Category: Philanthropy

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 like, let’s discuss!

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

From The Conversation:

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?”

Homes of Harriet Tubman and Langston Hughes Among 22 Sites Getting Funding to Help Preserve African-American History

Harriet Tubman Home (l); Langston Hughes House (r); [photos via savingplaces.org)
The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently announced more than $1.6 million in grants to 22 sites and organizations through its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

These monies will help maintain poet and scholar Langston Hughes‘ house in Harlem, New York, The Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn, NY, the home of Negro League Baseball star Satchel Paige in Kansas City, Mo., the Emmett Till Memorial Commission in Summer, Miss., ‘The Forum’ in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, the African Meeting House in Boston, MA, the oldest existing black church in the U.S., and the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, among others.

In his announcement at 2019’s Essence Festival in New Orleans, Action Fund executive director Brent Leggs championed the importance of this work when he remarked, “The recipients of this funding shine a light on once lived stories and Black culture, some familiar and some yet untold, that weave together the complex story of American history in the United States.”

This year’s funds, provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, were awarded to key places and organizations that help the Action Fund achieve its mission of protecting, restoring, and interpreting African American historic sites and uncovering hidden narratives of African Americans and their contribution to the American story. Grants are given across four categories: capacity building, project planning, capital, and programming and interpretation.

Learn more about the full list of grantees by clicking here.

National Trust for Historic Preservation Announces Crowdfunding Campaign to Help Restore Nina Simone’s Childhood Home (WATCH)

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, through its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, announced a crowdfunding campaign to support the restoration and preservation of Nina Simone’s childhood home in Tryon, NC.

This campaign, supported by artists, actors, and musicians including John Legend, will raise funds integral to the exterior restoration of the home where the celebrated singer, pianist and Civil Rights icon’s life began. The home, which has fallen into disrepair requiring urgent revitalization, was designated a National Treasure in June of 2018.

“Spaces devoted to the history and legacy of people of color, especially women of color, are far too few in America today,” said John Legend. “Preserving places like the Nina Simone childhood home will help keep her powerful story alive. This campaign pays tribute to Nina Simone’s unapologetic pursuit of musical, personal, and political freedom and I am proud to be a part of it.”

The National Trust’s crowdfunding campaign will run on IndieGoGo, beginning today, giving the public an opportunity to make donations to this effort, and to purchase newly designed Nina Simone-inspired merchandise including t-shirts, artist prints, pins, and postcards with artwork by Dare Coulter — a North Carolina-based artist working to create positive imagery of people of color. The campaign will also include the option to acquire additional merch donated by musicians including Talib Kweli and actors Mahershala Ali and Issa Rae.

“Our culture is embodied in old places and the history and stories they keep,” said Brent Leggs, executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “This modest home in Tryon, North Carolina embodies the story of a young black girl who transcended the constraints placed on her in the Jim Crow south, to become the voice of the Civil Rights Movement. Nina Simone’s childhood home provides an important lens for examining the contours of her life, and through its preservation, we hope to celebrate and cement her legacy in our American narrative.”

In 1933, Eunice Waymon, aka Nina Simone, was born in Tryon, North Carolina. It was in this home that Simone first taught herself the piano at the age of three, performed in public for the first time at the neighborhood church where her mother preached, and where she experienced the constraints placed on African Americans in the rural Jim Crow South. This home would become the inspiration of some of her most influential music and political activism, including songs such as “Mississippi Goddam” and “Four Women.”

In recent years, the three-room, 660-square foot clapboard pier and beam house had fallen in disrepair. The vacant property was put on the market in 2016. Alarmed by the condition of the home and the risk of losing this connection to Nina Simone entirely, four African American visual artists—conceptual artist and painter Adam Pendleton, the sculptor and painter Rashid Johnson, the collagist and filmmaker Ellen Gallagher, and the abstract painter Julie Mehretu—purchased the property in 2017.

“When three fellow artists and I purchased Nina Simone’s childhood home in 2017, we did so with the desire that the site be transformed into a piece of living history, “ said artist Adam Pendleton. “This space, so integral to Nina Simone’s music and activism, can serve to carry forward her legacy and inspire future artists and musicians.”

Nina Simone’s career spanned multiple genres, four decades, several continents, and earned 15 Grammy nominations. Her songs have been professionally sampled and covered more than 500 times.

This week, the National Trust will be bringing the Nina Simone Crowdfunding campaign to the 25th annual Essence Festival, where attendees can claim exclusive perks and learn more about this National Treasure.

Pharrell Surprises 114 College-Bound High School Graduates with Summer Internships (WATCH)

According to becauseofthemwecan.com, Pharrell Williams offered seniors at Harlem’s Promise Academy internships for the summer following their college freshman year.

“So let me be clear, every member of the 2019 graduating class, is guaranteed an internship waiting for them, you, next summer,” Pharrell said in a video posted by Harlem’s Children’s Zone.

That’s 114 internships. 114 opportunities. 114 lives changed.

“It’s one thing to be ‘woke,’ another to be awake, leaned in and engaged,” said Pharrell during his keynote address.

read more via Pharrell Surprises 114 College Bound High School Graduates with Intern – BOTWC

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

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: