Twin Ports foundation to award grants for projects that advance African heritage

The Unity Fund will award $5,000-$10,000 to applicants.

The Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation has launched a new grant program that targets projects that advance African heritage.
Brielle Bredsten / 2022 file / Duluth News Tribune

SUPERIOR — The Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation announced Tuesday, May 23 it is accepting applications for Unity Fund grants that aim to support projects that advance African heritage — the first grant program of its kind the Community Foundation administers. Funds will potentially be available June 1.

Funds ranging from $5,000-$10,000 are available to applicants, drawing from $200,000 the Community Foundation secured through donations and matching funds. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year.

High tide lifts all boats. This is not only going to be good for the Black community, this is going to be good for the community as a whole.
Carl Crawford, Unity Fund Committee member, Duluth human rights officer

The Unity Fund began in April 2021 in the wake of the George Floyd protests, which Carl Crawford, Unity Fund Committee member and human rights officer for the city of Duluth, said created an opportunity.

Carl Crawford.jpg
Carl Crawford

“This conversation has been happening for a number of years, because we’ve all looked around and said, ‘Where are the people of color that are owning businesses and where are we bringing ideas and opportunities?’” Crawford said. “And for the Northland, it’s a really big deal to have young people see someone that reflects them owning a business, going to their restaurant, going to their shop.”

To benefit community members without experience with grants, the Unity Fund Committee sought to lower barriers and make the process accessible.


“Grants can be daunting,” Janet Kennedy, Duluth City Council president and Unity Fund Committee member, said. “It’s really hard to apply for that and have to wait three months. And then once you get accepted or not accepted, right, you got sometimes 30 days to get all the paperwork done. The issue could have gotten worse by then so you actually need more money than what you applied for.”

According to Kennedy, the turnaround time for Unity Fund applications should be no more than 30 days, but she added that in emergencies, the committee could have conversations with the Community Foundation to get funds to people in need more quickly.

New Duluth City Council president Janet Kennedy smiles outside of City Hall
Janet Kennedy.
Jed Carlson / 2023 file / Superior Telegram

With inflation and the state of the economy, Crawford said, “The timing could not be more perfect.”

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, Crawford said one of the challenges the committee identified was how hard it is for entrepreneurs to get funding.

Eligible applicants must be 501(c)(3) or 170(c)(1) organizations located in or serving Duluth, Superior, Hermantown, Proctor, Rice Lake or Iron Range communities. Individuals would not be able to apply for the grants unless sponsored by such organizations.

Karen Sunderman, the communications specialist for the Community Foundation, listed Health Equity Northland, Voices for Ethnic and Multicultural Awareness and, for businesses, the Entrepreneur Fund as a few of the organizations that could potentially sponsor individuals.

“If you are not a 501(c)(3), we can direct you to a nonprofit that can sponsor you,” Sunderman said.

“It’s groundbreaking to have a community grant for people of color that is primarily governed, if you would, by a board of people of color and supported by many communities,” Crawford said.


“High tide lifts all boats. This is not only going to be good for the Black community — this is going to be good for the community as a whole.”

More information about the grant can be found on the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation at .

Noah Beardslee is an intern at the Duluth News Tribune for summer 2023. He is currently pursuing a degree in journalism at the University of Minnesota Duluth. You can reach him at or 218-723-5329.
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