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Black Business Association of Memphis, CodeCrew leaders on the local impact of Nike grants

By Corey Davis – Reporter, Memphis Business Journal

Feb 28, 2022

Nike's 1.1 million-square-foot facility in Frayser | MBJ

A key Memphis employer is continuing an initiative — and providing funding — to help address racial inequality and systematic racism in the U.S.

Ten Memphis-based nonprofits collectively received $600,000 in grant funding from Nike Inc., as part of the company’s Black Community Commitment. Nike is investing $5 million to assist national organizations and an additional $2.75 million to support local organizations in seven U.S. cities, including Memphis.

The commitment is part of Nike's multi-year pledge, announced in June 2020, to improve economic empowerment, education innovation, and social justice for Black communities in the U.S.

The following are the Memphis organizations and amounts received from Nike:

  • Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope (MICAH) — $75,000

  • Legacy of Legends CDC — $75,000

  • Black Business Association of Memphis — $70,000

  • CodeCrew — $60,000

  • Heal the Hood Foundation of Memphis — $60,000

  • Vance Avenue Youth Development Center — $60,000

  • Streets Ministries — $50,000

  • The Consortium MMT — $50,000

  • 100 Black Men of Memphis — $50,000

  • The Way Community Group — $50,000

Making a difference

Ernest Strickland, president and CEO of the Black Business Association (BBA) of Memphis, said often many organizations serving the Black business community have suffered from historical disinvestments.

With organization leaders managing thin budgets, Strickland noted they usually make safe moves in delivering services in fear of an inability to attract dollars.

“In order to move the needle, we need to make bold moves toward driving impact,” Strickland said. “We need innovation dollars to think big, test solutions, and make improvements."

Strickland said the financial assistance from Nike will allow the BBA to deliver value to the community by adding much needed capacity in terms of talent and resources to its organization.

“The [Nike funding] is especially helpful in our organization and other organizations because we can focus on our existing missions and programs, and not mission creep to meet a funders’ criteria,” he said. "Too often, funders unintentionally create duplication of services by the scope of work outlined and requirements to receive their funding.”

Tech impact support

CodeCrew was another notable Memphis nonprofit receiving a Nike grant. The organization mentors underrepresented youth to be tech innovators through practical, hands-on computer science education programs throughout Memphis.

Of the youth Code Crew serves weekly, 91% are Black and Hispanic youth; 47% are girls; and, overall, 89% of students are more likely to study computer science, according to Meka Egwuekwe, executive director of CodeCrew.

Egwuekwe said the Nike funds will go mainly toward expanding CodeCrew’s after-school and summer programming.

“Last summer, we had 200 to 300 kids, and so the grant will allow us to reach significantly more kids,” he said. “The combination of our after-school and in-school programs reach about 2,000 kids a year, mostly for in-school electives. In our after-school program, we see [about] 200 kids, so the grant will allow us to put our after-school programming in more schools, as well as starting in the fall.”

Egwuekwe explained that some of the grant funding will be reserved to help support its Code School program for adults. In the nonprofit’s adult program, after training is completed, the annual starting salary for its graduates in the computer science field is about $55,000. Prior to training, the annual starting salary for the graduates was approximately $16,000.

“We appreciate Nike believing in CodeCrew to support us in a way that we can make computer science widely available for kids and young adults,” Egwuekwe said. Oregon-based Nike is the fourth largest public company employer in the Memphis area, according to MBJ research. Nike has about 4,700 local employees.

Check out the Memphis Business Journal article here


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