Thursday, July 31, 2008

Philanthropy Profile: Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Meet Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, the first African American and first woman, to head the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is the largest philanthropic foundation dedicated to healthcare in the U.S.

Originally from Seattle, Washington, Dr. Mourey received a M.D. from Harvard Medical School and a MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.

In addition to serving as President and CEO at the foundation, she also makes time to practice medicine at a community health clinic in New Jersey.

Dennis Nishi of the Wall Street recently met with Dr. Mourey to talk about her career path, what skills you need to work in philanthropy and why its important for the medical profession to bring back house calls. Snippets from the article:

"Skills you need: Foundations need collaborators, strategic thinkers, problem solvers and innovative leaders, she says. "Collaboration is essential for a leader in philanthropy. Our role is often to serve as a convener working with both businesses and the government to affect change," says Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey. A leader in philanthropy also needs to be strategic, she adds.

Where you should start: Most executives in philanthropy start and develop expertise in another field and then bring that expertise to philanthropy. "I encourage people to follow their passion and along the way become a student of social change," she says."

During medical school, Dr. Mourey's specialty area was geriatrics. She shared a story about an older patient and why doctors need to bring back house calls:

"One situation that gave me real insight into how the environment we live in affects our health in profound ways was a house call to an older patient. It was around holiday time and I was making frequent visits to make sure she was doing well. Older patients who live alone can become depressed. I noticed she was losing weight and there wasn't a good reason. She was getting Meals on Wheels but they only come once a day and don't provide any extras that you may need to keep your weight up. When I asked her about it, she didn't have a good reason why she was losing weight. So I asked to look in her refrigerator and saw it was empty. This woman had to rely on the system, she had no family to help her do things like go shopping. These are things we take for granted."

Read article here.


SAVE THE DATE: Strike For A Purpose Atlanta

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Photos of the Day

While in Atlanta last week, I along with BGB contributor Cecilia attended the Show Me the Way Foundation’s Runway Red Celebrity Kids Fashion Show, hosted by Chili from the pop group TLC and her son Tron. Held on July 26th at the America's Mart in downtown Atlanta, the event featured child models and their celebrity parents, which benefited youth living with and impacted by HIV/AIDS.

I snapped this picture of actresses Halle and Chloe Bailey at the event. These talented sisters have an impressive resume, appearing in films such as Last Holiday with Queen Latifah and Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns. They opened the fashion show with an amazing performance, which featured the children of Q from the R&B group "112", Big Boi from the hip hop group Outkast and Atlanta's own, Ryan Cameron.


Successful African-American Mentor and Philanthropist Joins Young Girls of the Honey Shine Mentoring Program and Overtown Youth Center in Miami

Via press release: A select group of young girls in South Florida had the opportunity of a lifetime last week, when Susan Taylor, former editorial director of ESSENCE magazine and active leader of numerous charitable and political organizations across the nation, took time out of her busy schedule to share life lessons and words of encouragement. One hundred girls from the Honey Shine Mentoring Program and Overtown Youth Center gathered to hear Taylor speak on Friday, July 25th, 2008 at the Overtown Youth Center in Miami, Florida.

Tracy Wilson Mourning with Susan Taylor
Taylor enlightened the young girls by sharing her life lessons in hopes that they would be able to incorporate her teachings into their own lives. She reiterated the importance of being an individual and the power of being in charge of your own destiny. Taylor reinforced the need for mentors to help them along the way. As a mentor herself to girls across the country, Taylor encouraged each to be resourceful. Mentors can be found anywhere - a teacher, coach, minister, parents, relatives, and especially within the Honey Shine Mentoring Program family.

This was an amazing opportunity for our girls to interact with a leader in the African-American community whose initiatives are aligned with the core of what we do,” said Tracy Wilson Mourning, Founder of the Honey Shine Mentoring Program. “Honey Shine strives to continuously deliver positive reinforcements, such as Susan and her uplifting speech, which are tools the girls can use to make the right decisions in life.”

Monday, July 28, 2008

::Event: National Black Arts Festival Celebrates its 20th Anniversary::

The National Black Arts Festival (NBAF) is a year round celebration of dance, music, art, theater, film and visual and literary arts of African American and African culture. This year, the festival celebrated its 20th anniversary in Atlanta, July 18-27th, that featured film and theater performances, workshops, education and family programs, literary events and many more fun and enriching activities. In the photo above are best friends Katrina R. Chambers and Tamara "Taj" Johnson George, authors of the book "Player hateHER".

Tamara is best known as one third of the 90's multiplatinum group SWV - Sisters With Voices. The book shows women why they hate on one another, and, most important, how they can stop. They state its a much-needed lesson in respecting one another and respecting yourself.

They participated in the NBAF Market and Literary salon that showcased authors and independent African and African American artists. This event allowed budding art collectors such as myself to meet the artists and gain an understanding of their inspiration and their process for creating art. Let's take a look at some of the artists who caught my eye:

Rhonda Henry is an artist based in High Point, NC and her paintings are inspired by the music of African American jazz artist John Coltrane. She remembers the day when she first heard John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" album. She says, "It was like all of John's spirituality and verve were speaking directly to my soul, and when he played his music, I saw images, shapes and colors. It was one of the most singularly profound moments of my life." Visit Rhonda's website here.

Monique Luck is a self taught artist who uses color to connect with each piece that she creates, and she says that each piece is deeply personal to her. Monique shares, "Each piece defines a moment and a memory. Each piece represents another step in my life. Sometimes my favorite pieces are those created during the hardest personal times. I create my art to help me get through, and somehow, it always does." In addition to creating original art, murals and commissions, Monique gives back to her community. In 2006, she was honored by the Women and Girls Foundation of Pittsburgh for her mural work with schools and businesses. Monique is now based in Charlotte, NC.

Monique's artwork is stunning, my photos do not capture the intricate detail that she puts into each piece. On one painting that I particularly liked, Monique used little pieces of paper and sprinkles of glitter! For more information on Monique's art, and to view photos of her murals, visit her website here.

As I stood near Nnamdi Okonkwo's booth admiring this monumental sculpture, he smiled and said, "Come on up and touch it! It's solid brass!" Based in Fayetteville, GA, Nnamdi is inspired by womanhood, which was prevalent in most of his sculptures on display. He says, "I am captivated by the noble characteristics which include: empathy, love, resilience, strength, etc., that are embodied in womanhood. The women that are closest to me, my wife and my mother, have influenced me greatly and are exemplars of these noble attributes."

Visit Nnamdi's website here.

During the Literary Salon, media consultant Candace Sandy, and literary agent Dawn Marie Daniels, presented a great and informative panel discussion providing tips for new and emerging authors. They are authors of the book, Souls of My Sisters: Black Women Break Their Silence, Tell Their Stories and Heal Their Spirits. The book, which has been on Essence magazine's best seller list, encourages women to do soul searching as black women have one of the highest rates of depression in the country. Be on the lookout for an upcoming book giveaway from these two dynamic women! Visit their website here.

In all, it was a great event and it really helped me to understand the process of purchasing orginal art. Be sure to check out their websites!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

::Community Event: D.C. Survivor Pageant::

If you are a woman who is a survivor of cancer, or know someone who is, this event is a must-attend.

The Celebrate Life Foundation is pleased to announce their 4th Annual Survivor Pageant, celebrating women who have survived cancer. Come out and celebrate the sisterhood and strength of these courageous women. This pageant will represent the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

The Celebrate Life Foundation was founded by Michelle Hannah, a cancer survivor who has dedicated her life to educating and informing the public, particularly underserved communities, about HPV and its relation to cervical cancer. Read Michelle's story here.

For more information on the Foundation, visit the website here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Charity Events: 9th Annual Art for Life Gala & VH1 Save the Music Foundation's Summer of Soul Concert

9th Annual Art 4 Life Benefit
Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons

The Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation held its 9th annual Art for Life Benefit Gala on July 19th in East Hampton, NY. Hosted by Soledad O' Brien, the evening featured live and silent auctions of unique art and luxury items, benefiting youth arts programs in New York City.

9th Annual Art 4 Life Benefit
Gayle King, nationally syndicated radio host/philanthropist Tom Joyner and wife Donna Richardson Joyner

9th Annual Art for Life Benefit

Supermodel, humanitarian and gala honoree Christy Turlington eyes a photograph for auction of hip hop artists Nas and Jay-Z.

9th Annual Art 4 Life Benefit

The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin with Rush Philanthropic founder Russell Simmons

9th Annual Art 4 Life Benefit

BET's Stephen Hill, and television personalities Julissa Bermudez and AJ Calloway

9th Annual Art 4 Life Benefit

New York Governor David Paterson

Tamia and Grant Hill @ Art 4 Life Benefit 2008

Honorary chairs Tamia and Grant Hill

VH1 Save the Music Foundation's Summer of Soul Concert

Solange @ VH1's Save the Music Foundation Benefit, 2008
Singer Solange Knowles performs at the VH1 Save the Music Foundation's Summer of Soul concert, July 18, 2008 in Sag Harbor, NY.

The Save the Music Foundation has taken the lead in restoring instrumental music education programs in America’s public schools and raising awareness about the importance of music as a part of every child’s complete education. To date, the foundation has provided more than $40 million in new musical instruments, affecting the lives of more than 1 million children.

Morris and Jaci Reid @ VH1's Save the Music Foundation Gala, 2008
Event chairs Morris and Jaci Reid

Neyo @ VH1's Save the Music Foundation Benefit, 2008
Singer/songwriter Ne-yo
Photos: Nunez and Kempin/Wireimage

::Photo of the Day::

National Black Arts Festival, Atlanta 2008
Dr. Cornell West, Lynn Whitfield and actor Samuel L. Jackson attend the National Black Arts festival gala at the Woodruff Arts Center on July 19, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia. To all my Atlanta readers, I'll be in ATL later this week attending the festival and many other activities!

Photo: Robinson/Wireimage

CNN Presents: Black in America Parent Discussion Guide

CNN Black in America

From CNN: Forty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., CNN launches a sweeping on-air and digital initiative, CNN Presents: Black in America. These documentaries, "The Black Woman and Family" and "The Black Man," focus on fresh analysis from new voices about the real lives behind the stereotypes, statistics and identity politics that frequently frame the national dialogue about Black America.

The Black Woman & Family: Soledad O'Brien explores the varied experiences of black women and families and investigates the reasons behind the disturbing statistics on single parenthood, disparities between black and white students in schools, and the devastating toll of HIV/AIDS. Premieres July 23, 2008 at 9 pm EST.

The Black Man: Soledad O'Brien evaluates the state of black men in America and explores the controversial topics of black men and fatherhood; disparities between blacks and whites in educational, career and financial achievement; and factors leading to the dramatic rates of black male incarceration. Premieres July 24, 2008 at 9 pm EST.

CNN has created discussion guides for use with parents, youth and the community before and after viewing to facilitate discussion on these topics. Some questions before viewing are:

What is your impression of black culture in American society?
What accomplishments have blacks made in America since Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination?
What challenges do you think exist for black men and women in American society today?
Has Barack Obama's candidacy impacted your view of black men and women in America? Explain.
Do you think that your family's history has affected your life? If so, how?
View discussion guides here.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

::Community Event: No1s Done It Right Presents the Kid 'N Play Block Party Benefiting New Design High School::

Kid 'N' Play Flyer 7.26.08

No 1s Done It Right, in association with Network Edutainment Group, will host Kid ‘N’ Play: The Block Party, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Headlining musical acts, food vendors and an array of activities will unfold in a dazzling street festival catering to all ages. The neighborhood, best-known for its delicious restaurants, will come together in food and fun to celebrate its very own, New Design High School.

No1sDoneItRight (N1DIR) is comprised of a group of young adults that was formed out of a love for music and a desire to make substantial contributions to underprivileged children around the world. Since November 2007, the group has helped to raise funds for the Macheo Children's Centre in Thika, Kenya, with the funds going towards helping run the establishment, and providing care for the children living in the orphanage. N1DIR has redefined nightlife and the conventional charity event, with headlining parties and concerts as a platform for change, both locally and abroad. Since its launch last fall, N1DIR has garnered a steady following in New York City, and is currently expanding to cities around the world.

Half of the proceeds from this event will benefit New Design High School in New York, a public performing arts high school that focuses on the academic, intellectual, social, emotional, and artistic development for youth, keeping them off the streets and in creative learning environments. Due to state-wide budget cuts announced in early February, the school is forced to discontinue numerous programs.

Performances from NYC’s finest will light up the block, while DJ-favorite’s spin sets are guaranteed to keep the crowd moving. Universal/SRC recording artist Camp Lo, Network Edutainment Group's Loj, and Jade are set to perform along with Complex Magazine's DJ Treats, Kev Sakoda and Melo-x on the turntables.

WHEN: Saturday, July 26, 2008, 3pm to 7 pm
WHERE: Open Road Park, 439 E. 12th Street, New York, NY
COST: $5
For more information, contact Shyvonne at 914.438.6097,

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Celebrity Philanthropy: Vanessa and Angela Simmons

Angela (left) and Vanessa Simmons at an in-store apppearance promoting their Pastry footwear line in Atlanta earlier this year.

In March 2007, Vanessa and Angela Simmons, stars of the hit MTV reality show 'Run's House' became young entrepreneurs by creating Pastry Footwear, athletic shoes featuring fun, colorful designs for fashionable young ladies. The collection was launched with the 'Cake' and 'Fab Cookie' lines, inspired by their love of sweets. And their success has been sweet, earning them millions of dollars to date. The brand has since evolved to include apparel and accessories. I remember watching an episode of Run's House where their uncle, hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, tells his nieces that giving back should be a priority as they embark on their entrepreneurial venture.
This week, Pastry Footwear has announced the launch of the Pastry Thin Mint Collection, in which a portion of the proceeds will go to the Girl Scouts of the USA. The collection, comprised of footwear and a backpack, will hit retail in mid-July 2008.
Over the past year, Vanessa and Angela have served as spokespersons for the Girl Scouts organization, inspiring girls across the country to participate in their Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy programs. From speaking to the Girl Scouts about their business endeavors to supporting the girls in their leadership initiatives, Vanessa and Angela have been doing whatever it takes to let these girls know they can be successful in whatever they do.
"Our relationship with the Girl Scouts is deeply meaningful to us,"explains Vanessa Simmons. "To have the opportunity to further support their efforts of empowering young women with the creation of the Thin Mint Collection is very special." Adds Angela Simmons, "We have had so much fun working with the girls; I feel they do more for us than we could ever do for them! We are hoping our relationship with the Girl Scouts organization continues to grow and develop."

Pastry Thin Mint Brown Pastry Thin Mint White

The Thin Mint Shoe is created from the body of the Pastry "Fab Cookie"sneaker with a range of materials including suede action leather with polyurethane trim. Special attention was taken when designing this style down to the smallest detail with the inclusion of basic tenets of the Girl Scout philosophy scripted on the outsole of the shoe. The collection can be found at specialty retailers in the U.S., including Finish Line,Underground Station and Lady Foot Locker.
Visit Vanessa and Angela's Girl Scout website here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Photos of the Day

Alicia Keys @ Black Ball UK July 2008
Alicia Keys and actor Chiwetel Ejiofor host the Black Ball UK in aid of the Keep A Child Alive HIV/AIDS charity at St John's, Smith Square on July 10, 2008 in London, England.

HSAN Vote For It, July 2008
Valeisha Butterfield, Kevin Liles, music video director Little X and Russell Simmons attend the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and CPX Interactive VOTE FOR IT 08 launch party on July 9, 2008 in New York City.

Thisday Festival, July 2008
Model Oluchi and designer Ozwald Boateng attend the 3rd Thisday Africa Rising Festival at the Thisday Dome on July 11, 2008 in Abuja, Nigeria.

Prince Harry in Africa, July 2008
Prince Harry, son of the late Princess Diana, poses with children at the Lesotho Child Counseling Unit on July 9, 2008 in Maseru, Lesotho. The Prince's charity Sentebale works with the organization to provide a safe house for abused children.

Shaun Robinson
Access Hollywood's Shaun Robinson poses at her birthday party held at Blu Beverly Hills on July 11, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California.

I Am An American
Singer Patti Labelle and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee and Grammy Award Winner Kenny Gamble tour the National Constitution Center July 10, 2008 in Philadelphia. Labelle and Gamble recently collaborated on the song "I Am An American" that is available on iTunes.

Usher @ Thisday Festival, July 2008
Grammy award winning entertainer Usher performs at the Thisday Africa Rising Festival, July 11, 2008 in Nigeria. In related news, Usher's New Look Foundation will welcome 126 underserved youth from throughout the country to the Atlanta area for this year's Camp New Look. The camp, which runs July 14-27, is a free two-week summer camp which empowers children and educates them about the business aspects of the sports and entertainment industries. Usher says, "I want to move beyond the exposure of Camp New Look and create a true career pipeline for underserved kids so that they can turn their experiences into careers in multi-billion dollar industries."

Benjamin Jealous @ NAACP Convention, July 2008
Benjamin Jealous, in his first address to the NAACP since becoming the organization's youngest president, speaks at the 99th annual NAACP convention in Cincinnati, July 14, 2008. He stated, "The most challenging thing is to get my generation energized. We have families, and we are out trying to chase the American dream. But really, the crux of the problem in our communities is while we are out chasing the American dream, we have forgotten that people made the ultimate sacrifice for us to have that opportunity." (Source: BSun)

Zo's Summer Groove Beach Ball, July 2008
Alonzo Mourning, Tracy Mourning and Dwyane Wade at the 12th annual Zo's Summer Groove Beach Ball event at Hotel Intercontinental, July 11, 2008 in Miami, Florida.

Now in its 12th year, Zo's Summer Groove brought out many celebrities and NBA superstars this past weekend to raise money for Alonzo Mourning Charities.

Alonzo spoke with passion to the Miami Herald about why this annual event is so important to him: ''You guys realize the dilemma we're facing, the epidemic here in South Florida and the state of Florida with kids not graduating from high school,'' Mourning said. "And that's unacceptable. (You tell 'em Alonzo!) He went on to say, "We need to do more to help our kids. We just can't leave it to the public school system. The reason being, they're continually cutting the budget. They're cutting over $200 million from the public school system. Where's the motivation for the teachers to continue to do their jobs?''

Zo's Summer Groove 2008
NBA stars Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Lebron James at Zo's Summer Groove All-Star basketball game, July 13, 2008 at American Airlines arena in Miami. (Photo: Miami Herald)
Photos: AP/Wireimage

Monday, July 14, 2008

Black Cowboy ‘Saddles Up 4 Good’ by Raising Funds for Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a cause that is dear to D.C. area horseman Mr. Morris, the founder and former President of the Rough Riders and East Coast Rough Riders horse clubs located in Prince George's County, Maryland. Also known as the “Metropolitan Cowboy”, Morris is riding 1,641 miles on horseback from Portland, Maine to Jacksonville, Florida for the "Saddle Up 4 Good" Horse Ride, to help raise $50,000 for Doorways for Women and Families, a shelter that aids victims of domestic violence and their families located in Northern Virginia.

Mr. Morris says, "My mother had to change her identity and move in order to escape the abuse. No woman is immune to the risk of being abused, and no one should have to endure it. We must raise awareness of one of the greatest stains on our society."

Ray Charles Lockamy, also a D.C. area horseman who is completing the trail ride with Morris, are determined to complete the ride in order to put a stop to domestic violence.

"Every nine seconds in the United States, a woman is beaten; yet there are only 1,500 shelters for battered women," says Linda Dunphy, Executive Director of Doorways for Women and Families.

Supporters can keep track of the riders' location using GPS technology, contact them via e-mail, or make a donation to the cause via A $1 donation will provide membership to the cause, and keep the horses fed during the journey. (Be sure to read their blog, which has well wishes from people they met along their journey!)

In addition to supporting domestic violence, the horse ride will also benefit the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo Scholarship Fund, which supports causes pertaining to youth outreach and prison reform.

Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo

The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo Series, which is the first of its kind, brings an important element of Black Western Heritage into our present day experience by entertaining audiences all across America. (In other words, it’s a black rodeo! Yee Haw!) Visit the website for more information on Bill Pickett and the rodeo here. Upcoming cities include Bakersfield, CA; Los Angeles; Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; and Las Vegas.

To learn more about Mr. Morris, visit

Source: Press release

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Healthy Stores Project

Hey, where are the bananas?
Last fall, I read an article in the print edition of the Afro newspaper that a project was aiming to help get more nutritious foods into Baltimore corner stores, a place where many of their urban residents rely on for groceries.

For nearly ten years, I worked in high poverty, low-income communities and if I forgot to bring my lunch from home, I was short. My only options at that time were fast food restaurants, the Chinese carry out or a corner store. During that time, I worked as a Director of a teen parent center and GED program, where the parents would bring potato chips and huggies as snacks for their children. We had some work to do.

The Healthy Stores Project, an initiative of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, states on their website the project's aim is to “improve health and prevent obesity and disease in low-income communities through culturally appropriate store-based interventions that increase the supply of healthy foods and promote their purchase.”

The Baltimore Sun has a great article on the project’s efforts so far. Snippets from the article by Stephen Kiehl:

“A Johns Hopkins University project to get better food into the stores - and, ultimately, improve the health of urban residents - is expanding this fall from 17 stores to 35, scattered across the city. Store owners who agree to stock the healthful foods receive promotional materials, shelf labels and posters. Hopkins researchers offer samples to customers and do cooking demonstrations to introduce new foods. They sometimes provide stores with bananas and whole wheat bread on a trial basis.
“If you have a lot of healthy foods available close by, either in corner stores or supermarkets, then people's diets are better and the rates of chronic disease are lower," said Joel Gittelsohn, director of the Hopkins Healthy Stores Project. "We see our role as priming the pump a little bit, to say to these stores: If you agree to stock this food, we will promote it. You provide the supply, and we'll work to provide the demand…You have this curious circle where people don't buy the [healthful] foods because they're not available, and the stores don't stock them because they think no one wants them," said Gittelsohn. His job is to break that circle.
One key is to provide healthful foods that are the same price as the unhealthful ones. That's a challenge. Whole-wheat bread is more expensive than white. Baked chips and Sun Chips don't come in the same 25-cent bags as Utz's high-fat Cheddar and Sour Cream Chips. And 100 percent fruit juice costs several times more than the small 35-cent plastic bottles of Hugs, the sweetened drinks that kids slurp down.
The expansion of the Healthy Stores Project, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will focus on stores near schools and recreation centers to target children 10 to 14. The project has identified the foods that provide the most fat, sugar and calories in children's diets, and will be promoting alternatives. That means flavored water instead of the sweetened Kool-Aid-type drinks, trail mix and granola bars instead of cakes, fruits instead of candy.”
Although not all store owners have agreed to participate, the article states that the project will expand and involve churches in its diabetes prevention efforts.

Visit the Healthy Stores Project website here.

Photo: Chiaki Kawajiri/B. Sun

Monday, July 7, 2008

Photos of the Day: 2008 Essence Music Festival and Sports Edition

The 2008 Essence Music Festival (the 'Party with a Purpose') presented by Coca Cola was held in New Orleans July 4-6. The festival is the nation's largest annual gathering of African-American music and culture; featuring an unprecedented three days of cultural celebrations and empowerment seminars and three nights of performances by some of today's greatest African-American artists. A record breaking 270,000 people attended the festival this year.

Essence Festival Mayor's Dinner 2008
Seletha Smith Nagin, Ray Nagin; Michelle Ebanks and Angela Burt-Murray of Essence magazine attend the Mayor's Dinner at Generation Hall on July 3, 2008.

Tyler Perry, Mayor Nagin Essence Festival 2008
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (R) presents a City of New Orleans Proclamation to Actor Tyler Perry (L) at the Tyler Perry and Friends seminar on July 4, 2008.

Essence Festival Youth Outreach 2008
Excited kids from New Orleans attend the Essence Youth Outreach program on July 3, 2008.

Carol's Daughter Essence 2008
Carol's Daughter founder Lisa Price with Seletha Smith Nagin at the Carol's Daughter Charity shopping event, July 3, 2008.

Labelle @ Essence Festival 2008
The original members of the R&B singing group Labelle reunite for a performance: Sarah Dash, Patti Labelle and Nona Hendryx perform on July 5, 2008.

Essence Festival 2008
Journalists Michaela Angela Davis and CNN's Lola Ogunnaike with DJ Beverly Bond attend the festival on July 5, 2008.

Essence Festival 2008
Roland S. Martin, T.D. Jakes and Hill Harper attend the festival.

Cosby @ Essence Festival 2008
Bill Cosby addressing the crowd on Day 2, July 5, 2008.

The festival hosted three full days of free and open-to-the-public socio-political dialogue, spiritual inspiration and motivation led by dynamic speakers. This year, ESSENCE partnered with CNN for a special presentation themed "Reclaiming the Dream", led by CNN correspondents Roland S. Martin and Soledad O'Brien. For the festival's 15th anniversary next July, it was announced that Grammy award winning superstar Beyonce will headline the event.

In sports news, NY Giants Michael Strahan held his 2008 Strahan/Dreier charity golf tournament on June 30th:

Strahan Golf Tournament June 2008
With Michael at the tournament pre-party are Alicia Keys and Marc Dreier that benefited Children's Rights and Keep A Child Alive at TAO, June 29th in New York City.

Venus Williams
Venus Williams beat lil' sis Serena to capture her fifth Wimbledon championship on July 5th. Venus stated afterwards: "I'm definitely more in tune with my sister's feelings because one of us has to win, and one of us has to lose. The celebration isn't as exciting because my sister just lost."

Cullen Jones
Black freestyle swimming star Cullen Jones finished in third place in the 50-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic trials this past Saturday. According to Wikipedia, Jones is the first African American to hold or share a world record in freestyle swimming.

Photos: Wireimage/Getty