Category: Business/Finance

business and finance

LET’S TALK ABOUT IT: Could African American Philanthropy Help Solve the Black Student Debt Crisis?

Billionaires Robert Smith, Oprah Winfrey, top; Beyonce and Jay Z, bottom (photos via Creative Commons)

EDITOR’S NOTE: For some time now, we here at GBN have struggled with the fact that while our operating directive is always to present positive stories, there are so many issues that affect our communities that don’t fit that philosophy, but would love to find a way to present that doesn’t stray from our core mission. It recently dawned on us that the steps we as individuals and societies take to solve problems, large or small, could perhaps be our way in. Solutions can only come first through awareness and acknowledgement of the issue, learning about it, discussing it, then figuring out ways to act that may help solve it.

In that spirit, we introduce “Let’s Talk About It” – a new GBN feature we will occasionally present about problems that need ideas for solutions. Our first entry is a share from, appropriately enough, The Conversation, a website GBN has partnered with to bring to you exactly this type of content.

First up: How can we as a community begin to solve the black student debt crisis? Should we follow the lead of billionaire Robert F. Smith, who single-handedly relieved the debt of Morehouse College’s graduating class of 2019, and task the wealthiest among us to pitch in and help out? Or are there other ways for us to alleviate this issue? Read below, and if you’d like, let’s discuss!

-Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GBN Founder and Editor-in-Chief

From The Conversation:

by Mako Fitts Ward, professor at Arizona State University 

When billionaire Robert F. Smith decided to pay off the student loans of the graduating class of 2019 at Morehouse College, he suggested that others follow his lead.

“Let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward, because we are enough to take care of our own community,” Smith declared in his commencement speech.

But is there even enough black private wealth in the United States to pay off all black student loan debt?

As a scholar in social transformation and African American studies, I’m intrigued by this question. It provides an opportunity to examine black wealth, higher education and the possibilities for alleviating debt, which in turn opens the door to new economic opportunities.

Black celebrities give to higher education

Smith’s gift is estimated to be worth US$40 million and will benefit 396 students.

That’s a lot of money, and he’s done it before. Before his gift to Morehouse, Smith donated $50 million to Cornell University, his alma mater, in part to support African American and female students at Cornell University’s College of Engineering.

Other black celebrities have also stepped up to fund education. Powerhouse couple Beyonce and Jay Z gave more than $1 million in scholarships to students who lived in cities they were touring in 2018.

Rapper Nicki Minaj gave 37 “Student of the Game” scholarships. LeBron James, through his foundation, promised to pay for 2,300 students to attend the University of Akron – at an estimated price tag of $100 million. Oprah Winfrey has donated more than $400 million to educational causes.

But with just five black billionaires in the United States – Smith, Winfrey, David Steward, Michael Jordan and Jay Z – monumental gifts like the one that Smith made will likely be few and far between.

Is Smith’s claim that “we are enough to take care of our own community” true of all the black wealth in the U.S.? Continue reading “LET’S TALK ABOUT IT: Could African American Philanthropy Help Solve the Black Student Debt Crisis?”

FOOD: Deep Sea Diver and Vegan Chef Kendall Duffie to Open Deep Sea Vegan Pop-Up Restaurant on June 15 in Nashville

Kendall J. Duffie (photo via deepseavegan.com)

In addition to co-owning entertainment marketing firm D3 Entertainment Group and the Vibe Room recording studio in Nashville with sister Michelle and twin brother Clyde, Kendall Duffie‘s talents also include being a deep sea diver and a vegan chef.

Now, with the encouragement of peers, family and fans like Grammy-winning Gospel legend Yolanda Adams endorsing his delicious vegan creations (see Yolanda Adams’ reaction to Duffie’s cuisine below), Duffie is set to unveil a new dining experience in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee–Deep Sea Vegan.

On June 15, Duffie will launch his Deep Sea Vegan brand with a special pop-up restaurant event to be held at East Nashville’s trendy BE-Hive Vegan Store & Deli, located at 2414 Gallatin Avenue. The BE-Hive will close its regular service at 4 p.m. CT that afternoon, and two hours later, the venue will be transformed into Deep Sea Vegan. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. CT, diners will be treated to some of the tastiest food on the planet.

“I’m not trying to convert people to veganism,” Duffie notes. “But I am trying to educate people about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. And I’m trying to dispel the myth that a vegan diet is not tasty. There are literally thousands of edible plants, with an incredible variety of tastes and textures. And best of all, the food is delicious!”

Duffie started his own journey toward a vegan diet for health reasons. “I had gained a lot of weight, my blood pressure was through the roof and my cholesterol was way too high,” he confesses. “I realized I needed to pursue a healthier lifestyle. I started eating a vegetarian diet, then went vegan. My cholesterol dropped, my blood pressure leveled out, and I lost weight–all very positive things.”

Duffie, a certified advanced deep sea diver, develops his own vegan recipes, many of them replicating the taste and texture of his favorite seafood dishes including such items as his “Deep Crab Burger” and “Deep Sea Fish Sandwich.”

“I’m pretty creative, so I decided to combine my passions–that’s how Deep Sea Vegan was born,” he says. “I decided to make it a pop-up restaurant because I’m a busy guy. I travel a lot for business, so the concept of a pop-up restaurant just made so much sense to me. It avoids the requirement for a fixed, brick ‘n’ mortar establishment, and allows me to be flexible on when and where I want to ‘pop-up.'”

“I look forward to seeing everyone on June 15 for the Nashville launch of Deep Sea Vegan,” says Duffie. “It will set your tastebuds free!”

For more information on Duffie, Deep Sea Vegan, and the Deep Sea Vegan pop-up restaurant in Nashville on June 15, 2019, go to Facebook (deepseavegan), Instagram (@deepseavegan) or the website deepseavegan.com.

Entrepreneur Noëlle Santos Brings Bookstore to the Bronx By Opening Crowdfunded The Lit. Bar

Noëlle Santos (photo via thelitbar.com)

There is an article by Ginia Bellafante in the New York Times this morning about inspiring Bronx native Noëlle Santos, who is opening The Lit. Bar, the Bronx’s first general bookstore since Barnes and Noble shuttered its store there in 2016.

According to the article, Santos, a self-described millennial Afro Latina who was working in human resources at the time, came across a petition on Facebook in 2014 to save the Bronx’ Barnes and Noble (which it managed to for two more years). The petition pointed out how alarming it was that the Bronx was getting more and more cellphone stores and chain restaurants but would be left without a place to buy novels or training manuals or SAT preparation guides.

Santos, who grew up and went to college and graduate school in the Bronx, suddenly felt a radical need to do change things.

“Up to that point I had measured my success by how far I could get away from the Bronx,’’ she is quoted as saying. “I was disappointed in myself for thinking about leaving a community in no better condition that I had found it,’’ she said.

“I had never been inside an independent book store before I decided to open one.”

Santos took that inspiration and worked to make her dream real by calling the American Booksellers Association to learn how to do just that. From ABA Santos learned about a course called “Owning a Bookstore” – which was held in Florida. Undeterred, Santos pooled her vacation days and sick days to fly there and take it. In that course, she learned how to calculate sales projections, negotiate a lease, think about layouts, floor plans, foot traffic, etc.

When Santos returned to New York, she furthered her education by volunteering at small bookstores around the city in exchange for mentorship, and entered a statewide competition for entrepreneurs with promising business plans. She won, and with that prize money, opened a pop-up bookstore in the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

To open an actual store, however, Santos needed much more capital, so she started a crowdfunding campaign and called it, “Let’s Bring a Goddamn Bookstore to the Bronx.’’ With it, she quickly raised $170,000.

To read more of Santos’ story, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/25/nyregion/bronx-bookstore.html?action=click&module=Features&pgtype=Homepage

To support The Lit. Bar in person, visit: 131 Alexander Avenue, Bronx, NY 10454

The Lit. Bar online: http://www.thelitbar.com

Sylvia Rhone Rises from President to Chairman & CEO of Epic Records

Sylvia Rhone (photo via twitter.com)

According to Variety.com, Sony Music Entertainment announced today the promotion of Sylvia Rhone to Chairman and CEO of Epic Records. In this role, Rhone will lead the overall creative direction and management of Epic Records, overseeing Epic’s roster of hit-making artists such as Travis Scott, Future, Camila Cabello, 21 Savage, Meghan Trainor, DJ Khaled, and French Montana

Rhone has been President of Epic Records since 2014, and since then has overseen projects including Scott’s 2018 best-selling album “Astroworld”; Camila Cabello’s debut album “Camila” and the smash single “Havana,” as well as music from Future, 21 Savage and others.

“I am excited to continue my amazing journey at Epic Records supported by Rob Stringer’s vision and leadership,” stated Rhone. “Everything we do is a testament to our incredible artists who set the bar of the entire Epic culture, inspiring our dedicated executive team every day and enriching the legacy of this great label.”

Before joining Sony Music, Rhone was President of Universal Motown Records and Executive Vice President at Universal Records from 2004. From 1994-2004, Rhone was Chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group’s Elektra Entertainment Group, the first African American woman to be named Chairman of a major record company, where she oversaw releases from artists such as Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Metallica, Staind, Third Eye Blind, Tracy Chapman, and Natalie Merchant. Rhone began her career at Buddah Records in 1974, a label best-known for its Gladys Knight and the Pips albums. 

Rhone is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania‘s well-regarded Wharton Business School. She received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music on April 5, 2019, in recognition of her achievements as a leading female music executive who has headed labels multiple times during her career.

Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY to Open Independent Movie Theater, Offer Grants For Film Festivals

Ava Duvernay (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

According to Tambay Obenson‘s article on indiewire.com, filmmaker Ava DuVernay‘s distribution company ARRAY is building a state-of-the-art, 50-set movie theater, which will be able to screen independent movies as well as be available for rental. To quote the article:

“Located west of downtown Los Angeles — a part of the city that doesn’t house many media moguls — it’s also the area’s only independent theater. And it comes at a time when exhibitors are apoplectic over the impact of Netflix and other major streaming companies.

ARRAY VP Tilane Jones said that’s one reason they chose to open it. “It’s really a labor of love, which is all driven by a desire to be in service of people,” Jones said. “Our filmmakers and our audience.”

The ARRAY library is an eclectic selection of independent films, many of which were directed by women and/or people of color, united by singular visions and themes of social justice — a template that mainstream distributors often dismiss out of hand. For DuVernay, who worked as a movie marketer and publicist for more than 14 years, this represented an opportunity.”

ARRAY is also working to create opportunities for filmmakers of color. Last year, ARRAY teamed up with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and producer Dan Lin to launch the Evolve Entertainment Fund, which provides promotion, grants, and gap financing for communities historically excluded from the entertainment industry.

ARRAY Alliance, which is the company’s non-profit division, plans to create grants for African American, Latino and Asian American film festivals, societies and clubs, as well as support the screenings, curriculum, and teacher training that will help young audiences learn the value of art, independent film, and social justice.

To read more, go to: https://www.indiewire.com/2019/04/ava-duvernay-array-affrm-burial-of-kojo-1202053860/

T.I. Honored by Georgia Senate For His Philanthropy

T.I. (photo by ConcertTour.org via commons.wikipedia.org)

Grammy Award-winning hip hop artist, actor and Atlanta native T.I. was honored at the Georgia State Capitol last Friday.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Democratic State Senator Donzella James sponsored a resolution applauding T.I. (née Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr.), for spearheading several non-profit organizations, including Harris Community Works, which works with the disadvantaged, and For The Love of Our Fathers, which aids people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

T.I. is also credited for mentoring youth at local area schools in his hometown, hosting Thanksgiving turkey drives and delivering Christmas presents to families in need throughout Atlanta. He also started a real estate company called Buy Back The Block to help rebuild his old neighborhood in the Center Hill section of Atlanta.

Serena Williams Works With Bumble Founder Whitney Wolfe Herd to Help Women Entrepreneurs of Color Raise Capital

Tennis legend and global icon Serena Williams recently announced via Instagram she is working with Bumble app founder Whitney Wolfe Herd on creating opportunities for women entrepreneurs of color to pitch to them and receive investment capital for their business ideas via Bumble Fund. Check out her post below – you can apply through the app until this Wednesday, March 27 – or you can click here!

Gucci and Dapper Dan Announce $5M Changemakers Initiative Aimed at Diversity and Inclusion

Since being under fire for its balaclava sweater that resembled blackface, luxury brand Gucci is attempting to redeem itself. According to harpersbazaar.com, the Italian fashion house has announced a new global program and scholarship fund called Gucci Changemakers that will promote diversity and inclusion throughout the company with a multi-step action plan.

The program includes three tiers: the Gucci Changemakers Fund, a scholarship program, and a company-wide volunteering initiative. All three programs intend to foster racial diversity within the company as well as the fashion industry as a whole. Legendary designer Dapper Dan, who launched a street style-themed collection for Gucci last year, has been working with Gucci to develop Changemakers. Dan took to Instagram yesterday to publicize these steps towards progress:

Time will tell if these actions will be enough to redeem the brand and establish true inclusion and equity, but with DeRay McKesson, will.i.am, writer/activist Brittany Packnett as part of the Changemakers Council as well, Gucci is at least setting itself up to be held accountable.

The Gill Brothers, 13, 10 and 8, Launch Frères Branchiaux, an Eco-Friendly Candle Brand Now in Macy’s

From left, brothers Collin, Austin and Ryan Gill run Freres Branchiaux. (Chanel Jaali Photography)

According to the Washington Post, brothers Collin, 13, Ryan, 10, and Austin Gill, 8, started their candle business Frères Branchiaux for two reasons: to afford the Nerf guns and video games they wanted and, more importantly, to help raise money to combat homelessness in the District.

“I want to give back to the community because they gave to us,” Ryan says.

The brothers donate 10 percent of their proceeds to homeless shelters in the area, a promise they’ve kept since launching Frères Branchiaux in 2017.

Demand has grown rapidly for their scented, soy-based candles, which can be purchased at several stores in D.C. and at select Macy’s across the country.

The Gill brothers are pretty busy with school and their business, so they would make the most of a D.C. dream day and explore some of their favorite places around the city, along with a few new ones.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/express/2019/01/24/gill-brothers-freres-branchiaux-would-spend-their-dc-dream-day-exploring-new-spots-with-plenty-ice-cream-involved/?utm_term=.0bd244c58443

BHM: Let’s Honor Oprah! Entrepreneur, Media Maven, Philanthropist, Actor, Influencer… Genius

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Not many people on Earth have their names become synonymous with genius in their profession, let alone genius in general. Einstein, Shakespeare, Mozart, even Spielberg and Prince easily come to mind. Notably, they are all men, mostly White, and only one is known by his first name. But when you say, “Hey, where are the women? What women do you think of when someone says ‘Who are the geniuses?,'” an immediate response would (or should) be… Oprah.

It may seem like opinion, but I want to go on record that saying “Oprah Winfrey is a genius” is a fact, and one that should be touted widely. Oprah’s status as a cultural icon, media mogul and inspirational leader is taken as a given, but when you look back and reflect on her journey from rural poverty in Mississippi to global icon, you too will recognize how much intelligence, excellence and genius it took to get there and what’s more – stay there.

What follows below in regards to recognizable achievement, vision and success rightfully will only add credence to the “Oprah Winfrey is a genius” fact, but I submit that the secret sauce of Oprah’s claim to that title has been best articulated (and realized) by Oprah herself:

Everybody has a calling. And your real job in life is to figure out as soon as possible what that is, who you were meant to be, and to begin to honor that in the best way possible for yourself. – Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Gail Winfrey, originally named “Orpah” after the biblical figure in the Book of Ruth but had it misspelled and mispronounced so much that “Oprah”  stuck, recently celebrated her 65th birthday on January 29, 1954. Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to Vernita Lee, an unmarried teenage mother and housemaid, and Vernon Winfrey, a coal miner turned barber turned city councilman who had been in the Armed Forces when Oprah was born.

According to wikipedia.org, Winfrey spent her first six years living with her maternal grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee, who was so poor that Winfrey often wore dresses made of potato sacks, and the local children made fun of her. Her grandmother, ever in Oprah’s corner, taught her to read before the age of three and took her to church, where she was nicknamed “The Preacher” for her preternatural ability to recite Bible verses and command the stage.

Despite parental neglect from her mother, sexual abuse by family members from the age of nine, and the stillbirth of a son at age 14, Oprah’s intellect and ability to speak powerfully in public earned her a full ride to HBCU Tennessee State University on an Oratory Scholarship.

As Oprah honed her skills through education and experience, she became the youngest news anchor and the first black female news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV. Oprah then became an anchor in the larger market of Baltimore, MD before taking over the hosting position of low-rated AM Chicago in 1984.

Oprah aligned her talents, smarts, professionalism and relatability to catapult her over Phil Donahue’s long-venerated talk show Donahue for the top-rated slot. Oprah then wisely took advice from movie critic Roger Ebert to make a syndication deal with King World Media and have ownership in her program – the beginning of the Oprah brand.

The Oprah Winfrey Show debuted September 8, 1986 and topped daytime talk show ratings for 25 years until she retired from the show. Oprah really hit her stride and pinpointed her brand when she followed her instincts in the 1990s to shift away from “tabloid-style” shows to ones with a focus on literature, self-improvement, mindfulness and spirituality. Even though she briefly took a ratings dip during the change, she soared to the top again and outlasted several popular talk show hosts of the time such as Sally Jesse Raphael, Ricki Lake, Montel Williams, Donahue, Jenny Jones, and Jerry Springer. Continue reading “BHM: Let’s Honor Oprah! Entrepreneur, Media Maven, Philanthropist, Actor, Influencer… Genius”