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The Louisville Urban League will use a $5.7 million donation to help sustain operations

022321 Norton Healthcare Sports and Learning Center_11
Development of the Norton Healthcare Sports & Learning Center in Louisville's Russell neighborhood was spearheaded by the Louisville Urban League.

Outgoing Louisville Urban League President Sadiqa Reynolds said a recent $5.7 million gift will be transformative to the work the organization does to help support people of color and other marginalized groups. 

The gift comes from writer and billionaire philanthropist Mackenzie Scott.  It’s the largest single sum from an individual in the Louisville Urban League’s 102-year-history, according to Reynolds.

She said the gift will help the Urban League continue crucial work. According to Greater Louisville Inc. – Louisville's chamber of commerce – the group serves 12,000 people a year, helping people achieve social and economic equity through assistance from programs for workforce development, housing and financial empowerment, youth development and education.

“So often, Black-led organizations and civil rights organizations really do not have the resources to even be in a position to think about how to sustain themselves beyond the moment that they are in,” she said. “And so I think, for the Louisville Urban League, this is really about how we sustain the work that we have been doing, because we know that it does work. And so that's really the plan for us.”

According to a news release, the gift follow’s Scott’s signing in 2019 of The Giving Pledge, a promise by some of the world’s richest people and families to donate the majority of their wealth to charitable organizations and causes. Scott is a novelist and one of the richest people in the world. Her net worth increased substantially when she got shares of Amazon stock in her divorce settlement with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. 

Reynolds said the donation sends the message that groups like the Louisville Urban League need ongoing support – not just when racial justice is “in style,” after international attention following the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery

"There's this moment in American thought where it is the right thing to do to invest in civil rights organizations and to look at and look for Black leadership itself,” Reynolds said. “And there's just as quickly as that comes in style, it goes right out. 

“And what MacKenzie Scott is saying is that this is not just a moment, right, but this is something we need to be focused on long term, this is how we begin to make America the place where everybody has access to the dream of this country, you know, that we all can tap into it.”

Scott also recently donated $20 million to Jefferson County Public Schools. 

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.