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  • Writer's pictureCarolina MIlanesi

Apple Deepens Commitment To Its Racial Equity And Justice Initiative To Address Systematic Racism

Apple launched the Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) in 2020 when the U.S. faced a moment of reckoning after the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. The initiative embodies the company's effort to address systemic racism and expand opportunities for communities of color nationwide. With an initial $100 million investment, REJI focused on making an impact in three key areas: education, economic opportunity, and criminal justice reform. Led by Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, REJI began with an entrepreneur camp for Black founders and developers and a contribution to The Equal Justice Initiative. While REJI started in the U.S., its framework helped set up initiatives in the U.K., Australia, Mexico and most recently, New Zealand. In New Zealand, Apple announced a partnership with Te Pūkenga, the country's most prominent vocational educator, to equip educators with the skills they need to prepare underrepresented Māori and Pasifika students to enter the country's growing tech sector.


As REJI begins its third year, Apple announced that its initial $100 million commitment to REJI has now grown to over $200 million. Such funding will continue to support initiatives such as The Propel Center investment in education. The Propel Center serves as a beacon of opportunity for the HBCU community, providing a dynamic platform offering a vast range of tech-focused learning programs, career opportunities and fellowship. Apple's involvement with the Propel Center extended from being a founding partner to a strong financial supporter through awards of over $ 3 million in grants and scholarships. These funds have helped alleviate students' financial burdens and encouraged and recognized outstanding academic achievement and potential. Through REJI' s education grants, Apple has reached more than 160,000 learners through in-person courses and out-of-school offerings. Apple is also committing over $50 million to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) to support STEAM opportunities.


A second area of focus for REJI is economic empowerment through venture capital funds. This week Apple announced its commitment to an additional $25 million to three venture capital funds in the U.S. working with minority businesses and entrepreneurs — Harlem Capital, Collab Capital, and VamosVentures. Through these V.C.s, Apple will have committed $50 million in V.C. support and more than $100 million in overall financing to mission-aligned diverse businesses and financial institutions. Harlem Capital is known for its focus on investing in diverse founders and brings its expertise in selecting and nurturing promising early-stage companies led by underrepresented entrepreneurs. Collab Capital, a pioneering fund, focuses on supporting Black founders and building a solid ecosystem of Black-owned businesses. VamorsVentures, specializing in investing in Latinx and underestimated founders, brings a deep understanding of diverse markets and untapped opportunities.


Apple also announced a new partnership with the My Brother's Keeper Alliance (MBKA), a program launched by the Obama Foundation in 2014. MBKA empowers Black and Brown young individuals by providing them with resource RES, opportunities and support networks to overcome systematic barriers. The efforts range from providing access to quality education, employment opportunity and career development. It also helps to strengthen community-based efforts and fosters collaboration among different stakeholders to support young men of color, all while promoting data-driven policies and interventions that address issues related to criminal justice, healthcare and fatherhood.


This new collaboration aims to help close opportunity gaps Black and Brown youth face. Apple supports training opportunities for community leaders and MBKA staff, expands community-based programming for boys and young men of color, and strengthens the MBKA network through targeted community impact microgrants. The program plans to train over 500 leaders and engage over 50,000 youth across the U.S. REJI also focuses on criminal justice reforms through partnerships with community colleges like Los Angeles CC, Delgado CC and Houston CC aimed at implementing programs to equip incarcerated individuals with skills, prevent recidivism and create economic opportunities for parolees. Apple also contributes to nonprofits like the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Defy Ventures, Vera Institute of Justice and the Last Mile.


While work is what matters, being held accountable by tracking and sharing how the different initiatives are driving changes is critical to keeping that vital work on point. To do that precisely, Apple released its first-ever REJI Impact Overview, which provides a snapshot of the initiative's impact across its focus areas. In its efforts, Apple tried to intentionally create work that is operationalized across the company, a strategy that Apple adopts not just with social impact but with its sustainability and education endeavors. The approach also calls for a long-term commitment by Apple that looks at scaling over time through collaboration with partners. While Apple might start with the U.S., there is a recognition that underrepresented groups face challenges across the globe, and this requires Apple to be thoughtful about where they get involved.


To ensure racial justice and equity is achieved requires Apple to look within its own company and the products it brings to market.


For instance, Apple has significantly updated its Maps application by incorporating the representation of Indigenous lands. In collaboration with Indigenous communities, Maps now showcases the territories of tribal nations, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis in both the United States and Canada. This update promotes recognition and respect for Indigenous sovereignty and cultural heritage. In addition, Maps has implemented support for dual-language labels, including Indigenous-language syllabaries. This feature allows users to view place names and labels in both English and Indigenous languages, honoring these communities' linguistic diversity and heritage. Apple also collaborated with Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations representatives to add Chickasaw (Chikashshanompaʼ) and Choctaw (Chahta) language support in the iPhone, iPad, and Mac keyboards.


In an era where companies are increasingly being held accountable by some for their role in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion while simultaneously considered "woke" by others, Apple is doubling down on its commitment to its REJI. As one of the world's most influential technology giants, Apple's decision to further invest reflects the company's dedication to addressing systemic racism but also sets an example for others to follow.


Disclosure: The Heart of Tech is a research and consultancy firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this column. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this column.

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