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.”
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.
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.
According to the Associated Press, hip hop artist and philanthropist Chance the Rapper has announced he’s donating $1 million to help improve mental health services in Chicago.
Chance, a Chicago native, made the announcement Thursday during a summit for his nonprofit organization SocialWorks, saying those involved “want to change the way that mental health resources are being accessed.”
Lisa Borders has spent the last three seasons leading the WNBA but just announced on Tuesday that she is stepping down from her post to become the first president and CEO of the advocacy group Time’s Up.
The league, which is a subsidiary of the NBA, made the announcement in a tweet on Tuesday morning.
“It has been an honor and my absolute privilege leading the WNBA and being part of what it stands for,” Borders said in a joint statement with the NBA. “I want to thank [NBA Commissioner] Adam [Silver] for giving me the opportunity and support to help grow this league.
“I am most proud of the players for their amazing talents on the court and their dedication to making an impact in their communities. I look forward to continuing my support for the W in my new role with Time’s Up. I will always be the WNBA’s biggest advocate and fan.”
Time’s Up was formed in January after a series of sexual harassment allegations in the entertainment industry involving Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, Louis CK, Matt Lauer, and others. The organization advocates for safer and more equitable work environments for women in Hollywood and in other industries.
The organization is also pushing for Hollywood to reach gender pay equity. Borders had overseen the WNBA since 2016 after serving as Coca-Cola’s Vice President of Global Community Affairs.
“We are extremely grateful for Lisa’s leadership and tireless commitment to the WNBA,” Silver said. “This is a natural transition for Lisa knowing what a champion she is for issues involving women’s empowerment and social justice and fortunately for us, she leaves the league with strong tail winds propelling it forward.”
Under Borders, the WNBA inked a new jersey deal with Nike, signed an agreement with Twitter to stream games on the social media platform and helped bring women to into the NBA Live video games for the first time through a deal with EA Sports.
NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum will serve as interim WNBA president while the search for a new president begins.
TIME’S UP is actively working with various industries including advertising, entertainment, healthcare, press, tech, music, venture, and advocacy groups representing farmworkers, restaurant workers, domestic workers to ensure safer workplaces and economic parity for women.
Under Border’s stewardship, TIME’S UP will continue its focus on creating solutions that increase safety and equity at work for women of all kinds.
Actor Denzel Washington headlined a rainy ceremony Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh’s Hill District to mark the start of renovations at playwright August Wilson’s childhood home.
Washington led a $5 million fundraising effort to restore what is now called the August Wilson House. Renovations are expected to be completed in 2020, when the house is set to become a center for art and culture in the neighborhood.
“It is a privilege and an honor and a responsibility … and a joy to play a small part in keeping him alive,” Washington told an audience that huddled under umbrellas in the yard of the house at 1727 Bedford Ave.
Paul Ellis, Wilson’s nephew, led an effort to restore the nearly 200-year-old building to its 1950s-era look, matching how it appeared when Wilson lived there with his mother and five siblings. Wilson, who died in 2005, last visited the house in 1999.
When renovations are complete, the building — which is now on the National Register of Historic Places — will house displays and artifacts from Wilson’s life and plays. Wilson said he wanted the building to be “useful,” not only a museum, Ellis said. It will incorporate artist studios and will continue to host plays in its yard.
Duquesne University has launched a program to award fellowships to emerging writers who will live and study at Duquesne and spend time working at the House, Duquesne President Ken Gormley said.
Washington, who starred in a 2016 film production of Wilson’s play “Fences,” called Wilson one of the world’s great playwrights and talked about a familiar feeling in visiting the Hill District house. “I love August Wilson,” Washington said. “He touches my soul, our souls, in a way that no one else I know has. This is just like coming home.”
He identified some of the project’s big-name donors, noting Oprah Winfrey and actor Tyler Perry each gave $1 million and writer and producer Shonda Rhimes, director Spike Lee and actor Samuel L. Jackson all contributed.
Washington is producing nine more of Wilson’s plays — the rest of the 10 plays in the playwright’s Century Cycle.
Duquesne University has already selected its first fellow, former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Trethewey. Trethewey read her poem “Pilgrimage” at the ceremony, which included short performances of Wilson’s work by student Jamaica Johnson and Pittsburgh actor Wali Jamal.
Rapper/singer J. Cole is raising funds through his Dreamville Foundation to help people from his hometown of Fayetteville, N.C., who have been affected by Hurricane Florence.
“The Dreamville Foundation is looking to lend a helping hand to the community, children, and families affected by Hurricane Florence,” the nonprofit which is based in Fayetteville, N.C., said on its webpage. “There will be hot food stations placed throughout the city, temporary housing options for families and stocking of food pantries/shelters (as) well as supporting other local nonprofits who help provide services for the people in Fayetteville.”
According to CBS News at least, 42 people have died as a result of Florence, which barreled through the Carolinas last week.
The goal of the 4-year-old organization is to inspire urban youth, according to the website. Cole is quoted on the homepage as saying, “I want to start the process of showing them there are other options besides what’s on the screen. They don’t have to be a rapper or an athlete, there are people who manage the rappers, who book the shows. There are so many jobs you can do, this is about expanding their minds to those possibilities.”
The hurricane forced the cancellation of J. Cole’s inaugural Dreamville Festival, which was slated to take place in Raleigh and include not only J. Cole but also Big Sean, SZA, Nelly and Young Thug. The festival has been rescheduled for April 2019, according to the Dreamville Festival Twitter account.
Cole, born Jermaine Lamarr Cole, was born on a U.S. military base in Germany but raised in Fayetteville. Along with the foundation, he is the founder of Dreamville Records, with his manager, Ibrahim Hamad.
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.
The first book John Bunn fell in love with, curled up in his cell at a maximum-security prison in upstate New York, was Sister Souljah‘s novel “The Coldest Winter Ever.”
In the book, a maternal woman advocates for the improvement of her black community in Brooklyn as she watches the people she loves suffer from the consequences of incarceration, violence and a seemingly endless cycle of poverty. “I related to that book on so many levels,” Bunn says.
Bunn knows more than most what it’s like to face injustice. Arrested and imprisoned as an adolescent in New York City, he spent 17 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit and a further decade on parole, fighting for his exoneration. In that time, he battled, among others, the courts, police investigators, PTSD and the challenges of illiteracy. He was 16 before he could read and write.
Today Bunn is 41 and a free man at last, mentoring at-risk young people and advocating for the power of reading through his own program that brings books to prisons.
In many ways, his own story sounds straight out of a Sister Souljah book. Except that Bunn, who survived years of wrongful incarceration with his humanity intact, is determined to write the next chapter himself.
Bunn’s ordeal began on August 14, 1991, when he was sitting in the kitchen of his mother’s apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. It was 90 degrees in the shade and the AC was broken. Outside he could hear hip-hop music playing from passing cars and the thwack of basketballs on pavement as kids made their way to the courts. Bunn’s mother, Maureen, was making pancakes, his two-year-old sister, India, cooing in her high chair.
Bunn, 14 years old and out of school for the summer, was ready for a typical day of playing ball and demonstrating his famous back flips in and around the four-block radius between the apartment on Ralph Street (his mom) and the house on St Marks (his grandma). Those four blocks, snug between the love of the two women who raised him, were his whole world.
But then, a bang on the door. It was the police. “They wanted to take me down to the police station for questioning,” Bunn recalls now, sitting in that same small apartment festooned with family photos, nearly three decades later. He was taken to Brooklyn’s 77th precinct, put in a room and handcuffed to a pole.
“The interrogation was led by a detective by the name of Louis Scarcella. And he was threatening me, telling me that I was never coming home if I wouldn’t tell him what he wanted to know. He also told me that they already had beat up my co-defendant, that they had slammed his head into a wall and they already had him,” he recalls.
The co-defendant? A 17-year-old Brooklyn boy named Rosean Hargrave. Bunn knew Hargrave “from the block,” although he and the older boy were never more than acquaintances. But, as he soon found out, they were both now suspected of the same crime:
The killing of an off-duty Rikers Island corrections officer named Rolando Neischer. “I kept telling them, “No, I didn’t have any knowledge of it,” Bunn recalls. But Detective Scarcella, who worked in the Brooklyn North homicide unit for years before retiring in 1999, told the young John he did not believe him.
Bunn’s eyes fill with tears as he describes the moment he was placed in a police lineup with “grown men.” As an adult, Bunn, a slight man with a gentle disposition and a shy smile, stands only 5 feet 6 inches. At 14, he estimates he was no taller than 5-foot-2. He was so much smaller than the adults he was lined up with that the detectives had to improvise. They brought in stools so the lineup could be done sitting down. Bunn did what he was told. He sat down and held up a number.
A couple of minutes later, Scarcella came back into the room. “He told me, ‘It was my lucky day,’ that I got picked,” Bunn says, grimacing. “Ever since then, I’ve been fighting to prove my innocence,” he says, wiping his face and adjusting his hat.
On the front of his baseball cap, in bold white letters, are the words, “WRONGFULLY CONVICTED. On the side, “VICTIMS OF DETECTIVE LOUIS SCARCELLA.”
Beyoncé and husband Jay Z may be raking in the dollars with their highly acclaimed On The Run II tour, but they are pouring those dollars back into communities all over the country, too.
The Carters announced a new scholarship program that will award $1 million in scholarships to “exceptional” high school seniors with financial needs, the couple’s representatives announced Saturday. The scholarships of $100,000 each will go to one qualified student in each of the following cities: Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, Arlington, New Orleans, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Clara and Seattle. Each of the cities is a site where the OTRII tour is appearing.
The Boys and Girls Club of America will choose the winners, according to the announcement.
The students must demonstrate “academic excellence” and “financial need” so great that it threatens to prevent them from attending college for the 2018-2019 academic year.
This is not the first time that the power couple has extended outreach toward needy students.
The Shawn Carter Foundation hosts tours to historically Black colleges and universities and offers scholarships to students headed to college. The organization was founded in 2003 by Jay Z and his mother, Gloria Carter.
The BeyGood initiative, headed by Beyoncé, has created a merit program called the Formation Scholars Award. The program helps female students reach educational goals. Another program, the Homecoming Scholars Award, provides resources for students to study at HBCUs, according to the announcement.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of America is based in Atlanta and has been in existence for 150 years. The organization runs more than 4,300 clubs that serve about 4 million young people and provides mentoring and youth development programs during non-school hours. Clubs are located all over – in cities, towns, public housing and Native American lands as well as on military installations.