It’s Black History Month. For many organizations in both the public and private sector, it’s a time to send out a celebratory message touting the achievements and history of Black Americans. For our Gilbert Family Foundation and Rocket Community Fund team members working together to build more equitable communities, it’s also deeply personal. And it isn’t simply because we’re dedicated to elevating underserved communities. Of the 42 team members and leaders driving our philanthropic efforts across both organizations, more than half are people of color, with 18 identifying as Black. We have representation across every program area, and nearly every partnership within our $500M commitment to building opportunity and equity in Detroit is managed or led by Black team members.

This, unfortunately, is not the norm. As with so many sectors, philanthropy continues to see a deep gap in representation. Even in our hometown of Detroit – the largest majority Black city in America – this gap persists.

“Nonprofits in this country are failing on their diversity and inclusion efforts, even as their missions address social justice and fairness issues,” highlighted a 2020 report from Race to Lead, which examined more than 5,000 workers in the philanthropy space. The report found that board members and senior leaders, and staff leadership of the nonprofits surveyed were more than 70% white.

That’s what makes both the Gilbert Family Foundation and the Rocket Community Fund and different. Our hiring practices reflect the dedication to serving the community in the most authentic way possible – which is why so many native Detroiters are leading our most important strategic investments.


Black History Month GFF and RCF team members
(From top left to right: Jonathan Pulley, Eugenia Chunn-Tate, Ashleigh Dandridge, Kitty Yarbrough, Denine Ngoyi, Cartiear Madlock, Myka Burley, James Feagin, Darnell Adams, Jasmin DeForrest, Brandi Brown, Andrea Benson, Leah Counts, Kinnus Paul, Dorienne Sherrod, Rob Lockett, and Veronica Gonzales. Not Pictured: Erica White)


“The Gilbert Family Foundation and Rocket Community Fund have a sharp focus on driving systemic change in order to increase economic opportunity for Detroiters,” said Laura Grannemann, Executive Director of both the Gilbert Family Foundation and the Rocket Community Fund. “Too often in Detroit, important decisions about housing, economic mobility, public space and culture have been made by people who aren’t personally affected by the outcomes of those decisions. We are committed to doing better. A diverse team produces more informed, more strategic and more sustainable work. And on top of all of that, it’s the right thing to do.”

For our team members, Black History Month isn’t limited to a specific timeframe. It’s celebrating the work they’re doing every day to uplift their community. It’s building a legacy of empowerment, opportunity, and meaningful solutions every single day.

To highlight their perspectives, all month long we’ll be featuring the 18 Black team members across both organizations who lead the strategies, programs, and investments that are creating a more equitable Detroit.

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