Category: Philanthropy

Juilliard-Bound Amari Frazier, 18, Brings Dance to Underserved Groups Through Chicago Non-Profit, Step Into Joy

Amari Frazier (photo by Thomas More Photography)

The day after he turned 18, Amari Frazier learned he had been accepted into New York’s most prestigious arts college Juilliard to study dance. But the real gift could be how he rewards Chicago’s South Side with dance now and for decades to come.

Frazier, a soon-to-graduate senior dancer at The Chicago Academy for the Arts, has used dance to spread love with the non-profit he founded a year ago with friends called Step Into Joy. Step Into Joy performs at churches and groups for those who have been abused, first by dancing for the audience and then dancing with them.

Amari Frazier (photo via Donna Frazier)

After attending Juilliard, Frazier plans to return to Chicago and build on Step Into Joy to create a dance academy for those who can’t afford it.

“I feel like you need to spread love in the world, more than hate, and there’s a lot of hate on the South and West sides,” Frazier said. “I just want to change the world and change the look of the South and West sides and how people are there. There are better ways to go about things, and dance is a great way to communicate with people. I know I can use dance to really help people and putting smiles on people’s faces.”

To see the Step Into Joy dancers in action, click here.

“He wants to give back to his community,” Donna Frazier said. “He sees the struggles in people, and he realizes where dance has taken him, and where it can take others.”

Frazier is the 10th Academy student to be accepted into Juilliard during Chicago Academy Dance Chair Randy Duncan’s tenure. Duncan said Frazier is “is a dancer of enormous talent and has a solid dedication to the art of dance.”

“His ability to focus is outstanding! Amari is one of those rare dancers that catches on to movement after only seeing it once,”  Duncan said. “He understands and delivers the message a choreographer gives with all the technique and emotion necessary, which allows him to capture and magnify the spirit of the dance.”

Frazier said attending The Academy has been a godsend for him as a student and performer. And he said it’s only the beginning.

“I want to provide kids who don’t have the funds for dance – because dancing is very expensive – with the resources through my foundation because everyone should have the opportunity to be able to do what they want,” Frazier said. “Dreams should be fulfilled, and they’re possible.”

For more information on Step Into Joy, visit https://stepintojoy.wixsite.com/stepintojoy

EDUCATION: LeBron James “I Promise” School Showing Early Signs of Success

This week, reporter Erica L. Green wrote an encouraging feature in the New York Times about the “I Promise” public school NBA superstar LeBron James opened last year through the LeBron James Family Foundation in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.  To quote the article:

“This time last year, the students at the school — Mr. James’s biggest foray into educational philanthropy — were identified as the worst performers in the Akron public schools and branded with behavioral problems. Some as young as 8 were considered at risk of not graduating. Now, they are helping close the achievement gap in Akron.

The academic results are early, and at 240, the sample size of students is small, but the inaugural classes of third and fourth graders at I Promise posted extraordinary results in their first set of district assessments. Ninety percent met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math, outpacing their peers across the district.”

To read more about the school, its current impact and see photos from it, click here.

Kenyan Science Teacher Peter Tabichi Wins $1 Million Global Teacher Prize

Peter Tabichi (photo via globalteacherprize.org)

According to bbc.com, Peter Tabichi, a science teacher from rural Kenya, who gives away most of his salary to support his students, has won the 2019 Global Teacher Prize, a $1 million prize for the world’s best teacher.

Tabichi, a member of the Franciscan religious order, has been lauded for his achievements in a deprived school with crowded classes and few text books.

The award, announced in a ceremony in Dubai, recognizes the “exceptional” teacher’s commitment to pupils in a remote part of Kenya’s Rift Valley.

“It’s not all about money,” says Tabichi, whose pupils are almost all from very disadvantaged families. Many are orphaned or have lost a parent.  He gives away 80% of his pay at the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, Nakuru to pupils who otherwise could not afford uniforms or books.

“As a teacher working on the front line I have seen the promise of its young people – their curiosity, talent, their intelligence, their belief,” Tabichi said.

“Africa’s young people will no longer be held back by low expectations. Africa will produce scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs whose names will be one day famous in every corner of the world. And girls will be a huge part of this story.”

The award, in a competition run by the Varkey Foundation, came from 10,000 other nominations from 179 countries.

Tabichi’s pupils have been successful in national and international science competitions, including an award from the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK.

The judges said that his work at the school had “dramatically improved his pupils’ achievement”, with many more now going on to college or university, despite resources at the schools being “severely constrained.”

The founder of the prize, Sunny Varkey, says he hopes Tabichi’s story “will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over Kenya and throughout the world every day.”

To read more, go to: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47658803

R.I.P. Nipsey Hussle, 33, Grammy-Nominated Hip Hop Artist, Entrepreneur and Community Activist

Nipsey Hussle (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

Although the loss Nipsey Hussle, 33, is untimely and devastating, his life and all the good he was doing for his community must be honored and remembered. Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, grew up in the Hyde Park area of Los Angeles, an economically and educationally underserved community often affected by violence.

As he rose to prominence as a rapper, including a Grammy nomination for his LP “Victory Lap,” Hussle reinvested in his South L.A. community by buying real estate, opening businesses, and hiring local residents as his employees. To quote from the Los Angeles Times:

“He once gave a pair of shoes to every student at an elementary school in Hyde Park, where he owned a burger joint, a fish market and a barbershop. He helped fund upgrades to the campus playground and offered jobs to his struggling neighbors. If someone lost a loved one to gun violence, he would sometimes chip in for the funeral.”

Hussle was also working with community leaders to address issues that affected his neighborhood:

“The man was instrumental in a lot of stuff,” said community activist Malik Spellman. “Fighting gentrification, trying to stop gang violence.”

The shooting came a day before Hussle was scheduled to meet with LAPD Chief Michel Moore and Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff “to talk about ways he could help stop gang violence and help us help kids,” the commissioner said.

As Times writer Gerrick D. Kennedy wrote in his appreciation of Hussle and all that he meant to South L.A.:

“Here’s the thing to understand about Hussle, and why his death is exceptionally devastating not only to those of us who live and breathe hip-hop but also reside in his birthplace of South L.A.: He was more than a rapper. (Not that there’s anything wrong with just rapping, because there isn’t.)

Driven by a rapacious desire to reinvest in the streets that raised him and rebuild the community, Hussle became an entrepreneur, community organizer, activist and mentor as he transformed into a rap star. His death in front of the strip mall he was redeveloping a few blocks away from that celebratory banner feels particularly cruel.”

To read the rest of Kennedy’s tribute, click here.

Hussle is survived by a daughter and a son. May he rest in peace and may his good works not only never be forgotten, but let them be a blueprint for all those who come up behind him.

Kayla Michele and Chisa Egbelu, Founders of Crowdfunding Site PeduL, Work to Change How Students Pay for College

Afrotech.com‘s feature story on Kayla Michele and Chisa Egbelu, Founders of PeduL, a college scholarship crowdfunding platform, is not to be missed. The disparities in this nation’s higher education system have been in the headlines nonstop as of late, so reading about people who have been working to create and expand equity and opportunity for middle and lower-income students is a joy. So is learning of a new way to possibly support struggling college kids.

To quote from Afrotech.com:

Those systemic barriers can’t be magically waved away, but sites like PeduL help to promote equality in education. From helping students raise money to expanding to provide scholarships and different opportunities, PeduL is a useful tool that all college students should be aware of.

“Our government has slowly enabled college to shift from accessible, yet dispensable, commodity to a necessary luxury,” Michele said. “We’re creating the one-stop shop for scholarships to ensure that all students have equal access to quality education — regardless of the resources and networks available to them.”

To check out PeduL, click here.

To read the Afrotech.com story, click here.

Below is video of Kayla, a Rutgers graduate who was inspired in part to create PeduL from what she learned in her university’s Black and Latino tech program:

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.

Steph & Ayesha Curry Launch STEM Scholarship Program for Girls

Steph Curry (Photo via TechCrunch Disrupt in SF 2016)

Ayesha and Steph Curry announced the launch of a STEM scholarship program for young women from San Francisco’s Bay Area.

— Read on www.ebony.com/news/steph-ayesha-curry-launch-stem-scholarship-program-girls/

Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Manuel Helps to Provide Free Swim Lessons for Every Student at LeBron James’ I Promise School

GBN just learned from becauseofthemwecan.com about Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer Simone Manuel‘s recent visit to LeBron James‘ “I Promise” school in Akron, OH.

We are happy to report that as an ambassador for the USA Swimming Foundation, Manuel did not just talk the talk, but plans to swim the swim! She is helping provide free swim lessons to every student at I Promise during a week-long camp in June of this year.

To read more details, go to swimswam.com.

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.