Tag: Bank of America

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”

Baltimore Creates an Additional 3,000 Summer Jobs for City’s Youth Following Freddie Gray Uprisings

A week after protests took over Baltimore in response to the death of Freddie Gray, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake launched OneBaltimore, a nonprofit dedicated to rebuilding the city and its affected residents. While progress toward addressing systematic failures that impact not only Baltimore, but other major cities across the U.S., is no easy feat, Baltimore has since made gains in the right direction.

Since announcing the launch of OneBaltimore in May, the nonprofit, which is supported by private–public partnerships, teamed up with the city’s summer jobs program called Youth Works to create an additional 3,000 summer jobs for Baltimore youth. Usually, Youth Works offers positions to 5,000 young people between the ages of 14 and 21, but this year, with the help of OneBaltimore, the program responded to a record number of applications by offering a total of 8,000 positions.

“When businesses hire one or two youths during the summer they are providing jobs that will inspire young people by giving them a glimpse into their future as productive employees,” Donald C. Fry, the president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee said in a statement.

Currently, it costs $1,500 to fund one young person in a Youth Works program. To help offset this cost, OneBaltimore partnered with other nonprofits, private businesses, and government agencies to meet the needs of the city’s youth and in total raised $15 million for future programs.

In addition to providing employment, Mayor Rawlings-Blake is working closely with Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Operation Hope to recruit volunteers to hold financial education seminars for the participants. She has also partnered with the Maryland Transit Administration to offer free public transportation passes for students to get to and from work.

article by Courtney Connley via blackenterprise.com

National Museum of African American History to Display Photos of the Gullah People

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Miss Bertha, 1977 (JEANNE MOUTOUSSAMY-ASHE/NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE)

The collection is haunting: black-and-white stills of another place from another time, a documentation of the Gullah, or Geechee, people—a population of African descendants living on the Sea Islands off the Eastern coastline.  The images of a place and a people that time forgot were captured by celebrated photographer Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe—the wife of renowned tennis player Arthur Ashe—between 1977 and 1981.

Bank of America donated the collection of more than 60 photos to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The photographs center on the people and life of Daufuskie Island, a cultural and national treasure tucked away off the coast of South Carolina.

A “time capsule” is how the island was aptly described by Lonnie Bunch, the museum’s founding director, who is thrilled at the addition to the yet-to-be-finished museum.  In addition to the stunning collection, which Bank of America originally obtained through its acquisition of Merrill Lynch in 2007, the financial institution also donated $1 million toward the building of the museum, a $500 million project.

“We’ve had a great history with the [museum]. We were one of the first donors [and have a] long-standing partnership,” Bank of America spokeswoman Diane Wagner told The Root. “[The collection] seemed like a very natural fit to be donated to the museum as one of their key exhibitions once they open in 2015.

“We feel that the arts have the power to connect people and … can connect people across cultures, across geography and socioeconomic status … People can take a look at art and understand a different culture, or they can understand their heritage, where they come from and how they’ve been established,” she added. Continue reading “National Museum of African American History to Display Photos of the Gullah People”

Merrill Lynch Agrees to Settle Racial Bias Suit Filed By Black Brokers for $160 million

Merrill Lynch, a unit of Bank of America, has settled a long-running racial bias suit for a princely sum that may be the largest even distributed to p...
Merrill Lynch, a unit of Bank of America, has settled a long-running racial bias suit for a princely sum that may be the largest even distributed to plaintiffs in a bias suit against an American employer.
Bank of America Corp’s Merrill Lynch unit agreed to pay $160 million to settle a racial bias lawsuit that went through two appeals at the United States Supreme Court, the New York Times reported, citing the plaintiff’s lawyer. 

Longtime Merrill broker George McReynolds filed the lawsuit in 2005 accusing the brokerage of steering blacks into clerical positions and diverting lucrative accounts to white brokers, resulting in lower pay and fewer career growth opportunities. 

The payout in the suit, which was filed on behalf of 700 black brokers who worked for Merrill, would be the largest sum ever distributed to plaintiffs in a racial discrimination suit against an American employer, according to the New York Times. 

The preliminary settlement was confirmed to the newspaper by a spokesman for Merrill Lynch and Linda Friedman, a Chicago lawyer who represents the brokers. (http://link.reuters.com/wes62v)  “We are working toward a very positive resolution of a lawsuit filed in 2005 and enhancing opportunities for African-American financial advisers,” Bill Halldin, a spokesman for Merrill Lynch, told the paper. 

Merrill Lynch and Stowell & Friedman, the law firm representing McReynolds, could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside of regular U.S. business hours.

article by Seth Wenig, AP via nbcnews.com