Institute receives grant

by Bei Hu

The University’s Institute on Race and Poverty aspires to expand its research and influence with new grant money.
The institute recently received $240,000 from the Otto Bremer Foundation. The grant, spread over a three-year period, is to support the institute’s core operations.
The foundation is a charitable group with a special interest in human services. Although the group is based in St. Paul, the recipients of its grants are usually scattered throughout rural areas in Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Last year, the foundation distributed more than $7 million in grants and another $3 million in loans.
John Kostishack, the foundation’s executive director, said the grant was made because the foundation has treated the issues of race and poverty as one of its priorities for the past few years.
“Actually, we should have an institute on race and poverty in all of our universities,” he said.
The institute, housed in the Law School building, was founded by john powell, a University law professor. Before coming to Minneapolis, powell was the national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union.
The institute studies the ways in which race and poverty relate to each other in the United States, given the nation’s unique history and institutions.
“The idea being for low-income communities of color, you really can’t address their specific issues without addressing issues of both race and poverty,” said Jim Hilbert, a 1996 Law School graduate who works as a legal fellow at the institute.
The institute sponsors biannual community conferences where experts from all across the country are invited to introduce their policies on problems such as housing, education, welfare and health care.
“Certainly, there are a lot of resources spent inventing the wheel over and over and over,” Hilbert said. “And if we have a sense of what (policies) work, we might just learn from that.
“It is to give us a sense of hope and optimism,” he added.
The institute also does legal and social science research. In a better-known project made public last year, the institute’s staff found significant racial segregation in housing in the Twin Cities area.
The institute also provided background information for the Minneapolis chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The association brought a lawsuit against the state in 1995 for not providing adequate education to inner city children.
Despite the respect that the institute has gained in the local community and in academic circles, it has had limited influence on the corporate powers and politicians, Hilbert said.
“That is the group that we’d really like to reach out to.”