Non-profit

Perception Institute

Website:

perception.org

Location:

Brooklyn, NY

Tax ID:

88-0557075

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Founded:

2009

Executive Director:

Rachel Godsil

The Perception Institute began as a project of the Institute for America’s Future to use research to release reports, conduct trainings, and otherwise advocate for left-of-center perspectives on racial, gender, and other alleged biases in American culture and society. [1] It was co-founded by Alexis McGill-Johnson, who now works as president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. [2]

The Perception Institute has received significant funding from the Ford Foundation and organizations associated with left-of-center philanthropist George Soros. It became a legally independent entity from the Institute for America’s Future in May 2022. [3]

Background

Alexis McGill-Johnson co-founded the Perception Institute in 2009. [4] The organization provides reports on alleged biases and discrimination in American institutions such as the justice system, corporate industry, and education. It then uses this research to create training programs which are intended to erase the supposed biases of participants through methods such as segregating “dominant” and “underrepresented” individuals into groups known as “affinity spaces.” [5]

The Perception Institute’s profile has grown significantly since 2016. Its 2017 report on alleged biases related to Black women’s hair, known as the “Good Hair Study,” received significant media coverage in outlets such as the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Atlantic. [6] [7] [8]

The study’s methodology included a Perception Institute-designed “Implicit Association Test” (IAT) which measured how quickly participants associated positive or negative words with certain hairstyles to judge bias against natural hairstyles worn by Black women. The study found that many white women view the “naturally textured hair of Black women,” which it says is not as “smooth and silky” as  white women’s hair, as less attractive. Black women involved said that they felt unattractive, avoided exercise for reasons related to their hair, and spent more time on their hair than white women. The study was conducted in partnership with a number of higher education research institutions such as Rutgers University, and funded by the W. K. Kellogg and Ford Foundations. [9]

In 2018, the Perception Institute developed curriculum for a nationwide racial-bias education seminar hosted by Starbucks. [10] The coffee company received significant backlash after a manager in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania asked police to remove two Black men who were not making purchases and who had declined to leave when paying customers needed places to sit. [11]

The Perception Institute continues to provide other seminars which it says are designed to overcome racial, gender, and other biases. It focuses on three areas of addressing alleged unfairness in society: research, representation, and living and perception. [12] [13] [14] The organization’s training and research are often conducted in partnership with public agencies like education and police departments, as well as with widely-known institutions such as UCLA and the University of California, Berkeley. [15] [16] [17]

Training Samples

In creating the 2018 racial-bias seminar for Starbucks, the Perception Institute focused on a methodology which alternated between video content and small discussion groups. McGill-Johnson later wrote that the training was not focused on ignoring race, but rather encouraging Starbucks baristas to “actively embrace difference” in individuals to overcome subconscious biases. [18]

The Institute’s training has been used by in different industries. Recipients include:

  • All prospective jurors in New York State, who are required to watch a video “alerting jurors to the dangers of hidden biases.” [19]
  • Members of student mentorship platform iMentor, which claims that at least 2,300 people went through its “anti-racism training” within 24 months of partnering with the Institute. [20]
  • Employees of Sesame Place, an amusement park which faced a lawsuit after an employee allegedly ignored two black children because of their race. [21]
  • Members of the National Association of Realtors, which partnered with the Perception Institute to create a 50-minute bias training video for its employees. The video was described by the association as “a precursor” to “more in-depth training” for realtors on racial bias. [22]

Partners

The Perception Institute publicly identifies partnerships with a number of institutions, left-of-center activist organizations, and funds. These include activist groups like Color of Change and major left-of-center foundations including the Kellogg and Ford Foundations. [23] Its reports are often conducted with advisory or research support from higher education institutions. [24] [25]

Individuals who have partnered with the organization include:

  • Anurima Bhargava, who leads a strategic advisory firm specializing in racial and cultural matters, and who formerly worked as a fellow for the Open Society Foundations; [26]
  • Sheila Foster, an environmental activist who teaches law at Georgetown University; [27]
  • Richard Buery, who teaches at New York University as a fellow of the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, a senior fellow of NYU’s GovLab, and as a visiting fellow of NYU’s school of engineering; [28]
  • Devon Carbado, a writer on racial issues who teaches law at University of California, Los Angeles. [29]

The Perception Institute has associations with the Open Society Foundations, which were founded and are funded by left-of-center philanthropist George Soros. [30] The Perception Institute hosted the Open Society Foundations’ 2010 and 2013 “Black Male Re-Imagined” conventions, which discussed alleged biases and negative media representation of Black men and boys. [31] HaoYang Jiang, a recipient of the Open Society Foundations’ Soros Fellowship for New Americans, worked for the Perception Institute as a bias training facilitator. [32]

Leadership

In 2022, Sadiqa Reynolds was the incoming CEO of the Perception Institute, having recently worked as the Louisville Urban League’s first female CEO. She previously worked as the chief of community building for the Louisville mayor’s office. Reynolds is known for her legal work, both in private practice and as a district judge for Jefferson County, Kentucky. [33] [34]

Alexis McGill-Johnson previously worked as the founder and executive director of the Perception Institute. She stepped down from the Perception Institute in 2020 to take the position of president and CEO of national abortion advocacy network Planned Parenthood, which she previously served as chair of the board. [35] In her early career, McGill-Johnson worked as executive director for Citizen Change and as a political director for Hip Hop Summit, two political projects linked to the music industry. [36] [37] [38]

Rachel Godsil works as the co-founder, secretary, and executive director of the Perception Institute. She teaches law at Rutgers Law School and serves as lead author for most of the Perception Institute’s reports. [39] In 2015, she spoke at an event hosted by the Kellogg Foundation about the effects of race-related issues on children, specifically children of color. [40]

John Powell is the board chair for the Perception Institute. He has founded and directed many organizations related to racial issues, including University of California, Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute, the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Race and Poverty, and the left-of-center Poverty and Race Research Action Council. [41]

Funding

As of August 2022, the Perception Institute had no publicly disclosed financial information because it was a new nonprofit. [42] It has received significant funding from prominent left-of-center foundations, including $150,000 from the Ford Foundation in 2015, $200,000 from the Raikes Foundation in 2018, and a multi-year donation of $500,000 from the Kellogg Foundation from 2022 to 2025. [43] [44] [45]

References

  1. Perception Institute. “About Us.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/about-us/ ^
  2. Planned Parenthood. “Alexis McGill Johnson.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/our-leadership/alexis-mcgill-johnson ^
  3. ProPublica. “Perception Institute Inc.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/880557075 ^
  4. LinkedIn. Alexis McGill-Johnson. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexis-mcgill-johnson-9328b459 ^
  5. Perception Institute. “Services and Solutions.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/services-and-solutions/ ^
  6. Clyde McGrady. “What Ketanji Brown Jackson’s sisterlocks mean to Black women.” The Washington Post. April 8, 2022. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2022/04/08/ketanji-brown-jackson-hair-sisterlocks/ ^
  7. Shwanika Narayan and Katlyn Sofaea Alo Alapati. “Defending the Crown.” The San Francisco Chronicle. June 20, 2022. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://www.sfchronicle.com/projects/2022/hair/crown-act/ ^
  8. Candice Norwood. “When ‘Good Hair’ Hurts.” The Atlantic. February 9, 2017. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/02/when-good-hair-hurts/515895/ ^
  9. Perception Institute. “The ‘Good Hair’ Study: Explicit and Implicit Attitudes Toward Black Women’s Hair.” February 2017. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/TheGood-HairStudyFindingsReport.pdf ^
  10. Institute for America’s Future Inc. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, 2017 Form 990. Accessed August 27, 2022 https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/521971942/201803189349301260/full ^
  11. Linda Dahlstrom. “Beyond May 29: Lessons from Starbucks anti-bias training — and what’s next.” Starbucks Stories and News. July 2, 2018. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://stories.starbucks.com/stories/2018/beyond-may-29-lessons-from-starbucks-anti-bias-training-and-whats-next/ ^
  12. Perception Institute. “Research: Science and Perception.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/research/ ^
  13. Perception Institute. “Representation: Culture and Perception.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/representation/ ^
  14. Perception Institute. “Reality: Living and Perception.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/reality/ ^
  15. Institute for America’s Future Inc. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, 2018 Form 990. Accessed August 27, 2022 https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/521971942/201913189349311626/full ^
  16. Perception Institute. “Services and Solutions.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/services-and-solutions/ ^
  17. Perception Institute. “Perception Institute Publications.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/our-publications/ ^
  18. Lori Alexis McGill-Johnson. “What I Learned: Teaching Baristas About Bias.” Princeton Alumni Weekly. January 9, 2019. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://paw.princeton.edu/article/what-i-learned-teaching-baristas-about-bias ^
  19. 13 WHAM. “State court system creates video to teach jurors about implicit bias.” September 29, 2021. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://13wham.com/newsletter-daily/state-court-system-creates-video-to-teach-jurors-about-implicit-bias ^
  20. Celine Patel. “Why We Launched An Anti-Racism Education Program.” Forbes. March 22, 2022. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeseq/2022/03/22/why-we-launched-an-anti-racism-education-program/?sh=2a8d7e9b3501 ^
  21. Cory Sharber. “Sesame Place announces diversity, inclusion training after viral video sparks backlash.” WITF. August 10, 2022. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://www.witf.org/2022/08/10/sesame-place-announces-diversity-inclusion-training-after-viral-video-sparks-backlash/ ^
  22. Wesley Shaw. “NAR Introduces Implicit Bias Training for Realtor® Members, Associations.” National Association of Realtors. June 10, 2020. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/nar-introduces-implicit-bias-training-for-realtor-members-associations ^
  23. Perception Institute. “Services and Solutions.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/services-and-solutions/ ^
  24. Perception Institute. “Final Evaluation of Halal in the Family.” November 2015. Accessed August 27, 2022. http://perception.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Halal-in-the-Family-110515a_FINAL.pdf ^
  25. Perception Institute. “The ‘Good Hair’ Study: Explicit and Implicit Attitudes Toward Black Women’s Hair.” February 2017. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/TheGood-HairStudyFindingsReport.pdf ^
  26. Perception Institute. “Anurima Bhargava.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/staff/anurima-bhargava/ ^
  27. Perception Institute. “Sheila Foster.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/staff/sheila-foster/ ^
  28. Perception Institute. “Richard Buery.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/staff/richard-buery/ ^
  29. Perception Institute. “Devon Carbado.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/staff/devon-carbado/ ^
  30. Open Society Foundations. “Our History.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/who-we-are/our-history ^
  31. Perception Institute. “Black Male Reimagined.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/representation/black-male-re-imagined/ ^
  32. YaleNews. “Eight Yale affiliates honored with Soros Fellowships for New Americans.” April 17, 2018. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://news.yale.edu/2018/04/17/eight-yale-affiliates-honored-soros-fellowships-new-americans ^
  33. Perception Institute. “Sadiqa Reynolds.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/staff/sadiqa-reynolds/ ^
  34. Roberto Roldan. “After 7 years at the helm of Louisville Urban League, Sadiqa Reynolds set to step down.” 89.3 WPFL. July 6, 2022. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://wfpl.org/after-7-years-at-the-helm-of-louisville-urban-league-sadiqa-reynolds-set-to-step-down/ ^
  35. LinkedIn. Alexis McGill-Johnson. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexis-mcgill-johnson-9328b459?original_referer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.startpage.com%2F ^
  36. LinkedIn. Alexis McGill-Johnson. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexis-mcgill-johnson-9328b459?original_referer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.startpage.com%2F ^
  37. The Associated Press. “All aboard P. Diddy’s political party plane.” Today. October 27, 2004. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://www.today.com/popculture/all-aboard-p-diddy-s-political-party-plane-wbna6346580 ^
  38. Rush Communications. “History.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://rushcommunications.com/history/ ^
  39. Perception Institute. “Rachel D. Godsil.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/staff/rachel-d-godsil/ ^
  40. Rebecca Noricks. “W.K Kellogg Foundation’s 2015 America Healing Conference: All Children Must Thrive.” W.K. Kellogg Foundation. May 4, 2015. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://www.wkkf.org/news-and-media/article/2015/05/ameria-healing-conference-2015 ^
  41. Perception Institute. “John A. Powell.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://perception.org/staff/john-a-powell/ ^
  42. ProPublica. “Perception Institute Inc.” Accessed August 27, 2022. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/880557075 ^
  43. The Ford Foundation. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, 2015 Form 990. Accessed August 27, 2022 https://990s.foundationcenter.org/990pf_pdf_archive/131/131684331/131684331_201512_990PF.pdf ^
  44. Raikes Foundation. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, 2018 Form 990. Accessed August 27, 2022 https://raikesfoundation.org/sites/default/files/2018-RF-990-PF.pdf ^
  45. Grants. “Perception Institute.” W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://www.wkkf.org/grants/grant/2022/08/overcoming-racial-polarization-mapping-and disrupting-racial-ideologies-6010365 ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Alexis McGill Johnson
    Co-Founder and Co-Director
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: May 1, 2022

  • Available Filings

    No filings available.

    Perception Institute

    165 COURT ST STE 199
    Brooklyn, NY 11201-4345