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Harlem Children’s Zone Raises $26 Million Towards National COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Efforts, Named 2020 Audacious Project Grantee

A man and woman exchange produce at a farmers market

Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) has raised $26 million toward its national COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts to help Black communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. HCZ was awarded the funding as a prestigious 2020 Audacious Project grantee.

The $26 million commitment from The Audacious Project will go toward HCZ’s $50 million goal to supercharge national COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts in Harlem and its six  partner cities across the U.S. The William Julius Wilson Institute at HCZ is the platform for this national effort.

“Harlem Children’s Zone is delivering emergency resources and services designed to address the needs of Black communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” said Anna Verghese, Executive Director of The Audacious Project at TED. “At a time when efficacy and fast action are critical, their comprehensive approach and deep community ties are paramount to building an equitable recovery and resilient future. We are grateful to be able to support their work both in Harlem and as their model expands across the country.”

“The Audacious investment serves as an incredible vote of confidence in the national leadership role of Harlem Children’s Zone and is a testament to the impactful work of our amazing partners,” said Kwame Owusu-Kesse, CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone. “Furthermore, it underscores our model’s critical element — targeting neighborhoods with comprehensive services — which unlocks the great potential in our communities and ensures a pathway to social and economic mobility.”

5 Needs That Any COVID-19 Response Should Meet

In his TED Talk, HCZ CEO Kwame Owusu-Kesse explains HCZ’s comprehensive COVID-19 relief and recovery response focused on five primary areas of need.

Emergency Response

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on communities of color, HCZ swiftly conceived and implemented a comprehensive multi-pronged approach to emergency response and recovery, focusing on five crucial areas:

  • Protecting the most vulnerable
  • Bridging the digital divide
  • Preventing learning loss
  • Mitigating the mental health crisis
  • Providing economic relief and recovery

“The evidence is clear and indisputable — African American communities are the most vulnerable,” said Geoffrey Canada, Founder and President of Harlem Children’s Zone. “African Americans are most readily susceptible to become infected, suffer more severe symptoms, and die at significantly higher numbers. We must do everything humanly possible to turn this data around.”


Partnering with Nonprofits in Areas of Need

The primary objective of the national COVID-19 relief and recovery effort is to inject vital resources into communities that have historically faced neglect and disinvestment. HCZ has partnered with six highly respected institutions that are located in areas with significant need, anchored in the communities they serve, and have the capacity to deliver on this effort:


Engaging National Partners

HCZ has also engaged a set of national partners — NAACP, StriveTogether, and PolicyLink — with footprints in the seven communities and national reach and who will amplify impact through membership networks, advocacy, and mass communications. Through their direct work on-the-ground, HCZ and its partners aim to reach over 100,000 community members.

This investment will also strengthen a powerful, Black-led partnership that can pool and leverage more resources in order to drive health equity, justice, and social and economic mobility in Black communities across America in the years ahead.