Category: Philanthropy

Former White House Staffer Lauren Christine Mims is Turning Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” into Curriculum for Black Girls

Lauren Christine Mims is a former assistant director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans and a Ph.D. candidate in Educational Psychology at the University of Virginia. She’s also one of the many women inspired by Michelle Obama’s Becoming, a New York Times best-selling book that sold more than 1.4 million copies within the first seven days of its release. Now, Mims is turning Obama’s book into a curriculum for black girls to further their learning and development.

“Reading Becoming was like sitting on the couch with your best friend and having one of those soulful conversations about life,” said Mims.

“Reading about how Michelle Obama felt unchallenged in elementary school, teased for the way she spoke, and noticed a difference in how she was perceived during adolescence was affirming.”

Mims hopes the Becoming curriculum will make space for black girls to thrive in a world that often seems to try and deny their humanity. As part of her doctoral research at the University of Virginia, Mims explores what it means to be a young, gifted, black girl in school.

“I disrupt the traditional practice of talking about black girls in pejorative ways and center them and their unique experiences to study how we can support them. For example, my research highlights what ‘Black Girl Magic’ means to black girls; the role teachers play in supporting or stopping the success of black girls; and more about what they are learning and how it makes them feel.”

“If you follow Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Norris, and Willow Smith, think about my interviews as Red Table Talks where black girls are supported in discussing challenges and designing solutions.”

Lauren Christine Mims (photo via blackenterprise.com)

As part of the curriculum, students read Becoming, and watch films featuring black girls in leading roles. Additionally, “we will have important conversations, like about what it means to feel like your presence is a threat or that you do not belong. We will discuss Maddie Whitsett and McKenzie Nicole Adams; two 9-year-old black girls who died by suicide after being subjected to bullying. At the end of the course, students will apply their knowledge to draft new research proposals, policies, and practices,” says Mims.

Beyond the walls of the classroom, Mims says there are four things we can all do to support black girls:

  • Create supportive, affirming, and loving environments by listening to their needs and centering their unique experiences of Becoming;
  • Advocate for, adopt, and enforce school policies and accountability practices that recognize the brilliance of black girls and ensure they are not being pushed out of school.
  • Address the bullying, harassment, and discrimination of black girls and ensure that all students have access to mental healthcare;
  • Care for your own mental health and well-being.

Ultimately, Mims wants girls to know that they are enough. As Michelle Obama writes, “Becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim,” yet there is so much pressure in college to define your identity and pick a career path. It can take a toll on you. Know that you are brilliant and never “underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”

Source: https://www.blackenterprise.com/michelle-obama-becoming-curriculum-black-girls/

Fabolous Spends 100K+ on Gifts for Brooklyn Youth in Annual Toy Drive

Fabolous made Christmas come early for kids in the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club of Brooklyn this year with his annual Christmas Toy Drive. The event was made possible by the Brooklyn rapper’s foundation A Fabolous Way (which is designed to merge communities and the arts), Def Jam and D’usse.

“On behalf of The Boys and Girls Club, we would like to thank Fabolous and Lisa for bringing joy to some of our families this holiday season,” said the Director of Clubhouse Operations, Antonio Fort. “Fab has visited us in the past and we appreciate his positive message of inspiration to the youth.”

The event was held at the lavish Red Rabbit in New York City’s Meat Packing District neighborhood. According to Page Six, Fab spent over 100K on the presents. “I don’t put a money amount on Christmas — I just want to show people that they are special to me,” he said. “But, it is safe to say I have spent over $100,000.”

Although he’s definitely generous, he admits that doing the actual shopping is tough for him because of his busy life. What matters most to him is making sure he’s giving someone a thoughtful gift.

To read more: https://www.vibe.com/2018/12/fabolous-brooklyn-annual-toy-drive

Spelman College Receives $30M Donation from Trustee Ronda Stryker to Help Fund New Arts Center

via jbhe.com

Spelman College, the historically Black educational institution for women in Atlanta, has received a $30 million donation from trustee Ronda Stryker and her husband William Johnston, The gift is the largest from a living donor in the 137-year history of the college.

The gift will be used to help fund the construction of the Center for Innovation and the Arts on the Spelman campus. When completed the building will house all of the college’s arts programs – art, art history, curatorial studies, dance, digital media, documentary filmmaking, photography, music and theater – in a single building.

Spelman Trustee Ronda Stryker (photo via Crain’s Detroit Business)

Stryker has been a member of the college’s board of trustees for more than 20 years. She currently serves as vice chair.

In making the donation, Stryker stated: “As former educators who believe strongly in social justice, Bill and I have great appreciation for how Spelman provides a superior education for students that encourages them to be global change agents. Spelman alumnae are leaders across every field imaginable, breaking new ground, while tackling some of the world’s most challenging issues from health disparities to the digital divide. We are thrilled to support a building that will encourage students to master technology, innovation and the arts.”

Stryker is a board member at Stryker Corporation, a medical equipment company and vice chair of Greenleaf Trust, an investment banking firm.

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/12/spelman-college-receives-largest-gift-from-a-living-donor-in-its-137-year-history/

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.

Barack Obama Receives RFK Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award in NYC

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy presents former President Barack Obama with the foundation’s Ripple of Hope Award at a ceremony, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, in New York. (Jason DeCrow/Associated Press)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to the Washington Post, Former President Barack Obama was honored with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award during the foundation’s gala in midtown Manhattan last evening.

“I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but I’ve been on this hope kick for a while now. Even ran a couple of campaigns on it. Thank you for officially validating my hope credentials,” Obama said during his acceptance speech.

Kerry Kennedy, RFK’s daughter and the organization’s president, presented Obama with the award, which celebrates leaders “who have demonstrated a commitment to social change.” Past recipients include Bono, George Clooney, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and Robert De Niro.

“If we summon our best selves, we can inspire others to do the same. It’s easy to succumb to cynicism, the notion that hope is a fool’s game,” Obama said.

“When our leaders are content on making up whatever facts they want, a lot of people have begun to doubt the notion of common ground,” Obama said. “Bobby Kennedy’s life reminds us to reject such cynicism.”

Also honored with Ripple of Hope Awards this year were New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav and Humana CEO Bruce Broussard. Speakers last night included actors Keegan-Michael Key, Alfre Woodard, Alec Baldwin, and journalist Tom Brokaw.

Shaq-A-Claus Surprises Students at Two Georgia Schools, Gives Out Backpacks – theGrio

Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 12.50.40 PM

by Kia Morgan-Smith via thegrio.com

Shaquille O’Neal’s one big ole’ holly, jolly good guy who spent the day doing good and giving out backpacks to kids at Eagle’s Landing Middle School in Henry County Georgia last week, WSBTV reports.

Shaq-A-Claus shared the love and surprised the school with an unplanned visit. He greeted kids in the National Junior Beta Club and congratulated them on a job well done, said school district spokesman JD Hardin.

Then he attended a pep rally and spoke to students about making good life choices, before handing out some backpacks, Hardin said.

Shaq took to Twitter to thank his partners for teaming up with him.

“Again.. I would like to Thank  all my partners for their support with Shaq A Claus 2018. This will be an awesome event for the kids Merry Christmas”

Read more via Shaq-A-Claus surprises students at two Georgia schools and gives out backpacks – theGrio

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/

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs Pledges $1 Million to Fund New School in the Bronx

Sean "Diddy" Combs
CREDIT: COURTESY OF COMBS ENTERPRISES

by Rachel Yang via Variety.com

Sean “Diddy” Combs announced Tuesday that he’s pledging $1 million to the Capital Preparatory Schools network to help provide children from underserved communities access to high-quality education. The school has been approved to expand to a third location in the New York City’s Bronx borough, and is set to open in September 2019.

Capital Prep Schools is a free, public charter school network, currently operating in Harlem and Bridgeport, Connecticut. The schools provide students in grades K-12 with a year-round, college preparatory education and has sent 100 percent of its low-income, minority, first-generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006. Capital Prep Bronx will open to serve 160 students in 6th to 7th grade and will grow to serve 650 students in 6th to 11 grade during an initial five-year term.

“Mr. Combs’ commitment and leadership continue to inspire us. On behalf of the Capital Prep students, parents and teachers I want to express our sincerest gratitude for such a generous gift,” said Dr. Steve Perry, the founder of Capital Prep Schools. “Mr. Combs wanted to open schools to develop leaders. What he’s done with his investment is embody what we expect students to do, which is to invest their resources in our communities.”

Combs is a Harlem native and worked closely with Dr. Perry to expand the school to new locations as well as enlist a team of educators, parents, and business leaders to bring the idea to life. He is also a benefactor.

“I came from the same environment these kids live in every day,” Combs said. “I understand the importance of access to a great education, and the critical role it plays in a child’s future. Our school provides historically disadvantaged students with the college and career skills needed to become responsible and engaged citizens for social justice. We don’t just teach kids to read, write and compute, we teach them how to make a difference and nurture them to be future leaders of our generation.”

Read more: https://variety.com/2018/music/news/sean-diddy-combs-pledges-1-million-dollars-capital-prep-schools-1202990036/

Jussie Smollett Surprises Kayden Kinckle, a 6-Year-Old Double Amputee, With Accessible Van

by Latifah Muhammad via vibe.com

Kayden Kinckle is quite the inspiration.

The 6-year-old bilateral amputee, who has been motivating people to “do great things” with his daily Instagram videos and children’s books, got a huge surprise on Monday (Oct. 15) thanks to Jussie Smollett.

Smollett bought Kayden a brand new van complete with a wheelchair lift so that he can get to school without delay. The Empire star stepped in to help Kayden after the Englewood Public School District (where he attends school) failed to provide a proper bus to pick him up on the first day of school.

“He’s the only double amputee in Bergen County [New Jersey] where we live,” Kayden’s mom, Nicole Sessoms, told VIBE on Tuesday (Oct. 16). “They had a bus the prior two years and this year they forgot about him, [after] he switched to a new school.”

Before the van, Sessoms had been putting Kayden’s wheelchair in her small Nissan sedan to drive her son to another school where he was forced to wait for a standard school bus to pick him, once all the other students were dropped off. An aide was on hand to carry him on and off the bus, according to CBS New York. The school district blamed the mishap on a paperwork mix-up and promised to provide Kayden with a proper lift bus.

Smollett, who learned about Kayden’s story through social media, has become a family friend. He tries to spend time with Kayden whenever his schedule permits, Sessoms said.

When Smollett found out about the transportation issue, he reached out to Sessoms with a solution. “He saw what was happening with the bus and he called me and said ‘Kayden needs his own van!’”

The 35-year-old actor arranged to have the van delivered while Kayden and his family were hanging out with him in New York City.

To read more, go to: https://www.vibe.com/2018/10/jussie-smollett-kayden-kinckle-wheelchair-accessible-van/

Beyonce and Jay Z Help Raise Over $6 Million for Cancer Research at City Of Hope Charity Event

by Zoe Johnson via vibe.com

Apart from giving away more than $1 million dollars in scholarship funds to students across America, The Carters have been working overtime to raise more than $6 million dollars for the City Of Hope charity, Forbes reports.

The organization, which specializes in cancer treatment and research, held a gala earlier this week in Santa Monica, California. The power couple was in attendance to help raise money for the non-profit organization.

JAY-Z and Beyonce partnered with Warner/Chappell Publishing CEO and Chairman Jon Platt to combine their efforts to bring forth a well-rounded event with top-notch industry players. According to Forbes,  Dr. Dre, Tiffany Haddish, Usher, Quincy Jones, Wiz Khalifa, Timbaland, Kelly Rowland, and Rita Ora showed up in support of the event.

With more than 1,200 members of the entertainment industry present, Beyonce performed “Halo” and “Ave Maria” for the crowd.

The combined billionaires have greatly given back to their communities over their decades-long careers and constantly prove why they are considered the king and queen of hip-hop and evidently philanthropy.

If you would like to donate to City of Hope’s cancer research and treatment fund or find out more about the organization, click here.

Source: https://www.vibe.com/2018/10/beyonce-jay-z-city-of-hope-charity/