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May 27, 2016

Philadelphia gets $75,000 to root out racism in municipal operations

Philadelphia is one of five U.S. cities – and the largest by far – joining an initiative to tackle structural racism.

Racial Equity Here, an initiative that will support five U.S. cities committed to improving racial equity and advancing economic opportunity for all residents, was launched Wednesday by Living Cities.

The initiative was announced in a blog post by Ben Hecht, president & CEO of Living Cities, which works with city leaders to rethink urban practices to improve the economic health of low-income people.

"People of color in U.S. cities disproportionately and historically lack access to opportunities – from education to employment – and many of the issues tied to racial inequality are within the power of city government to change," he wrote. "This face represents a tremendous opportunity that we must grasp, here and now."

"From the inception of our country, government at the local, regional, state and federal level has played a role in creating and maintaining racial inequity. By understanding how municipal operations affect people of color and reproduce inequities, governments can begin to address them in transformative ways."

Living Cities is working with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, a project of the Center for Social Inclusion and the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, to provide technical support and coaching to Philadelphia and four other cities – Albuquerque, Austin, Grand Rapids and Louisville. Each city will receive a $25,000 stipend to support the effort and another $50,000 to implement its Racial Equity Action Plan.

Officials in those cities will analyze how their government operations impact people of color and develop solutions that are actionable, and assess racial equity in their core government operations with a specific focus on opportunity youth, defined as adults and youth of color aged 16 to 24, who are disproportionally out of school or work.

According to 2013 Census data, the median income for white families is about $48,454 compared to $30,010 for black families and $25,925 for Hispanic/Latino families.

In addition to its five-city initiative, Racial Equity Here will work to shift the national dialogue around racial equity, according to the blog post.

The initiative grew out of a Living Cities task force formed in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore. The panel drew a cross-section of leaders to formulate a plan of action against the lingering effects of structural racism in U.S. cities.