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For Juneteenth, Here Are 8 Kansas City Organizations Getting A Boost From Give Black KC

Neka Cotton with Soulcentrictea.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Neka Cotton, owner of Soulcentrictea, is one of several Kansas City business owners benefiting from Give Black KC.

Banks can be reluctant to lend to Black-owned businesses and nonprofits. That's why a Juneteenth fundraiser is stepping in to get Kansas City organizations access to capital.

In honor of Juneteenth, Give Black KCis raising $80,000 for eight Black-led nonprofits and businesses in Kansas City. The week-long fundraiser helps local Black organizations that may have trouble accessing capital due to racial inequity in lending practices.

Give Black KC did not take place last year because of the pandemic, but has returned with a focus on “philanthropic redlining"—the systemic lack of funding for Black-led nonprofits. That term comes from the practice of marking racial makeup on a map and denying financial services to Black neighborhoods.

Here are some of the organizations Give Black is fundraising for.


Generating Income For Tomorrow, or GIFT, aims to close the racial wealth gap in Kansas City by investing in Black-owned businesses when banks won’t.

“A bank today is still less likely to give a loan to somebody on Prospect because it’s not seen as economically viable as starting that business on Main Street,” said Brandon Calloway, co-founder and CEO of GIFT.

Calloway said large corporations told him they were afraid to invest in GIFT in its early days. Calloway said the experience is not unique to GIFT. and affects many Black-owned businesses in Kansas City

“When we talk about what are the impacts of redlining today... when you look at those communities, it’s like another city,” Calloway said. “The school system is different, the policing system is different.”

Calloway believes Give Black KC can do good work fighting racial inequity in the philanthropic sector.

“This is jumping off point to begin financial sustainability for these organizations,” he said.

Brandon Calloway is one of the co-founders of G.I.F.T.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Brandon Calloway is one of the co-founders of G.I.F.T.

The Greenline Initiative

Ajia Morris and her husband started the Greenline Initiative as a response to the challenges they faced as a young Black professional couple looking for housing on Kansas City’s east side.

“The biggest, most glaring issue is that there’s just a missing middle in housing,” Morris said. “In 64128, the zip code I live in, only 47.9% of my neighbors own their homes.”

Morris said the rest of the homes in her community have absent owners who maintain the homes poorly. The Greenline Initiative finds these absent homes and renovates them before putting them on the market at reasonable prices.

Morris said $10,000 from Give Black KC would cover about 40% of renovating an abandoned house, moving The Greenline Initiative closer to turning over another home.

Morris said there may be an unintentional bias in philanthropic funding that favors other organizations over Black organizations. Give Black KC, Morris said, is helping uplift the nonprofits that are left behind.

“Each of our organizations represents a different yet important aspect of our Black community, and by supporting and uplifting each of those components of the entire community, we uplift it as well,” Morris said.

The Nia Project

The Nia Projectoffers holistic services and advocacy work for Black women and girls in Kansas City. The project comes from the work that founder and president Terri Barnes has been doing for 20 years.

Barnes previously mentored Black women and girls, but she said her mentees faced bigger challenges than she could address with mentoring alone.

“In our community, we have a lot of violence, we have a lot of poverty, we have a lot of broken infrastructure,” Barnes said. “We need a lot of different resources.”

The Nia Project plans to offer two programs: Black Women Get Fit, an annual health and wellness event, and a summer program for high school girls. The summer program is scheduled to launch in 2022.

Barnes said a grant from Give Black KC would help sponsor the Black Women Get Fit event this October. Barnes plans to put the money toward providing meals for the women in attendance at the event and hiring a contractor for the nonprofit.

“My vision is to get past the safety net,” Barnes said. “We’ve got to get families to a place where they’re thriving, you know, they’re being successful. They’re not just existing and barely making it.”

Raytown Emergency Assistance Program

Raytown Emergency Assistance Program, or REAP, helps families in Raytown through utility assistance and rental assistance, as well as food pantry services.

According to executive director Michael Watson, REAP began in the basement of Blue Ridge Presbyterian Church in 1982. Now, REAP offers food pantry assistance to 150 families a week and other assistance to 25 families a week.

It’s been harder to get funding during the pandemic, however, because of the number of people in the community who lost their jobs.

A grant from Give Black KC would allow REAP to buy meat and other food items to give out every Friday, as well as help more families meet bills and rent payments.

“It would help tremendously,” Watson said.

Life’s Work Counseling And Consulting

Life’s Work Counseling and Consulting is a therapy business that offers culturally-competent counseling to Black communities with therapists from the same background as their clients.

“We know that there is a stigma around mental health in urban communities, and of course I want to be able to reduce that stigma while providing treatment and education,” said founder Shantai McCray.

McCray has lived in Kansas City her whole life. After jobs in several different sectors, McCray decided to start her business while working as a full-time therapist.

By working with her landlord and sharing a waiting space with other businesses, McCray was able to keep Life's Work alive. Most of the funding came from her own finances, and as it's grown, she’s gotten a bigger space and hired more staff.

Give Black KC would help cover her administrative costs and hire a part-time assistant.

“I was really excited when they called me and talked about the opportunity to be a part of the collaborative,” McCray said. “I’m all about the collective effort, the things that we can do. We can pool resources in order to better serve our community.”

Nika Cotton wipes down a counter inside Soulcentricitea shortly after opening for the day recently. The cafe is filled with Afro-centric art and also has a "tea tent" for events or quiet space.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Nika Cotton wipes down a counter inside Soulcentricitea shortly after opening for the day recently. The cafe is filled with Afro-centric art and also has a "tea tent" for events or quiet space.


Soulcentricitea is a tea shop at 37th and Troost where all of the signature drinks are named after prominent Black authors. Owner Nika Cotton said her shop provides comfort and self-care for the Black community.

“It’s definitely my mission to balance kind of self care with communal care,” Cotton said. “Communal care is very important. We always hear a lot about, you know, taking care of ourselves, but it’s so important that we take care of each other. And that’s why Give Black is so important.”

Cotton said that, because of the pandemic, it was impossible to get funding for her new business. Banks that Cotton approached for startup capital would only lend to existing businesses.

Cotton plans to use the grant from Give Black KC to extend her lease on the shop.

“I want to be around for a very long time.” Cotton said.


WeCodeKC gives Black children exposure to computer science. Through partnerships with other local organizations, WeCode students can build projects and receive stipends to gain real-world experience.

“These are skills that kids can learn as soon as they get out of school and start with an internship or actually in the workforce,” said co-founder and CEO Tammy Buckner. “Many students may not be interested or be able to afford to go to college. This is almost like a trade. This is a skill set that they could get a certification in and work and get jobs making $70,000 to 80,000 a year. They don't need a four-year college degree.”

With the Give Black grant, WeCode would be able to offer stipends to students as well as a salary for developers.

“Women-led businesses normally don't get funding from funders and things like that,” Buckner said.

Buckner also hopes this grant will help WeCode grow larger and partner with businesses in other parts of the nation.


Dacia Martins started UrbnHub during the pandemic to connect families with organizations that serve the urban core.

“Unfortunately, urban core-focused organizations, especially Black-led organizations, don't have access to the same funding, therefore hindering their ability to market the families that need the opportunities the most,” Martin said. “That’s where I come in.”

On the UrbnHub Facebook group, Martins promotes entrepreneurship resources, vaccination events, school events, food banks, employment fairs and other resources to her 477 members.

“There's so many different types of people in the urban core,” Martins said. “Everybody needs something different.”

A grant from Give Black would allow her to market better and reach an even wider audience.

Jamie Jiang is a news intern for KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @jambojiang
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