PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — United Way of Rhode Island announced Wednesday they are awarding $4.5 million in grants aimed at building racial equity.

The grants align with the organizations “Live United 2025” strategic plan, which they say is a commitment to invest $100 million over the next five years.

“There is a lot that must be done if we’re to dismantle the systemic, institutional and historical barriers that prevent too many of our neighbors and families from realizing the quality of life they deserve,” Paola Fernandez, chair of United Way’s Community Investment Committee, said.

It focuses on advancing early childhood literacy, creating safe and affordable housing, improving access to workforce development and changing or shifting policies that perpetuate inequality for Rhode Island’s minority communities.

“As evident from the grant proposals we received, there is no question our community is ready for this work and ready for change,” Fernandez said.

A total of 72 organizations are receiving the funding.

One group that secured a grant is Sista Fire, which supports women and non-binary people of color.

“Despite the strength and vision we hold for our communities, we face the compounding challenges of structural racism and gender violence,” Sista Fire Organizing Coordinator Alexa Barriga said.

Another organization receiving funding is Fuerze Laboral, based in Central Falls. The group focuses on workers’ rights, educating and training individuals to become leaders and improve conditions in their workplaces.

President and CEO Cortney Nicolato said these grants are about changing the status quo to create opportunities for all Rhode Islanders.

“If you think and look at all the key areas, whether it be job opportunity, whether it’s education, whether it’s growth, leadership development, our BIPOC community have not been given the same resources that our white counterparts have,” Nicolato said. “We know in order for our community to grow and thrive, we need to change that.”

She said this is the first of many grants from the United Way of Rhode Island.

A full list of organizations receiving the funding can be found on United Way of Rhode Island’s website.