On June 1, a week after the death of George Floyd, Steve Bisciotti and the Ravens organization committed to donate $1 million to support social justice reform in Baltimore.
Over the past two months, as protests have continued around the country and the fight for equality shows no signs of slowing, a group of current and former Ravens came together to decide how to best put that money to use.
On Monday, the Ravens announced that 28 programs will receive the funds, which is an indication of the widespread need. It also shows Bisciotti and the Ravens are serious about making a large-scale difference.
"We have a powerful platform – and a responsibility – to help eliminate injustices that are prevalent in our communities. For far too long, people of color have been underserved by a system that should protect, rather than harm," Biscoitti stated. "Our entire organization, including players past and present, is fully committed to creating social justice reform. We will continue to seek out opportunities that support, encourage and defend those who are most in need."
While the Stephen and Renee Bisciotti Foundation and the Baltimore Ravens provided the money, they wanted the direction of the aid itself to come from the players.
A committee was formed, consisting of long snapper Morgan Cox, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, outside linebacker Matthew Judon, offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, kicker Justin Tucker and former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith.
They met on multiple occasions to identify organizations they believed in most.
"I just want to say how I proud I am of our team, organization and all the staff members for their commitment to the fight against systemic racism," Stanley said. "And Steve Bisciotti, for creating our committee of players, really listening to us and the foundations that we think will really make a difference and really create long-term change. I think we're committed to making this change in our world and specifically this country."
Stanley became a primary voice in those conversations. Stanley, who embraces his Tongan and African-American heritage, grew up in a diverse community in Las Vegas and has been one of the team's most outspoken players about social justice.
"I'm passionate about this, knowing the position I'm in and how blessed I am to be in a position to help people," Stanley said. "I'm not going to forget about the people who are dealing with things that aren't fair. We have an opportunity to help make the world a better place, and I want to take advantage of that.
"We really looked out there for different projects, specifically in the DMV area, that we really thought had real impact and created long-term change, generational change."
Smith knows first-hand about the change that is needed because he lived in it. He had a tough upbringing in Virginia, watching his mother struggle with the criminal justice system.
The oldest of seven children, Smith often took care of his siblings as his mother worked two jobs trying to provide for her family. One day, she threw her body over him to shield him from stray gun fire.
"When you talk about social justice, there are many different issues – from education, to criminal justice reform, to health. There are so many avenues the players could have chosen, so they really spread it out among a lot of different grassroots organizations," Smith stated. "This is just the beginning of trying to figure out as many ways to collaborate with the people in the city who are doing great things to help change Baltimore for the better."
An original member of the Players Coalition, Smith was active in the community throughout his career and still reached out in Baltimore even when he played in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Carolina. He's moved back to the area in retirement and continues to look for ways to help.
"I'm excited to be back in Baltimore and have the opportunity to help the Ravens continue to impact the community," Smith stated. "Even as a player, I remember the team being actively involved. And now, with the things that have been happening and brought to light over the years, I've seen their efforts and intentions ramp up even more."
Van Brooks is the Founder of Safe Alternative Foundation for Education (SAFE), which believes that all students should have access to a quality education and the resources and opportunities that will assist them in achieving their goals.
The $35,000 in funding SAFE received will go directly to helping to launch another center focused on workforce development. The program will help 24 young people (18 to 24 years old) gain employment in the first year, then introduce middle schoolers to them for a more long-term approach to showing youth how they can secure stable work.
"There are a lot of barriers facing people in our neighborhood stopping them from having access to jobs," Brooks said. "There's a skill training gap and educational requirement gap that's there. This center will allow us to address a lot of those issues our community faces."
Monique Cox is the Executive Director of Urban Alliance, which serves high school aged under-resourced youth who are at risk of disconnecting from pathways to economic self-sufficiency and lack the skills, experience and networks needed for success.
"During this unprecedented time, it's especially critical that we level the playing field when it comes to educational access," Cox said.
"We are so grateful for the donation from the Ravens. It says that they are committed to the city. They are not just here to entertain. They are also here to make a positive impact on the community they are in. I am very appreciative that they have made deep roots in this community."
Listed below are the 28 organizations that received funds, and a brief summary of their mission:
Through Christ and community, 10:12 Sports uses athletics to provide mentoring and job training opportunities for youth. For more information, please visit: http://www.1012sports.com/.
100 Black Men of Maryland, Inc.
The goal of 100 Black Men of Marylandis to guide and support today's young leaders. The organization is focused on expanding and strengthening capabilities, perspectives and power in areas of critical importance to communities of color and the state at large. For more information, visit https://100blackmenofmaryland.org/.
ACT Impact: Baltimore Pumphouse
American Communities Trust (ACT) is a national community development partner committed to serving low-income urban communities with improved infrastructure, new amenities and targeted services. The Baltimore Pumphouse project is designed to transform a 3.5-acre parcel in East Baltimore into a campus of food system facilities and uses. For more information, please visit http://www.actimpact.org/.
B-360 utilizes dirt bike culture to end the cycle of poverty, disrupt the prison pipeline and build bridges in communities. Through a STEM education program, community engagement, workforce pipelining and events, they equip disconnected youth and adults with the skills to secure educational and career opportunities in STEM ﬁelds, while changing perceptions of dirt bike riders and engineers. For more information, please visit: https://www.b360baltimore.org/.
Baltimore Action Legal Team
Baltimore Action Legal Team provides legal support to members of the Baltimore community as they exercise their civil liberties by protesting against injustices rooted in structural racism and economic inequality. For more information, please visit https://www.baltimoreactionlegal.org/.
Black Women Build – Baltimore
Black Women Build – Baltimore is a home ownership and wealth building initiative that trains black women in carpentry, electrical and plumbing by restoring vacant and deteriorated houses in West Baltimore. For more information, please visit: https://blackwomenbuild.org/.
Bridges works with motivated Baltimore City youth from elementary school until the start of their careers. Currently, the 13-year-long system provides 270-plus participants, ages 9-22, with year-round programs, guidance and support with the goal of maximizing long-term potential inside and outside of school. For more information, please visit: http://www.bridgesbaltimore.org/.
BTST is a CARF accredited licensed mental health agency providing comprehensive programming and integrated care to children, teens and adults throughout the state of Maryland. For more information, please visit: https://www.btstservices.com/.
Center for Urban Families
The Center for Urban Families is a nonprofit working to empower individuals and families in Baltimore with the skills they need for long-term personal and economic success. Through a holistic, person-centered approach, the organization helps its members discover and reach their full potential. The program believes that every person matters, no matter who they are or where they come from, and that it is never too late for a second chance. For more information, please visit: https://www.cfuf.org/.
Challenge 2 Change
Challenge 2 Change is a Baltimore-based nonprofit focused on empowering youth, ages 7-24, with knowledge of self to prepare them for life, leadership and wealth through mentorship, conflict resolution and youth development activities. For more information, please visit: https://www.challenge2changeyouth.com/.
CLIA: Youth Voice for Community Change
CLIA develops young people to be leaders by connecting them to opportunities to amplify their voices, cultivate their skills and actively participate in the process of positive community change. For more information, please visit: http://cliayouth.org/.
Dent Education promotes equity by empowering under-resourced youth to discover and develop their innate creative potential to shape the world around them. For more information, please visit: https://www.denteducation.org/.
Family League of Baltimore
Family League of Baltimore serves as an architect of change by promoting data-driven, collaborative initiatives and aligning resources to create lasting outcomes for children, families and communities. For more information, please visit: https://www.familyleague.org/.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Baltimore engages coaches and athletes to grow in their faith and sport. Their relationships demonstrate a steadfast commitment to Jesus Christ and His Word through integrity, serving, teamwork and excellence. For more information, please visit: https://www.baltimorefca.org/.
Fund for Educational Excellence
The Fund for Educational Excellence is an independent nonprofit organization working to close the equity and opportunity gaps for all students in Baltimore City Public Schools. It expands resources, identifies and accelerates solutions, and recognizes excellence so that all children in Baltimore City Public Schools experience an effective and equitable education. For more information, please visit: https://ffee.org/.
Gideon's Promise is a public defender organization whose mission is to transform the criminal justice system by building a movement of public defenders who provide equal justice for marginalized communities. For more information, please visit: https://www.gideonspromise.org/.
Mentoring Mentors, Inc.
Mentoring Mentors is a Baltimore-based nonprofit established in 2014 to promote community interdependency and long-term relationships for African-American youth/adolescents ages 11-18. At its core, Mentoring Mentors is an organization that celebrates interdependency and teaches commitment to the community. For more information, please visit: https://mentoring-mentors.org/.
Next One Up
Building the next generation of Baltimore's leaders one student-athlete at a time, NOU engages high-risk middle and high school students from schools throughout Baltimore City and provides long-term mentoring, education and character development that changes lives. For more information, please visit: www.nextoneup.org.
No Boundaries Coalition
No Boundaries Coalition is a resident-led advocacy organization building a uniﬁed and empowered Central West Baltimore across the boundaries of race, class and neighborhood. For more information, please visit: https://noboundariescoalition.com/.
Out for Justice
Out for Justice, Inc. (OFJ) is an organization comprised of individuals who are both directly and indirectly impacted by the criminal justice system, advocating for the reform of policies and practices that adversely aﬀect successful reintegration into society. For more information, please visit: https://www.out4justice.org/.
Outward Bound's mission is to change lives through challenge and discovery using research-backed experiences and curriculum that shape students' perception of the world – and themselves. Outward Bound partners with nearly 100 different educational groups to serve over 5,000 young people in the Mid-Atlantic each year. Programs like the Police Youth Challenge bring together youth and officers in Baltimore to connect and rebuild trust; their high ropes challenge course gives local schools something much more than a field trip; and five-plus-day wilderness expeditions take students on unforgettable journeys that can change them forever. For more information, please visit: www.outwardboundbaltimore.org.
PeacePlayers unites divided communities through the power of sport. PeacePlayers Baltimore works primarily in the Park Heights community, providing free youth development, peacebuilding and after school basketball programming. PeacePlayers' goal is to develop a network of young leaders who come together across community divides and become change agents in building a more peaceful and equitable society. For more information, please visit: www.peaceplayers.org/location/baltimore-md-usa.
Safe Alternative Foundation for Education, Inc.
Safe Alternative Foundation for Education, Inc. (SAFE) believes that all students should have access to a quality education and the resources and opportunities that will assist them in achieving their goals. The organization provides after-school, weekend and summer learning education opportunities through vocational programs that provide real world application, as well as exposing students to the world outside of their community. For more information, please visit: https://www.safealternative.org/
St. Francis Neighborhood Center
The St. Francis Neighborhood Center has existed since 1963 to raise awareness and bring change to the lives of those they serve in the communities of Baltimore's Reservoir Hill and Penn North neighborhoods. The center's mission is committed to ending generational poverty through education, while inspiring self-esteem, self-improvement and strengthening connections to the community. For more information, please visit: https://www.stfranciscenter.org/.
Thread believes that by cultivating relationships that transcend racial and socioeconomic barriers – and by creatively building unconventional families and communities not deﬁned by DNA and addresses – communities can overcome the poverty of isolation and, in its place, establish a wealth of human connection permanently linked by unconditional love and support. Thread understands that children growing up in concentrated poverty need more than just improved financial resources or better classrooms; they need the same unassailable support and deep interpersonal bonds that everyone needs. Thread builds these bonds for students, volunteers and collaborators. For more information, please visit: https://www.thread.org/.
Urban Alliance Baltimore
Urban Alliance serves high school under-resourced youth who are at risk of disconnecting from pathways to economic self-sufficiency and lack the skills, experience and networks needed for success. The organization uses professional or "soft" skills training, access and exposure to direct work experience, and meaningful adult relationships to help young people connect to pathways leading to self-sufficiency. For more information, please visit: https://theurbanalliance.org/.
Vehicles for Change Inc.
Vehicles for Change Inc. (VFC) empowers families with financial challenges to achieve economic and personal independence through car ownership and technical training. Since 1999, it has awarded cars to more than 6,200 low-income families, changing the lives of more than 22,000 people in the Baltimore region. For more information, please visit: https://www.vehiclesforchange.org/.
Y of Central Maryland
The Y is a mission-driven, charitable organization in Central Maryland dedicated to developing the full potential of every individual through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all. The Big Brothers Big Sisters at the Y program provides a one-to-one, professionally-supported mentoring program for youth ages 7-17 that is designed to provide consistent, caring positive role modeling and supportive guidance. For more information, please visit: https://ymaryland.org/.