Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Everyday Heroes: Leslie Caroline of the Riversider

RIVERSIDER: Ordinary People. Extraordinary Lives. The Untold Story.

Leslie Caroline believes that when we are informed, we are empowered-- and when we are empowered, we increase the spiritual, political and economic strength of our communities.

How has Leslie given back to the community she grew up in?

Leslie has created, a website launched this past June as a way to honor the city of Riverside, California, where she was raised. Riverside is located 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

The website is a tribute to all those who broke through the barriers of injustice and inequality, created opportunities where none previously existed, and dedicated their lives to making Riverside, California a better place to live.

Leslie states on her website:

"As our local Riverside schools teach history, particularly what is referred to as 'black history', it is imperative children be taught not only about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, the March on Selma and the civil rights movement that took place in the south. They should also be taught about the movement that took place in their own backyard."

The Riversider documents Riverside's first families, churches, entrepreneurs, golf legends and 'Beacons of Light' which highlights interesting tidbits, such as the first black citizen of Riverside.

Below are just a few of Riverside's unsung heroes:

Frank Johnson - who sued the city of Riverside in the 1920's for their discriminatory practice of not allowing blacks to swim in all public pools.

Captain Ed Strickland - Riverside's first black fireman who invented the 1 1/2" preconnected hose that is in use all over the country today.

Edward Francis Boyd - a marketing executive who helped break corporate America's color barrier and transform U.S. business.

The website is a labor of love for Leslie and now the citizens of Riverside, particularly black children and youth, know that they have a long, rich legacy of unsung heroes before them that will inspire and instill in them a sense of hope and pride. Kudos to you Leslie!

Photos of the Day

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Baltimore: Lydia Howard (left), Amos Warren and Rodolfo Leocadio join in prayer during an event to call attention to the city's homicides, October 28th. Photo: Elizabeth Malby / Baltimore Sun

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Musician Herbie Hancock is presented with an award by Quincy Jones from The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and The Recording Academy Los Angeles Chapter at the Kodak Theater in LA on October 28.

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Members of Southwest Philadelphia District Services shout slogans as they march through the streets of Philadelphia to recruit volunteers to join the "10,000 Men: It's a New Day" event. Photo: Baltimore Sun

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R&B group En Vogue performing at the Best Buddies Ball on October 20 in Potomac, Maryland.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Daughters of Men

In the book Daughters of Men, author Rachel Vassel has complied dozens of stunning photographs (by celebrity photographer Derek Blanks) and compelling personal essays about African- American women and their fathers. The book will be released tomorrow, October 30.

Daughters of Men is the first title to showcase the importance of the Black father's impact on the accomplishments of his daughter. From actress Sanaa Lathan to Georgia State Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, many African-American women attribute much of their success to a positive father figure.

Other daughters profiled in the book include philanthropist Sheila Johnson, gospel singers Erica and Tina Campbell of Mary Mary, Radio One founder Cathy Hughes, CARE USA President Helen Gayle and singer/actress Brandy.

Actress Nicole Ari Parker Kodjoe and her father Donald Parker are also profiled. Nicole said of her father:

The most remarkable thing about my dad is that he never told me anything that wasn’t true and he never broke a promise. If he said he was going to be there after school at 3:30 p.m. he was there. He wasn’t early, he wasn’t late. When I think about it, it’s not hard to do. My father simply never made promises he couldn’t keep.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Event: 2007 Black Ball for Keep A Child Alive

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Alicia Keys and Bono with the Agape Children

The 2007 Black Ball for Keep A Child Alive was held on October 25th at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. Keep A Child Alive's mission is to combat the global AIDS pandemic, including the provision of AIDS medicine to children and their families with HIV/AIDS and to create awareness about the issue.

Among those honored at the event included rockstar and activist Bono, who was recognized for his groundbreaking and crucial work in the AIDS movement and Dr. Pasquine Ogunsanya, the Medical Director of Alive Medical Services in Uganda.

The evening was presented by Conde Nast Media Group and hosted by songstress Alicia Keys, who is also a spokesperson for Keep A Child Alive, and supermodel Iman.

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Iman and Alicia Keys

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Jay-Z and Sean Diddy Combs

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Gwen Stefani, David Bowie and Iman

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Keep A Child Alive
Photos: Wireimage

Q & A with NBA Player Grant Hill

I'm sure you know of Grant Hill the NBA player, but do you know of Grant Hill the philanthropist? The art collector?

Michael Tillery, a sportswriter for The Starting Five blog, recently interviewed Grant, discussing his philanthropy, his family and basketball. Michael says of the Phoenix Suns player:

"He was one of the first to be proclaimed the next Jordan and had the classiness and ambassador like presence of one Julius Erving. Grant Hill was the truth before this generation’s definition of truth ever existed. His African American art has been on tour to give those not accustomed an inspiring renaissance of cultural thought. Grant and his R&B songstress wife Tamia are family first, and committed to giving back to raise up those who live by means less amid socially distorting life distress. Grant is a winner. This cannot ever be questioned."

Michael Tillery: What prompts you to give so much back to so many organizations and not really receive well-deserved attention?

Grant Hill:

I understand to a degree, to whom much is given, much is expected. We as athletes–celebrities and people that have financial security–are in positions where we can help. I think all of us…no matter who you are or where you are from…that achieve a certain level of success, can bring people along the way. My mindset is to try to help. It is as simple as that. Whether that is financial contributions, giving your name or actually getting out there, rolling up your sleeves and doing something for someone for a worthy cause, then that is important. Not to get deep or philosophical or anything like that, it is just how I am. My wife Tamia feels the same way and also does what she can to help in any way possible. We both have our organizations that we feel adamant supporting. It is good to be in a situation to be able to make a difference. Sometimes it is a big difference, sometimes it is on a smaller scale, but it is a difference nonetheless.

Michael: It is known Grant that you do not speak of yourself in a flattering manner. You and your wife do so much for the community. How many organizations are the two of you involved in?


I could not really tell you. If you look at a bio, you will see things that we have done over the years. You may read about something, someone may call or write a letter. You might have a friend and we might make an appearance. We might volunteer or give a contribution. You may do that for a year and move on to something else. There are also organizations that we have been supporting through the years. I do not know off the top of my head. I know what we are involved in now, but there is not a criteria, or game plan or goal that we want to do this or that. It is kind of whatever we are feeling or whatever we hear about. Whatever is important to us at that time, we try to do what we can do. What I am really trying to say is that it is no rhyme or reason. We do not say that we want to give to x amount of community service per year or give a certain amount of capital annually. It really rather fluctuates from year to year.

Michael also asked Grant about his extensive African American art collection. Inspired by his parents' art collection, Hill began collecting art in 1995. His collection was featured as an exhibit in various cities, titled, Something All Our Own. Hill said in a previous interview about the tour, "This exhibition tour is a unique vehicle that will both educate the general public and inspire our youth."
Michael: Is your collection of African American art still on exhibition?


No, it is back. Most of it is in storage. We may in the future–as we continue to add more pieces–have something go out in the future on tour. It was a great opportunity to bring people out to museums that would not normally go. It was good to expose all young people, but more specifically kids in the inner-city schools come through and also take field trips to see the art exhibited. It is important that they see more than great athletes and great entertainers. It is important that they see artists of color exhibit quality art at quality museums. It is not just an athletic thing. That was really important to me and the feedback was great.

Read this entire interview at The Starting Five blog.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

::Event: Ernie Barnes Tribute Celebration::

Remember the popular '70s black television series Good Times? If you do, then you definitely remember the painting that was shown during the opening credits:

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The painting, titled Sugar Shack, was created by African American artist Ernie Barnes. He actually appeared on a few of the episodes and created the paintings for Jimmy Walker on the show.

On October 23rd, a tribute celebration in his honor was held at the Time Warner Center in New York:

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Ernie Barnes
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Ernie Barnes with Bill Withers
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Ernie with his wife Bernie Barnes
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The tribute, titled "Ernie Barnes: His Art and Inspiration" opened to the public yesterday in the Great Room at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, 60th Street entrance. It will be on view through October 29, 2007. The tribute is co-sponsored by Time Warner and the National Football League.

::Cultural Activities::
Los Angeles: Actress Kim Wayans performs in 'A Handsome Woman Retreats', a funny journey to inner peace. The play was written by Wayans and is directed by Iona Morris. Runs through November 4th on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Location: 2100 Square Feet Theater, 5615 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. Tickets are $20.00, call 323.769.6395 for details.

Photos: Mark VonHolden/Wireimage,

The Cradle to the Prison Pipeline Initiative

Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) wants to know why are 1 in 3 black boys ending up in prison?

She wants us to consider that today, 580,000 Black males are serving sentences in state or federal prison, while fewer than 40,000 Black males earn a bachelor's degree each year, stating, "For a nation that claims to be the world's greatest democracy and a beacon for justice and freedom, the "Cradle to Prison Pipeline" is a national disgrace that costs billions of dollars, ruins tens of thousands of our children and deprives us of the young talent that could build a brighter future."

The Children's Defense Fund held a national Cradle to Prison Pipeline® Summit at Howard University, September 25-26, 2007 to address the nationwide crisis and its devastating impact on children, youth and their families, particularly within the Black and Latino communities. Among the speakers were CDF President Marian Wright Edelman, as well as Dr. Bill Cosby and Morehouse College President Dr. Robert Michael Franklin, Jr. who underscored the role of families and communities in raising healthy children with an ethic of achievement.

At this summit, the CDF unveiled a report, America's Cradle to Prison Pipeline that documents this crisis citing that tens of thousands of teens are sucked into the pipeline each year.

One of the strategies identified as a promising way to reduce this crisis is mentoring. The report highlights the Big Brothers Big Sisters model, citing that in 2005, 84% of teachers reported that youth who were mentored at school improved in at least one academic subject.

For more information and to download the report, visit the website here. Note: They also have cradle to prison pipeline data for each state!

Monday, October 22, 2007

“It’s worse than crack”

“It’s worse than crack. They should have a detox center for these things, too.”
~A Baltimore resident referring to the city’s Newport cigarette addiction
I vividly remember the crack epidemic that ravaged through D.C. starting in the mid to late 80s and the damaging effects that followed after during the mid 90s, as babies who were born to crack addicted mothers began to start school. I would eventually provide services for these children and their mothers at a drug treatment clinic in southeast Washington, D.C. As the mothers tried to stop using drugs, they often picked up another addiction: nicotine.

A recent study conducted in Baltimore revealed that more than half of poor, black young adults smoke cigarettes — almost always menthol, almost always Newports. The study also found that nearly one in four of them also smoke candy-flavored cigarillos, often inhaling despite the danger posed by higher tar and nicotine levels. Cigarillos are Black and Milds, that are plastic-tipped in flavors such as wine, cream and apple. An article in the New York Times states that cigarillos are often seen in hip-hop videos and the HBO series “The Wire,” which is set in Baltimore.

In this latest study, researchers interviewed 160 blacks ages 18 to 24 who were enrolled in job training. Of the group, 60 percent smoked cigarettes and 24 percent had recently smoked cigarillos.

A 17 year old youth who spoke at a hearing on this subject said she had started smoking Black and Milds at 15 and now smoked several a day, inhaling: “If you smoke the wine flavor, it gives you a buzz, ” also adding that if she goes too long without, “I get light-headed.”

Smoking may not be as much of a concern as using drugs such as marijuana, but Baltimore’s health commissioner, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein says, “If you take a step back, it’s the smoking that will end up killing a lot of these kids, maybe not next week but well ahead of their time.”

What has become common in Baltimore and other urban cities is the selling of “loosies”, selling loose Newport cigarettes to those who do not have $4.50 to buy a pack. The article states that out-of-package sales are common in the poor areas of many cities, an adaptation to meager, erratic incomes and rising cigarette taxes.

In a stepped-up antismoking campaign, Baltimore officials are offering free nicotine patches or gum and are considering stronger measures to control the sales of loosies, which are easily available to youth.

'Sippin On Some Sizzurp'

Another drug that is popular among youth, particularly in the South, is “Drank”, which is codeine laced cough syrup. I remember some years ago a rap song called ‘Sippin' on Some Sizzurp’ by the rap group Three Six Mafia. Oh great, I thought, now the kids are going to experiment and drink this potentially lethal cocktail, which is mixed with a combination of candy, soda and ice. Although drinking cough syrup has been documented as a drug habit since the 1960s, 'drank' became popular once the hip hop community glorified it. There's even instructions on how to make it on the internet.

In the Houston Chronicle article, Rappers Death Highlights Syrup-Fueled Lifestyle, it cites that codeine-laced cough syrup has enjoyed a resurgence with the popularity of Screw music, a distinctive sound of rap from Houston. Screw artists such as Big Moe, born Kenneth Moore, praised it for its euphoric effects, the remedy to a hard-knock life.

Big Moe is now dead at the age of 33.

The article states that his fans and friends are now wondering whether cough syrup abuse may have been a factor that led to his death last week. The rapper immortalized Purple Drank, Lean, Sizzurp — monikers for the cough suppressant containing promethazine and codeine — in songs and drank the stuff for years.

In a 2002 study, researchers have found that codeine-laced cough syrup is a growing public health problem for black teens. A Houston youth drug counselor stated that nearly 50 percent of his juvenile drug addicts drink cough syrup, using it in deadly combinations: They dip marijuana joints and cigarillos in it.

The article also cites the story of 16 year old Terrence. He started drinking the drug because he grew up without knowing his father, a pain that haunted him, he said, since he was a kid. He supported his habit by burglarizing homes in tony Bellaire, who estimates that he has spent nearly $4,000 of stolen money on cough syrup.

"It's just a matter of time before we see the long-term effects, when these kids start turning 30, and they all of a sudden need kidney transplants," the youth counselor said.

Al D., a Houston rapper, is quoted in the article as saying:

"When I was drinking Drank, I wasn't thinking about what it could be doing to my health. We chose the wrong thing to deal with…kids be looking at us, listening to our music thinking that they got to be drinking to be listening to our music, and we don't want them to do that."


Program Highlight: Project Alpha

In this nation the problem of single parent households and fatherless children has become an epidemic. In 2005, close to 70% of all black children were born into fatherless households. These numbers increase with each passing year.

According to statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children growing up in fatherless homes are more likely to run away, have behavioral disorders, commit suicide, abuse drugs, drop out of school, end up in prison, commit violent crimes and become teen parents out of wedlock.

The Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the first black Greek letter fraternity in the nation, understands the importance of a community of support in every youth’s life, specifically focusing on fatherless African American boys and their need for a strong, male role model.

Through their partnership with the March of Dimes, Alpha Phi Alpha’s Project Alpha seeks to provide mentoring to at-risk youth within the African American community. Project Alpha is a national initiative that seeks to provide “education, motivation and skill-building on issues of responsibility,” teaching young men ages 12 to 15 about fatherhood and the role of males in healthy relationships. Their program includes education on abstinence, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy in the hopes of inspiring wise decision making in the future.

Famous members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity include but are not limited to Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Rhodes Scholar and former Jamaican Prime Minister Norman Manley, W.E.B. Dubois, Duke Ellington and Frederick Douglass.

Source: BlackPRWire
Photo: MPT

Friday, October 19, 2007

Spelman's 10 Million Dollar Gift

U.S. News & World Report ranked Spelman College this month as the #1 HBCU in their first ever ranking of historically black colleges and universities. Now, Spelman has another victory to celebrate about:

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A $10 million commitment courtesy of financial services giant, Lehman Brothers.

The funds will be used to develop the Lehman Brothers Center for Global Finance and Economic Development and will establish a curriculum and courses, a new scholarship program, and the recruitment of new faculty. According to Spelman President Beverly Daniel Tatum, the donation is the single largest corporate donation received by the college.

The idea is to have complementary courses at Spelman that would help guide African American women to careers in finance. "The center will not just be about offering courses, scholarships, mentoring, and internship opportunities," says Tatum. "This partnership has the capacity to create a model and do things never done before."


Victoria Rowell & Friends Harlem Hospital Benefit

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Actress and author Victoria Rowell and friends hosted a benefit for the Harlem Hospital campaign along with the Hue-Man bookstore in New York this past Thursday. Those in attendance included actor/director Melvin Van Peebles and author Terry McMillan:

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Victoria Rowell's book, The Women Who Raised Me, is a memoir about her experience in the foster care system as a child and the many women who raised and nurtured her to achieve the American dream. She lived in the foster care system until the age of eighteen.

Rowell is the founder of the Rowell Foster Children’s Positive Plan, which provides scholarships in arts and education to foster and adopted youth. She also serves as national spokesperson for the Annie E. Casey Foundation/Casey Family Services. In recognition for her humanitarian work, she has received numerous awards, including the United Nations Association Award, and was selected by 193 members of congress as a congressional Angel in Adoption.

Photos: Bennett Raglin/Wireimage
Source: Website

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Veteran Rapper KRS-One Relaunching 'Stop The Violence Movement'

Pioneering rapper KRS-One is relaunching the Stop The Violence Movement, originally launched in 1988 in response to growing violence in the hip hop community.

The Stop The Violence Movement produced a Hip-Hop classic titled "Self Destruction," which featured KRS-One, D-Nice, MC Lyte and Public Enemy among others. The movement and song also unfurled in the aftermath of the death of DJ Scott La Rock, his original partner that was gunned down in 1987.

KRS-One told "The Stop The Violence Movement will be 20 years old in 2009 and what have we learned?"

He also says, "[Hip-Hop] can make a difference. We influence every inner-city in the's like all of us paying attention to a wind that seems to be blowing, a certain attitude about life that we are all kind of feeling. I think everybody wants to see Hip-Hop just balance itself out and grow a little more. It's good for everybody."

The Hip-Hop artist/metaphysician is updating The Stop The Violence Movement by collecting and producing Public Service Announcements (PSA's) from various rappers, who all urge the community to stop violent activities over the next year. So far, KRS-One has enlisted Ludacris, Busta Rhymes (Busta? Hmmm...wasn't he charged with assault not long ago?) and Jalil of the rap group Whodini.

Related post: I Used to Love H.E.R.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Urban News: Sexy Rap Videos Damaging to Young Girls?

Researchers from the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory Center for AIDS Research, School of Medicine at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia and the University of Alabama, Birmingham, set out to see if the amount of exposure to sexual stereotypes were linked to risky behaviors seen in rap videos.

They said many psychosocial factors can adversely affect self-image, health status, and the likelihood of engaging in high-risk behaviors among young girls. But one such factor is exposure to rap music videos, which often portray African-American women as hypersexual and amoral and include content related to violence, sexuality and drug and alcohol abuse.

Here's how the study was conducted: Researchers surveyed 522 African-American girls aged 14 to 18 and were asked how often they watched rap videos, questioned their sex lives and were asked to provide a urine sample for a marijuana screening.

They found that found young black girls who spent more time watching rap music videos were more likely to binge drink, have sex with multiple partners, test positive for marijuana and have a negative body image.

The researchers wrote in their report, "In rap music videos, the glamorized depictions of alcohol use are often portrayed in conjunction with sexual imagery and portrayals of drug use are often depicted as normal." They concluded that there was a need for greater awareness and education about the risks associated with this media exposure.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hip Hop Artist Common Launches The Common Ground Foundation

Chicago rapper Common has announced the launch of The Common Ground Foundation Inc., a San Francisco based global initiative to educate and empower urban and disadvantaged youth.

The rapper's foundation will also focus on HIV/AIDS prevention programs targeting youth in communities around the world, specifically Africa.

Common stated, "I always believed that if we started with the youth then we would be planting the seeds for our future to blossom."

"I feel that it’s my duty to speak out on conscious matters that are affecting our community a lot, because I know that I do have a voice," Common said in a previous interview with "It’s a platform for millions to hear me speak. Why not speak? It might save a life." Read On.... []

For more information visit

Coming up: Are you ready for the challenge?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Event: 2007 Salute to Youth Leadership Gala Hosted By The Tavis Smiley Foundation

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(L to R: Tavis Smiley, honoree Terri Vaughn, host Cedric The Entertainer, actor Malinda Williams, honoree Hill Harper)

Several years ago, radio and talk show host Tavis Smiley received a request from a single mother who wanted her son to shadow him for a day. The mother was seeking a positive role model for her son, Will. Fast forward to today, Will graduated from Michigan State, majoring in engineering. Will, just like his mentor Smiley, now works with young people.

When listeners of the nationally-syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show heard about Will's shadowing experience, thousands called to request their child, niece or nephew spend the day with Tavis as well. It was this experience that led Smiley to create the Tavis Smiley Foundation in 1999, whose mission is to enlighten, encourage and empower underrepresented and socioeconomic disadvantaged youth through education, and by developing leadership skills that will promote and enhance the quality of life for themselves, their communities and the world. To date, more than 5,000 African American youth ages 13 to 18 have participated in the foundation's programs and more than $200,000 in college scholarships have been awarded.

On Saturday, October 6th at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, the 2007 Salute to Youth Leadership Benefit was hosted by the Tavis Smiley Foundation that recognized outstanding youth and community leaders.

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Tavis with the Smiley Scholars, scholarship recipients
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Ghana's former President Jerry Rawlinds, his wife Lady Nana and Tavis Smiley

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Tavis Smiley with Smiley Scholar, Sullivan Thornton

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Youth Advocate award honoree Terri J. Vaughn

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I attended the event along with BlackGivesBack (BGB)'s west coast contributor. Cedric the Entertainer served as the host of the evening. He shared that he and his wife have started their own foundation and stressed the importance of nurturing today's youth.

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I asked Tavis to share a success story of a youth who had participated in his foundation's programs. What impressed me was that he was able to cite not one, but several success stories of his youth, their names, what college they attended, what they majored in and what they are currently doing now. One youth is now an aide to Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and another graduated from Stanford, now working with the Bush administration under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Tavis said that the youth email him on a regular basis and show up at his speaking events around the country. One of the youth affectionately called him "Uncle T".

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Youth In Action honoree Natalia Bailey
The benefit recognized actors Hill Harper (CSI: NY) and Terri J. Vaughn (Steve Harvey Show and All of Us) with the Youth Advocate Award for their work with young leaders through their respective foundations. Harper's MANifest Your Destiny Foundation focuses on uplifting and encouraging young men.

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Vaughn founded the Take Wings Foundation in her hometown of San Francisco to provide programs for young girls.

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A live auction by Cedric the Entertainer (he was absolutely hilarious) and a professional auctioneer feted the following: A Eugenia Kim hat Cedric wore in his upcoming movie A Better Man for $500 ~ A walk on role on the television show The Game for $1250 ~ An autographed Muhammad Ali framed collage for $3500 ~ A mink shawl donated by Tina Knowles and the House of Dereon for $1250 ~ Two tickets and a walk on role on the hit show Girlfriends for $2500 ( I truly wanted that one). A lavish buffet was provided by Wolfgang Puck Catering and live entertainment was provided by jazz pianist Eric Lewis.

Proceeds from the event will support the foundation's 2008 Leadership Institute, a four-day youth conference that includes workshops on advocacy, youth organizing, and college and career planning. More than 200 youth representing 22 states attended the 2007 conference held in August at Texas Southern University. Plans are underway for the 2008 Institute. For more information, visit Youth to Leaders.

Photos: P. Arriaza and Wireimage