Lawson Family Foundation gives $ 200,000 to those fighting inequality

In the year since the death of George Floyd which awakened a sleeping giant across America, a piece of the puzzle has been missing for those fighting for equality: where is the money to support the cause?

A new Knoxville organization has been meeting quietly since last summer and plans to donate $ 200,000 to those who do the day-to-day work of addressing systemic inequalities.

The Lawson Family Foundation, a new private, non-profit organization in the Knoxville area, solicits grant applications from organizations that work with historically marginalized communities.

The non-profit organization was started by Phil Lawson, founder and chairman of LHP Capital LLC, a real estate development company specializing in affordable housing.

Matthew Harrell is the Executive Director of the Lawson Family Foundation, which supports efforts to address systemic inequalities primarily in the Knoxville area and solicits grant applications from charitable organizations.

“We need to do what we can to bring our community and our people to where they deserve to be. We need to be grounded in history and our community and not ignore past injustices,” the director told Knox News. group executive, Matthew Herrell. “We want to be an ally. We can no longer be spectators.”

The group is starting out small with their donations, but have a vision for how the money will be used in Knoxville. The main goal is to help charities with four specialties: racial justice and equality; economic equity; criminal justice reform; and human trafficking and domestic violence.

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“We realize that it is not a lot, but we hope this is the start of our growth and that we will be able to help even more in the years to come. It is only the beginning.” , Herrell said.

In pursuit of long-term change, the foundation will prioritize projects that find solutions for community development; diversity and inclusion; education; and economic growth. Income inequality, inaccessible capital and unemployment are factors contributing to America’s huge racial wealth gap, and according to the Census Bureau, Knoxville has one of the highest black poverty rates in the country. .

Vice-Mayor Gwen McKenzie, who sits on the board of the Lawson Family Foundation, said the project was a continuation of Lawson’s other work in the community.

Along with other community leaders, he created the Legacy Housing Foundation in 2017, which provides programs to residents of affordable housing communities. McKenzie is the Executive Director of the Legacy Housing Foundation, a role she assumed full-time in September.

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“Opportunities and access to capital, education, job skills and financial literacy are key to lifting people out of poverty, most of whom are generational,” McKenzie said. “Additionally, we support priorities that are relevant and strategically aligned with the resolution to restore African American actions.”

His resolution included an apology for his Knoxville predecessors’ involvement in black slavery and for decades of urban distancing tactics that demolished black communities. It was passed unanimously by city council this year and calls for $ 100 million for affected communities over the next decade.

Focus on the base

Small organizations are often the ones that create real change. The foundation wants to join forces with those who work hard and need a helping hand.

“Any organization in our region working on these strategic causes is the one we seek to support. We also realize that the larger foundations are often seen first, but we really want to focus on the smaller organizations that are at the community level, these grassroots organizations, “Herrell said.” We want to see these groups get the help they need.

Grants will be awarded on an ongoing basis for amounts ranging from $ 2,500 to $ 25,000. Applicants can apply for money to develop programs or create new ones. Groups can start applying now. Fellows will be selected by the Board within a few months of submitting the application.

For more information on the Lawson Family Foundation and the grant application process, visit

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