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Warner Music, Disney pledge support to social justice groups

Warner Music Group in Los Angeles
Warner Music Group in Los Angeles.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Warner Music Group and the Blavatnik Family Foundation announced a $100-million fund Wednesday aimed to support the music industry and groups promoting social justice, specifically against violence and racism.

The two groups will appoint an advisory panel to identify groups that strengthen education and promote “equality, opportunity, diversity and inclusion,” according to a statement.

“This fund will support the extraordinary, dedicated organizations that are on the front lines of the fight against racism and injustice, and that help those in need across the music industry,” Steve Cooper, CEO of Warner Music Group, said in the statement. “Our advisory panel, which will draw from a diverse cross-section of people from our team and the wider community, will help us be very thoughtful and accountable in how we make an impact. We’re determined to contribute, on a sustained long-term basis, to the effort to bring about real change.”

The fund comes amid backlash against entertainment companies that have shared messages of support for the Black Lives Matter movement on social media, without putting actions behind their words. Civil right campaigners like the American Civil Liberties Union criticized Amazon for partnering with police departments after the company tweeted support for the black community on Sunday. On Wednesday, Amazon announced it would donate $10 million to organizations that promote justice and equity, including the ACLU Foundation, the NAACP, the United Negro College Fund and others.

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Amazon said it chose the organizations with the help of its Black Employee Network, to which Amazon will provide a grant that will fund local organizations where employees live and work.

“We will continue these conversations about how Amazon can support employees and the entire black community beyond these tragic recent events,” Angelina Howard, president of Amazon’s Black Employee Network, said.

Meanwhile, the Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday pledged $5 million to support nonprofit groups dedicated to social justice, including a $2 million donation to the NAACP.

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“The killing of George Floyd has forced our nation to once again confront the long history of injustice that black people in America have suffered, and it is critical that we stand together, speak out and do everything in our power to ensure that acts of racism and violence are never tolerated,” Bob Chapek, Disney’s chief executive, said in a statement. “This $5 million pledge will continue to support the efforts of nonprofit organizations such as the NAACP that have worked tirelessly to ensure equality and justice.”

In the past, Disney has provided educational grants to assist students from underrepresented groups, including donating $2.5 million to the United Negro College Fund. Disney said it would also match employees’ donations to eligible organizations.

On Tuesday night, Disney’s television networks, including ABC, aired programming intended to spark discussions about racism and oppression in America. The programming block included an ABC News special, in prime-time, called “America in Pain: What Comes Next?” ABC also replayed episodes from past seasons of “Blackish,” including one episode that that explored the issue of police brutality and problems in the judicial system.

Bad Robot, the production company responsible for the latest “Star Wars” movies, announced on Instagram Tuesday that it would partner with the Katie McGrath and J.J. Abrams Family Foundation to commit $10 million to companies with “anti-racist agendas.”

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“Corporate and private philanthropy can never achieve the impact needed to address these systemic inequities, but companies and individuals who are able must do what we can until our political leaders lead,” the group posted.

The fund initially invested $200,000 each in the Black Futures Lab, Black Lives Matter L.A., the Community Coalition, the Equal Justice Initiative and the Know Your Rights Camp.


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