YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee earns Nissan Foundation grant funding unique cultural, racial diversity programming

YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee President/CEO Sharon K. Roberson.

The Nissan Foundation recently named YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee a 2021 grant recipient. The Nissan Foundation grant will help fund YWCA’s monthly lunch and learn series, an educational program that fosters greater respect and understanding among peoples who have different racial or cultural backgrounds. The virtual sessions are facilitated by a panel of diverse community leaders and are centered around a different topic of equity and inclusion.

“The Stand Against Racism lunch and learn series is a safe space for people to come together and learn about structural and institutional racism,” said YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee President/CEO Sharon K. Roberson. “These can be difficult discussions, but they necessary to help build greater understanding and empathy amongst all people in our community.”

The Nissan Foundation was created in 1992 as a thoughtful response to the three weeks of violent civil unrest that occurred near Nissan North America’s then U.S. sales and marketing operations in Southern California following the Rodney King trial verdict. Nissan established a $5 million endowment to promote cultural diversity within southern Los Angeles neighborhoods.

In the 29 years since, the Nissan Foundation has awarded more than $13 million to over 150 nonprofit organizations to support innovative programs that break down societal barriers and build inclusive communities through education and outreach. Grant recipients promote cultural diversity across a variety of arts, education, social and public programs in seven U.S. communities where Nissan operates.

“For nearly 30 years, the Nissan Foundation has been committed to amplifying the efforts of nonprofit organizations doing the important work of sharing diverse cultural perspectives and experiences with communities across the country,” said Andrew Tavi, president of the Nissan Foundation. “At perhaps no other time in recent history has the work of YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee been so critical. We are proud to support their efforts to inspire people to embrace the value of our differences.”

In 2018, YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee’s Board of Directors made a strategic decision to expand its racial justice mission and created a full-time staff position devoted entirely to developing programming to achieve this mission. As a result, YWCA created a monthly ‘Lunch and Learn’ educational program, with a goal to inform the Nashville community on critical equity issues, while fostering greater respect and understanding among peoples who have different racial or cultural backgrounds. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, YWCA moved the series to a virtual platform, and in the wake of the protests stemming from George Floyd’s death, there was immense community interest in the educational series. The monthly Lunch and Learn series quickly expanded its reach, with between 100 and 250 community members attending each monthly workshop.

“The pandemic forced us to change how we delivered our services and programs, but moving this series to a virtual platform actually offered us an opportunity to reach even more people as we covered issues such as policing, voting, and education,” said Roberson. “We are so grateful to the Nissan Foundation for this critical support of our anti-racist programming.”

The Nissan Foundation is awarding a total of $697,000 in grants to 28 nonprofit organizations for its 2021 grant cycle. The nonprofit recipients are located in Southern California, Tennessee, Texas, Central Mississippi, Southeast Michigan and the New York and Atlanta metro areas—all areas where Nissan has an operational presence.

Nissan Foundation grants are awarded annually. The next grants will be awarded in June 2022, when the Foundation celebrates its 30th year.

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