Category: Philanthropy

Beyoncé & Jay Z Announce New Program Offering $1 Million in College Scholarships

Beyoncé and Jay Z (photo via eatmytickets.com)

by Melanie Eversley via thegrio.com

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.

Source: https://thegrio.com/2018/08/26/beyonce-jay-z-1000000-college-scholarships/

Young Guru Encourages Coding Interest With $1 Million In Scholarships

Young Guru is looking to provide resources for the best of the best in the world of coding. On Wednesday (Aug. 22), the famed audio engineer for Jay Z and renowned beatsmith, announced the give away of one million dollars in scholarship funds for people of color interested in coding.

In partnership with Opportunity Hubs and Rodney Sampson, Guru will also team with the Flatiron Schoolwhich is dedicated to this field and serves as an incubator of knowledge for 10,000 people. The announcement was accompanied by a national Tech To Wealth tour, ending on Oct. 3 in Seattle.

In an interview with Highsnobiety, Guru discussed how music and technology go hand-in-hand and why creatives should take advantage of the tools that are at their disposal.

“The technologies we have, some of them are better than what we’ve imagined on Star Trek,” he said. “Those type of things, as an engineering feat, are amazing. Also, what these technologies do in terms of power, what they give to the user and to the artist in terms of creative power is just incredible.”

Source: https://www.vibe.com/2018/08/young-guru-coding-scholarships/

Lyft Teams Up With Urban League, Voto Latino, TurboVote and Others to Offer Free and Half-Price Rides on Election Day

Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch

by Doug Criss via cnn.com

Lyft is getting some help to get people in underserved communities to the polls this fall. The ride-sharing company says it’s working with community groups to offer free and reduced-price rides on November 6, the date of the midterm elections.

To increase encourage voter turnout, Lyft will offer free rides to people in underserved communities that day by working with Voto Latino, the Urban League and the National Federation of the Blind.

Lyft is also teaming up with Vote.org, Nonprofit Vote, TurboVote and others to give away 50% off promo codes to riders. Riders can get help finding their polling location through the Lyft app.

The company plans to remind riders about voter registration deadlines, give drivers voter registration handouts and offer in-office voter registration to its employees. Lyft will provide online voter information through partner organizations When We All Vote and National Voter Registration Day and encourage people to participate in early voting.

Lyft says it’s doing this because over “15 million people were registered but didn’t vote in 2016 because of transportation issues.”

Why turnout in some communities is so low

Elections are held on a work day, when time often equals money — especially if you get paid by the hour. And having a car or paying extra for public transportation to get to the polls can just add to that expense.

Being ‘”too busy” or encountering “transportation problems” were the reasons 28% of people making less than $20,000 did not vote in the 2012 presidential election, according to the U.S. Census.

Perhaps the biggest change to the electoral process in the last few years is the proliferation of Voter ID laws, which many states put in place to prevent fraud. Since 2008, 17 states have enacted laws requiring citizens to prove who they are at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. The cost of getting an ID is a hurdle for some people.

Not only do low-income people potentially lose pay when they vote, but some have to wait longer, too. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration found that 10 million people waited in line for more than 30 minutes to vote during previous presidential election cycles.

Source: https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/24/politics/lyft-election-ride-trnd/index.html

Taraji P. Henson Launches the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation to Provide Support Around Mental Health Issues in African-American Community

Taraji P. Henson (photo via lasentinel.net)

via lasentinel.net

Academy Award and Emmy Award-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson launched The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF) in honor of her late father in order to help eradicate the stigma around mental health issues in the African-American community and provide support for and bring awareness to mental health issues that plague this community.

“I named the organization after my father because of his complete and unconditional love for me; his unabashed, unashamed ability to tell the truth, even if it hurt; and his strength to push through his own battles with mental health issues,” said Henson. “My dad fought in the Vietnam War for our country, returned broken, and received little to no physical and emotional support. I stand now in his absence, committed to offering support to African Americans who face trauma daily, simply because they are Black.”

To celebrate the foundation’s launch, the star will host a special fundraising event in Beverly Hills, CA on Saturday, September 22. Taraji’s Boutique of Hope will introduce BLHF to the world and will raise funds to support one of the foundation’s pillar goals of advocating for and providing resources to increase mental health support in urban schools. With partnering school districts, BLHF will help to provide more culturally competent mental health therapists, social workers, and counselors to African-American children in need.

“BLHF is breaking the silence by speaking out and encouraging others to share their challenges with mental illness and get the help they need,” said BLHF Executive Director Tracie Jenkins. “African-Americans have regarded such communication as a sign of weakness and our vision is to change that perception.”

BLHF will partner with other nonprofit organizations who offer programs that educate, celebrate, and make visible the positive impact of mental health wellness. Through these partnerships, the foundation will ensure cultural competency in caring for African Americans who struggle with mental illness by providing scholarships to African-American students who seek a career in the mental health field; offer mental health services and programs to young people in urban schools; and combat recidivism within the prison system.

For more information about BLHF, please visit www.borislhensonfoundation.org.

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”

Pharrell Williams Announces Yellow Ball Gala, Talks Protecting Artists & Taking a ‘People’s Stance’ on Federal Arts Funding

Artwork by Daniel Arsham, a member of the American Express Platinum Collective.
Courtesy Photo: Artwork by Daniel Arsham, a member of the American Express Platinum Collective.

by  via billboard.com

Since becoming the creative director for American Express Platinum in December 2016, Pharrell Williams has worked closely with the financial services company to bring awareness to the importance of arts education and advocacy. Nearly two years later, the “Happy” singer is taking his efforts one step further with the inaugural Yellow Ball gala.

The event will take place on Monday, Sept. 10 at the Brooklyn Museum and will benefit the Young Audiences Arts for Learning, the nation’s largest arts-in-education network. The Yellow Ball title was chosen by Pharrell himself, as the color has many meanings — and ties in with the purpose of the event.

“Pharrell views the color and event as helping to shine a light on the need for arts education and its ability to pave the way for a brighter future,” Elizabeth Rutledge, chief marketing officer of American Express, says. Pharrell adds, “That’s what this is about — bringing light to this cause.”

The Yellow Ball will feature musical performances, including a special set from Missy Elliott. Along with music, the event will also include multi-room art experiences from American Express Platinum Collective member Daniel Arsham, and a multi-course dinner experience by American Express Global Dining Collection Chef Dominique Crenn.

Ahead of the announcement, Billboard chatted with Pharrell about his latest initiative, his thoughts on today’s young generation of artists, and why the arts (and the color yellow) are so important for all ages.

When you were named creative director of AmEx Platinum, what were your goals and where does the yellow ball kind of fit into all of that?

My goals were to work with a company that I felt like had the means to make a difference, but just maybe needed a nudging, or maybe needed some direction. But then when I started working with them and got an education on all the things that they’ve done — from the Tribeca Film Festival to the sales program they have for small businesses on Saturdays — I realized that they had been doing this the entire time. When we talked about doing the Yellow Ball and I told them I wanted it to be about arts and education, they didn’t blink. What I wanted to do with them was just going to be just yet another great thing that they do in the world.

Why did you decide on the name the Yellow Ball, and what does the color yellow mean to you?

Not to get all esoteric, but yellow is like the color of the solar plexus. Yellow is the color for creativity, yellow is the color for curiosity. Art is largely diminishing throughout the curriculum throughout this country, and we need to protect the creative mind.

Everything around you right now versus everything you’re using, it’s just not organic, it was someone’s epiphany. That’s creativity, that needs to be protected. If we don’t have that, I don’t know what kind of future we have. We have to protect the artist community at all costs, across all artistic disciplines.

Why do you think it’s so important for people to be exposed to the arts and learn from it at a young age?

On a more paramount level, everyone is a creative. Everyone that makes a move or does anything in life is a co-creator, but the ones who actually create things that we use and things that we need, that needs to be protected. There is a future that will have corporations that will have more say. You see all the things happening with lobbyists now, you just can never doubt that. In the artistic community, it’s the educational portion of it is eroding, what kind of future is that for us? So we need to talk to all the corporations that we can — that care — now.

Did the controversy surrounding the funding cuts for the NEA change the course of action for you in your involvement with AmEx platinum in any way?

A lot of decisions that are being made are having a domino effect on programs like the [NEA]. And while we might not like that, the powers that be are the powers that be, but we are still the people and we can do things to help the people with the resources that we have access to. That’s literally all we’re doing, there’s no political stance, it’s more of a people’s stance.

Has becoming a father had an impact on the way you think about how art can affect lives?

I want all children to have access to that kind of creative growth, access and support. All kids, not just my own. There’s a lot of variables in a situation as to why something falls apart, but there’s only one scenario where it holds together, and that’s when all the variables are there. The environment, the family, the school, the system — there’s so many things. We just want to do what we can to balance the odds so that as many kids as we can afford, or help and assist in whatever ways, get this access and support.

What do you think the younger generation of today’s musical artists are bringing to the table?

I love what they do and how they express themselves. It’s like these amazing pockets of lyrics or melodies that feel good to them. The music just takes on a direction of its own, it’s not so formatted. I love that this generation is just grabbing the instruments and using them in whatever way feels good to them. That’s just like a sign of how the times have changed.

It’s kind of like the fourth time that I’ve seen music and the spirit of it change — like drastically change. It’s been amazing to see it. You see certain things that feel familiar, then you see things that you’ve never seen or thought of in your entire life. As a musician I can feel connected to it.

Source: https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/8469193/pharrell-williams-interview-yellow-ball-gala-art-education

Applications Now Open for 2019 Disney Dreamers Academy to be Held at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida

Disney Dreamers Academy Class of 2016 (photo by Gregg Newton)

100 high school students to be selected for all-expenses-paid mentoring experience of a lifetime

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Applications are being accepted now through Oct. 31, 2018, for the Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence magazine. This annual outside-the-classroom mentoring program is scheduled for March 21-24, 2019, at the Walt Disney Resort in Florida.

The program helps 100 select high school students, ages 13-19, from across the United States jump-start their life goals and pursue their dreams. Disney Dreamers Academy turns the entire magical setting of Walt Disney World into a vibrant classroom.

Disney Dreamers learning how to build rides in Imagineering workshop (photo courtesy of Disney)

Students participate in a series of sessions and workshops designed to help them imagine bright futures, make exciting discoveries and learn how to put their goals into action. Disney Dreamers engage in a wide variety of experiences at Walt Disney World while working side by side with celebrities, community and industry leaders and Disney cast members.

For more than a decade, Disney Dreamers Academy has inspired young people from across the country by fueling their dreams and showing them a world of possibilities as they prepare for the future.

Each year, students participate in hands-on, immersive career seminars in a wide range of disciplines found at Walt Disney World. Participants learn how to improve their communication skills, what it means to be a leader and networking strategies, among other skills. They are also inspired by celebrity speakers and other special guests who share their stories and provide insights on how to achieve their life goals.

The second decade of Disney Dreamers Academy is focused on challenging young people to relentlessly pursue their dreams through the “Be 100” campaign. This promotional push is inspired by the powerful impact Disney Dreamers Academy has made on graduates, who have gone on to become doctors, nurses, engineers, pilots, journalists and more. Some have started their own public relations firms, while others have worked with national political leaders.

Applicants must answer essay questions about their personal journeys and dreams for the future. Studentsare selected based on a combination of attributes, including strong character, positive attitude and determination to achieve their dreams. A parent or guardian accompanies each student on the trip.

This four-day, all-expenses-paid experience at Walt Disney World will continue to help change the lives of young people in 2019.

For more information or to apply, visit DisneyDreamersAcademy.com

LeBron James Opens I Promise School in Hometown of Akron for At-Risk Kids

LeBron James speaks on the first day of class at the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio. The LeBron James Family Foundation is the school’s top donor and worked with Akron Public Schools to meet all its standards and regulations. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

by Tania Ganguli via latimes.com

As he drove to the school he was helping open in his hometown, LeBron James’ emotions brought him back to when he was the same age as the kids who were starting school there Monday.

He remembered school meaning nothing to him. He remembered it being too far away for him to get there, especially when his mother didn’t have a car. He missed 83 days of school in fourth grade. “It was a surprise to me when I woke up and I was actually going to school,” James said.

As he got older he learned about the value of an education, and how important that was to break poverty cycles. That’s why Monday mattered so much to James, the NBA’s biggest star who recently left Cleveland for the Lakers.

At 8 a.m., 240 at-risk third- and fourth-graders started at the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio. It is a public, non-charter school, just like the ones James attended as a child, but it seeks to offer all the things kids growing up like James did need to succeed. The LeBron James Family Foundation is the top donor and worked with Akron Public Schools to meet all its standards and regulations. And here, the staff attends to not just the children’s education, but also the outside factors that might interfere with that education.

The kids received high-fives from the staff. They begged their teachers to know if “Mr. LeBron” was going to visit their classrooms. Some parents who’d lost jobs asked if the school could help them find new ones. A homeless family asked if they could get help, too. The answers were yes, yes and yes.

“We are going to be that groundbreaking school that will be a nationally recognized model for urban and public school excellence,” said Brandi Davis, the principal. “We are letting people know that it is about true wraparound support. True family integration, true compassion.”

AKRON, OHIO JULY 29TH 2018-School principal Brandi Davis waves in the lobby of the I PROMISE School
Principal Brandi Davis waves in the lobby of the I Promise School. “We are going to be that groundbreaking school that will be a nationally recognized model for urban and public school excellence,” she said. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

It began as an idea inside a monthly brainstorming session between James and Michele Campbell, the executive director of James’ foundation.

Sometimes her job is to manage the expectations of a man who believes, on and off the court, that he can accomplish anything. In this case, she let slip an idea he latched on to right away. Maybe their reach would improve if they created a school, she mused. “Well, why aren’t you doing that?” James asked.

She told him the foundation wasn’t ready for that kind of project. He told her to get started anyway. “There’s nothing that she can’t do,” James said. “If I tell her to go build a rocket and take it to outer space, Michele can make it happen.”

Like the early days of space travel, this was uncharted territory. The school district worked with the foundation. They brought together 120 stakeholders — parents, corporate sponsors, students, teachers, administrators and volunteers — to find out what students in their district really needed. Akron public schools are some of the lowest-performing in Ohio.

They settled on a program that helped teach the skills children need to handle trauma they see in their daily lives, combined with a hard math and science curriculum that would help further their education.

The school’s “wraparound” services help reduce stress kids might feel when their parents are struggling financially. That includes job and family services, a GED program, a food pantry from which they can shop and choose their meals, and help with housing if needed. They have a seven-week summer camp program to help avoid the trouble that comes with too much free time.

Every student gets a bicycle because when James was growing up, he used one to get away from the more dangerous parts of his community. The students also get a Chromebook to complete their homework. “I wanted to keep it as consistent and as authentic to when I was a kid,” James said, while adding generous touches and technology.

The children were randomly selected from a pool of Akron students whose reading levels were a year or two behind where they should be.

“And then we got to make these awesome phone calls to parents to say, ‘Hi, would you like to be a part of something new, something different? The I Promise School,’” said Keith Liechty-Clifford, the coordinator of school improvement for Akron Public Schools.

This renovated, stately brick building sits between a McDonald’s and a convenience store. Inspirational quotes wallpaper the interior and the entrance is decorated with James’ game-worn shoes, which will be sold as a fundraiser. Some walls are painted with murals of such figures as Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson.

To truly provide emotional and psychological services for at-risk children and their families requires well-trained and supported teachers. The I Promise School gives teachers access to psychological services. Every Wednesday afternoon will be reserved for career development. James even hired a personal trainer to work with teachers who want a guided workout.

All their supplies also are provided by the school. That was a pleasant surprise for Angela Whorton, an intervention specialist at the I Promise School. She’s been a teacher for 10 years and almost always had to spend her own money to properly stock the classroom.

I Promise School
The I Promise School (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

She’s spent her own money here, too, but for personal touches. She bought a black rug that functions like a red carpet and put stars on it so the students feel special walking into the room. The writing utensils in her room are topped with white artificial flowers.

From her classroom on the second floor, Whorton pointed out of a window to a neighboring home’s modest backyard. She moved to Akron when she was in eighth grade.

“Through those trees was my backyard,” Whorton said. “And I used to dream big. At the time my mom was struggling as a single parent. She promised us that if we had an education we could be and do anything we needed to be.”

When they didn’t have electricity, Whorton’s mom lit candles so she and her brother could do their homework. When the plant where she worked shut down, Whorton’s mom went back to school and took two jobs to care for her children. She’d stand in line at the food bank to make sure she had something to feed her kids.

Whorton knows just how valuable the school she works in can be in this community. Sunday afternoon her family got a closer look at the school and she couldn’t stop her tears.

“The family wraparound approach is going to help the community,” Whorton said. “Right from my window. Looking at my backyard where I used to dream. There’s nothing more electric than that.”

A two-hour ceremony followed the end of the first day of school. At its conclusion, James spoke to the crowd. He laughed at someone who shouted “wee wee,” his mother’s nickname growing up. He paused for a moment when a man in the back of the audience shouted, “We love you!”

Oregon Komen Foundation Launches Initiative to Reduce Breast Cancer Deaths Among Black Women

The team collecting data to inform a multi-year project, spearheaded by Susan G. Komen Oregon & SW Washington, to address breast cancer disparities in Portland’s African American community includes (from left): Cindy Fletcher, Komen’s director of programs; Dr. Angela Owusu-Ansah, professor of doctoral studies at Concordia University; Bridget Jamieson, Komen’s community programs manager; D. Bora Harris, diversity consultant; and Kelvin Hall, a doctoral candidate and community advocate. (Photo via thelundreport.org)

Cancer has long been a leading killer in the black community. One in nine African-American women in the United States will develop breast cancer during their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. Of those, 42 percent more are likely to die of the disease than white women.

“The disparities are shocking,” said Andrew Asato, CEO the local Komen organization.

But there’s little comparable at the a local level, something the Oregon and Southwest Washington chapter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation hopes to change. The group launched an initiative this week to collect data about health disparities in the black community to learn how health care providers can reduce barriers for black women to access support.

They received a grant from the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Community Partnership Program to survey the region’s demographics, breast cancer screening habits and barriers to screening and treatment.

The team will be led by Angela Owusu-Ansah, Ph.D, a professor at Concordia University in Portland. It also includes Kelvin Hall, an adjunct professor and doctoral candidate at Concordia, and D. Bora Harris, a diversity consultant.

“As an African-American person, I realize the load on people impacted by cancer,” said Hall, who has had several family members die of the disease. “There needs to be support pieces out there, because it falls on the shoulders of just a few family members.”

The team also will look at the social as well as institutional obstacles African-American women face to health care.

“In addition to health disparities within our underserved and underrepresented communities, as African American women, we have historically been taught to ‘hush’ concerning many things,” Harris said. “This tradition of silence may have negatively impacted several phases of our quality of life in respect to our health.”

Once that data is collected, the nonprofit advocacy group plans to bring a set of recommendations to public and private health care providers, hospitals and community groups to help reduce the rate at which black Portlanders die from breast cancer.

“It is time to move beyond education and do what we can to encourage action,” said Asato.

Source: https://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2018/07/oregon_komen_foundation_launch.html

Former President Barack Obama Visits Kenya to Help Sister Auma Obama Open Sports and Training Center in Kolego, their Father’s Birthplace

(AP Photo Brian Inganga)

by Tom Odula, AP via blackamericaweb.com

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Former U.S. President Barack Obama Monday praised Kenya’s president and opposition leader for working together but said this East African country must do more to end corruption.

Obama, on his first visit to Africa since stepping down as president, commended President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga for cooperating following last year’s disputed presidential election which were marked by violence.

“Despite some of the tumultuous times that seem to attend every election we now have a president and major opposition leader who have pledged to build bridges and have made specific commitments to work together,” said Obama, speaking in Kogelo in Siaya County, the rural birthplace of his late father.

Other challenges facing Kenya are tribalism and the need for better education, Obama said. Since visiting Kenya as senator in 2006 and then as president in 2015, Obama has passionately urged Kenya to tackle its endemic corruption and problems surrounding the divisions between this country’s ethnic groups. In 2006, he angered the government of President Mwai Kibaki when he gave a talk about corruption at the University of Nairobi. The government spokesman responded calling him “an inexperienced young man who could not teach Kenya how to manage its affairs.”

Obama went to Kogelo on Monday to launch a sports and training center founded by his half-sister, Auma Obama, through her foundation Sauti Kuu. Thousands of Kenyans turned up in his ancestral home of Kogelo to see Obama but many could not get into the venue due to high security.

“We wanted to appreciate Barack Obama for what he has done. In fact he has developed the community through giving iron sheets for people to build their houses,” said Boniface Rachula, a farmer from Kogelo who was turned away from the event.

Obama’s current visit to Kenya is low key, unlike his previous trips where he electrified thousands of Kenyans who lined the streets to see him. “It is a joy to be with so many people who are family to me and so many people who claim to be family to me. Everybody is a cousin,” Obama said in jest.

Later Monday he left for South Africa where he will deliver the annual Neslon Mandela lecture which this year will mark the late anti-apartheid icon’s 100th birthday.

Read more: https://blackamericaweb.com/2018/07/16/president-obama-heads-to-kenya-to-help-sister-open-center/