Two Little Tokyo institutions — East West Players and the Japanese American National Museum — were among the local recipients of multi-million-dollar grants from billionaire philanthropist Mackenzie Scott, it was announced on Tuesday.

Mackenzie Scott

Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has pledged to give away the bulk of her fortune from the former couple’s divorce settlement. She’s given away more than $8 billion so far. Forbes estimates her net worth at roughly $60 billion.

In the latest round of donations, Phillips awarded $2.739 billion to 286 equity-oriented organizations. Both EWP and JANM hailed the grants as “transformative.”

Snehal Desai, EWP producing artistic director, released the following statement: “East West Players is incredibly honored to be a recipient of Mackenzie Scott’s extraordinary philanthropy. In her announcement today, Scott’s sentiment that ‘people struggling against inequities deserve center stage in stories about change they are creating’ encapsulates the core purpose of East West Players’ work.

Snehal Desai

“In a time when hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans continue to increase exponentially, this investment will ensure that the work of East West Players will continue to speak up and speak out against systemic injustice. We are particularly honored to have received this gift along with our Little Tokyo neighbors the Japanese American National Museum as well as Self Help Graphics, Pasadena City College and Homeboy Industries, amongst many others.

“This past year we have seen in stark contrast how inequitable wealth distribution is in this country and globally. Let us hope that Mackenzie Scott’s committed disruption of this system with the sharing of power, platforms and resources is followed by others. As she states at the end of her statement, ‘Generosity is generative. Sharing makes more.’”

JANM announced that they had received $10 million from Scott, the largest donation in the museum’s history.

“After a year that profoundly challenged the museum, the nation, and the Asian community, we are deeply grateful for this landmark gift and to Ms. Scott for her generosity and visionary support for organizations across the country which are focused on achieving social impact in their communities,” said Ann Burroughs, president and CEO.

Ann Burroughs

“For nearly 30 years, JANM has used the lessons of Japanese American incarceration and the loss of their civil rights to illuminate a better path forward for all Americans and the nation. MacKenzie Scott’s gift will ensure that we can continue to keep that history alive and to shine a light on the imperfect present and to shape a more just future.

“JANM has benefitted from the steadfast giving from the Japanese American and Asian American communities, and at a time when it is recognized that Asian organizations are underfunded and overlooked, the museum hopes that Scott’s gift to JANM and to other Asian organizations will inspire continuing support and others to give.”

Other Asian Pacific Islander American organizations awarded grants include APIA Scholars, Asian American Federation, Asian American LEAD, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, Asian Pacific Community Fund, Chinatown Community Development Center (San Francisco), CAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, Center for Asian American Media, Chinese for Affirmative Action, GiveIndia, Museum of Chinese in America, and Wing Luke Museum.

In a blog post on Medium, Scott said the gifts were unrestricted and each organization was extensively researched before selected:

“These are people who have spent years successfully advancing humanitarian aims, often without knowing whether there will be any money in their bank accounts in two months. What do we think they might do with more cash on hand than they expected? Buy needed supplies. Find new creative ways to help. Hire a few extra team members they know they can pay for the next five years. Buy chairs for them. Stop having to work every weekend. Get some sleep.”

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