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Robert Lewis of the Black Cooperative Impact Fund is the Los Angeles Rams' third "pLAymaker" honoree of 2023
Robert Lewis of the Black Cooperative Impact Fund is the Los Angeles Rams' third "pLAymaker" honoree of 2023

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Robert Lewis, who has more than 25 years of professional experience working in philanthropy and the nonprofit human and social services sector, believes economic mobility has to become the Black community's primary platform for change.

He's doing his part to ensure that happens as President of the Black Cooperative Impact Fund (BCIF, formerly known as the Black Cooperative Investment Fund). His work helping facilitate change and boost economic mobility through BCIF is why he was recently recognized as the Los Angeles Rams' third "pLAymaker" honoree of 2023.

"Being recognized as a 'pLAymaker' means a lot, especially given what the Rams have done and are doing, will continue to do in being authentically engaged with the community," Lewis said. "To have the Rams acknowledge our efforts, it gives us a stamp of approval in terms of the work we're doing,that it's viewed positively, and that we're having a positive impact. We're being noticed. And when I say we, I'm talking about the community as a whole. BCIF is a community-driven lender, so we can't do anything without people having skin in the game, whether it's through individual donors or awarding grants to us. The community drives BCIF, makes it go, and so the Rams have acknowledged that, and it's important. We love it."

Founded in 2016 and launched in 2017, BCIF – a 501(c)3 community-based nonprofit – provides zero interest microloans to Black-owned businesses. The microloans are funded via pooled dollars from individuals and companies aligned with the BCIF's mission and part of its long-term vision of creating assets and building wealth within the Black community. Additionally, all loan repayments return to the fund to sustain the pool of resources for the Black community.

Lewis told's Derek Major in a November 2022 article that he was working for one of the largest grantmaking foundations in the United States, based in Los Angeles, when he had a conversation with a co-worker about the numerous reasons why Black-led nonprofits aren't awarded grants at the same rate as mainstream nonprofits. That one discussion evolved into conversations with several people in the community over a course of several years to figure out what a Black-led, Black-focused Southern California-based nonprofit could do to positively impact change.

The recurring theme was economic mobility and economic power, with a desire to invest in Black-owned businesses. As a result, BCIF was launched.

"We are Southern California's only microlending nonprofit that provides zero interest microloans to Black-owned businesses," Lewis said. "We are laser focused on addressing the racial wealth gap, and we leverage microloans and promote economic empowerment as the drivers for achieving the change we seek. We want to be a catalyst to get people to understand the power of the dollar and what it can do for the Black community in general when we leverage that power."

It should come as no surprise, then, that Lewis defines inspiring change as backing up one's words with action.

"To inspire change, you have to be proactive, not just standing by on the sidelines waiting for things to happen," Lewis said. "It means being actively engaged in making things happen. Being an activator of change, requires more than just talking or posturing."

When it comes to inspiring change in one's own community, Lewis indicated recognition and acknowledgement of the change happening is critical.

"The Rams are actively engaged in our community, that's evident," Lewis said. "Whether it's acknowledging community changemakers during games at Sofi Stadium, the Rams House branding of local businesses, financial support, or leveraging and creating partnerships, I think all of those efforts are meaningful."

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