Nike co-founder Phil Knight donates $400 million to benefit Portland's Black community

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A major investment is coming to Portland’s Black community — $400 million from Nike owner Phil Knight, with a goal of helping the Albina neighborhood thrive.

A historic Portland neighborhood, Albina has served as a core for the Black community but decades of gentrification and urban renewal projects have made it difficult to recover.

“The red lining that took place in Albina prevented Black people access to money, to purchase homes, and also the so-called urban renewal, which the Coliseum first, then Emanuel Hospital came in and took out hundreds of Black-owned homes in this area,” said Ronnie Herndon, director of Albina Head Start.

Helping the Albina neighborhood grow is one of the driving forces behind a new initiative called the 1803 Fund. It will invest in long-term projects, from education to home ownership in the community.

“We created it. We talked about a number of different ways in which this could be done,” said Herndon. “The money could be used wisely and in a way to perpetuate itself over the years. One of the biggest problems that the Black community is faced with, it’s got small amounts of money in grants that have 2-3 years attached to them. After the years have passed, the money’s gone, so we hope this fund will be invested, as well as making grants to organizations that fulfill the mission of the fund.”

Ronnie Herndon, director of Albina Head Start. (KOIN)

The fund will be overseen by a number of local leaders making up the board of directors. That includes Herndon, director of the Albina Head Start, which he says is a vital resource for families
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“The Head Start began in 1965. It was one of the original war on poverty programs. We’ve had a lot of research done that shows conclusively, the children who go through head start are more likely to graduate from college, less likely to be in special ed, less likely to be held back in school, more likely to graduate from high school, and more likely to have decent paying jobs and become homeowners.”

Years in the making, the 1803 Fund hopes to bring more opportunities like that to the Albina community with education, art and support, but those behind it say it’s not going to be an instant result.

“We see this as an effort that will take decades. It’s not going to be done in 2 or 3 years or 4 or 5 years. It will take decades to bring about the kind of results we’d like to see,” said Herndon.

Rukaiyah Adams will lead the 1803 Fund and in addition to Herndon, the Board of Directors will include Self-Enhancement Inc CEO Tony Hopson, Nike CEO John Donahoe, and Larry Miller, chairman of Nike’s Jordan Brand.

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