Dissolving antiracism nonprofit grants assets to WMCAT

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Partners for a Racism-Free Community closed its doors after a decade and is giving its intellectual property assets to the West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology. Courtesy WMCAT

Partners for a Racism-Free Community closed its doors after a decade and is giving its intellectual property assets to the West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology.

WMCAT said Monday that the Partners for a Racism-Free Community (PRFC) board of directors voted to shutter the nonprofit July 3 after 10 years of helping individuals and organizations work to become racism-free.

The decision was unanimous between the board of directors and the staff, as the organization faced a lack of funding and several staff transitions in recent years.

The last directive of the organization was to ensure PRFC’s proprietary anti-racism assessment tool would live on through another nonprofit.

To that end, PRFC gave all intellectual property and the rights of the PRFC Organizational Assessment Tool — also known as the Institutional Challenge to Achieve Racial Equity (ICARE) — to Public Agency at West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology (WMCAT), an equity-centered design consultancy and social enterprise founded in 2015 that is embedded in the Grand Rapids-based nonprofit WMCAT.

“It is with both great hope and a heavy heart that we shut down Partners for a Racism-Free Community,” said Sharon LaChappelle, PRFC’s former project director. “The work of the organization and those who helped form it will not be forgotten.

“Now, WMCAT is positioned for this very critical time in history to absorb, operationalize and implement the PRFC Organizational Assessment Tool that is specifically designed to address and dismantle systemic racism in our institutions. The baton has been passed well, yet there is so much more work to do.”

Daniel Williams, WMCAT’s president and CEO, is a former board member for PRFC.

“The work of WMCAT is perfectly aligned with the goals of the assessment, and our social enterprise, Public Agency, is the natural avenue in which our region and beyond can engage with (its) very important tenets,” Williams said.

During the past decade, PRFC partnered with 43 organizations in the region to complete the assessment, a credentialing program and process in which participants were challenged to identify and document positive actions toward a racism-free environment. The tool assessed participants on leadership engagement, external collaborations, contractor and vendor practices, customer practices and more. The first step in the process focused on the full commitment of leadership toward becoming racism-free.

“PRFC gave us the kick in the pants we needed,” said Diana Sieger, president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, which participated in the assessment. “(They) pushed me and helped us appropriately develop our work in addressing structural and institutional racism.”

The team at Public Agency at WMCAT committed to an apprenticeship with PRFC in the coming months to learn the assessment tool. Together, the agency and the former organization will work to design a version of the tool that can be applied to help current and future clients.

“We are excited to engage with (the) community and are confident that the newly co-designed application will continue to evolve, grow and adapt to the work of eliminating racism in all of our institutions,” Williams said.

LaChappelle most recently operated PRFC out of the YWCA in downtown Grand Rapids and spent the past year archiving thousands of documents from PRFC’s records to keep the history of the organization and its work alive. The archives also include racial justice and equity work dating back to 1997. Extensive PRFC records and documents including a “Racial Justice/PRFC Oral History Project” can be found at the Grand Rapids Public Library. The library has plans to make this content available to the community soon. The Grand Rapids Public Museum also is keeping records, and LaChappelle is hopeful they will be exhibited in the future for the community to see.

Organizations interested in learning about or engaging with the ICARE assessment can contact Public Agency at WMCAT at hello@publicagency.org or call (616) 552-1575.

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