Following the graphic and widely viewed murder of George Floyd in 2020, Tougaloo College launched the Reuben V. Anderson Institute for Social Justice to engage with students about social-justice issues through theory, practice and initiatives. Students in the program research issues that personally affect them such as TANF and income-tax credit, among other topics.
To further expand on the work already being done at the institute, the Gilead Foundation has awarded the HBCU a portion of a $20-million grant through its Creating Possible Fund, which supports creative and large-scope strategies to advance health through education equity.
Launched in 2021, the foundation is a nonprofit whose goal is for everyone to have fair access to health prosperity. The foundation’s three main pillars toward achieving this mission include supporting and implementing the Creating Possible Fund; endeavoring to serve communities where Gilead employees live and operate; and aligning with their employees’ interests in being able to match their donations to nonprofit organizations.
“We’ve seen firsthand the barriers that individuals face in being able to achieve the best possible health outcomes,” Gilead Foundation President and Vice President of Public Affairs Gilead Sciences Korab Zuka told the Mississippi Free Press. “These barriers—such as poverty and employment, lack of education, housing insecurity—these are all barriers that are getting in the way of individuals living their full potential.”
The foundation chose Tougaloo College because it has a rich history as a Mississippi-based leader in education and because a large portion of the state’s health professionals graduated from the institution. Tougaloo was a natural fit, Director of Advancing Health and Black Equity for Gilead Sciences Tiffany West said.
“We know that research shows that health inequities mirror educational inequities, and the pathway to stability is through education,” she told the Mississippi Free Press. “So, we’re proud to support grantees like Tougaloo College and their focus on social justice.”
“I’ve had several visits to Tougaloo and the Jackson area, where the leadership of the social-justice institute is doing amazing work in the areas of policy and leadership development among their students,” West added.
Dr. Delores Bolden Stamps, Tougaloo College’s former vice president for institutional advancement, formed a relationship with Gilead Sciences to stay abreast of any opportunities that would be available to the school. The new vice president, Sandra Hodge, continued to nurture that relationship, paving the way for the school to submit a proposal for the Creating Possible Fund, Tougaloo College Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Social Justice Daphne Chamberlain explained.
“Because of Gilead Sciences’ commitment to addressing health disparities and particularly in underserved and vulnerable communities, one of the things we centered our proposal around was how we could make sure that not just our students, but our faculty understand the the impact of a Tougaloo College education with regard to health care and human services, (along with) how that will prepare them to go into their professions when they leave here,” she told the Mississippi Free Press.
The school wants students of color who come from areas facing these hardships to foster a strong sense of civic responsibility to return to their home communities and bring about substantive and systemic changes around health care and human services, Chamberlain said.
“What we wanted to do was to create a curriculum that focused on students who are either in the natural sciences here at Tougaloo or the social sciences, primarily sociology and psychology,” the vice president of strategic initiatives added.
Chamberlain projects that this program will be ready to launch in the fall 2023 semester as a piece of their much larger social-justice studies program at the Reuben V. Anderson Institute for Social Justice.
“I think it’s important for us to invest in mentorship representation (and) in workforce development,” Tiffany West said. “We know that economic stability leads to better health outcomes, so we are excited to invest in organizations that are really upstream from the social determinants of health, and we really look forward to looking at the impact of the fund long-term.”
To learn more about the Gilead Foundation and the Creating Possible Fund, visit gilead.com. For more information about Tougaloo College and the Reuben V. Anderson Institute for Social Justice, visit tougaloo.edu.
Editor’s Note: Reuben V. Anderson is a donor to the Mississippi Free Press, which had no influence on this coverage.