As protests erupted across the U.S. in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, the MBA community at Berkeley Haas and beyond jumped into fundraising action.
Harshita Pilla, a Berkeley alumna and incoming first-year at Michigan’s Ross School of Business, emailed students in the Consortium — an organization whose mission is to increase representation of underrepresented minority students at top business schools–asking if anyone would be interested in fundraising for organizations supporting the Black community.
Within hours, Pilla formed a committee, which included Juliana Rivera and José Avellana, both MBA 21, along with MBA students from five other business schools, to raise $20,000 for Color of Change, an Oakland-based racial justice organization.
Following that quick success, the committee launched the MBA Students Care: Fundraiser for Color of Change campaign and within 24 hours exceeded their goal — raising a total of $30,000.
“Raising that kind of money in such a short amount of time is incredible,” said Pilla.
Having met their initial goal, Pilla, Rivera, Avellana, and the rest of the fundraising committee, have decided to extend the campaign through the end of June, setting a new target goal of $100,000. So far, they’ve raised more than $50,000.
One motivation for launching MBA Students Care was to show “allyship through action,” Rivera said. “I firmly believe that rising tides raise all boats. It’s not a zero-sum game.”
They also said they were motivated because, as people of color, they empathize with the Black community and are aware of the long history of racial injustice against Black people in the U.S.
As a civil engineering student at Berkeley, Pilla said she remembers learning about government-sponsored practices like redlining and how it barred Black people from purchasing homes in primarily white suburban communities.
“Taking those classes at Berkeley shaped my viewpoint as an urban planner,” she said. “Not only do I think about how to build infrastructure on a large scale, but also how infrastructure is accessed.”
The MBA Students Care fundraiser is just one of many projects that the trio plans to do to tackle racial injustice, said Avellana. “We’re playing the long game. We want to strike while the iron is hot and build on what we started, whether that means doing subsequent fundraisers or creating spaces to educate people at our respective schools,” he said.
Rivera agreed. “To quote a line from the musical Hamilton, ‘This is not a moment, it’s the movement’ and as allies, it’s our responsibility to continue the conversation and bring it to any forum.”
In addition to the MBA Student Cares Fundraiser, Haas students have also created The Haas Clubs Solidarity Fund to support Black Lives Matter and racial equity organizations. The fund’s organizers hope to raise a total of $12,000 by June 19, or Juneteenth. To make a donation, visit here.