Black West Siders looking to start their own businesses or get professional certification in trucking and food preparation have until March 1 to apply for grants offered by the nonprofit Black Village Foundation. 

This is part of the foundation’s effort to give away $100,000 in grants to Blacks who live in majority-Black neighborhoods that face chronic disinvestment. 

This particular round has six grants worth a total of $35,000 to help cover the costs of getting truck driving licenses and food handling licenses, a grant to cover tutoring for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The grants will also cover the cost of classes designed to train students in how to start business in real estate investing, eyelash extension and freelance photography. Twenty-eight grantees will be chosen on March 15. 

The Black Village Foundation was co-founded by actress, rapper and entrepreneur Ta’Rhonda Jones and chiropractor and entrepreneur Dr. Sabha Abour. They believe that the best way to reverse disinvestment in Black communities is to empower its residents, helping them get good-paying jobs and start their own businesses. 

The foundation runs a program where South and West side entrepreneurs get an opportunity to pitch ideas to venture capitalists. The foundation also operates a food bank that distributes diapers, feminine hygiene products and emergency items. 

At the start of 2021, the foundation put together funds from private donors and various organizations to launch a series of grants to advance its goals. In January, the foundation launched the Breonna Taylor EMT grants to help Black residents of majority-Black neighborhoods to pay for their Emergency Medical Technician certifications. 

At the time, Abour said that other, future grants will include funding for South and West siders trying to get CDL driver and food handler engineer/culinary certifications. The two grants are included in the package of six Build Black Wealth grants. 

Abour said that the money won’t go directly to the grantees; rather, the money will go directly to whoever offers the classes and certification programs. 

The Rosa Park CDL grant will allow five grantees to take the four-week certification program offered through the 160 Driving Academy, one of the grant program’s sponsors. The Rufus Estes grant will give $250 grants to allow four aspiring chefs to get their food and sanitation manager licenses. 

The Malcolm X Grant will give $1,666 grants to three grantees who want to get professional tutoring preparation for LSAT tests, as well as help in applying for admission to law schools. The James Van Der Zee grant, named after a pioneering Black photographer, will give $5,000 grants for four- to eight-week photography classes. 

Black Wall Street grant will offer $1,000 grants to allow three grantees to pay for nine-month training programs in real estate. The Madame C.J. Walker grant, which was named after the first Black self-made millionaire who founded a cosmetics company that catered to Black women, offers a total of $625 grants to eight grantees who will take a two-day certification course to start an eyelash extension business. 

Abour said that applicants can apply for up to two grants, but each applicant can only get one. She said that 250 residents had already signed up by Feb. 23. 

Jones said that she and Dr. Abour want to advance the foundation’s mission and do something to commemorate Black History Month. 

“Redistributing and creating wealth is something we strongly believe in, which is why it was crucial to distribute money into the community during Black History Month, she said. “What better way to honor our ancestors than by directly giving back to our Black brothers and sisters?”

To apply for the Build Black Wealth grants, visit

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...