Three Ways Robert F. Smith Is Using Philanthropy to Tackle Racial Disparities

For years, Robert F. Smith has leveraged not only his voice and influence, but focused his philanthropic efforts on tackling one of our country’s biggest challenges: racial disparities and inequities.

Below are three examples of Smith’s creative efforts to reduce racial disparities and inequities in America. 

  1. Student Debt: Today, Black students are more likely to have to take on student loans, and owe more than $7,000 more, on average, than their white peers after graduating. Calling the student debt crisis a “catastrophe,” Smith made headlines in 2019 for his bold, recording-breaking pledge to pay off the student debt for the entire 2019 class of Morehouse College, a historically Black college. To further this commitment, Smith launched The Student Freedom Initiative, a non-profit that aims to ease the burden of student debt for Black students. 
  1. Access to the Arts: Art and music can empower young people, help create channels for self-expression, and change lives. However, arts and education is often cut from public school funding or is cost prohibitive, which too often limits Black and brown students’ access to the arts. In 2016, Smith helped establish the Robert Frederick Smith Prize with the Sphinx Organization, which is dedicated to the development of young Black and Latino musicians. The Robert Frederick Smith Prize awards the winners with $50,000 to provide professional development and resources that can help create on ramps to careers in the classical music field. 
  1. Prostate Cancer: African-American men are 73 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer than any other race, and African-American men are 2.3 times more likely to die from the disease. That’s why in 2018, Smith donated $2.5 million to the Prostate Cancer Foundation to focus on research on African-American men. In 2020, he doubled down on his commitment, announcing a new partnership with the Prostate Cancer Society to develop the Smith Polygenic Risk Test for Prostate Cancer, which is aimed at increasing early detection among African-American men, helping to reduce one of the nation’s largest health disparities.

Read more about Smith’s philanthropy and commitment to the Prostate Cancer Foundation in Insider Philanthropy.