Patrice Onwuka Featured in Philanthropy Daily on MLK Day

As Americans honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. this week, his birthday is an opportunity to consider how we can remedy racial disparities that exist in this country. In an op-ed published in Philanthropy Daily, Philanthropy Roundtable Adjunct Senior Fellow Patrice Onwuka writes that philanthropy plays a key role in knocking down barriers and helping Black Americans.    

Below are excerpts from the op-ed entitled “Philanthropy’s Role in Helping Black Americans”: 

“Private giving does more than alleviate hardship and fill basic needs—as important as these are. It serves a critical role in advancing racial equality and economic mobility. Philanthropy has supported efforts that create self-sufficiency by helping individuals overcome personal obstacles and build the human capital to achieve economic and social mobility. Take Cincinnati Works, for example, a Cincinnati-based program founded by a local retired accounting professional who wanted to attack poverty in his community. This program reduced recidivism among its participants by 50%.  

Demanding that philanthropy abandon proven civil-society solutions for narrowly defined racial justice efforts (as was the trend in 2020) will starve individuals who are hungry for better lives access to time-tested paths upwards. Now is the time to redouble efforts to promote self-reliance, not discard them. Philanthropy has a track record for funding programs that both connect individuals to careers, but also address issues of character, personal behavior, and habits. 


As empowering as it is to accumulate skills or obtain a career, not every person has the motivation, know-how, or wherewithal to do so on his own. Generational poverty, addiction, and criminal backgrounds can make escaping poverty seem impossible. However, across the country, men and women who have overcome these obstacles are creating community-based initiatives to lead others to success. By resourcing these efforts and supporting organizations like the Woodson Center, which find these ground-up solutions, donors can help make strides in achieving racial equality.  

Dr. King called it a ‘cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.’ Nevertheless, he firmly believed that ‘we ought to do all we can and seek to lift ourselves by our own bootstraps.’ Private philanthropy can outfit children with the proverbial boots they need to do the hard work of pursuing opportunities in America.”  

Please continue reading “Philanthropy’s Role in Helping Black Americans” at Philanthropy Daily.  

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