Back in July, the National Black Cultural Information Trust Inc. (NBCIT) was awarded a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to help the organization correct cultural disinformation, advance reparatory justice, and share cultural information with stories and resources that uplift the collective freedom of Black communities.
But some reparations advocates are wondering why the MacArthur Foundation awarded a grant to NBCIT, which has been described as an anti-ADOS reparations group. The NBCIT is a relatively new organization, founded in October 2020. Some are questioning if the grant money is being used to undermine and police ADOS (American Descendants of Slavery).
ADOS has been in the sights of NBCIT, which issued statements against the movement co-founded by Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore to promote reparations for native Black Americans who are descendants of slaves.
“It’s suspicious for a new ORG, funded by billion dollar & DNC LINKED Philantrophy, to position itself as the POLICE against any INDEPENDENT REPARATIONS ORG, that is funded w/venmo, cashapp, paypal, etc. (Improper & IMBALANCED) All under cover of preventing MISINFO & ‘division,'” tweeted The Moguldom Nation CEO Jamarlin Martin.
The grant gives NBCIT powerful funding and backing. It is part of roughly $80 million in awards the MacArthur Foundation awarded in support of its Equitable Recovery initiative, centered on advancing racial and ethnic justice, according to a press release posted on the NBCIT website. NBCIT is one of 37 organizations receiving grants advancing racial justice field support, with a focus on combating anti-blackness — focus area of the foundation’s initiative.
The private foundation makes grants and impact investments of $260 million annually to support nonprofits in 50 countries and has an endowment of $7 billion.
The grant to NBCIT is significant because foundations (and philanthropy in general) “have great political power in the U.S. and worldwide,” wrote Joan Roelofs, a professor of political science at Keene State College, in a 2015 article, “How Foundations Exercise Power.” The article was published by The American Journal of Economics and Sociology.
The power of foundations and philanthropists “is exerted in many ways, such as by funding progressive organizations and movements; sponsoring policy ‘think tanks’ and organizations of public officials; influencing the political culture through media, academic researchers, and university programs (including public interest law in law schools); and co-opting activists and potential rebels among the rich and poor.”
Due to their power, foundations can help sway cultural and political movements and even governments.
“The National Black Cultural Information Trust was created out of necessity, at a time when cultural disinformation campaigns targeted Black communities,” NBCIT founder Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor said in a statement. “These campaigns sought to suppress Black voters and disrupt Black collective activism by spreading false information about Black cultural issues surrounding reparations, cross-cultural conflict, and the historical impact of people of African descent across the Diaspora. Cultural disinformation was also used to advance xenophobic rhetoric and anti-Blackness.”
According to her LinkedIn profile, Aiwuyor is a cultural communications specialist based in the Washington, D.C. area. She is a former associate director of communications at the National Fair Housing Alliance, where she said she spearheaded strategic communications for federal housing discrimination lawsuits against Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, and Facebook.
NBCIT calls itself a pan-African initiative. Among the “disinformation causes” is has targeted is ADOS. NBCIT founder Aiwuyor said some accounts using the social media #ADOS hashtag urged Black voters to skip the 2020 presidential election and sent offensive tweets about Black immigrants.
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Aiwuyor claimed that some ADOS accounts also use the hashtag to incite divisions between African Americans and Black immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America. NBCIT vowed to “not silence” but to but counter “bad actors” who are using the hashtags to disseminate false information, Aiwuyor told AP.
“The disinformation used to target Black communities is cultural,” Aiwuyor said. “It’s cultural disinformation, which uses cultural issues to infuse false information and cause confusion.”
ADOS co-founder Carnell said in a statement that Aiwuyor has mounted a smear campaign against the ADOS movement on Twitter and other platforms.
“The purpose of the ADOS movement is not to demean or in any way diminish our Black immigrant allies. But a large part of our mission is reparations in the U.S. and those reparations would go exclusively to the families of the American Descendants of Slavery,” Carnell said. “Part of the process of reparations is specifying a distinction that is based on lineage.”