The Black Institute (TBI)



Brooklyn, NY

Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2020):

Revenue: $256,040
Expenses: $484,186
Assets: $281,070


Left-of-center think tank




Bertha M. Lewis

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The Black Institute (TBI) is a left-of-center think tank based in Brooklyn, New York. Founded in 2010 by Bertha Lewis, former CEO of the defunct low-income advocacy and voter outreach group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the Black Institute focuses on issues related to African Americans, but also extends its reach into other domains such as environmentalist causes and immigration reform. It publishes studies and organizes protest campaigns and forums, presenting its findings to lawmakers and groups such as the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture. 1

The Black Institute is the sister organization of Black Leadership Action Coalition (BLAC), and these two groups collaborated on a detailed analysis of the 2021 New York City elections entitled The BLAC Manifesto: A Postmortem 2021. The report castigated former Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) for “cultivat[ing] groups interested in racial justice,” including TBI, but abandoning or opposing the aims of those groups after he took office. Both groups are also proponents of “ranked choice” voting, in which voters rate multiple candidates by preference. 2

2014 Waste Transfer Station Campaign

In 2014, The Black Institute was hired by the environmentalist group Pledge 2 Protect to bolster its effort to stop the reopening of a marine waste transfer station on 91st Street in Manhattan. Opponents of the project, which was backed by Mayor de Blasio before and after his election, contended that the project would result in “garbage truck traffic, foul-smelling refuse, and high asthma rates.” They also asserted that some of the routes would pass through a New York City Housing Authority housing project containing lower-income and minority communities. Black Institute chief Bertha Lewis framed the issue as one of “environmental racism,” saying, “Don’t tell me now that you’re going to put this particular marine transfer station smack dab in the middle of poor people, black and brown people, public housing people, and somehow claim that is some type of virtue.” TBI organized the tenants of the housing project and other local residents. This campaign was unsuccessful, and the waste plant opened in 2019. 3


In 2016, The Black Institute partnered with the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) to launch the Black Immigrant Engagement Initiative, which supports African and Caribbean immigrants. This program received a $150,000 grant from the New York Department of State in 2018, and was earmarked for Arca Foundation grants by NYIC for $25,000 in 2018, and New Venture Fund for $50,000 in 2017. 4

On October 28, 2022, the Black Institute hosted a town hall meeting focused on immigration issues in the Bronx. The meeting was targeted towards the Garifuna immigrant community from the Caribbean and discussed DACA and the Our City Our Vote initiative, which would allow green card holders and immigrants with work permits to vote. 5

STARZ/Power Campaign

In 2018 media company Altice decided to drop the cable channel STARZ from its Optimum Cable package. STARZ, owned by Lionsgate, was the channel that aired the popular television show “Power,” at the time the highest-rated show among African-American audiences. Although this move entailed the removal of an entire channel with numerous shows, the issue was quickly given a racial frame after lead actor/rapper 50 Cent took to Instagram to say, “The numbers are great, I guess it’s the wrong color faces in the picture again.” In response to the news, the Black Institute organized a social media and canvassing campaign that roped in support from Hank Newsome of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, as well as several state senators and council members. The campaign, called “Power to the People,” prompted Lionsgate and Altice to renegotiate the cancellation after only three days. 6


Bertha M. Lewis is the founder and president of the Black Institute. She is the former CEO of the defunct low-income advocacy and voter outreach group ACORN, which was shuttered following accusations of union-busting, voter fraud, and an expose by right-leaning investigative journalist group Project Veritas. In a 2011 interview with NPR’s Michel Martin, Lewis claimed that the audio and video were heavily edited and taken out of context. 7

Tuulikki Robertson is director of operations for both the Black Institute and BLAC. She is also former lead operations manager of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. 8


  1. [1]  “Immigration Reform.” TBI. Accessed November 28, 2022.
  2. Scupp, Jacob X. “The BLAC Manifesto: A Postmortem 2021.” BLAC. Accessed November 28, 2022.
  3.  Gregory, Kia. “Fight Awaits de Blasio on Opening Upper East Side Trash Transfer Site.” New York Times. February 4, 2014. Accessed November 28, 2022.
  4. “Grantee Database.” Arca Foundation. Accessed November 28, 2022.
  5. Teo, Tio. “Garifuna Town Hall Meeting on Friday, October 28th 2022 in the Bronx.” Being Garifuna. October 28th 2022. Accessed November 28, 2022.
  6.  Cantave, Glen. “How This Black-Led Campaign Played a Key Role In Keeping 50 Cent’s Show ‘Power’ On TV, Bringing Back Starz.” Blavity. February 14, 2018. Accessed November 28, 2022.
  7. “From ACORN to The Black Institute.” NPR. August 1, 2011. Accessed November 28, 2022.
  8. “Tuulikki Robertson.”  Linkedin. Accessed November 28, 2022.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: February 1, 2011

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2020 Dec Form 990 $256,040 $484,186 $281,070 $3,945 N $147,920 $102,000 $0 $75,000
    2019 Dec Form 990 $1,067,536 $772,722 $513,685 $8,414 N $143,614 $932,390 $0 $82,500 PDF
    2018 Dec Form 990 $727,688 $440,111 $219,654 $9,197 N $407,120 $339,682 $0 $78,125 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $323,758 $388,152 $8,097 $85,217 N $196,620 $127,250 $0 $61,346 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $426,005 $500,642 $63,866 $76,592 N $224,478 $200,250 $0 $0 PDF
    2015 Dec Form 990 $572,918 $578,298 $84,737 $22,826 N $205,981 $366,500 $0 $63,360 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $553,755 $481,170 $87,511 $20,220 N $370,247 $183,020 $0 $68,750 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $549,048 $569,320 $24,739 $30,033 N $209,433 $315,000 $0 $75,100 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $341,301 $330,022 $29,477 $14,499 N $120,614 $220,187 $0 $78,125 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    The Black Institute (TBI)

    Brooklyn, NY