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Commemoration Fund begins taking grant applications to 'disrupt narrative' in Tulsa

Commemoration Fund begins taking grant applications to 'disrupt narrative' in Tulsa

The Commemoration Fund select advisory board members

Glenda Love Williams (from left), Frank Haith and Hannibal B. Johnson are among advisory board members for the Commemoration Fund through Zarrow Families Foundation.

Describing its goal as “disrupting the traditional philanthropic narrative” in Tulsa, the Commemoration Fund has begun taking applications for millions of dollars in grant money that will be allocated entirely by “people of color,” officials announced Monday.

The Zarrow Families Foundation, one of city’s best-known philanthropic efforts, announced the fund last June, citing inspiration from Black Lives Matter protests in Tulsa and across the United States. The foundation promised to support the fund with at least $6 million over the next five to seven years, with grants decided by an advisory board of Black, Hispanic and Native American members along with other “people of color.”

The Zarrow Foundation set the goal of announcing the first grants in time for the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, allowing less than a year to recruit a board, decide criteria and judge applications.

The quick pace demanded an extraordinary amount of dedication from board members, said Clarence Boyd, who was originally a board member himself before the Zarrow Foundation hired him in November to be the program officer for the Commemoration Fund.

“The level of competence and expertise on the board has really been phenomenal,” said Boyd, who worked as a bank vice president before joining the foundation. “They’ve started this from scratch and they’ve done it without the benefit of much time.”

Commemoration Fund board members include Eunice Tarver, provost at Tulsa Community College Northeast, University of Tulsa basketball coach Frank Haith and author Hannibal Johnson.

Feb. 12 will mark the deadline for applications and grants will be announced in May, he said.

The Commemoration Fund will support “bold and innovative efforts to correct social, political and economic injustices,” according to the application criteria.

“I think we’re going to see some very exciting ideas brought to us,” Boyd said, adding that the board would like to keep the money as local as possible. National groups would likely need “a significant arm or presence in Tulsa” to receive a grant, he said.

Funding will range from $3,000 to $100,000 for single-year projects, or as much as $250,000 for multi-year programs. Applications can be found online at

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