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Never underestimate the financial power of white guilt. That’s something that Black Resilience Fund co-founder Cameron Whitten discovered last summer, when the Portland Black Lives Matter protests struck a chord in the hearts of white supporters across the nation. 

When faraway friends reached out to the Portland, Oregon native, offering to help in any way they could, Mr. Whitten replied by requesting funds to support Portland BLM protestors. As wildfires simultaneously raged across Oregon, many BLM supporters lost their jobs and livelihoods. Capitalizing on the drive for support, Mr. Whitten posted on Facebook, and raised over $250,000 in three days. 

From the beginning, he and Black Resilience Fund co-founder Salomé Chimuku worked to ensure that the fund had the infrastructure to support donations of all sizes. The Black Resilience Fund then legally became part of another non-profit organization Whitten founded, Brown Hope, which provides safe spaces for Black and Brown Portland citizens to promote healing and change.

A symbol of hope and resource for change

Ms. Chimuku had a sense that the Black Resilience Fund would appeal to people. Of her initial involvement, she says, “I was like, this is gonna be a lot bigger and take a lot more work than you think. I became the systems person.” The Black Resilience Fund grew by leaps and bounds, with a staff of up to 400 people between employees and volunteers. 

The Black Resilience Fund became a symbol of hope and change for supporters across Oregon — as well as the rest of the country. Both Oregon Senators Ron Wyden (D) and Jeff Merkley (D) support the organization, which has even been researched by Princeton for its organization structure and hands-on support. 

The Black Resilience Fund leadership, which also includes Yndiah Holley as Program Manager, is committed to transparency and accountability with funds. Applicants must meet criteria and have a 15-minute interview with organizers, after which their application is considered. If approved, the money — usually $300 — is available within several weeks. 

Fund grows far beyond expectations

The Black Resilience Fund has raised over $2 million dollars since June 2020. The categories of support include money for utilities, student loan debt, medical bills, and moving costs. Over 7,000 Black Portland citizens have received Black Resilience Fund support since that time. 

As for the future, the Black Resilience Fund — which Whitten and Chimuku initially planned as a one-time emergency services organization — recognizes the need for sustainability and effective long-term leadership. To that end, Black Resilience Fund has created a second fund, the Black Resilience Future Fund, in order to support paid leadership in its endeavors. Just like the Black Resilience Fund, the Future fund provides transparency and accountability through weekly reports

To donate to the Black Resilience Fund, go here.

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...