MLK50: Justice Through Journalism has been awarded a $190,000 grant from The Kresge Foundation. Founded in 1924 to promote human progress, today “Kresge fulfills that mission by building and strengthening pathways to opportunity for low-income people in America’s cities, seeking to dismantle structural and systemic barriers to equality and justice,” according to the foundation’s website. 

MLK50 will receive $190,000 in general operating support over the next two years under Kresge’s American Cities program, one of its seven program areas through which it seeks to “expand opportunity by promoting effective and inclusive community development practices” in its hometown of Detroit and beyond. In addition to New Orleans, Memphis has been a priority for the foundation’s city-focused grantmaking. 

“In Memphis, we have mirrored our Detroit efforts to spur equitable growth by investing in four areas: planning and collaboration; community development systems; neighborhood revitalization; and leadership and organizational development,” the website says. “Our work reflects the belief that investments in systems must happen alongside direct investments in community capacity to ensure the scope and scale of development is shaped by residents.”

Kresge recognizes that Memphis is home to “both tremendous assets and high levels of need;” it is a place where access to opportunity is not shared equitably among all residents. Memphis is one of the nation’s poorest large cities; nearly 1 in 4 residents live below the poverty line, as do just over 1 in 4 Black residents, according to 2021 Census data. In addition to addressing this and other challenges, Kresge’s planning and implementation funding for projects in Memphis also aim to “reflect the vision and creativity of Memphians.” 

Similarly, MLK50 seeks to address systemic and structural barriers to social and economic justice in Memphis, but also celebrates its promise and possibility. Through accountability and investigative journalism, MLK50 equips Memphians with the information needed to hold power to account, particularly with coverage of economic injustice, environmental racism, the affordable housing crisis, public health and our fragile democracy. 

By centering low-income and working-class residents, MLK50 occupies a singular place in the local media ecosystem with its focus on the ways in which the government and the private sector make it difficult for residents to live economically secure and healthy lives.

The two-year general operating support grant will advance Kresge’s place-based work in Memphis and help MLK50 grow its editorial team while increasing its existing community engagement efforts. Grant support will also allow MLK50 to build on its role as a civic anchor, particularly by sustaining and enhancing coverage on housing, labor, public safety and government accountability.

“The Kresge Foundation was one of the first funders I contacted when launching MLK50 in 2017 because of their deep investment in Memphis and its future,” said Wendi C. Thomas, MLK50’s founding editor and publisher. 

“It’s an honor to receive this vote of confidence in our independent journalism and shared commitment to Memphis’ success.” 

The grant from Kresge Foundation comes at a key time for the newsroom as it hones its place in the local informational ecosystem while continuing to produce the journalism urgently needed in Memphis. 

This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and policy in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by these generous donors.

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