Category: Fellowships/Programs

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.

AT&T and Brotherhood Crusade Launch BELIEVE Los Angeles to Increase Number of Diverse Filmmakers

(photo courtesy of Brotherhood Crusade)

AT&T recently announced it is deepening its commitment to Brotherhood Crusade in Los Angeles – a 50-year old grassroots organization with a vision of improving quality of life and meeting the unmet needs of low-income, underserved, under-represented and disenfranchised individuals in South LA – through a $150,000 contribution to the organization’s new Media Collective.

The new program, called BELIEVE Los Angeles, is a grassroots campaign committed to supporting workforce development, career readiness programs, with a special emphasis on digital media and entertainment employment opportunities for underserved students in Los Angeles, especially diverse millennials who want to be filmmakers. The initiative is an extension of AT&T Believes℠, a larger company-wide initiative designed to create positive change in local communities.

Believe Los Angeles aims to increase the number of diverse storytellers in the entertainment industry, in front of and behind the camera. The semi-annual 11-week program will provide hands-on opportunities to 15-20 students to hone skills, form creative partnerships, create short films and gain industry access needed to be successful.

“We’re honored to join with Brotherhood Crusade to help support local emerging filmmakers succeed in the entertainment industry and give back to the South LA community,” said Rhonda Johnson, President of AT&T California. “The launch of this innovative program is perfectly aligned with African American History Month and Black Future Month, a time to celebrate the contributions of the people and organizations who strengthen our African-American and other diverse communities.”

“AT&T’s support of Brotherhood Crusade’s Media Collective will help aspiring artists within the local film industry grow their skills and network, as well as make a tremendous difference in their careers,” said Charisse Bremond-Weaver, President and CEO of Brotherhood Crusade.

To learn more, go to: https://brotherhoodcrusade.org/contact/

Illinois Schools and Kapor Center Launch All-Expenses Paid Illinois SMASH Academy – STEM Tech Camp for Teens From Underrepresented Groups

(photo via smash.org)

According to jbhe.comSouthern Illinois University Carbondale and the Illinois Institute of Technology have partnered with the Kapor Center to launch the Illinois SMASH Academy – a 5-week, all-expenses paid STEM summer camp for high school students from underrepresented groups in Chicago and Southern Illinois.

The Kapor Center, based in Oakland, is dedicated to leveling the playing field in tech, making the field more diverse, inclusive and better equipped to address society’s challenges and opportunities.

The Kapor Center has already established SMASH academies in California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. According to the center’s data, every SMASH student graduates high school and 91 percent earn a college degree within five years, 31 percentage points higher than the national rate.

The new program will accept 35 ninth graders from Chicago and 35 from Southern Illinois for the first year of the academy, which will be held at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The deadline to apply is March 1.

Participating students will attend the summer camp for three years, until they graduate from high school. They will study a variety of disciplines including math, biology, chemistry, and engineering. They will also receive SAT and ACT test prep in order to prepare them for college.

“These are future leaders,” said Meera Komarraju, interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. “Even one kid, if they are able to pursue their dreams, for their family and the part of society they live in, this can have a big ripple effect.”

Anyone interested in the program can find more information here.

NJ Assemblywoman Angela McKnight and Financial Blogger Tiffany Aliche Create Bill to Teach Middle Schoolers Money Management

The signing of Bill A1414 (Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, 3rd from left; Acting Governor Shiela Oliver, seated. Credit: Anthony McKnight)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to hellobeautiful.com, middle school students in New Jersey are about to get some much-needed education about finances thanks in part to two women determined to make sure they learn how to understand and handle money.

Financial educator Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche and Assemblywoman Angela McKnight worked in tandem to draft and advocate a financial literacy bill that would give growing children a fighting chance at the future.

Financial Literacy Bill A1414 instructs the New Jersey State Board of Education to require school districts to incorporate financial literacy instruction into curriculums for enrolled students in grades 6 through 8. Middle schoolers will be presented with vital information that has the potential to change the course of their lives by preparing them to properly evaluate their finances and deal with debt as adults.

First introduced by McKnight in 2016, the bill gained co-sponsorship from Assembly Democrats Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Eliana Pintor Marin, Jamel Holley, Benjie Wimberly and Annette Quijano. A1414 was signed into law by the state’s Acting Governor (and first ever black Lieutenant Governor) Sheila Oliver this Thursday at Jersey City’s PS 34 President Barack Obama School.

“Early financial literacy should be an essential part of every school curriculum, because it’s a critical skill needed for success in adulthood,” said Aliche via press release. “Today New Jersey took a historic leap forward in helping our children secure a brighter future. Today was a manifestation of why I started The Budgetnista; to help give people the tools the need to live richer lives,” she continued.

Regarding the bill, McKnight said, “One of the most important lessons a person can learn is how to manage their money. Many young people go into adulthood knowing little about finances, and end up making decisions that cost them in the long run.”

McKnight added, “Teaching our kids early about the importance of managing their money and making sound financial decisions can prevent them from making costly mistakes and set them on the right financial path.”

Professor Farah Jasmine Griffin to Chair Columbia University’s Newly-Created African American and African Diaspora Studies Department

Professor Farah Jasmine Griffin (photo via goodreads.com)

via jbhe.com

The Columbia University board of trustees recently approved the creation of a new African American and African Diaspora Studies Department. Professor Farah Jasmine Griffin, the William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African American Studies, has been appointed as the chair of the new department.

“Now, more than ever, we need to have both an understanding of that history, but we also need to understand the ways that history contributes to a sense of possibility and vision for the future,”said Dr. Griffin. “Even though we are later than many of our peers, the creation of this department at Columbia is right on time because our nation and our world need the kind of knowledge we produce.”

In 1993, long before there was a centralized department for African studies, Dr. Manning Marable established the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS) at Columbia. The institute has brought together scholars from a variety of disciplines and continues to bridge scholarship, teaching, and public life. Once the new department has been created, the IRAAS will continue to conduct research.

Now that the department has been approved, Columbia plans to hire new faculty who are experts in the field of African American and African diaspora studies and create a Ph.D. program to produce additional innovative scholarship.

Additionally, the school recognizes the significance of being located in Harlem, a center of Black cultural life in the United States, and plans to collaborate with the surrounding community.

“Departments and academic institutions don’t produce knowledge for the moment, they produce knowledge for the long term,” said Dr. Griffin, who also serves as director of the IRAAS. “Creating a new department is an investment in producing knowledge that is valuable for our country at any time, but especially at this moment, as it reminds us of a historical legacy as well as a vision of America that we need to engage more now than ever.”

Dr. Griffin holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, a Ph.D. from Yale University, and has authored several books including “Who Set You Flowin’?”: The African-American Migration Narrative (Race and American Culture), and If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday.

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/12/columbia-university-approves-an-african-american-and-african-diaspora-studies-department/

Shea Moisture Founder Richelieu Dennis to Transform Madam C.J. Walker’s Estate into Training Center for Black Women Entrepreneurs

Richelieu Dennis; Villa Lewaro Estate (Photos via becauseofthemwecan.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

In this 100th year anniversary of its completion, the historic Villa Lewaro estate of the nation’s first self-made female millionaire and beauty pioneer, Madam C.J. Walker, has been purchased.

The New Voices Foundation, which helps women of color entrepreneurs achieve their vision through innovative leadership initiatives, will spearhead the stabilization of the structure and planning for future uses. The acquisition was facilitated by the Dennis Family, including entrepreneur, investor, and social impact innovator Richelieu Dennis, who once owned Shea Moisture and currently owns Essence Magazine.

The 28,000 square foot property is a historic residence that embodies the optimism and perseverance of the American entrepreneurial spirit.

“In the one hundred years since Madam Walker built her majestic home, Villa Lewaro, it has served as a landmark both to her own success and to her endeavor to create a space dedicated to the achievement and empowerment of African Americans,” said Brent Leggs, director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976 for its architectural significance, Madam Walker’s Villa Lewaro estate, named after her daughter (A’LElia WAlker RObinson), was once a social and cultural gathering place for notable leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, such as James Weldon Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Langston Hughes.

The home, which Madam Walker called her “dream of dreams,” was designed and completed 100-years ago by the first licensed Black architect in the state of New York and a founder of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Vertner Tandy.

Walker was the first person of color to own property in Irvington, close to Lyndhurst, a National Trust Historic Site. During the time it was built, Villa Lewaro was located on what was referred to as Millionaire’s Row and in an area that was also home to Rockefellers and Astors. Purchased in 1993, for the last 25 years Villa Lewaro served as the family home of Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr. and his wife Helena.

With a long admiration of Madam C.J. Walker, the Dennis family first reignited her cultural, entrepreneurial and hair care legacy through the acquisition of the Madam C.J. Walker brand in 2013 – when conversations to acquire Villa Lewaro also first began – and the brand’s subsequent relaunch on retail shelves in 2016 at Sephora.

“To be able to steward something so rich in our culture, history, legacy and achievement through the New Voices Foundation and guide it into its next phase of impact and inspiration is an incredible honor that my family and I welcome with tremendous responsibility and humility,” said Dennis. “When we relaunched the Madam C.J. Walker brand two and half years ago, our goal was to give the brand back to our community and elevate it in the iconic way deserving of such a phenomenal woman. Today, we have a similar focus with Villa Lewaro as its significance is much greater than just a house or property or historic landmark. It is a place where – against all odds – dreams were formed, visions were realized and entrepreneurs were born, and we look forward to returning its use to support that mission.”

Dennis continued, “Squarely aligned with the mission of the New Voices Foundation, we are excited to announce that the vision for future use of the property includes utilizing Villa Lewaro as both a physical and virtual destination where women of color entrepreneurs will come for curriculum-based learning and other resources aimed at helping them build, grow and expand their businesses. When people think of entrepreneurship services for women of color, we want them to think of the New Voices Foundation and Villa Lewaro.”

Madam Walker’s great-great-granddaughter and biographer, as well as brand historian, A’Lelia Bundles, added, “No one at the time believed that a Black woman could afford such a place. So, I can think of no better way to celebrate Villa Lewaro’s 100th anniversary than the vision of the New Voices Foundation and the Dennis family for this historic treasure as a place to inspire today’s entrepreneurs, tomorrow’s leaders and our entire community. Richelieu’s own success story – from a humble family recipe to an international enterprise with an economic empowerment mission – very much mirrors Madam Walker’s journey of empowering and uplifting women. Just as Madam Walker aided in the preservation of abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s Washington, DC home, the Dennis family continues this tradition of preserving historic sites that raise awareness about the contributions people of color have made to the American narrative.”

The National Trust holds a perpetual preservation easement on Villa Lewaro that ensures the property’s historic character will be preserved. This easement was jointly supported by the Dennis and the Doley families. The home was named a National Treasure by the National Trust in 2014 and is part of a growing portfolio of African American historic sites protected through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, an initiative designed to raise the profile of African American sites of achievement, activism, architecture, and community.

Keke Palmer, Questlove, Ciara and Others Encourage Students to Apply to College Via Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative’s “Laundry” Campaign

Keke Palmer, Nick Cannon, Questlove and Kelly Rowland urge students to pledge to apply to college via Reach Higher’s “Laundry” campaign (screenshot via youtube)

It’s November! And that means it’s National College Application Month. Celebrate by joining former first lady Michelle Obama alongside Keke Palmer, Ciara, Bailee Madison, Karlie Kloss, Nick Cannon, Questlove, Kelly Rowland and many more for the launch of Reach Higher’s all-new “Laundry” campaign!

In the hands of college admissions offices across the nation are applications for entrance into college. Why not be one of them? Students across the country are encouraged to pledge to apply. After all, Knowledge is Power and Reach Higher has rolled out a fun, encouraging campaign to get students to apply.

The celebration began Thursday, November 8th, as celebrities and other notable figures shared social media posts encouraging students across the country to pledge to apply to college. In exchange for making this commitment, celebrities are pledging to do students’ laundry for an entire semester. (In reality, the celebrities will not be able to do anyone’s laundry, but they do care a lot about students’ education.) Here’s what they have to say:

Reach Higher is an initiative started by former First Lady Michelle Obama during her time in the White House, dedicated to inspiring every student in the U.S. to complete their education past high school by attending a professional training program, a community college or a traditional university.

This video is brought to you by Reach Higher’s student-facing campaign, Better Make Room, in partnership with Fullscreen, a global leader in social-first entertainment experiences and services for the world’s top talent, digital influencers, brands and avid fans.

You can take the pledge here: https://www.bettermakeroom.org/laundry/

For more info about Better Make Room : https://www.bettermakeroom.org

Be sure to follow Reach Higher’s Laundry campaign on social media:

@BetterMakeRoom: https://twitter.com/BetterMakeRoom/status/1060547502271676417

@BetterMakeRoom: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bp7GFTunInI/

Retired NBA Star and ESPN Analyst Jalen Rose’s Tuition-Free High School Achieves 93 Percent Graduation Rate

Jalen Rose and a graduating class of the JRLA. (Photo credit: Gary North)

by Christina Santi via ebony.com

Other than being an ESPN analyst, Jalen Rose also works tirelessly to serve his local community. The retired NBA player opened in September 2011 the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (JRLA), an open enrollment, tuition-free public charter high school in Northwest Detroit. It serves 400 students in ninth through 12 grade from metro Detroit with a 9-16 model, in which students are supported not only through high school graduation but through college graduation via a college success team that works with current students and alumni.

The JRLA has a 93 percent graduation rate and 100 percent college and post-secondary acceptance rate.

Rose spoke exclusively with EBONY.com about why the school is important, what he hopes his students get from their time on campus and the controversy surrounding the national anthem.

Why do you think it’s important to give back to your community by opening a school as opposed to other ways you can help?

Education is a valuable tool that unlocks the future of so many young people, and the dynamics in our country have changed, which is [why I chose to] be the founder of a tuition-free public charter high school that gets zero state funding for the facility. It was important not only from myself but our co-founder, Michael Carter, as well. [We wanted] to not only be able to influence the dynamics of our scholars graduating from high school nine through 12 but [also] to give them that level of support and guidance that allowed them the opportunity to graduate from college, which was 13 through 16.

We’re proud and unique in a lot of ways to carry a nine through 16 model, whereas we approximately have 450 kids in the building this upcoming school year and around 300 in college or university community college, military and trade school. In June, it will be the first time we have JRLA scholars that graduated from colleges across the country that will have the opportunity to attend our graduation and speak to the graduates of our senior class. So that is what I think allows our scenario to be really unique and I’m proud of that dynamic.

Several people I know in the education sector complain about how the curriculum is more based on setting kids up to pass state exams as opposed to teaching skills that would benefit them in the future. How would you say the JRLA enriches your student body with skills that will help them in the future?

That’s not a school thing, per se. That’s a society thing that has continued to foster throughout our country and look no further than the dynamics of how many people work in a field that was their major in college.

I’m one of the few that I know.

I am too, communications: radio, TV & film. So that dynamic in our educational system [whether it be] public charter, magnet, private, college, university, high school, elementary school and middle school is all theory. So, to me, that’s one conversation.

So now what we’re able to do, as a charter school [is] craft programs that allow the young people to get skills other than reading, writing and arithmetic.

We have a leadership course. We teach young people about decision-making, problem-solving, sex, drugs, violence, gangs and etiquette. [Our school] has advisory, where we get to know our scholars up-close and personal, [including] what makes them tick and their interests; we try to steer them in that direction. We’re also unique because while most public schools and charter schools are not open in July, we are.

The JRLA has something called Summer Session, which is not summer school for students who failed classes. Through this program, we create other experiences, college experiences on-campus experiences and we provide each of our scholars with an internship.

It’s crucial for us to get our scholars out in the community to do charity work and to give them the life skills they will need to be successful in the endeavors that they have, and it’s more for us than just obviously the curriculum that’s required to graduate from school. Continue reading “Retired NBA Star and ESPN Analyst Jalen Rose’s Tuition-Free High School Achieves 93 Percent Graduation Rate”

NBA Legend Isiah Thomas Seeks to Increase Celebrities’ Support of HBCUs with “Lift Every Voice” Program

Isiah Thomas (photo via freep.com)

by jbhe.com

Isiah Thomas, a former star in the National Basketball Association, is partnering with Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens to encourage athletes, entertainers, and other successful people to support HBCUs. According to a statement released by the university, the new program is “intended to inspire successful athletes, entertainers and other influential partners to re-commit, embrace and support historically Black colleges and universities.”

This program will be called “Lift Ev’ry Voice.” This refers to the song “Life Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” which is commonly referred to as the “Black National Anthem.” James Weldon Johnson wrote the song originally as a poem and had his brother John Rosamond Johnson set it to music. He was a composer and music professor at what was then Florida Baptist Academy. That educational institution is now known as Florida Memorial University.

Thomas played two years of college basketball for Indiana University before entering the NBA draft. He played for 13 years  for the Detroit Pistons. Thomas completed his degree from Indiana University during the Pistons’ offseasons and later earned his master’s degree in education from the University of California Berkeley.

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/09/nba-legend-isiah-thomas-seeks-to-increase-celebrities-support-of-hbcus/

THIS WAY FORWARD: John Legend Teams Up with New Profit to Help Formerly Incarcerated Entrepreneurs Succeed via Unlocked Futures Program

by Dena Crowder

“I care deeply about issues of incarceration and criminal justice reform,” says Tulaine Montgomery, managing partner at New Profit, a philanthropic venture capital fund. It’s a passion she shares with Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter John Legend.  Like Legend, whose mother cycled “in and out of jail for charges related to drug addiction” when he was growing up, Montgomery has seen the impact of prison on families firsthand.

“This idea that there is a group of people we can *other*…that we cannot advocate for – that’s not something I’ve been able to entertain,” she explains. Montgomery believes that when someone who’s been incarcerated faces barriers preventing successful re-entry into society, it doesn’t just damage them alone.  On the contrary, it wreaks havoc on their extended family, community and nation, often for multiple generations. 

In addition, she says that treating entire groups of people as “expendable” and “counting them out” of making productive contributions makes zero economic sense. The USA spends $80 billion a year to keep people behind bars. Once paroled, even non-violent, first-time offenders struggle to find housing, jobs, or chances for further education.  Feeling locked out of opportunity and unable to sustain themselves, many end up right back in prison.  It’s a costly revolving door. Providing a path to success rather than creating a class of “throwaway people” is not only morally redemptive, it’s also economically sound. 

Tulaine Montgomery, New Profit’s Managing Partner (Photo Courtesy of New Profit)

Transforming inequities and imbalances in the criminal justice system is part of the larger mission behind Unlocked Futures, a partnership between New Profit, John Legend’s Free America campaign, and Bank of America. A 16-month accelerator program that supports entrepreneurs who have been previously incarcerated, Unlocked Futures provides funding, leadership training, business skills building, executive coaching, content development and peer support to eight members or cohorts. 

The program identifies innovative entrepreneurs whose businesses solve problems that affect those impacted by the criminal justice system.  They are uniquely qualified to address the “most pressing challenges” and break down barriers, precisely because they’ve been there, Montgomery says.   

It’s her belief that “someone who has served time—one of the most dehumanizing conditions we pay federal dollars to create—and emerged mentally intact and ready to lead a business, that’s a leader I want to know.

Topeka Sam is one of the eight inaugural Unlocked Futures cohorts and a case in point. Her organization, Ladies of Hope Ministries, helps women transition from incarceration back into meaningful participation. She knows the terrain and has insight into how to navigate the road to re-entry because she’s lived it.  

Marcus Bullock, CEO of Flikshop, a mobile app company that delivers postcards to inmates from loved ones, says the idea came to him because it was “connection” with family and his mother in particular that gave him a thread of hope during imprisonment.

Every dollar invested in correctional education returns $19.76 back to society,” according to Dirk Van Velzen, founder of the Prison Scholars Fund. Van Velzen’s organization helps inmates gain degrees and skills that are marketable in the job sector because he knows that if they’re employable, they’re far less likely to commit new crimes. The statistics are staggering: national recidivism stands at 68%. For graduates of the Prison Scholars’ Fund, that rate plummets to 4%. 

When Unlocked Futures kicked off at the end of last year, John Legend joined New Profit and the eight cohorts for a round table discussion. After listening to their stories, Legend remarked “with people like you working tirelessly to change the system and the narrative, I’m optimistic.” Continue reading “THIS WAY FORWARD: John Legend Teams Up with New Profit to Help Formerly Incarcerated Entrepreneurs Succeed via Unlocked Futures Program”