IFYC Receives $1M to Support Black Interfaith Project from the Henry Luce Foundation

Martin Luther King and Malcolm X on March 26, 1964, after King's press conference at the U.S. Capitol about the Senate debate on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, Library of Congress)

Black Interfaith will examine interfaith efforts emerging out of diverse Black spaces and convene Black religious leaders, intellectuals, artists and activists to ask, “What would it look like to center the Black experience in the study and application of interfaith cooperation?”

IFYC is pleased to announce a $1M award from the Henry Luce Foundation to support the Black Interfaith Project. Black Interfaith will examine interfaith efforts emerging out of diverse Black spaces and convene Black religious leaders, intellectuals, artists and activists to ask, “What would it look like to center the Black experience in the study and application of interfaith cooperation?”

The Reverend Fred Davie, IFYC’s Senior Advisor on Racial Equity, responded to news of the grant:

“We are thrilled that the Henry Luce Foundation has chosen to be a major partner and supporter of our Black Interfaith Project. The interfaith experience of Black life in America has often been overlooked and unacknowledged. The Black Interfaith Project seeks not only to rectify this unfortunate past but to celebrate the richness of interfaith bridge building within Black communities and thereby enrich the entire interfaith experience of the nation.”

Over the next four years, January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2025, the grant from the Henry Luce Foundation will seed four groundbreaking initiatives:

Launching Black Interfaith as a core initiative of IFYC seeking to build a more inclusive interfaith movement and create a new discipline for interfaith studies.

Recruiting the first two cohorts (total of 80) of Black Interfaith Fellows representing diverse sectors, talents, and worldviews—who are engaged in interfaith bridge-building by means of their lived experience, scholarship, and civic engagement. 

Creating space for discourse and network-building, collaborative and individual community projects, and public storytelling and dissemination to inform a more accurate narrative about and by Black interfaith leaders.

Partnering with esteemed collaborators, including the Smithsonian Institution and the American Academy of Religion, to host major convenings and presentations providing a national platform to advance the profile of Black Interfaith and connect the public to the conversation.  

IFYC founder and president Dr. Eboo Patel expressed his appreciation for the support of the Henry Luce Foundation and what it will mean for the future interfaith movement as a whole:

“The most inspiring crossing of religious boundaries and the most meaningful moments of interfaith cooperation in American history have come out of the Black experience, from the Underground Railroad to the multifaith coalition that elected Barack Obama. The Black Interfaith Project will explore this past, highlight equally remarkable examples from the present-day and from this material fashion an architecture on which Interfaith America can be built.”

Alia Bilal is Deputy Director at the Inner-City Muslim Action Network in Chicago and a member of the Black Interfaith Project steering committee.  Bilal offered this comment about the possibilities of the Black Interfaith Project:

“Black people in this country have been living and breathing in the messy intersections and beautiful synchrony of interfaith work for generations in our own families and communities. The Black Interfaith Project has the power to help us distill the ‘best practices’ of this lived experience and offer them as solutions to dealing with some of the most intractable social issues of our time.”

Jonathan VanAntwerpen, Program Director for Religion and Theology at the Henry Luce Foundation, said:

“Over the course of two decades, IFYC has worked with college and university campuses to train emerging interfaith leaders, seeded a growing interdisciplinary field of interfaith and interreligious studies, and substantially informed public understandings of interfaith cooperation. The Black Interfaith Project will extend this work in promising and creative ways. Centering the voices of Black religious leaders, intellectuals, artists, and activists has the potential to challenge prevailing approaches to religious pluralism, and to reshape common conceptions of religious difference and interfaith engagement. We are delighted to support this important new effort.”

The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, cultivating new leaders, and fostering international understanding. Established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc., the Luce Foundation advances its mission through grantmaking and leadership programs in the fields of Asia, higher education, religion and theology, art, and public policy.

IFYC is a national non-profit whose mission is to inspire, equip, and connect leaders and institutions to unlock the potential of America’s religious diversity. 

Paul Brandeis Raushenbush


#Interfaith is a self-paced, online learning opportunity designed to equip a new generation of leaders with the awareness and skills to promote interfaith cooperation online. The curriculum is free to Interfaith America readers; please use the scholarship code #Interfaith100. #Interfaith is presented by IFYC in collaboration with ReligionAndPublicLife.org.


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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.