Tag: black billionaires

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’d like, let’s discuss!

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

From The Conversation:

by Mako Fitts Ward, professor at Arizona State University 

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?”

All Star Code Founder Christina Lewis Halpern Exposes Boys of Color to STEM Opportunities

All Star Code founder Christina Lewis Halpern with All Star students (photo via allstarcode.org)

via blavity.com

“We all want and need a seat at the table, and then we want to run the table and then we want to have our own table. Coding is the ticket to that,” says Christina Lewis Halpern, the founder of All Star Code, a six-week initiative for high school boys of color to discover innovative career opportunities through a computer science based curriculum.

According to Atlanta Black Star, the New York activist is the daughter of the late Reginald F. Lewis, a Wall Street attorney who became the first African-American to build a billion-dollar company. Her father, a Harvard graduate before dying of brain cancer in 1993, operated TLC Beatrice International, a grocery, beverage and household products distributor.

The month before he passed, Lewis named Halpern, who was only 12-years-old at the time, to the board of his foundation. “My family foundation is committed to social justice and believes in the power of entrepreneurship and investing in our community,” Halpern said. Two decades into the future and Halpern, a professional business journalist, created the All Star Code program “to help the next generation of youth catch the next wave of opportunity.”

So how did she do it? “We seeded this initiative and provided an anchor grant. About 20 percent of the money invested in All Star Code last year was from the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, or Lewis family personal funds,” Halpern explained. Other donors included Bond Collective, Cisco, Comcast, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Chase, MLB Advanced Media and Yahoo!. These corporations in addition to operational support gave $350,000 in funding.

Because of the lack of opportunities in STEM for men and women of color, Halpern’s All Star Code is designed to change that. The nonprofit raised more than $740,000 in 2016 at the annual All Star Code fundraiser in the Hamptons. Due to the generous contributions of the donors, the organization, which started in New York City and has stretched to Pittsburgh, has expanded and continues to grow rapidly.

The number of boys that participated in the Summer initiative skyrocketed from only 20 in 2014 to 160 this year. Halpern says that their goal is to have at least 1,000 high schoolers in 2020.

To read full article, go to: Daughter Of The First African-American To Build A Billion-Dollar Company Exposes Boys Of Color To STEM Opportunities | BLAVITY

Quiet Billionaire Robert Smith Makes Some Noise with $20 Million Gift to National African American Museum

In 2013, when the founders of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture were seeking donors, people directed them to one man: Robert F. Smith.

“We kept wondering, ‘Who is this Robert Smith?’ ” said Adrienne Brooks, director of development for the museum. Meeting Smith became a priority, said Lonnie G. Bunch III, the museum’s founding director. “We wanted to meet him. And soon,” Bunch said, laughing.

Soon many more people will know Robert Smith by name as the museum celebrates its grand opening this weekend. The private-equity financier was the museum’s second-biggest private donor, with a $20 million gift. Oprah Winfrey was No. 1, with $21 million.

Smith has built a fortune that’s made him one of the nation’s richest men — worth $2.5 billion, according to Forbes — but until now he has kept his work and philanthropy relatively quiet.

Even the website of his company, Vista Equity Partners, does not have a picture of him. Better, he had thought, that investors and executives know him first by his abilities. If they saw only the caramel skin of an African American, he might lose out on opportunities.

As Vista’s chairman and chief executive, he is in the business of buying, growing and selling off software companies. Vista’s portfolio has 35 companies with $26 billion in assets under management. He is the majority shareholder of Vista’s management company.

Beyond Wall Street and Silicon Valley, Smith long enjoyed moving in relative obscurity. That changed last fall when Forbes magazine put him on its cover, with an article for which he declined to be interviewed.

Now in an exclusive interview with The Washington Post, he’s ready to talk about his life’s work and the powerful social force that has pulled him out of the shadows: the racial tension escalating across the nation. Smith said he grew fearful that the very fabric of the country that allowed his parents to earn doctorate degrees and him to build a successful business is vulnerable.

Watching TV news, he saw the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., after the 2014 fatal shooting of an unarmed black youth, Michael Brown, by police. Last year he watched the turmoil following Freddie Gray’s funeral in Baltimore. Across the land, he feared, a sense of opportunity is giving way to rising hopelessness and despair.

“The vision I was sold as a kid is unraveling. I see the little tears in the fabric of society every day. This cannot be,” Smith said in the interview.

His philanthropic efforts go back years. Through the Fund II Foundation, of which he is the founding president, he has supported nonprofit groups that focus on African American culture, human rights, music education and the environment.

It was time to emerge, he thought, and do more. “We have to do something,” he said. “We have to do something for our community.”

To read full article, go to: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/who-is-this-robert-smith-a-quiet-billionaire-makes-some-noise-with-20-million-gift-to-the-african-american-museum/2016/09/23/547da3a8-6fd0-11e6-8365-b19e428a975e_story.html