Tag: African-American 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 by Barbara Levy Kipper)

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.

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.

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/

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

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

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/

Chance The Rapper Donates $1 Million to Improve Chicago’s Mental Health Services

Chance The Rapper (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

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.”

Six mental health providers in Cook County will each get $100,000 grants and SocialWorks is starting an initiative called “My State of Mind” to help connect people with treatment. Members of the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Chicago Department of Public Health were present for the announcement.

On Thursday, Chance also announced plans to give money to 20 additional Chicago Public Schools. His nonprofit has given millions to Chicago schools in recent years.

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”