ABFE: A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities Announces 2023 Institutional Award Winner (James A. Joseph Lecture & Award)

ABFE: A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities Announces 2023 Institutional Award Winner (James A. Joseph Lecture & Award)

Memphis Music Initiative


The ABFE Institutional Award for Philanthropic Leadership was established in 2002 to recognize significant efforts and contributions of grant-making organizations to promoting philanthropy as a means for social change in Black communities. This award recognizes an exemplary grant-making institution that models effective and responsive grant-making practices.


ABFE is proud to announce that the 2023 Institutional Award goes to the Memphis Music Initiative (MMI). This honor, which is part of the James A. Joseph Lecture and Awards annual event, was created to recognize organizations that are practicing the type of effective and responsive grantmaking that ABFE seeks for Black communities.


For the past seven years, the Memphis Music Initiative has provided unrestricted grants and capacity building to mostly Black and brown-led/serving creative youth development organizations.  Those resources include executive coaching, consultants, training, and intensive staff support.


“’What is the Blackest thing we can do in this situation?’ That is our guiding ethos at Memphis Music Initiative. Our work is rooted in and gains wings through the experiences of Black people in America, and we are overjoyed to be recognized by ABFE for innovative philanthropic practice,” says Dr. Rychetta Watkins, Director of Grantmaking & Partnerships at MMI.


“As a Connecting Leaders Fellowship alum, I am so grateful to ABFE for equipping me to be a better, more empowered grantmaking professional. We are honored and humbled to be recognized as part of the James A. Joseph Lecture and Award event,” continues Dr. Watkins. “This award is encouragement and affirmation that will fuel our continued drive to speak truth to power and address philanthropic redlining and chronic underfunding by investing in Black arts organizations who are preparing the next generation of creatives to continue the legacy of our art, culture, and music.”


In 2022, thanks to funds from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, MMI was able to put financial resources into three initiatives: Black Pay Matters (which poured a total of $400,000 into “catch-up” salary funding for Black executive directors at 13 foundations), Black Rest Matters (an MMI-hosted retreat for nine Black and brown creative youth development leaders), and Black Legacy Matters (contributed grants to capital campaigns, the hardest dollars for grassroots organizations to raise).


“The Memphis Music Initiative is a great example of what transformative and responsive leadership looks like at an institutional grantmaking level. The Memphis Music Initiative continues to illustrate how Grantmakers can meet the unique needs of Black communities, when you have thoughtfulness and innovation at the forefront,” says ABFE President and CEO Susan Taylor Batten. “Preserving the arts is critical to maintaining the creativity and legacy of our people.”


The 32nd Annual James A. Joseph Lecture and Awards will take place on April 14th in Raleigh, North Carolina during Harambee, the largest convening of Black philanthropic professionals. Virtual tickets–which provide access to the JJL Lecture and Awards ceremony, panels, workshops, and discussions–are still available. Reserve your virtual ticket today!