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Race & Equity

Charlotte's new $250M initiative aims to address racial inequities, mayor says

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David Boraks
/
WFAE
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles is seen in a 2019 file photo.

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles says a newly launched initiative aims to raise $250 million to help bridge the digital gap between affluent and poverty-stricken communities in North Carolina's largest city.

Other goals of the Mayor's Racial Equity Initiative, announced Monday, include investing in Charlotte's corridors of opportunity and elevating Johnson C. Smith University into one of the top 10 HBCUs in the U.S. Some of Charlotte's biggest companies have already donated to the initiative, but Lyles says the project does what the Queen City does best by combining bold ideas, philanthropy and collaborative problem-solving.

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“The thanks that I want to give is to this community, because you’re making it possible for us to achieve a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming city,” she said. “You’re making it possible for us to tackle racial inequity and upward mobility with accountability and abundance.”

The Ally Charitable Foundation made a $5 million donation, allotting $2 million to the digital divide and $3 million to the corridors of opportunity. Over $62 million was donated to Johnson C. Smith, including a $40 million donation from the university’s long-time partner, the Duke Endowment. In addition, Mooresville-based Lowe’s is planning to launch a retail management program at the school while Charlotte's Atrium Health is collaborating with Wake Forest University to provide Johnson C. Smith with a pre-med track.

As a part of its mission to “improve lives and build a stronger community,” the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library contributed $8 million of funds from the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund and plans to use it to provide 20,000 free devices to community residents. The library system is also launching a program to provide free internet access to over 800 households in Charlotte's Historic West End.

As of Monday, the initiative received $196 million in donations.

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