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SLO city awards eight grants to nonprofits working on diversity, equity, and inclusion 

At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer, the San Luis Obispo City Council committed $120,000 to help boost diversity and equity programs at various local organizations.

click to enlarge INVEST In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, the city of San Luis Obispo awarded eight grants on Nov. 17 to local nonprofits focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • INVEST In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, the city of San Luis Obispo awarded eight grants on Nov. 17 to local nonprofits focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

After assembling a task force to prioritize the use of those funds, on Nov. 17, the city finalized eight grants that will aid community work ranging from the theater and arts, to health care, to education and literacy.

"This is a commendable milestone for the city of San Luis Obispo because it sets a precedent for how our communities can and should begin to approach system change," task force chair and Cal Poly graduate student Amman Asfaw said in a city press release.

At R.A.C.E Matters SLO, the grant will help fund a second public art series called BELONGING, which debuted last February as a month-long event to lift the voices and stories of the local African American community.

"We are extremely grateful," R.A.C.E Matters SLO said in a statement, adding that the funds will help "artfully amplify Black expression."

The SLO International Film Fest and the SLO Repertory Theatre also have plans to use their grants in the arts realm.

Skye McLennan, director of the SLO Film Festival, told New Times that the city's grant will go toward producing a short film series highlighting Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) filmmakers and activists "driving change within their own communities." The five films will air at the March 2021 film festival.

"This program will also feature two panel discussions," McLennan added. "One will feature local change-makers discussing the use of media as a tool for activism, and the second on building equity and inclusion throughout the filmmaking process."

At the SLO Repertory Theatre, Managing Artistic Director Kevin Harris said their grant will advance the company's push to "effectively promote anti-racist ideals in every aspect of our day-to-day work."

He said the funds are well timed as the nonprofit gears up to move into a new building.

"It is our No. 1 priority to do everything we can to ensure that the new theater is built with a strong, diverse, anti-racist foundation," Harris said. "Since May, our organization has grappled with our past. ... It has been extremely difficult, personal work, and we know that we have a long [way] to go as individuals and as a company."

The equity grants also benefit local English-learning residents through Literacy for Life, a nonprofit that teaches adults to read, write, and speak English.

According to Executive Director Bernadette Bernardi, the grant comes at a critical time amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The program, which has been around since the 1970s, serves a diverse clientele of mostly economically disadvantaged residents, providing free one-on-one tutoring services.

"[The diversity funds] validate our role in supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion in our communities—most especially through a time wherein resources are low and needs are very high," Bernardi said.

City funds will also help fill equity gaps in health care through the SLO Noor Foundation, which provides free medical care to uninsured community members.

"In recent years, SLO Noor has seen a growing need for inclusive care that addresses the obstacles faced by patients who are BIPOC, such as language barriers, transportation and technology access, and health care affordability," said Rebecca Brogdon, grants coordinator. "With funding provided by the city, SLO Noor will provide comprehensive bilingual health and supportive services to its underserved and uninsured patients, including free laboratory and imaging services, while conducting a citywide outreach campaign in English and Spanish to raise awareness of SLO Noor's services."

Undocumented residents are also served by the grants through the Central Coast Coalition for Undocumented Student Success. With its grant, the coalition plans to hold a "Undocu Community Summit" in fall 2021.

The summit aims to "gather and form strategic partnerships to collectively identify solutions to best support and address the needs of the undocumented community," according to a press release.

Other grant recipients included the Diversity Coalition of SLO County and One Cool Earth.

Looking forward, the SLO Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force's next step is to make policy recommendations to the City Council with the intention of enacting lasting change, according to task force chair Asfaw.

"The good work is not done," he said.

Fast fact

Cottage Health opened a new urgent care facility in SLO on Nov. 17. The clinic at 3970 Broad St. aims to provide "complete care within 45 minutes," offering both walk-in and online appointments between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week. Visit cottagehealth.org/urgent-care for more info. Δ

Assistant Editor Peter Johnson wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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