Women of Color Launch Philanthropic Group

Aug 20, 2018

Tendaji Co-Founder Sabrina Pritchett-Evans, far left, and a few of the some 20 members of her new philanthropic group take a break during the Saturday, Aug. 18 inaugural round of grant applicants' pitches.
Credit Earlene McMichael | WMUK

Twenty local black women professionals are pooling their money to aid Greater Kalamazoo-area nonprofits that offer cultural, educational or human-service programs of interest to African-Americans. A few months ago, they formed the Tendaji giving circle. That's Swahili for "makes things happen."

On Saturday, the women’s organization held its first grant competition. It invited five groups to make 10-minute pitches. After deliberating about an hour, Tendaji picked two of them to share the $20,000 prize with no strings attached, a funding process the women say they plan to do once every year.

State Farm Insurance agent Sabrina Pritchett-Evans and Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Executive Director Belinda Tate co-founded Tendaji.

Pritchett-Evans says that they feel their unrestricted grants are filling a need.

"They can apply it to salaries if necessary, whatever they see as a need in their organization, even if was to say: 'We need a new roof on our building.' They could have said that," Pritchett-Evans says.

"We know that, a lot of times with nonprofits, there's things they have to do in order to apply for certain dollars. And, if they don't meet those certain guidelines, they're just out and they can't get those dollars."

Winning the top $15,000 grant was the Merze Tate Explorers travel club for girls, according to Pritchett-Evans. Kalamazoo's Black Arts & Cultural Center received the second grant of $5,000.

The organizations are headed by Sonya Bernard-Hollins and Yolonda Lavender, respectively. Bernard-Hollins started Merze Tate Explorers in 2008. Lavender began as BACC executive director in 2015.

Bernard-Hollins named her group after Western Michigan University's first African-American female Distinguished alumna Merze Tate, an educator and journalist who traveled the world.

Tate received her degree in 1927 from Western State Teacher's College, now WMU.  She died in 1996. Both Bernard-Hollins and Lavender also graduated from Western.

Pritchett-Evans says a formal check presentation is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the KIA. The event is open to the public.

Tendaji’s membership spans the medical, legal, public safety, financial services, nonprofit and educational fields. 

Sonya Bernard-Hollins of Merze Tate Explorers won the top $15,000 grant at the inaugural round of funding of Tendaji. She's pictured here making the required 10-minute pitch on Saturday, Aug. 18.
Credit Earlene McMichael | WMUK