaders discovered a similar model embedded in the Greater Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

With the announcement of the MassMutual Foundation grant, HRIPV has reached $450,000 in commitments over the next three years, with substantial contributions coming from the Beveridge Foundation and the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation. The campaign is designed to help the institute become self-sustaining as it works toward its stated goal of “building a racism-free Pioneer Valley.”

“I speak for the board and for the larger Healing Racism community in expressing our thanks to the MassMutual Foundation for their critical support of our work,” said Frank Robinson, board chair of the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley. “We often speak of the toxic nature of racism; our approach of healing and understanding is making a difference in the communities and organizations where we are engaged.”

Robinson added that “racism is overcome by changing hearts and recognizing our common humanity. We expect that this lead gift from the MassMutual Foundation, and their demonstrated commitment to help build stronger, more vibrant communities, will inspire others to contribute. This lead gift will help HRIPV to build the critical infrastructure necessary to move toward a racism-free region.”

HRIPV recently established itself as a standalone 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and has also expanded its board, reflecting the diversity of the region. The United Way of Pioneer Valley serves as fiscal agent for the institute.

In addition to HRIPV’s signature two-day training seminars, HRIPV offers half- and full-day board and staff training and cohort development whereby the institute provides tools and training, allowing organizations to continue the internal process of examining racism and its impact on organizations and the larger community. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, HRIPV has developed a completely online curriculum to sustain and grow its reach and impact.

Funding from the capital campaign will help the institute identify a permanent home, add critical staff, expand facilitator training, and provide scholarships for individuals unable to afford participation in the two-day signature session and related programming. Holyoke Community College has served as a critical partner by hosting most of the two-day trainings over the past eight years of operation.

“The institute’s focus on delivering specialized education as a means to help eradicate racism is truly one of its strengths and why it has been such an effective partner for organizations in our community,” said Dennis Duquette, president of the MassMutual Foundation. “We are proud to support the capital campaign as a means to help scale the great work and positive impact of HRIPV throughout Greater Springfield and the Pioneer Valley.”

HRIPV is led by Vanessa Otero, one of its co-founders and an original member of the board until assuming the position of interim director in 2020.

“We have arrived at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history — a moment in which more people than ever before are willing to acknowledge, confront, and challenge the systematic oppression of people of color,” Otero said. “Race prejudice and racism are corrosive to people and to communities and deny the fullness of opportunity to people of color. We can, however, accelerate systemic change and create a more just society by building successive cohorts of change agents equipped to understand and eliminate the root causes and other elements of racism that characterize so many of our institutions today.”

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