MANHATTAN BEACH — It’s an experience Ron Clinton hopes no family ever has to go through. At the time, it was terrifying for his family.
Someone had firebombed his home while he and his three kids slept. His wife Malissia was out of town on business. The fire was spreading quickly into the home after a flaming tire hit the front door and ignited it, but fortunately Ron and the kids made it safely outside using another route.
Police did their investigation following the incident in February 2015, but turned up nothing, despite the reward money friends and neighbors in the mostly white Manhattan Beach community raised to help solve the case.
With a black population of only half a percent out of about 36,000 residents, the Clintons ultimately reached the conclusion that their home was firebombed because of the color of their skin. But most of their neighbors were friendly, and many reached out after the attack.
“The community rallied around us and supported us through the whole thing,” Clinton said.
The reward funds grew quickly on the Fundly.com account, reaching nearly $33,000 in days, and eventually the money was released to the Clinton’s bank account. Since no suspect has been found more than 18 months later, the Clintons discussed what should happen with the money.
They decided it should go toward fighting the type of hatred and fear that would lead someone to firebomb the home of a black family.
“We wanted to do something positive with the money, so we created the Clinton Family Social Inclusion Grant through the Manhattan Beach Educational Fund, which supports the local school district,” Clinton said.
The family finished setting up the grant last week. They designed it so that teachers, students and families who identify biases and inequalities can apply for the grant and come up with ways to improve the community.
Foundation officials say several students and teachers throughout the Manhattan Beach Unified School District are preparing their grant applications, which are due by Sept. 23 for this year, but that the foundation has not received any just yet.
The Clinton Family Social Inclusion Grant is open to students, teachers, and families of the Manhattan Beach School District only.
Foundation Executive Director Farnaz Flechner says she is thankful the Clintons turned the funds into a grant.
“When you see the painful acts of discrimination and intolerance throughout our world today, you can easily see how critical a program like this is for our schools and for schools across the country and the world,” Flechner said. “We are so grateful to the Clinton family for turning the funds raised in response to this horrible crime, into a communitywide educational opportunity focused on diminishing discrimination and increasing inclusion.
“We look forward to seeing the programs and activities that our teachers, students and staff will propose to increase understanding, reduce racial bias and help us, as a community, to embrace our differences and eradicate discrimination. Tolerance is simply not enough,” Flechner added.
“We expect things to be a little different in today’s day and age,” Clinton said. “But situations like [the firebombing] show that there are still racial issues and biases we still have to deal with. We’re hoping that something like this grant can spearhead conversation and lead to solutions.”
Using 30 guidelines that touch on race, people can fill out a two- to four-page online application, and come up with proposals to fix identified biases.
Visit www.mbef.org/how/social-inclusion-grants to apply.