Funding Possibility for the Next Generation

Shanell L. McGoy, PhD, MPH - December 09, 2020

“Mama! Mama! I can’t … I’m through, I’m through” were among the words Mr. George Perry Floyd wailed with his last breaths. Video of Mr. Floyd’s murder circulated in the media and protests for racial equity and social justice erupted in more than 140 U.S. cities in the United States and worldwide. Just seven months prior to his murder, at the age of 41, I gave birth to our first child, a beautiful Black baby, full of “Black Boy Joy.” I waited a long time to hear “Mama” and to have the unfettered fortitude to respond to my Black son’s cries. I fear for my son as he matures into a Black man; I see his face and the faces of Black men I cherish laying on the pavement, handcuffed, face down with a knee on their neck, pleading for their lives.

Shortly after Mr. Floyd’s murder, Gilead, like many other companies, began to contemplate as an organization how we can do more – for the communities in which we live and work, for our employees and for the patients that we serve. The company made an initial donation to a number of social justice organizations. At a time when social media was full of memes suggesting that people check on their Black friends and colleagues amid a reawakening to the racial inequities and social injustices experienced by Black communities across the country, many companies in the private sector responded with statements condemning racism and committing donations. Gilead did both. Our leaders listened, learned and leveraged privilege to create new possibilities. The company asked a small team – of which I was part – to engage in a robust assessment and planning process to develop a strategic racial equity and social justice corporate giving strategy. We garnered internal cross-functional support from stakeholder interviews and the review of other ongoing Gilead initiatives to understand how we too could meaningfully contribute to achieving racial equity and social justice.

Today, we are announcing that this work has led to the creation of Gilead’s Racial Equity Community Impact Fund. Gilead is awarding $10 million in grants to 20 organizations over a three-year period. Donations will support high-impact organizations working to tackle racial inequities affecting Black communities across the United States in the areas of community advocacy and mobilization, social justice, and educational innovation. While some of these organizations, like Morehouse College, are well known, others less so. For example, we are supporting Claflin University, the first college/university in South Carolina to admit students regardless of gender, ethnic origin, race or religion. Our donation to the Claflin’s Center for Social Justice, founded in May 2020, is the largest the center has received to date and will help support work to unite, educate and advocate against social injustice. We are also supporting the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, funding programs that provide digital literacy for families navigating virtual learning, workforce development and skills training for those seeking career enhancement, STEM classes and competitions for youth across the State of Arkansas. And, finally, we are giving a grant to the Harlem Children’s Zone’s Center for Higher Education and Career Support, which will leverage the donation to ensure students served realize their full potential through and beyond college, successfully entering the workforce.

At Gilead, we talk about creating possible and this fund creates long-term possibilities for Black communities and all of us.

This fund builds on Gilead’s longstanding commitment to combatting disparities. I came to Gilead in 2018 to work on the Gilead COMPASS Initiative®, a 10-year, $100+ million commitment to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States. Creating a lasting impact through COMPASS in the Southern United States has been a pinnacle of my professional career. We all must make a daily personal commitment to ending racial and social injustices in our workplace and world. We can consider showing up better each day to work, by calling on and affirming diverse voices when they are absent from conversations. When called in by colleagues of color, embrace the discomfort and uneasiness of courageous conversations by amplifying the ideas of diverse colleagues when they are not heard, consider the perspectives of those with lived experience when socializing the solutions for challenges which we are trying to solve, and, finally, acknowledge our privilege and leverage and relinquish power when necessary for our collective greater good. By committing to these actions, we are committing to create the possible of a more equitable world for generations to come.

Shanell McGoy is Director, Public Affairs, Corporate Giving at Gilead Sciences, leading the work on Gilead’s COMPASS Initiative. Her work on this project was in partnership with colleagues Darwin Thompson, Monique Williams and Omoro Omoighe.