Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Insider: Carmita Vaughan

"I don't want to increase the number of children beating the odds; I want to change those odds so that all our children are prepared and expected to succeed." -- Carmita P. Vaughan

America's Promise Alliance, founded by General Colin Powell, appoints former Chicago Public Schools official to combat the nation's high school drop out and college readiness crisis

On April 1st, Carmita P. Vaughan begins a new job with America's Promise Alliance as its Chief Strategy Officer. And her job is very important. America has an epidemic on its hands with the drop out crisis - its been estimated that fifty percent of African American students don't finish high school.

In her new role, Vaughan will oversee the Alliance’s major new initiative, the Dropout Prevention Summits, hosted by Governors, Mayors, and Superintendents in all 50 states and 55 additional cities. She will also lead “Grad Nation” following the summits, to help communities increase high school graduation rates and ensure that the long-term metric of all students graduating high school is that they will be prepared for college and work. Through all of her work the focus will be on disadvantaged youth.

America’s Promise Alliance is the nation’s largest cross-sector partnership dedicated to improving the lives of America’s children. With more than 270 partner organizations, the Alliance mobilizes Americans to make children’s well-being a national priority.

Alma Powell, Chair of the Board and wife of Colin Powell shared, “Having helped lead one of the nation’s largest public school systems makes Carmita the perfect candidate to shape our efforts to ensure that all children have access to the highest quality education and receive the key supports they need to succeed. We are thrilled to have such a talented and experienced individual help us advance this critical agenda.”

Although Carmita is busy preparing for her first day on the job, she took the time out to e-chat with me about why she left a successful corporate career to work in education, and how you can get involved and help with the drop out crisis.

Education: Master’s Degree, Business Administration, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management; Undergraduate degree, Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan

Previous Positions: Danaher Corporation, Pepsico Beverages and Food, Procter & Gamble, and Chief of Staff of Chicago Public Schools’ Office of High Schools and High School Programs. While at Chicago Public Schools, Vaughan worked closely with Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, and former Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public Schools, to develop a comprehensive strategy to increase Chicago’s graduation rate to 70 percent by 2010.

In your previous positions, you transitioned from the corporate world to become the Chief of Staff of Chicago Public Schools’ Office of High Schools and High School Programs through the Broad Residency program. What made you move to the education sector after a successful corporate career?

"My transition into education from corporate was an inevitable evolution. While many of my friends and colleagues sought MBAs to gain the skills needed to quickly climb the corporate ladder, my desire was always to utilize my skills and gifts to drive great social change. While others' business school essays focused on aspirations for careers in investment banking and management consulting, I passionately discussed my desire to revitalize urban neighborhoods.

This passion is deep-seated and innate. My professional successes have come in spite of a childhood spent in poverty with a disabled parent who held an entrenched belief that education would be the key to my "escape". I've always been taught that "to whom much is given, much is expected". I'm truly grateful for what I've been able to experience and accomplish professionally and want to serve as an advocate for those who often lack the resources and exposure necessary to realize their promise. I don't want to increase the number of children beating the odds; I want to change those odds so that all our children are prepared and expected to succeed."

Your new position will oversee the Alliance’s major new initiative, the Dropout Prevention Summits that will occur in all 50 states and 55 additional cities. If I’m a parent of a school aged youth and plan to attend this summit when it comes to my community, what will I learn? How can attending this summit help me?

"Summits provide a common ground -- for parents, teachers, school administrators, elected officials, nonprofits, business leaders and students to come together to learn about what is working and craft a plan to help solve the dropout crisis. The key word is ‘together’ because no one individual, organization, or sector can do this alone.

By participating in a dropout prevention summit you will have an opportunity to learn more about what is currently being done and to express support for the things you think need to develop. You will learn what the research says about keeping kids in school and on the road to success. To learn more about Summits taking place in your area, visit www.americaspromise.org/dropoutpreventionsummits."

The Alliance states that nationwide, nearly one in three U.S. high school students drops out before graduating. In total, approximately 1.2 million students drop out each year – about 7,000 every school day, or one every 26 seconds. Experts say that dropping out of high school affects not just students and their families, but the country overall – including businesses, government, and communities. Get involved today!

The Insider is a series that highlights the movers and shakers in the non profit world and philanthropy. Do you know an Insider? Email me at blackgivesback [at] gmail.com.

{Thanks to Rives & Amy}
Photo: Broad Residency website & PR photo

Sunday, March 29, 2009

An Update on the Work to Ride Program

One of my top viewed posts last year featured the Work to Ride Program, the first black polo team in the nation. The non-profit program provides disadvantaged urban youth from Philadelphia with constructive activities centered around horsemanship, equine sports, and education.

The program has been featured on HBO Real Sports, and in Sports Illustrated.

One of my fellow bloggers, Ask Miss A, asked me to help share wonderful news about one of the players. Richard Prather (pictured in photo above on far right), has graduated from New Mexico State University with a 3.5 grade average with a double major in Spanish and Criminal Justice, focusing on criminal law. He is currently seeking a summer internship in D.C., and is interested in working on the hill or with the State Department. And he has more reason to celebrate - he was just accepted into graduate school!

If you can help Richard with an internship, visit AskMissA's blog here.

See previous posts here and here.

Photo: Joseph Allen Images

The Violence Intervention Program

Many urban cities across the country are plagued with violent crime and high homicides rates and all too often, blacks are not only the victims, but the perpetrators. Baltimore is one of those cities.

If you watched CNN's Black in America series last summer, you probably saw Dr. Carnell Cooper, a Baltimore area based trauma surgeon who for 16 years, has dedicated his career to saving young men, primarily African American, who come into his emergency room suffering from gunshot wounds, beatings and stabbings. He founded the Violence Intervention Program at the Shock Trauma Unit at the University of Maryland Medical Center, that provides substance abuse counseling, job skills training, and other supportive services for trauma victims - often beginning at their hospital bedside.

A CNN article shares how Dr. Cooper began the program: "...when one of his patients was readmitted with a fatal gunshot wound to the head in 1996, it changed Cooper's life. "The night that we pronounced that young man dead and my colleagues said there's really nothing we can do in these situations. ... I just didn't believe that," said Cooper, 54. "From that day forward, I said, 'Let's see what we can do.' "

Read CNN article on Dr. Cooper and the program here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Philanthropy in Africa Series: The Insider

Today concludes my Philanthropy in Africa series with ‘The Insider,’ a series that profiles movers and shakers in the non profit world and philanthropy. Bahia Akerele is an independent consultant based in the Washington, D.C. area who works with national and international foundations as a strategic planner and project manager. As a West African (half Liberian and half Nigerian), she has a particular interest with philanthropy in Africa.

She’s pictured above with children in a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana. Read on to learn more about Bahia, including how she got started in philanthropy, her plans to promote African philanthropy, and her advice for those interested in a career in philanthropy.

Education: Double major, Africana Studies and Sociology, Connecticut College; Masters in Social Work, University of Connecticut School of Social Work; Graduate Certificate in Public Relations and Marketing, Goucher College

Current Position: Lead Consultant and Principal, Akerele Consultants

Bahia’s current and previous experience includes projects with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Africa program, and Associated Black Charities in Baltimore, MD. In 2008, Bahia completed a fellowship at the City University of New York Graduate School, Center of Philanthropy and Civil Society, where she was selected as an emerging leader in philanthropy.

How did you get started in philanthropy?

“I really just stumbled upon it…literally. I was at a job fair hosted by Idealist and applied for an internship to work at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Although my background at the time was in direct service, I was always a policy person and had an interest in who designed the programs we got to implement on the ground and who funded what and how much….all determinants to the services my families in direct services received. Finally, I come from a family where philanthropy was always practiced and was part of our contribution to the country and to our society. So the concept was very real to me as I had seen my mother and grandmother practice this in their lives.”

How prevalent is philanthropy in Africa? “The concept of giving is strong in Africa and central to the African sense of self…which is really a sense of community. The concept of philanthropy in Africa or rather the African Philanthropist may at first seem like an oxymoron because we, that is Africans, are often painted in a negative and depressed light. Now I am not being romantic and trying to suggest that Africa does not have its issues. What I do want to share is that with all its problems, Africa is rich with human capacity and natural resources, not to mention new and emerging markets.”

As your goal is to promote African philanthropy, how do you plan to accomplish this?

“There are many Africans and friends of Africa, who have directed their funds, resources and talents to Africa whose stories need to be told…. from the local women in the Sandaga market, who contribute to the education of orphans in Dakar, Senegal, to the Ghanaian orthopedic surgeon Dr. Oheneba Boachie-Adjei who conducts medical mission trips to Ghana peforming complex spinal surgeries on children - these are only a very small example of the philanthropic giving that Africans at home and abroad are engaged in. These stories and activities are worth sharing with the world and those who want to join in and help. The vehicles I will use are through my consultant work and my blog.” (Bahia has launched the blog, The African Philanthropist, to share these stories of giving. Visit it here.)

What advice do you have for those interested in a career in philanthropy?

“Before working for a philanthropic organization, I believe you have to have “on the ground” training. One has to work ‘one on one’ with families, what we call direct services, to see the impact of policies, often well meaning policies and programs, on families, children and communities before being placed in a position that funds and supports these programs.

Be a part of the non profit sector in your area by joining list serves and groups on line, and on Facebook. Connect with others in the field. Read, read, read and keep informed of the trends that are happening in the non profit sector and philanthropy. Go to conferences, volunteer if you can’t pay to go, and look for free or reduced rate ones. Internships are also a very good way to be exposed to philanthropy. The value of a mentor is also very critical in all professions but especially in philanthropy where the network is very very close..and opportunities are first shared through the network.”

{Thanks Bahia}

Philanthropy in Africa Series: The Blue Sweater

The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, is the inspiring story of a woman who left a career in international banking to spend her life on a quest to understand global poverty and find powerful new ways of tackling it.

For Jacqueline Novogratz, it all started back home in VA with the blue sweater, a gift that quickly became her prized possession—until the day she outgrew it and gave it away to Goodwill. Eleven years later in Africa, she spotted a young boy wearing that very sweater, with her name still on the tag inside. That the sweater had made its trek all the way to Rwanda was ample evidence, she thought, of how we are all connected, how our actions—and inaction—touch people every day across the globe, people we may never know or meet. It is this awareness that continues to drive her efforts to fight poverty worldwide.

Novogratz is the founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture capital firm for the poor that invests in sustainable enterprises bringing healthcare, safe water, alternative energy, and housing to low-income people in the developing world. The fund is currently seeking college students for a student leaders workshop.

The book tells gripping stories with unforgettable characters—women dancing in a Nairobi slum, unwed mothers starting a bakery, courageous survivors of the Rwandan genocide, entrepreneurs building services for the poor against impossible odds. She shows, in ways both hilarious and heartbreaking, how traditional charity often fails, but how a new form of philanthropic investing called "patient capital" can help make people self-sufficient and can change millions of lives.

For the first 5,000 copies of The Blue Sweater purchased, a $15 donation per book will be made to the Acumen Fund. The Blue Sweater is available at Amazon and book retail chains.

Philanthropy in Africa Series: Village Banking

From my inbox: FINCA International, an organization that provides the world's poorest entrepreneurs with low-interest loans, is looking for 500,000 caring people to give to its $2 a Day Campaign. If successful, this campaign will make microfinance loans available to 20,000 hard working individuals in a number of countries like Malawi, Uganda, and Haiti.

These loans will allow impoverished men and women to start new businesses, send their children to school, and work their way out of extreme poverty forever.

$2 sounds like so little, but it can do a lot to combat global poverty. You can learn more about the $2 Day Campaign by visiting this website.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Philanthropy in Africa Series: BPeace Young Professionals

On February 26, nearly 400 people attended the Bpeace Extravaganza, hosted by the Bpeace Young Professionals Committee (YPC) in New York City. The event raised much needed funds to launch the Rwanda Beauty Vocational School project, an initiative of Bpeace, a non-profit international organization that helps women entrepreneurs in post-conflict countries expand their businesses, create employment, and build a peaceful future for their communities. Their motto is more jobs, means less violence.

The New York City club Mansion provided the backdrop for a diverse program that included a Rwandan dance performance by Claudine Mukamabano, a fashion show, and other artists.

About the Rwanda Beauty School Project: BPeace’s website states that they have identified a service sector that thrives in Rwanda, yet doesn’t have enough trained professionals—beauty salons. There are more jobs than hair stylists, and more customers than available salons.

Two salons owners in Rwanda have asked BPeace to help launch the country’s first beauty school. In their largest job development initiative to date, Bpeace volunteers and corporate partners are bringing this vision to reality. The school needs $250,000 for its first two years of operation before it can become self-sustaining.

School founders Jeanne and Sylvie (in photo) upon hearing that the NY event was a success, emailed: “Thank you for providing opportunity to those who had no hope and from which we can pass skills and build a better Rwanda of tomorrow. On behalf of all the Rwandan Bpeace entrepreneurs, we want you to know that your presence is a motivation for us to do what is right and make sure this beauty project is a success.” The project is currently seeking partnerships with beauty and cosmetics companies for this effort.

Kudos to YPC founder and team chair Delilah Rothenberg (in above photo on right) and the very hardworking YPC team. They did a professional and effective job at marketing, sales, programming, soliciting sponsors, raffle items, and producing an event that had the majority of people engaged for 5 hours and more. This was the largest event ever held under the Bpeace banner. Doors opened at 7:00 pm and one Bpeacer didn't leave until 2:00 AM!

Visit the website at http://www.rwandabeautyschool.org/.

{Thanks Delilah}
Photos: YPC, BPeace Blog

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Philanthropy in Africa Series: The GEANCO Foundation

The Onyema Family

Dr. Godwin Onyema wanted a better education for his children. The OB/GYN doctor immigrated from Nigeria to the U.S. in 1974, and had plans to return to his native country. But once he saw the opportunities that his children would have in America, he worked tirelessly so that his children could receive the best education possible. Settling in Chicago, he practiced medicine on the south side for thirty years, primarily serving young, low-income African American women on public aid.

His hard work paid off. All of his children (in photo above) graduated from Princeton, Harvard, Georgetown and Boston College.

While Dr. Onyema’s children were growing up, they often heard him speak of the hospital that he wanted to build. He promised his own father, Augustine, that he would return to Nigeria to aid his suffering country one day. Today, his dream is being fulfilled with the Augustine Memorial Hospital, a world-class facility that will provide life-saving medical care to Nigeria's poorest and most vulnerable citizens.

The GEANCO Foundation was established by Dr. Onyema in 2005 to bring this vision of opening a hospital to reality. GEANCO represents the first letter of each family member’s name.

Statistics on Nigeria show that it is a country that has dire health outcomes for its children, women and families: It has the second largest HIV- positive population in the world; malaria, a preventable and treatable disease, kills 300,000 Nigerian children and 7,000 mothers every year; it has the second highest number of maternal deaths in the world, and one in five children dies before his or her fifth birthday, a total of one million each year.

Not only is Dr. Onyema, his family and the Nigerian community committed to this project, but his son, Afam (pictured in photo on left), serves as the Chief Operating Officer for the foundation. A Harvard educated and Stanford Law School grad, he passed on a lucrative career in corporate law to bring this project to fruition. He shared in a previous article written about him, “Even if I was going to be a lawyer, I knew I wanted to do what I could to be charitable. I wanted to help with homelessness and poverty.”

Contributors to the project include the governor of Anambra State, Nigeria, where the hospital will be built, who has donated 200 acres of land at no cost, the CEO of the largest pharmaceutical company in Nigeria will endow the cardiac center, and the CEO of a local oil and gas company will endow the Burn Unit, along with support from Mayer Brown LLP in Chicago who serves as their pro bono legal partner, and the Chicago office of Ernst & Young LP.

For more information on the foundation, visit the website at http://www.geanco.org/.
{Thanks Afam}

The Exxon Mobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camps

Did you know that during the summer months, many students lose what they’ve learned in school during the year? This learning loss especially affects lower income students the most. A 2007 study found that two-thirds of the achievement gap between lower and higher income youth is a result of unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate high school or enter college.

Bernard Harris, a former NASA astronaut and the first African American to walk in space, has created a free, two-week summer camp designed for underprivileged middle school students. The ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp program will provide youth with a fun-filled setting for them to gain a deeper understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and to promote exciting careers in science.

More than 1,500 students will take part in this year's camps and explore themes such as "Mission to Mars," "Revolutionary Robotics," and "Energy and Motion."

To apply, students must be academically qualified, genuinely interested in mathematics and science and be recommended by two teachers. More information about student eligibility, selection criteria and the list of cities/participating universities can be found at the website, www.theharrisfoundation.org.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Philanthropy in Africa Series: FACE Africa

Welcome to the first post on the series, Philanthropy in Africa! This week, we'll feature African philanthropists who have created organizations and foundations that benefit countries in Africa, a social entrepreneur turned author who has made it her life's mission to understand global poverty and how to address it, celebrities that use their platform to bring awareness to issues in Africa, and a young professionals group that provides support for Rwandan women.

In this first post, we profile Saran Kaba Jones, who at the young age of 26 has created FACE Africa, a non profit organization that benefits her native country of Liberia.

Liberia is a small country in West Africa that is recovering from a devastating civil war. Statistics on the country shed light on the war's impact: Life expectancy, 44.7 years; adult literacy rate, 50%; people undernourished, 50%; and people with access to clean drinking water, 61%.

Saran Kaba Jones founded the organization in 2007 to bring innovative and results based non profit programs to Liberia. Saran and her team accomplish this by partnering with organizations with proven track records, and then replicating those programs there. FACE Africa is based in Cambridge, MA.

The foundation's priority areas are education, health services, technology and clean water. Last month, the organization was selected by Procter & Gamble to distribute the company's point-of-use water treatment flocculent in Liberia. Flocculent, trade name PUR, is an invention that quickly turns 10 liters of dirty, potentially deadly water into clean, drinkable water. Saran shared, “Poor water and sanitation systems are major problems in Liberia. The war compounded the sufferings of millions of Liberians who, even before the war, had little or no access to basic human needs such as safe drinking water and basic sanitation. We believe that a necessary starting point in rehabilitating the country is to provide easy access to safe drinking water and we are happy to be working with P&G to make this possible.”

Saran's impressive resume has equipped her with the skills and knowledge to manage the day to day operations, as well as setting the strategic direction of the organization, which includes expansion into other countries, among them Sierra Leone. She previously served as the Fellowship Program Coordinator at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, and in 2000, she was the youngest member of the Massachusetts Delegation to the National Summit on Africa. She has also served on the Board of the Boston Pan African Forum and currently serves on the Board of the Coalition for a Strong United Nations (CSUN).

In commemoration of United Nations World Water Day, FACE Africa held its first benefit on March 22, 2009 to raise funds for their clean water initiatives in Liberia. Guests included the mayors of Boston and Cambridge, MA, and the Liberian ambassador to the U.S.

For more information, visit the website at http://www.faceafrica.org/.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Upcoming Event: New York Urban League Young Professionals Presents REBIRTH! 2009

It's time again for the New York Urban League Young Professionals (NYULYP) to host Rebirth! In 2006, Rebirth! made its debut as a signature event of the New York Urban League Young Professionals. This event was designed to honor the contributions made to society by African Americans. Rebirth! commemorates Harlem's most celebrated legacy -- The Harlem Renaissance.

This year, they will take you on a guided tour of contributions that Black Americans have made to the art of dance. The MC's will be standout NYC young professionals from the new BET reality series "Harlem Heights" Landon and Bridget.

Proceeds go towards NYULYP programming such as their 1st Annual College Book Scholarship, National Day of Service and Annual Backpack Drive

Take a look at REBIRTH over the years here. Buy tickets here.

Event is sponsored by Mercedes Benz and Moet Hennessy/Complimentary cocktails provided by Belvedere and 10 Cane/Appetizers by Spoonbread.

On the Web: http://www.nyul.org/

Friday, March 20, 2009

Photos of the Day

Alicia Keys visits Dunbar High School in Washington, DC in observance of Women's History Month, March 19, 2009. The first lady Michelle Obama invited a group of women to the White House to visit DC area schools and share their stories of success with students, especially to girls.

Mae Jemison, the first black woman to travel in space, visited Wilson High School in DC (my alma mater - go Wilson Tigers!) along with singer Sheryl Crow.

Hip hop artist Common attends Microsoft Windows Presents Musicology 101 on March 16, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The event benefited VH1's Save the Music Foundation.

Kevin Liles, Lauran Tuck, NY Giant Justin Tuck and Greenbay Packer Ryan Grant attend Tuck's R.U.S.H. for Literacy inaugural year celebration at Pink Elephant on March 11, 2009 in New York City.

Host Bill Cosby speaks onstage during the Jackie Robinson Foundation Annual Awards Dinner on March 16, 2009 in New York City.

Honoree Berry Gordy, Suzanne de Passe and Smokey Robinson attend the Urban Network Awards Gala honoring Motown Records founder Berry Gordy at Pacific Palms Resort on March 14, 2009 in Industry Hills, California.

Coming up next week - philanthropy in Africa!
Photos: Wireimage

Upcoming D.C. Event: The Michael Walton Weekend

Michael Walton is a world-class, professional track and field athlete with a heart for guiding young lives and a passion for community activism. He founded his organization in 2002 to fill the needs of the Washington, DC and Prince George's County, MD communities by providing additional opportunities for youth to grow and develop, while applying their energy to productive pursuits.

The Michael Walton Foundation (MWF) is hosting a series of events April 2-4, 2009 in the Washington, D.C. area.

On Friday, April 3, 2009, join MWF supporters and celebrities for their annual golf tournament at the Courses at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's County, MD. Visit here to purchase tickets.

On Saturday, April 4, 2009, D.C. youth ages 8-18 can participate in a free speed and plyometric clinic with Al Joyner and Michael Walton, 8am-12 noon at Coolidge High School, 6315 5th Street, NW in Washington, D.C. For more information, contact Edgar Sams, 202-671-0395.

For more information on the foundation and a teen summit event on April 4th, visit the website at http://www.michaelwaltonfoundation.org/.

{Thanks Thelma and Michael}

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Urban News: Addressing Childhood Obesity

In a study published today, researchers have found that heart failure is disproportionately affecting African Americans at earlier ages than their white counterparts. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Ph.D., M.D., lead author of the study and a scholar with the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shares, “These findings should be a wake-up call on the need for African Americans and physicians to address risk factors that can lead to heart failure. Heart failure is disproportionately hitting African Americans in the prime of their lives.”

From the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation [emphasis mine]:

“Heart failure—a disabling and often deadly form of heart disease—is hitting African Americans in their 30s and 40s at the same rate as Caucasians in their 50s and 60s, according to a study featured as the lead article of the March 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

One in 100 African-American men and women developed heart failure at an average age of 39, 20 times the rate in Caucasians, according to Racial Differences in Incident Heart Failure Among Young Adults. Heart failure in African Americans was associated with risk factors such as hypertension and obesity that were already present when these adults were in their 20s.”

We have to start early. Schools have eliminated or cut back recess time. And many new elementary schools being built today don’t even have playgrounds! Add the internet, time spent playing video games, and poor nutrition habits (especially in low-income communities) our children are paying the price. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A. (in photo) shares,

“The study results also highlight the urgency of reversing the childhood obesity epidemic. Today's unhealthy children are tomorrow's unhealthy adults. We know that obese children are being diagnosed with conditions previously considered adult illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, and they're at higher lifetime risk for a host of serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, asthma and some forms of cancer. The harsh reality is that, unless we act now to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity, we may raise the first generation of Americans who will live sicker and die younger than their parents.”

Read article here.
Read related article in the Baltimore Sun here.

Jack and Jill of America: 70 Years Later

In 2008, Jack and Jill of America, a social organization for black families, celebrated its 70th anniversary. But the organization is not open to just any family. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear Jack & Jill? Bougie? Upper crust? Well-to-do?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Jack & Jill, here’s a brief background: Several upper class mothers from Philadelphia created the organization in 1938 to ensure that their children were exposed to the best social, cultural and educational experiences. Simply put, the mothers wanted their children to meet and interact with other youth from a similar socio-economic background.

When I was a student in elementary school, many of my classmates were members of Jack and Jill. They were the sons and daughters of doctors, dentists, lawyers, politicians and entrepreneurs. I remember one classmate in Jack and Jill whose father was a prominent doctor in D.C. He invited the whole 6th grade class to his house for a party. I was in awe. They had a basketball court, tennis court, a pool and luxury cars. A few years ago, I read that he’s now a doctor, and married to a fellow Jack and Jill member. In case you’re wondering, no, I'm not a member of Jack and Jill. In order to “get in,” you had to be sponsored by an existing family - and that invitation never came. My mother was an English teacher and my dad an accountant. He was adamant that his daughters didn’t need that type of social group.

For many Jack and Jill families, I’m sure they would say being a member definitely has its advantages. So much so that Lawrence Otis Graham, an author who has written extensively about the black upper class, says you’re insane if you don’t try to get your kids into Jack and Jill. (He’s also a third generation member.) Graham has recently written an article about the organization for Uptownlife.net that I found very interesting:

“Since 1938, Jack and Jill has been one of those groups that have remained important to the black community, while simultaneously being almost invisible to most mainstream America. The organization's officers and members insist that they are not elitist. However, the group's past and present roster of members include the most prominent and wealthiest black families in virtually every major city or suburb in the U.S.

...While not a secret society, Jack and Jill does not seek or embrace publicity. Put simply, it is an invitation-only membership organization for black families where mothers are the official members, and children are the principal beneficiaries. There are more than 200 chapters around the country and it is not easy to join. There is no application or 800 number to call; you have to be sponsored by a family who already belongs. The only other way to get in is to marry someone who grew up in the organization.”

As this blog is dedicated to philanthropy in the black community, I'd like to point out that in the article, Graham cites one of the main reasons why parents should want their kids to join - that they'll learn how to give back to others who are less fortunate. I think it would have been great if Mr. Graham shared stories of members who grew up in Jack and Jill that are now giving back. So if you're a member or you know of a Jack and Jill member who gives of their time, talent and treasure to benefit their community, send me an email at blackgivesback[at]gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you!

Read Graham's article here.

Photo: Uptownlife.net

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The 2009 Jackie Robinson Foundation Annual Awards Gala

Robert Redford, Rachel Robinson, Dr. Ben Carson and Robin Roberts attend the 2009 Jackie Robinson Foundation awards dinner at the Waldorf Astoria on March 16, 2009 in New York City.

On Monday, March 16th, the Jackie Robinson Foundation held its annual awards dinner in New York. The Foundation is named after baseball pioneer and civil rights legend Jackie Robinson, who would have turned 90 years old this year. The Foundation awards 4-year scholarships for higher education.

Hosted by Bill Cosby, the event honored three individuals who embody the humanitarian ideals of Jackie Robinson: Robin Roberts, Good Morning America co-host, recognized for her own pioneering career in broadcasting and her unwavering commitment to advancing social change through her reporting; Dr. Benjamin Carson, world renowned physician, educator and Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins University who has served as a mentor and role model for scores of African American youth across the country who dream of becoming physicians; and Robert Redford, founder of the Sundance Film Festival and one of the most iconic actors of our time. This entrepreneur and trailblazer in the world of cinema has spent his career opening doors for many giving voice to young filmmakers.
John McGlade, Della Britton Baeza, Dr. Ben Carson, James Pickens Jr., Rachel Robinson and Leonard Coleman Jr.
Prior to the star studded gala, Robinson scholars gathered for the 2009 Annual Networking weekend in New York. Sponsored by New Era Caps, the 4-day event brought together scholarship recipients, alumnae and staff of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson shared, “We believe that students need more than tuition and funds. They need a lot of support, other kinds of support. They need the help to develop their leadership potential. They need all kinds of nurturing and mentoring, and we provide that for them.”
Rachel Robinson and Family
Also during the networking weekend, four scholarship recipients received awards for their impact with community service and social enterprise activities. The Spike Lee Youth Motivation Award of $5,000 went to Ebenezer Asare, a student at Harvard. He created Step UP, a program that matches Harvard students as tutors and mentors for students in underperforming Boston Public Schools. Read article and view a video here.

The deadline for 2009 scholarship applications is March 31st. For more information, visit the website at http://www.jackierobinson.org/.
Photos: Wireimage

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sugar of the Crop: One Woman’s Journey To Find Children of Slaves

In 1997, legislation was introduced by white politicians, calling on Congress to issue an official government apology for slavery. But who would accept the apology? Surely there are no slaves still living. But what about the children of slaves - were there any still alive? This was the question that Sana Butler, then a young associate producer working for ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, thought would be an interesting story to pitch to the late news anchor.

Sana first began by contacting the sponsor of the bill to find out if any children of slaves were still living. Sana’s great grandmother had died less than a decade before and was the granddaughter of slaves, so she figured that there was a slight chance that seniors were still alive who were children of slaves. As it turned out, the bill was meant as a symbolic gesture, and no one was tracking down either generation. A secretary told Sana sarcastically, “All the children are dead unless they’re 200 or something.” “I’m sure there are some out there,” Sana told her. Her ten year journey began.

Sugar of the Crop, My Journey to Find The Children of Slaves, chronicles Sana’s ten-year odyssey. Published in Black History Month, a month after the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama, Sana met with the children of slaves and everyone interviewed for the book is now dead. She shares, “Left behind are weeks of tape-recorded conversations that have completely redefined my perspective on American history.”

Sana enlisted the help of senior centers and black churches to find her subjects. She traveled from California to Virginia, from Kentucky to Indiana, and in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and both North and South Carolina. There was no database of where freed slaves went after the Civil War. She had to create one from scratch. Sana’s questions she wanted answers to were: How did slaves, with no experience of a normal family, become husbands and wives, fathers and mothers? How did they transcend the trauma of being abused and beaten? How did they overcome their fear of white people? After growing up as another person’s property, how did freed slaves raise their children to be self-reliant and believe in the promise of a better future? I learned the answers to these questions by reading the book, and I also learned so much more about black history – history I didn’t even know existed.

One subject who stood out to me was Crispus Attucks Wright, age 87, who was the second black lawyer in Beverly Hills and a self-made millionaire. (The first black lawyer was Martha Louis, the third wife of boxing great Joe Louis.) Sana learned about Mr. Wright from a University of Southern California (USC) press release announcing his donation of $2 million dollars to the USC Law School – and that his father was born a slave in Louisiana. The cash gift was the largest to USC by an African American. (This is one of the many awesome black history facts I didn’t know.)

Sana shares about her experience, “Interviewing children of slaves was something no one had ever done before which baffled me. The generation represented the hopes and dreams of slaves and if anyone was going to document how their parents raised them it had to be done now because the sons and daughters were dying....After the Civil War, slaves genuinely believed in the promise and greatness of America. No one has ever told that story. They voted at rates never since seen. Ran for office at rates never since seen in order to participate in the rebuilding of a new America.”

The Sugar of the Crop Foundation: This June, Sana is collaborating with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Junior Scholars Program to continue the search. President Obama mentioned children of slaves in both his acceptance and inauguration speeches that she did not interview, leading her to believe there are still more out there. Sugar of the Crop Foundation’s goal is to create an oral history database similar to the Works Progress Administration Slave Narratives, but of sons and daughters talking about how their parents raised them. If we don’t start the search now, their stories will be gone forever.

Sana with Walter Scott in Keysville, VA in 2000. Both of his parents were born slaves in Virginia. His father Robert was almost 30 when slavery ended and his mother, Alice, was six.

Sana is available for book signings and readings. For bookings contact Tangela Ray, publicist at sugarofthecrop@gmail.com or 901-331-9802.


Event: 2nd Annual Art for Life Miami

Kim Kardashian, Russell Simmons, Jeff Soffer and Tangie Murray

The second annual ART FOR LIFE Miami Beach was hosted by the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation at the Fontainebleau on Saturday, March 14th. The evening featured live and silent auctions of unique art and luxury items and was hosted by television personality Kim Kardashian.

Danny Simmons, Tangie Murray and Russell Simmons

Russell, Tracy and Alonzo Mourning

Photos: Wireimage

Friday, March 13, 2009

Siemens Foundation Announces 2009 HBCU Teacher Scholarships

Million Dollar Program Inspires Students At Nation's Historically Black Colleges and Universities to Pursue Careers as Science and Math Teachers

On February 23, 2009 during Black History Month, the Siemens Foundation announced the winners of the 2009 Siemens Teacher Scholarships in collaboration with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). The program provides recognition and financial support to students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) who plan to become science or math teachers. (In photo above: Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, Vice President of the Siemens Foundation, center, with 2008 scholarship recipients)

"Considering our new administration's call to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, our programs to promote the growth of teaching careers are more pertinent than ever," said Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, Vice President of the Siemens Foundation and graduate of Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA, one of the country's 105 HBCUs. "By providing the tools and resources to students who have expressed a genuine interest in teaching math and science, we get a step closer to increasing the number of teachers and role models for our next generation of leaders," she said.

The Siemens Foundation has provided $1 million in scholarships to support undergraduate and graduate students through the Siemens Teacher Scholarship program. The funds are awarded and administered by TMCF and UNCF. This year, 29 students will receive scholarships. HBCUs play a vital role in meeting America's need to increase and diversify science teaching professionals.

On January 5, 2009, brothers Joshua and Adam Wright, seniors at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, conducted a Siemens Science Day for five classes of fifth graders at University of Chicago Laboratory School, the former school of President Obama's daughters, Malia and Sasha. The future teachers worked together to instruct each class on the process of photosynthesis. As Adam Wright, a computer engineering major said, "My Siemens Science Day presentation was one of the most enjoyable experiences in my short lifetime. Interacting with students who were eager to learn about plants, sun and energy was very encouraging for the future."

George Nolen, president and CEO of Siemens Corporation, Dwayne Ashley, president and CEO of Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of United Negro College Fund

Many Siemens Teacher Scholars gain their first interactive classroom teaching experience through the Siemens Foundation's Siemens Science Day program (http://www.siemensscienceday.com/), a nationwide initiative in partnership with Discovery Education that has reached more than 50,000 elementary and middle school students since its inception in 2006. By participating in Siemens Science Days, Siemens Teacher Scholars are able to share their passion for math and science and gain a unique and concrete teaching experience.

Lindsey R. Rutledge, a scholarship recipient and sophomore attending Howard University, said: "I truly believe that my destiny is to work with youth as an educator. I believe that becoming a teacher is a special calling and should not be viewed as 'just a job.' Teachers must want to add to the students' educational experience. They must be sensitive to any challenges students may have; this special position just does not begin and end with the ringing of the school bell. You must be passionate about being a teacher."

About the Siemens Foundation
The Siemens Foundation provides more than $7 million annually in support of educational initiatives in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math in the United States. Its signature programs, the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology and Siemens Awards for Advanced Placement, reward exceptional achievement in science, math and technology. The newest program, The Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge, encourages K 12 students to develop innovative green solutions for environmental issues. For more information, visit http://www.siemens-foundation.org/

Source/Weber Shandwick

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Brain Trust

The Brain Trust is a group of six women who have raised $10.9 million dollars for brain tumor research. And they're all African American.

I thought this would be a great post for Women's History Month, because they are making history. One member of The Brain Trust is Pauletta Washington (2nd photo, on left), singer, actor, musician, philanthropist and wife of Academy award winner Denzel Washington. She shares that she and the other members enjoy having a front-row seat when it comes to witnessing medical history in the making.

Another member is Keisha Nash-Whitaker (2nd photo, on right), wife of Academy award winner Forest Whitaker. Both of their husbands have become contributors and outspoken supporters. Also a member is Dale Cochran (first photo), the widow of Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr.

The trust was formed in 1998 to support the work of neurosurgeon Keith Black, M.D., chairman of Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Neurosurgery and director of the Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Brain Tumor Center, and the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute.

Snippets via Newswise.com: The women of the Brain Trust represent a variety of professions, from business and the entertainment industry to medicine and law. Washington said that while their schedules are tight, they are able to accomplish a lot in a short period of time.

“It’s a unique group. We can get more done in 15 minutes than you would imagine because we know each other so well and everyone is self-sufficient. It’s an efficient effort and everybody works together beautifully,” she said. “We have a diverse group of women with just unbelievable resources. It is so much fun to be involved in bringing everyone together to put on a function that raises funds and awareness.”

Among their fund-raising ventures, the Brain Trust has organized a fair for children and families on a Warner Bros. Studios lot, arranged book signings, and presented concerts. When the Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Brain Tumor Center opened at Cedars-Sinai in 2007 – a project that received $5 million in funds raised by the Brain Trust – the group produced a gala celebration attended by contributors and numerous notable personalities, including music producer Rickey Minor, Grammy Award-winning singer Nancy Wilson and talk-show host Larry King.

Pauletta and Denzel Washington Neuroscience Scholarship
The Denzel and Pauletta Washington Family Gifted Scholars in Neuroscience Award: Dr. Keith Black, Pauletta Washington, neuroscience scholarship recipient Debi Thomas and Denzel Washington, May 2008
“Part of our job is creating awareness, and one of the most exciting aspects of our work is getting information ‘hot off the press’ and filtering it into the community in seminars, luncheons and other events,” she said. “We may have some tougher fund-raising days ahead of us because of the economic situation, but we’re hopeful. Dr. Black is doing phenomenal work and he and his teams are incredible. When we see them working tirelessly, it makes our job easier. It keeps us optimistic and encouraged.”

The members are:

Carol Bennett, M.D. – Chief of Urology at the Greater Los Angeles Veterans’ Hospital Healthcare System, sits on many boards, actively involved in schools, mother of two, wife of Keith Black, M.D. Bennett has earned a distinguished reputation through her work with the VA, as a surgeon and as a professor of urology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dale Cochran – Entrepreneur and philanthropist, community activist, world traveler, widow of world-renowned attorney and civil rights leader Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. She works to keep her late husband’s legacy alive in the community with youth programs designed to encourage young people to stay in school and lead active, healthy lives. She led the effort to bring to reality The Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Brain Tumor Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Gloria Mitchell – Owner of a medical center in south central Los Angeles, philanthropist, community supporter, political activist, mother of five, grandmother of four. She and her husband, Dr. Accie Mitchell, continue to be involved in the community, working to bring hope and renewal to children and their families in the impoverished and underserved areas of Los Angeles. Her keen business sense has kept projects on target and on budget.

Angelia Sanders – Vice president of the Recording Academy (The Grammys), mother of two young children, sits on several boards, active in children’s schools. She has climbed the ladder in the record industry, having worked at Motown, BMG, and RCA record labels, and has helped to build the careers of Grammy Award winners Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie and Will Smith, to name a few. Her contacts in the world of entertainment have enriched the work of the Brain Trust immeasurably.

Pauletta Washington – Singer, actor, classically trained pianist, philanthropist, and mother of four children, actively involved in children’s schools, wife of Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington. The couple lends their names and time to the Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Award in Neuroscience, given annually by the Department of Neurosurgery to support two aspiring scientists.

Keisha Nash-Whitaker – Model, philanthropist, active mother of four, and wife of Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker. Keisha has worked diligently to enlist the support of high-level figures in the entertainment industry in the creation of projects such as The Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Brain Tumor Center. One such supporter is Forest, whose grandmother was treated by Black after being diagnosed with a brain tumor several years ago.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lisa Lopes Foundation Partners with Campaign for The Arts to Support Arts for Youth Nationwide

Ronald Lopes, Executive Director of the Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes Foundation, and Reindrop Lopes attend the foundation's LA benefit party, March 10, 2009 at Blue Velvet Restaurant and Lounge
February 23, 2009/TLA PR: Campaign for the Arts, a new initiative founded by the recording artist ‘Digit’, has announced their nationwide initiative to keep the arts in schools. Partnering with the Campaign on this initiative is the Lisa Lopes Foundation (LLF), an organization which is named after Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, former TLC member and legendary artist.

Campaign for the Arts was created to promote artists of all genres, raise money for schools and non profits, and focus on providing solutions to issues that are plaguing our nation and youth, while teaming with people worldwide to collectively help save the arts in our schools.

“As a business leader, artist, and someone who has benefited from community art programs, I understand leadership, teamwork and the importance of protecting and educating our youth through social initiatives and creative arts. My background has given me a great understanding of the value of investing in our future,” stated “Digit,” Founder.

Recording artist 'Digit' with guest Owen, at the LA benefit party
“Our goal is to raise $150,000 by May 1, 2009 and continue raising funds thereafter. With the support of our team and generous sponsors, we can meet our goal and launch the most memorable movement ever for arts in education,” he added.

Events given by “The Campaign” will be hosted by the Lisa Lopes Foundation and a portion of all proceeds raised will go toward the foundation. Additional proceeds will go toward the charities and schools chosen to participate as a partner in individual states. Non profit organizations and schools will be chosen based on their level of commitment, current programs and through the recommendations of their sponsors. Visit http://www.campaignforthearts.com/ for more information.

Pop singer Nadeea, Ronald Lopes, singer Lil' Mama and Reigndrop Lopes
Source and photos: TLAPR /Wireimage

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Red Pump Project

Today is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. It's a nationwide initiative to raise awareness of the increasing impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls and encourages ladies to take action.

In observance of this day, two female bloggers, Karyn Brianne of The Fabulous Giver and Luvvie of Awesomely Luvvie, have created The Red Pump Project, to bring awareness to this initiative by enlisting the support of fellow bloggers, to help spread the word. Their concept is simple: Rock the Red Pump on your blog to represent the strength and courage of women fighting HIV/AIDS or affected by the disease both directly and indirectly. Over 90 bloggers have joined this effort, including myself.

On the Red Pump Project’s official blog, it states that while progress has definitely been made in the areas of AIDS prevention and treatment, women still represent 27% of all new AIDS diagnoses, with African-American women accounting for 66% of that group.

The National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is coordinated by the Office on Women’s Health as an opportunity for organizations across the country to come together to provide support, encourage discussion, and educate women and girls about prevention, the importance of getting tested, and how to lead a normal, healthy life despite being infected.

If you’re in Chicago, Karyn and Luvvie are hosting a happy hour fundraiser tonight at Plush Restaurant and Lounge, 1104 W. Madison, 6:30 - 8:30pm. The fundraiser will benefit the Chicago Women’s AIDS Project, the only organization in Chicago solely dedicated to providing gender-specific HIV prevention and care services to women at risk. Ladies, wear your red pumps! Guys, wear a red shirt!

I’ll be there in spirit, so here’s my red pumps I’m rocking today (taking a cue from Karyn’s blog and her fashion picks) - Fendi’s double platform bow pumps! Visit the blog for Red Pump Project fundraisers in other cities.

Great job ladies!

Get your t-shirt here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Black Girls in New York City: Untold Strength and Resilience

New Study Reveals Sources of Resilience and Strength for Black Girls in New York City

New York, NY (PRWEB) March 7, 2009 -- A new and unique report, Black Girls in New York City: Untold Strength and Resilience, was released by the Black Women for Black Girls Giving Circle (BWBG), a funding initiative of The Twenty-First Century Foundation, and the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR). The report, commissioned by BWBG from IWPR pairs analysis of original data collected through written surveys and focus groups with a review of existing literature to provide an in-depth examination into the lives of Black girls living within the city of New York.

"Through our work with Black girls as service providers, funders and technical assistance providers, it became clear to the founders of BWBG that there may be unique social factors impacting our girls," said Stephanie Palmer, Executive Director, New York City Mission Society. "So we pooled our personal funds and joined forces with other like-minded women and organizations to conduct a study focusing on Black girls in New York City."

The report finds that the impact of poverty is especially acute in the lives of Black girls. Approximately three-quarters of the girls in the study live in low-income communities and households.

"Like all Black children, Black girls are at increased risk of living a life of poverty. But poverty plays out in the lives of Black girls in very distinct ways," remarked report author, Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, affiliate scholar of IWPR and Director of the Research, Public Policy and Information Center for African American Women at the National Council of Negro Women.

"Our surveys and conversations with adolescent Black girls in New York City show that many of the girls are at an increased risk of violence because of the economic situation of their families and economic conditions of their communities," emphasized Dr. Jones-DeWeever. "For far too many of the girls in our study, poverty truncates their childhood experience."

The study also examines issues of self-esteem for Black girls, a group often considered immune to the impacts of mainstream culture on body image and self-confidence. While most of the Black girls in this study seemed largely satisfied with themselves, one-fifth indicated, that if given the opportunity, they would change their bodies in some way. A few expressed keen sensitivity to issues of skin tone. Some were teased harshly for being "too Black." Others even expressed a desire for skin bleaching; and in at least one instance, that ultimate desire was not just to become lighter, but instead, to become white.

Importantly, the report also explores the positive influences in Black girls' lives. It finds that girls who highly valued spirituality also tended to have an excellent relationship with their primary caretaker. Likewise, those who possessed a strong sense of racial identity were more likely than other girls to be happy on typical day, to receive better grades, to want a college education and believe in their ability to reach their goals, and when involved in intimate relationships, to engage in self-protective behavior by insisting upon condom usage.

The report concludes with a number of recommendations for policy and practice by a wide range of factors. Some are:

  • Schools, community groups, and service providers serving Black girls should incorporate information and discussions about violence, safety, and sexual health into their programs and curriculum.

  • Reach out to adolescent Black girls about their reproductive health.

  • Create faith-based and Black girl organizational alliances.

  • Open access to higher education for young Black women.

To view the full report, visit http://www.blackwomenforblackgirls.org/ or http://www.iwpr.org/.

Photo: istockphoto

African American Philanthropy In the News

The Women's Fund of Miami-Dade County has recently appointed its first African American leader. Debi Harris, a Howard University graduate shared, “I kind of feel like [President] Barack Obama on this one. I am African-American absolutely… I am proud of that, but I don’t know if that will have as much impact on the role.” Read article here.

Part 2 of Strengthening the Legacy of Black Philanthropy in the Chicago Philanthropy Examiner focuses on the role of 'the giver.' Read article here.

Upcoming Conference:

The Seventh National Conference on Black Philanthropy "Strengthening Black Communities through Time, Talent and Treasure"

Introducing "A Philanthropic Covenant with Black America"
Featured keynote speakers are Chris Gardner, entrepreneur and author of 'The Pursuit of Happyness' and actor Michael Douglas

New Orleans, LA
March 29 - April 1, 2009
Pre-Conference Activities: Saturday, March 28, 2009
Visit website here for more information.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

UNCF Celebrates 65th Anniversary & Launches Emergency Student Aid Campaign

Via Marketwire: UNCF - the United Negro College Fund -- the nation's largest and most effective minority education organization, honored Black Enterprise publisher Earl G. Graves Sr. and education activist Caroline Kennedy as it celebrated its 65th anniversary on March 5th before a crowd of over 1200 people at New York's Sheraton New York Hotel and Tower. UNCF provides more than 8,000 scholarships each year, supports its 39 member historically black colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education. (In photo at left: Earl G. Graves Sr., Caroline Kennedy, Billye S. Aaron and CEO of UNCF Michael L. Lomax)

At the dinner, UNCF launched its "Emergency Student Aid Campaign," a major initiative to provide emergency financial aid for more than 10,000 students at risk of being forced to leave college due to the recession. ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson, a member of the UNCF Board of Directors announced at the dinner that his company will be the campaign's first contributor, committing $500,000 immediately and a $500,000 challenge grant. Additionally, UNCF announced an anonymous $7 million contribution toward its annual campaign to support UNCF's students and colleges.

Graves, who founded Black Enterprise, received the Frederick D. Patterson Award for his career of accomplishment, and for his commitment to minority education and philanthropy. An HBCU graduate, he has been a longstanding supporter of UNCF and has strongly advocated that HBCU graduates support their alma maters.

"It's been 65 years since the visionary Tuskegee President Frederick D. Patterson founded UNCF as a means of financing the dream of higher education for gifted African Americans who might otherwise be denied the opportunity," Graves said. "To my mind, there was then -- and is now -- no greater, more noble or more essential task than unleashing the academic potential of a young mind."

Kennedy, who has been active in supporting reform of New York City's public schools, received UNCF's President's Award. An education advocate, attorney, writer, editor and philanthropist, she is vice chair of The Fund for Public Schools, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving New York City's public schools.

UNCF inaugurated a new honor at this year's dinner, the Ones to Watch Award, which pays tribute to recent graduates of UNCF member HBCUs whose careers are marked by both great accomplishment and the potential for decades of further service. Dr. John H. Jackson, president and CEO of The Schott Foundation for Public Education, and Ann Best, deputy superintendent for human talent for the Houston Independent School District (HISD) were the first recipients. Jackson is a graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and Best graduated from Oakwood University in Huntsville, AL.

UNCF's Emergency Student Aid Campaign is an appeal for all concerned Americans to help cover costs to keep kids in college. To make a donation, visit http://www.uncf.org/ and click on Emergency Student Aid or call 1-800-332-UNCF (8623).

Photo: Wireimage

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

29th Annual One Hundred Black Men of NY Benefit Gala Raises $450,000

The 100 Black Men of New York honored business, finance, real estate and health care titans at their 29th annual benefit gala, February 26th at the New York Hilton grand ballroom. Pictured are honoree John Rogers, Chairman and CEO, Ariel Investments; Mellody Hobson, ABC News money expert; Honoree Tom DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller; and Craig Simmons, Gala Chairman.

“Recognizing Our Past, Shaping Our Future” was the theme for the event, that featured a VIP reception at 6:30 p.m. Dinner and awards began at 7:30 p.m. followed by dancing.

The Black Tie event, hosted by WNBC-TV Anchor and Reporter DeMarco Morgan honored Thomas P. DiNapoli, the 54th Comptroller of the State of New York; R. Donahue Peebles, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Peebles Corporation; John W. Rogers, Jr., founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Ariel Investments; and Malcolm D. Reid, MD, Assistant Secretary of the Medical Society of the State of New York.

Craig Simmons; Odell Patterson, Eagle Academy student; R. Donahue Peebles; and Philip Banks, Jr., 100 Black Men of New York President

Craig Simmons, Rick Colon (Eagle Academy student), Dr. Malcolm Reid, and Philip Banks, Jr.

Notable guests included Governor David Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City Comptroller William Thompson, NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, NYS Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, District Leader Walter T. Mosley, and Miss USA, Crystle Stewart.

Upcoming Event: The 100 Black Men of America, Inc. will host its 23rd Annual Conference in New York City from Wednesday, June 10 through Sunday, June 14 at the New York Hilton. This year’s theme of “Education on the Frontline” will focus on the challenges, successes and issues concerning education in the African-American community.

Attendees will engage with the nation’s leading African-American corporate figures, decision makers, journalists, celebrities and others during interactive workshops, thought-provoking panel discussions and various plenary sessions. Past conference attendees have included Bill Cosby, Michael Eric Dyson, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Tom Joyner, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and many more. For more information or to register, visit http://www.100blackmen.org/.

Thanks to Robin at Rubenstein Associates for the pix!