Conversations around race and racial justice

How descendants of enslaved people in Minnesota, the Dakotas can apply to receive $50,000 grants

horizontal illustration that shows people of color
The Open Road Fund, which totals $50 million, aims to build back wealth for descendants of the Atlantic Slave Trade.
Courtesy of Nexus Community Partners via Sahan Journal

This story comes to you from Sahan Journal through a partnership with MPR News.

By Tiffany Bui | Sahan Journal

The nonprofit Nexus Community Partners plans to distribute $50,000 grants to at least 800 Black residents in Minnesota, North Dakota or South Dakota through 2031.

The Open Road Fund, which totals $50 million, aims to build back wealth for descendants of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Applications for the Open Road Fund are open until July 28.

“Throughout our history, Black communities have always worked collectively. When we move ahead and do better, we’re always looking for ways to bring other folks along with us and to create more justice as we have more resources to make those things possible,” said Danielle Mkali, senior director of community wealth building at Nexus.

Nexus Partners was awarded $50 million by the Bush Foundation in December 2021 to create the Open Road Fund. This followed the Bush Foundation’s commitment to put $100 million toward trust funds that supported Black and Indigenous residents. The NDN Collective was awarded the other $50 million, and launched the Collective Abundance Fund in May to award money to Indigenous community members in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

squared illustration that shows people of color
Applications for the Open Road Fund are open until July 28.
Courtesy of Nexus Community Partners via Sahan Journal

Who is eligible for the Open Road Fund? 

  • Residents of Minnesota, North Dakota or South Dakota

  • At least 14 years old

  • Must be descendants of the Atlantic Slave Trade 

How can people use the grant money? 

The grant can be used for any wealth-building project, like a house mortgage or starting a business. Mkali said the grant’s definition of wealth-building is purposefully broad to encourage applicants to submit their ideas.

While businesses and institutions are not eligible, individual Black business owners can apply. Interested applicants can read the full eligibility guidelines here

How are grantees chosen?

Mkali said the application review will be split into two rounds. In the first round, Nexus will sort through all applications to make sure they meet the eligibility requirements. Then, 100 applications will be selected at random to receive the grant.

According to Mkali, applications are chosen randomly because it’s impossible to measure the merits of one person’s goals over another in this process. 

“The randomization was really to say, ‘Yes, we want to see your submission — we want to see that there’s been a thoughtful submission, but that we’re not going to measure people’s plans against each other,’” she said.

The Open Road Fund will award $50,000 to 100 grantees annually until 2031.

I’m an Indigenous resident. How can I apply for the Collective Abundance Fund?

The fund is open to Indigenous people in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota to support wealth-building projects. Awardees will receive grants of either $25,000 or $50,000. 

Applications for the Collective Abundance Fund close July 11, at 5 p.m. Applicants must register by filling out an eligibility quiz before completing the application. Registration closes July 7 at 3 p.m.

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