CAWOOD: L.A. Dodgers Ace Clayton Kershaw Funds Social Justice Groups To ‘Amplify’ Black Voices And ‘Build A More Equitable Society’

The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation recently donated more than $300,000 to a fund that supports several social justice groups in Southern California dedicated to fighting systemic racism.

The grant includes a generous match from eight-time All-Star Clayton Kershaw and his wife, Ellen. Kershaw is scheduled to start Game 1 of the World Series versus the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night. He has been leading the team’s efforts to address racial inequities since the death of George Floyd sparked nationwide demonstrations, riots, and uprisings demanding institutional change. Several other Dodgers have joined Kershaw’s months-long drive to create more opportunities for black people. Still, the team began the National League Division Series with only one player of color in its starting lineup.

“Along with my teammates, I remain committed to continuing to amplify the voices of Black leaders and organizations fighting for change,” said Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award winner. “Change starts with tough conversations, and we as a team want to continue to listen, learn and take action to help build a more equitable society.”

The contribution went to the Our Kids, Our Future Fund. The charity is a partnership between the Liberty Hill Foundation and a network of other California grantmakers “committed to radically transforming the lives of Black, Brown, and Native American youth in Los Angeles through focused investment and collective action.” The money will benefit several local organizations.

Liberty Hill funds community organizing in Los Angeles County, and its website described the grant as “a continuation of the commitment stemming from a listening session orchestrated by the Dodgers Foundation and the Liberty Hill Foundation.” 

“This investment is a huge boost to the on-the-ground organizing we support,” said Liberty Hill President/CEO Shane Murphy Goldsmith, who is also an LAPD commissioner. “It will ensure youth in Los Angeles have the resources they need to thrive.”

According to Liberty Hill, the Dodgers players initially reached out to the Foundation over the summer. The L.A. Times reported they were “eager to become foot soldiers in the recently renewed fight for equality.” 

“Clayton and some other guys spearheaded this,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said at the time. “They’ve been very intentional. They’ve been shaken.”

The Times report said 10 Dodger players joined a virtual Zoom conference call on Monday, July 13, “listening and learning from social activists.” According to the outlet:

Clayton Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, took notes from their kitchen. Joc Pederson listened attentively from his office. Ross Stripling asked questions from home, while Justin Turner jumped in while driving his car. …

“They were asking questions like any student would to a teacher,” said Julio Marcial, the (Liberty Hill Foundation’s) senior director. “The teacher just so happened to be myself and four community leaders who have been doing this work for 20 years.” …

“Clayton Kershaw basically said, ‘I’m done listening. I want to do something,’” Marcial said. “I was like, ‘Great…but I want to be honest with you. We need people to move from ally to freedom fighter. Your role in change starts two steps past where you are comfortable.”

That’s when players began to ask the most questions during the Zoom call. Even though almost all of them have performed philanthropic work, they were still learning how to dedicate their efforts to causes of police brutality, societal discrimination and systemic racism.

Three days later, the Dodgers posted a video to its social media accounts featuring players who took part in the dialogue. According to the L.A. Times, they were “echoing the sentiments shared during the Monday meeting with representatives from the Los Angeles-based Liberty Hill Foundation.” The athletes committed to matching funds raised from a special edition “In This Together” T-shirt, while expressing support for “the Black leaders and organizations who are on the ground fighting for equality.” 

Partial transcript as follows:

KERSHAW: “For centuries, the Black community has lived in a different America. Instead of addressing racism, inequality, and injustice, many of us just look away,”

ALEX WOOD: “We ignore the school to prison pipeline that criminalizes Black children instead of connecting them to opportunities.”

GAVIN LUX: “It’s easy to say racism is a thing of the past.” 

AJ POLLOCK: “But it’s not. Especially when Black people don’t enjoy the full protections afforded by the Constitution.”

JUSTIN TURNER: “As proud Americans, how much longer can we avoid an honest look in the mirror? Equality is at-bat. Together, we must learn and grow.”

KIKÉ HERNÁNDEZ: “We don’t know the exact answers.”

JOC PEDERSON: “But we are committed to working, listening, and amplifying Black voices to be a part of the solution.”

ROSS STRIPLING: “There are organizations on the ground fighting for resources that the Black community deserves. And we’re here to support them.”

WALKER BUEHLER: “It’s up to each and every one of us. We can’t just look away because it’s uncomfortable.” 

CODY BELLINGER: “Loving this country means admitting it’s not the same for us all.”

KERSHAW: “Silence is no longer an option. I’m fighting for my teammates, and their families, and their communities. And that is why we must unapologetically say that Black Lives Matter.”

Neither the Black Lives Matter Global Network nor its sanctioned chapters will receive money generated by the Dodgers social justice campaign, which also included auctioning Opening Day jerseys.

The gift from the Dodgers and Kershaw family is to be disbursed among 13 community-based groups. They include the Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network; Anti-Recidivism Coalition; Brotherhood Crusade; Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition; Children’s Defense Fund-CA; Community Coalition; InnerCity Struggle; Khmer Girls in Action; LA Youth Uprising Coalition; LeadersUp; Social Justice Learning Institute; Urban Peace Institute; and the Youth Justice Coalition, one of the staunchest allies of BLM’s L.A. chapter.

Various projects are already in the works, according to the Pasadena Star-News. The Brotherhood Crusade intends to provide disadvantaged students HP Chrome Tablets and hotspot connections for distance learning. An official from the Children’s Defense Fund-CA said the money would go toward several youth initiatives, including one that focuses on increasing enrollment in the state health insurance program. Meanwhile, the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition is working with L.A.’s public school system to implement new services with money recently diverted from the district’s police force.

“The murder of George Floyd is yet another example of the need to openly state that Black Lives Matter,” said Nichol Whiteman, CEO of the L.A. Dodgers Foundation, in a letter soliciting donations. “Considering the disproportionate amount of police violence and poverty that impact the Black community and other communities of color, it is clear that we are in a state of emergency. This crisis defies the principles on which our nation is supposed to stand. LADF will not waver. We will be part of the solution.”

Kershaw will make his fifth career World Series start on Tuesday night. The Dodgers, however, have not won it all since 1988 – the same year the 32-year-old left hander was born. The team’s longtime ace experienced back spasms during the National League Championship Series, but says that he feels fine now. He finished the regular season 6-2 in 10 starts with a 2.16 ERA, leading the Dodgers to the best record in major league baseball.

The Kershaws co-founded “Kershaw’s Challenge” in 2011. The nonprofit serves vulnerable children residing in the couple’s hometown of Dallas, L.A., Zambia, and the Dominican Republic.

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