Two UCSB students are aiming to provide much-needed aid and support to low-income African-American families in Mississippi through a nonprofit organization called the American Integration Fund.

The organization — which is spearheaded by students Kyle Velez and Andrea Armstrong — is striving to gather $5,000 in order to obtain official public charity status and launch an organization website as well as obtain the necessary equipment to operate the group.

According to Velez, a fourth-year history major with a minor in black studies, the organization’s top priority is to directly address the legacy of racial discrimination still present in modern-day American communities. The group will complete this goal by offering financial support — such as improved housing conditions and increased educational opportunities — to low-income families, Velez said.

“By directly integrating impoverished families into suburban areas, we could not only provide families with a better home but also provide children with greater opportunities and further diversify schools,” Velez said.

If target goals are achieved, the nonprofit will first assist families in Issaquena County, Mississippi, which is one of the poorest counties in the nation. According to the United States Dept. of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, the county has a poverty rate of 43.3 percent and 61.1 percent of minors live in impoverished conditions.

Velez said he first felt inspired to start the fund in the spring of 2012 after watching a documentary film in his Black Studies 4 class which examined the historical and contemporary appearances as well as social, economic, political and cultural facets of racism and anti-racism. The film revealed the harsh struggles faced by low-income African-American families in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.

Prior to founding the organization, Velez said he began speaking to numerous professors in the Black Studies Dept. — including professors Gaye Theresa Johnson and George Lipsitz — discussing what could be done to offer the necessary assistance to these communities.

Soon after, Velez spoke with Armstrong, who is a fourth-year anthropology major with minors in black studies and applied psychology, about these concerns and the two eventually began the American Integration Fund.

Armstrong said the creation of any type of association will pose its challenges, and she understands that the process will not be a walk in the park.

“Like any nonprofit, we expect fundraising for this organization to be difficult,” Armstrong said. “And as a new nonprofit, we will have to build … networks and relationships with donors.”

For more information or to donate to the American Integration Fund, visit

A version of this article appeared on page 6 of the February 6th 2013’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.