Photo: Jennifer S. Campos
Black women have a reputation for giving new strength to industries otherwise only occupied by wealthy white men. The tech circuit is one of them. The number of tech brands pushing to better diversify the tech industry is growing exponentially.
But black women make up the largest group of college degree holders in the nation and are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the country. That said, it’s no surprise that Howard University graduate and entrepreneur Dez White has had much success in being a catalyst for changing the face of tech. White has developed a multitude of applications, from suites like the Invisible Apps that allow you to navigate behind a veil of privacy, to emojis inspired by new parents, and soon to be newlyweds, Rob and Chyna.
We sat down with White to discuss her latest app, emojis, navigating the tech industry and cultivating a community of accountability.
Blavity: You’ve created emojis for Tami Roman and Odell Beckham Jr. and even created the ChyMoji apps featuring the Kardashians, but mostly Rob. Can you tell us how you became the go-to-girl in tech for celebrity emojis?
Dez White: I'm not sure. I did one deal and the rest just happened. My goal with every client is catering to their audience and making it unique. Everyone has a brand and things that work, so it's just about getting into that. I also have a great team. When you have a good team it all works out.
B: What do you enjoy most about app development?
DW: I love User Interface (UI) and the development. I am more of a UI and wireframes type of girl. I like the newness, the fresh start. I guess that's what everyone who's a serial entrepreneur loves.
B: I read in a previous interview that you were introduced to tech by a friend who happened to be a pretty successful hacker. Did learning from a hacker prove to be advantageous? If so, how?
DW: It was actually scary but taught me a lot about security. I learned there is no such thing as web security. Someone, somewhere can get all in your business if they want to. After I learned all the levels of security that hacking can breach, I often put tape to cover up the camera on my Mac after that.
He now lives out of the country, but we talk often. He was a very awesome person.
B: Sure, there are challenges people of color face when it comes to navigating the tech industry. What’s one thing you remind yourself often that inspires you to keep going?
DW: All the African-American girls that want to break into the industry. It is hard for us. We have to work 10 times harder than a normal person. Aside from the activist part of me, I am a mother. My sons push me as well to keep going.
I hope this inspires someone who is at the brink of giving up. Being a woman, it's hard for me to fundraise, hard to get people to believe, and I get an even harder time from African-American women. But when you have a dream, you can't let outside people affect your dream.
B: I’d love to use this opportunity to pivot the conversation and discuss your latest app. What is the State Safe Stop App, and how does it work?
DW: State Safe Stop is a prevention tool for drivers. It also alerts family members with locations and video of the actual police stop. We are currently raising our last $50,000.00 which has been the hardest, but it will get done.
B: Who was this app designed to help protect?
DW: Any driver in danger. Essentially, all drivers matter but unfortunately, at this time, black drivers need more protection.
B: Do you think fostering a community around being accountable for one another will help solve the problems concerning police brutality?
DW: 100 percent. If your mother knows where you are pulled over and can actually get there to see what happened that would be amazing! Police have been documented taking it too far, but in this case you might also see a driver get out of line. So it actually protects both sides.
B: Speaking of community, you make it a point to give young girls the opportunity to learn tech through your program GirlCode LA. I can only assume great things are in development for 2017. What's next for you?
DW: GirlCode LA is doing amazing things with women and girls. I am excited to see what happens in the future.
Invisible Apps were an awesome start with a great investment partner. We grew a lot and were able to go far. We actually are closing down and in talks with buyers for all assets.
Blind Debit is in talks with several airports and waiting for official patent to be awarded. So fingers crossed we will be able to launch soon.
Rap Battle Live will be live for testing around first part of the year. I am super excited about it. Just working and keeping my nose down. Have some other things brewing with some big corporations, but I will wait until all ink is dry.
B: And when will the State Safe Stop App be available for download?
DW: We are looking around Thanksgiving, but with testing the date could change.
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In 1967, my mother, then 13 years old, spent every weekday afternoon going door to door with a trio of teenage girls in her East Palo Alto, California neighborhood to gather younger kids to teach them their ABCs, numbers and other educational fundamentals as part of the each one teach one program. This social program was one of many implemented by the Black Panther Party to unite, strengthen and support the black community.
October marks the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (#BPP50). Formed by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, Ca in 1966, the revolutionary organization began as a watchdog organization to monitor police violence against black communities — a legacy that continues to be relevant today. In honor of the organization that worked to instill pride, cohesion and education amidst the social turmoil of the late 1960s,
Here are 11 must-watch documentaries, movies, and interviews to provide education and historical context around the Black Panther Party:
1. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2016)
This PBS documentary — directed by Stanley Nelson Jr. — revisits the turbulent 1960s, when a revolutionary culture emerged with the Black Panther Party at its vanguard. Interviews with police informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors make for a well-rounded, multi-dimensional narrative.
2. The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971)
This film depicts the activism, public speeches and brutal murder of Fred Hampton, the leader of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party at the hands of Chicago police.
3. 'Policing The Police': How The Black Panthers Got Their Start (2015)
In this NPR Fresh Air interview, filmmaker Stanley Nelson speaks with Terry Gross about the origins, progression and purpose of the Black Panther Party.
4. Reflections On The Black Panther Party 50 Years Later (2016)
In this NPR interview, Rachel Martin speaks with Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale and photographer Stephen Shames about the origins and purpose of the organization.
5. Panther (1995)
This (1995) film directed by Mario Van Peebles is a dramatized account of the story of The Black Panther Party of Self-Defense.
6. A Huey P. Newton Story (2001)
A Huey P. Newton Story is the film adaptation of Roger Guenveur Smith's Obie Award-winning, off-Broadway solo performance of the same name. Filmed before a live audience, the Spike Lee-directed film incorporates archival footage to capture the thoughts of this revolutionary political leader.
7. The Black Panther Party Documentary (2012)
This class project by Schoolprojects8455 is a digestible, basic history of the Black Panther Party for school aged kids.
8. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011)
This documentary examines the evolution of the Black Power Movement in America. It features footage of the movement with appearances by Black Panther Party founders Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver. The award winning documentary can be found on Netflix.
9. Night Catches Us (2010)
This film staring Kerry Washington and Anthony Mackie follows the emotional journey of a former Black Panther and suspected police informant (Mackie) as he revisits his old Philadelphia neighborhood to attend his father's funeral.
10. The Man Behind the Art of the Black Panther Party (2015)
Emory Douglas was the official Revolutionary Artist and Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party. This video, produced and published by The Atlantic, reveals the man behind the art of the Black Panther Party.
11. Remembering the Black Panther Party newspaper (2015)
This San Francisco Bay View article pays homage to the Black Panther Party newspaper that ran from April, 1967 to September 1980.
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As a black yoga student and teacher, I get thrilled when something new comes around. It’s even more meaningful when that “something new” is created for us and by us. Yoga has been hijacked and commercialized by mainstream media. We are shown what it means to be and look like a yogi and that image is a skinny, sexy, flexible and rich white woman.
Unfortunately, the damage is so deep I can’t even begin to cover it in this article. It’s hurtful to the history of the sacred practice, disrespectful to the women who are constantly being overtly sexualized and harmful to anyone who doesn’t fit that mold (due to the color of your skin, how you self-identify, economic status, physical ability and so much more).
When I came across Yoga Green Book, I instantly knew it was something refreshing, something special and sacred. It’s something for the black community. We can claim it as ours and be proud of it and the site is a beautiful representation of who we are. It’s an online community where people of color can go for yoga.
I visit the site often for many reasons:
To see other people who look like me doing things that I’m interested in.
The blog is an amazing learning space.
Of course, the yoga!
I had a chance to ask Yoga Green Book founder, Carla Christine, some questions.Her answers made me love the site even more. Check it out below for yourself.
Jasmine Creighton: What inspired you to create YGB?
Carla Christine: Following my first yoga class, I recognized that it had the ability to aid in self-healing. After 10 years working as an electrical engineer, I was empowered to leave my job and follow my passion and purpose to share yoga's transformational power. While teaching yoga at a studio in Chicago, I saw the need to create a healing space for people of color that could improve their physical, mental and emotional health.
I created Yoga Green Book as this healing space for yogis of color to unite and practice yoga in a space dedicated and reflective of their image. I specifically created an online video platform because I feel online yoga is an encouraging entry point for those new to yoga, as well as a means for seasoned practitioners to continue to evolve their practice.
I believe in the power of practicing in a physical space with a teacher and other yogis, but I understand that is not always realistic. True power comes in having a consistent practice and ultimately finding your own personal practice.
JC: The name is very powerful and carries deep historical roots; can you elaborate more on the name?
CC: The name Yoga Green Book was inspired by The Negro Motorist Green Book, which was a printed guide of businesses that weary segregation-era travelers could trust and safely take refuge in. A segment in Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s documentary The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross detailed The Green Book and sparked my idea to build an online safe space for people of color to practice yoga and reap its benefits.
JC: What is the mission of YGB?
CC: To promote healing and holistic wellness for people of color through online yoga studio and community.
JC: What separates you from other websites that offer memberships and access to online yoga?
CC: Our site is dedicated and representative of people of color. I believe there is much to be gained when you are in a space that is racially and culturally-affirming.
JC: What would you say (or have you said) to someone who isn't black but takes offense to a website dedicated to black people?
CC: Until it is the standard for people of color to be included in yoga communities locally and online, I believe sites dedicated to people of color are needed. Seeing teachers of color in the community is another layer of encouragement to practice yoga. Their knowledge and commitment to helping the community heal by sharing tools that they know of or that have worked for them can have an impact on the community.
Being a part of organizations dedicated to people of color (such as my sorority, The National Society of Black Engineers, INROADS, etc.) throughout my life has positively affected me. I believe there is power in seeing our positive images represented in the community and in leadership positions.
JC: How do you find yoga teachers to spotlight and feature on your site?
CC: I find yoga teachers through online research and through word of mouth. Searching for and connecting with other teachers of color is one of my favorite hobbies.
JC: Can you explain the membership and benefits?
CC: The site offers unlimited access to instructional videos ranging in time, level and style. Classes mindfully integrate asanas (postures), pranayama (breath work), and meditation to create an inner journey towards healing and empowerment. First-timers get a 30-day free trial and then membership is $19/month. Members will now have 24-hour support to get any site or yoga questions they have answered via email.
JC: What do you see for the future of YGB?
CC: We aspire to significantly improve the overall wellness of people of color. Our community motivates us so our future offerings, events and technological enhancements will be inspired by their wants and needs.
JC: In one of our previous conversations, you mentioned that YGB has built a user base of over 105 sign-ups in one month in a low-key way, can you touch on that a little more?
CC: We received incredible support from our community and a posting in a Facebook group dedicated to black yogis that went viral. Other sign-ups are contributed to word of mouth and organic traffic from our new and growing Facebook page. Our members are motivating us to keep grinding to share our images and teachings with as many people as possible.
JC: How can we get in contact with you and/or YGB?
CC: firstname.lastname@example.org. We love receiving emails from the community on anything yoga-related and input on what they want to see on our site next. You can also keep up with us on Facebook and Instagram. Our social media communities are new and growing, and we have exciting things brewing for them, so stay tuned.
After my interview with Carla, I didn’t know it was possible to have so much pride in a project that I didn’t personally create. But that’s exactly how I feel about Yoga Green Book. It’s something to be proud of. As a student, I definitely learn from the videos and blogs. And as a teacher, I love to implement what I learn in my classes and personal practice.
My goal is to partner with YGB and create my own videos for the site (once I get over my anxiety of video taping myself).
I hope as a community, we can support this platform. We are too often overlooked and underserved; Yoga Green Book is here to serve us. Let’s not let all their hard work be in vain.
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Ariel Belgrave is busy helping people take things to the next level. She's the programs director at /dev/color, a nonprofit startup working to advance the careers of black software engineers. /dev/color helps members network and gain knowledge and support that helps them to succeed in the industry.
Belgrave is also the Founder of Gym Hooky, a wellness brand that helps people to lead healthy lifestyles even with their busy schedules.
Before she started working at /dev/color, she spent more than 4 years at JPMorgan, where she developed and managed employee programs across 40+ countries, focusing on many different areas, including diversity, philanthropy and more.
We chatted about her daily routine, how she balances everything and how to transition from one career to another.
Get to know Ariel further before she presents at AfroTech this November, and read our interview with her below:
Blavity: As the programs director at /dev/color and the founder of Gym Hooky, what does a typical day in the life look like for you?
Ariel Belgrave: My day starts with the beeping of my alarm clock at 7:50 a.m. After hitting the snooze button for 10 minutes, I hop out of bed to start my day. My morning routine is pretty consistent on weekdays (to ensure I prioritize my self-care time!). From 8:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m., I exercise in my living room for 20-25 min, listen to a 10 min Christian meditation, shower and get dressed. By 9:00 a.m. I'm ready to chow down on a healthy breakfast meal. I typically meal prep on Sundays so I have quick meal options during the weekdays. I pack my lunch and am out the door by 9:40 a.m. My 15-minute walk to work is Gym Hooky time. I publish a post (healthy living tip, fitness advice, or a recipe) on social. I also use this time to engage with followers who’ve commented on past posts or have messaged me with questions. I am in the office by 10 a.m. and get settled at my desk. I look at my calendar for the week, check upcoming tasks, write a to-do list for the day and answer emails. When 11 a.m. hits, my founder, Makinde Adeagbo, and I head to a conference room to follow-up on any takeaways from prior meetings and discuss the status of what we are working on in order to set priorities for the week. We then connect with the /dev/color team at 11:30 a.m. to check in on the major projects each team member is assigned for that month. We go around the room and provide a status of each of our projects. If there are any projects that are a concern, we help the team member brainstorm solutions, offer help, etc. From noon to 6 p.m., my day consists of meetings, drafting plans for our 2017 programming, connecting with companies hosting our Q4 and 2017 events, chatting with members, etc. At 6:30 p.m. I head home. Around 7-8 p.m., my fiance, Quinnton, and I cook dinner, recount our day, catch up on our favorite TV shows and get our fix of social media humor. We switch gears around 9:15 p.m. to work on personal projects and catch up on our personal emails. More recently, our evenings have been spent brainstorming and pinning for our wedding in 2017. I am a night owl, so lights are typically out by 12 a.m.
Blavity: As /dev/color works with more engineers and continues to build and see success, what do you think has been the most impactful moment for you working with black software engineers? Any specific moments that made the hard work you’ve put in all make sense?
Ariel Belgrave: As a small team, we spend a lot of our time behind our laptops making the magic happen — building partnerships, planning events, managing our program initiatives and supporting our members. What I look forward to the most are our monthly events, where we are in the presence of our members. I am moved every time I am in a room filled with our talented and driven black software engineers. Why? Well, this is a sight that is rare to see in the SF Bay Area. Simply knowing that our team’s efforts create moments like these are a constant reminder that the hard work we have put in to build this community is necessary. Equally as important as seeing the members is hearing from them. Hearing that they’ve never have been in a room with THAT many black software engineers before. Hearing that being a part of /dev/color has brought meaningful change to the way they approach goal setting and career growth. Hearing that they are excited to hold one another accountable to achieve ambitious goals. And hearing that we have inspired them to help members of our community succeed.
Blavity: I read that you originally planned to be a doctor before pursuing your current career. How did you ultimately decide to make the change, and what advice would you have for someone who is afraid to take a leap in their career?
Ariel Belgrave: That is correct. I entered my first year at Boston College convinced that i wanted to be a doctor. I really enjoyed biology and learning about the human body. As an adolescent, I had romantic notions on the life of a doctor. The self-fulfillment and gratification that comes with being a healer appealed to me. I thought that this profession was filled with glory, prestige and honor. After my first semester in college, I had a change of heart. I was no longer passionate about pursuing a career in the medical field. I realized that my career decision was limited by what i knew of success to be — pursuing [a] profession that will make me money. I knew very little about aligning my career with my passion, my values and my interests. BC’s core classes and internships allowed me to explore the different disciplines and career options that I didn't know existed. By the end of my senior year, I knew that I belonged in the world of business.
When taking a leap of faith to pursue a passion or a more fulfilling career, it’s normal to have doubts and hesitations. Your mind immediately thinks about all the potential risks involved with stepping into the world of the unknown. I typically challenge folks to replace their fear of the unknown with a sense of desire for what’s to come — a desire for their passion. Take 5-10 minutes every day and visualize it. What does it look like? What does it feel like? Who is around you? When they can stay in that beautiful energetic state that is desire, they are more likely to cultivate their passion with ease!
Blavity: What was your experience breaking into the tech space? When did it happen and how did you make it work?
Ariel Belgrave: It was quite the journey, but I learned a ton during the process! Prior to /dev/color, I worked on Wall Street as the Global Head of People & Communications in the Finance sector. After 4.5 years, I was ready for a change. I longed to be in an environment where I was challenged to think outside the box, encouraged to build, and pushed to take risks. The tech industry was an environment that sparked my interest. I was amazed at the amount of creative energy bouncing around. I was inspired by the innovative solutions created by founders making an imprint in the tech industry.
However, I needed to figure out what I wanted to do next and how I was going to successfully seize the next opportunity. I started attending local meetups and events to build a presence in the tech industry and meet people who had similar career paths. I researched non-technical roles to understand which ones best aligned with my work experience and skill sets. I lived lean to prepare for a potential pay cut. I asked myself key questions to ensure that my desire to leave the industry was a phase.
After a six month job search, I officially took the leap from Wall Street in February of this year, moved from New York to California, and began my journey as /dev/color’s first employee. It is a blessing to be a part of the efforts to move the needle in tech diversity! I recently published a blog post recounting my leap from Wall Street to join a tech startup in Silicon Valley. I share raw details about why I left Wall Street and how I officially transitioned. I hope for it to be a source of inspiration for readers in a career rut!
Blavity: With Gym Hooky you help women incorporate healthy habits into their already hectic lives. This is a feat that many people feel is impossible, so what advice do you have for someone who wants to incorporate more time taking care of themselves and their health but feels like they already have a jam-packed schedule?
Ariel Belgrave: Absolutely — sharing this type of advice is my forte! I know this challenge all too well. There are many ways that women can live a healthy, active lifestyle with a packed schedule. One bit of advice that I will give today is to:
Sneak exercise into your daily routine. Exercise is a key contributor to health and happiness. Moving more can lower the risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more. The good things is women can incorporate fitness into their life without having to change their routine. Here are a few adjustments they can make to their everyday lifestyle that will double as exercise:
Take the stairs instead of elevators or escalators
Walk or jog instead of driving shorter distances
If you have kids, run around and play with them rather than just watching
Walk around the airport during your layover as opposed to just sitting
Ditch the conference rooms and have a walking meeting with your coworker
Squeeze in some sit ups or lunges in while watching T.V. (or during commercials if you can’t be distracted during your favorite show)
Blavity: What’s on the horizon with /dev/color? How about Gym Hooky? What can readers hope to see soon?
We are making exciting moves at /dev/color! We recently hosted our first conference for black software engineers, /dev/color in Motion. It was a full day of learning, sharing, and connecting with peers and leaders shaking up the tech industry. During the conference we announced our seven corporate sponsors, including Uber, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google. With this support, /dev/color will be expanding our A* Program to New York and inviting industry leaders to be members via our Boost Program. We are ecstatic about our 2017 plans for engineers and industry leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York. If you are a black software engineer in the industry, I encourage you to apply! Applications for our 2017 program will be open from October 13th - November 16th.
As far as Gym Hooky goes — I am excited to share that I am working on my first e-book Gym Hooky’s Beginner Guide to Home Workouts! As many subscribers know, I haven’t been to the gym in over 3 years, as I work out in the comfort of my own home. The flexibility of home workouts have allowed me to be in the best shape of my life! In my ebook I will be sharing all one needs to know about building their home gym and well as various exercises and workouts they can do at home. The ebook will be released in January 2017 (sign up on my website to get notified!)
For more from Ariel Belgrave and other game-changers, get your tickets to AfroTech! We'll see you there.
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Chelsea Clinton is far from the 13-year-old teen the world saw at the 1992 Democratic National Convention. When she introduced her mother, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, during this year’s DNC, it was clear the 36-year-old vice chair at the Clinton Foundation was ready to let everyone know why her mom is the most qualified candidate. But also why she’s an amazing mother, grandmother, wife and, ultimately, leader.
Photo: Politico“Every single memory I have of my mom, regardless of what was happening in her life, she was always, always there for me,” said Clinton, with a smile, during her speech.
On the heels of the first presidential debate, we spoke with the activist and former first daughter about the student loan crisis, implicit bias, how the Blavity community can make an impact today, and none other than HRC.
Blavity: Blavity is a community of multicultural creators and influencers working to transform the world. What message can you share with our community about using our talents to alter the world we live in?
Chelsea Clinton: We all have something to contribute. Since we’re in an election season, I would urge people to think, "well, what do I care most about? What inspires me the most? What frustrates me the most? What pisses me off the most?"
What to do besides vote? Well, how can you engage with who is really influencing what you care about? So, if you really care about climate change, do you want to try to be a part of the clean energy revolution? Would you want to be working at the federal government level? Do you really want to be thinking about [what] the next generation of recycling should look like? Or do you really care about criminal justice reform? That, thankfully, got a little bit of attention in last night’s debate. It’s something that we should be pushing our presidential candidates [to address], but it’s also something we should be pushing people who are running for governor, state legislature, mayor, city council, district attorney, county sheriff.
All to say, I think there’s so much that Blavity’s creative community can do to be super impactful. We all have to do our civic duty and vote. But we also have to think about how to take the issues that we care about and activate people to think about how they live their lives differently and how we’re engaging people even younger than we are and thinking about these big questions.
B: As a black woman, last week was rough with the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. In fact, it's become all too familiar to turn on my TV or scroll down my social media timeline and see footage of someone who looks like me killed at the hands of law enforcement. How can the government work with local law enforcement to ensure black lives are protected? How can our generation work alongside you to make this a reality?
CC: When you were talking about your timeline. I think one of the challenges is that it needs to be our timeline. We do need to feel a collective moral clarity about the urgency of ensuring that, yes, black lives matter and that, yes, every member of our shared community feels equally valued. We have a lot of work to do to make that a reality, and the shootings of Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott so painfully remind us.
My mom’s first policy speech in this campaign was on criminal justice reform. This is something that she takes seriously and it’s one of the reasons she’s running for president. In some communities, we need to restore the bonds of trust between the police and the communities they are charged with protecting and in some places, we need to build those bonds of trust for the first time.
That has to be a mutual effort and the community has to be at the center of that. One of the things we know we have to do is to tackle implicit bias. It’s something my mom talked about at the debate last night. This is important to be framed as an effort around our police departments, but it’s also something that we all need to be working on, particularly those of us who are white. We just have to call that out and be candid about that, and also recognizing that calling that out and being candid about that puts us first and foremost at a posture of listening.
To your question about what can the larger community do to partner with the federal government — and in the policy nitty gritty there’s a lot that a president can do to encourage police departments to tackle implicit bias, to have patrol car cameras and body cameras, to have ongoing dialogues and discussions with the communities, and even down to the neighborhood levels. But for a lot of that to happen, the federal government can make the funding available to set standards and guidelines, [but] you need local law enforcement and local leaders to then activate that and follow it through, which is why it’s so important. Back to the earlier conversation, to have people vote not just in a presidential year but for their mayor; to vote in places where the county sheriff is elected; to vote for the district attorney, because all of that has so much significant influence on what happens at the local police department, whether or not there are investigations when there are police involved shootings or other violence. Absolutely who runs for president matters, but community engagement throughout every election and then between elections really matters, too.
B: The cost of education in the U.S. continues to skyrocket and our generation has, to a certain degree, had to adjust the ‘American Dream’ and delay homeownership and marriage, among other things, to pay down student loan debt. Student loan debt has tripled to $1.3 trillion. How can we tackle the college debt crisis?
CC: We have more than 40 million Americans who are dealing with significant student loan burden.
My mom thinks we need to do a few things. One, for people who have outstanding federal student loan debt, it should be reset to the lowest prevailing interest rate, and that the federal government should not be in the business of making a profit off of helping Americans finance our dreams. But, two, anyone and everyone should be able to pay back their student loans in the percentage of their income. And this is something that’s really personal to my mom, because when she got out of law school, she had a lot of debt. She paid for law school through student loans, and she was only able to take the job that she wanted at the Children’s Defense Fund because Yale basically said to her, which helped her student loans, "when you’re working in the public interest you don’t have to pay us back." My mom thinks you shouldn’t be making professional decisions based on the need to service your student loan debt. You shouldn’t have to delay how you’re thinking about your whole life by servicing your loans. If you’re paying back your student loan as a fixed percentage of your income and if you’re engaged in public service; if you’re a teacher, if you’re a firefighter, if you’re working in a high-need area as a doctor, or you’re a public interest lawyer, that service should also help pay off your debt because we’re all benefiting from that.
"We want to be investing in people who are investing in the most real sense in our communities."
Finally, my mom thinks that for people who are starting businesses or joining startups, particularly because we know so many of the new jobs in our country are created by small businesses and entrepreneurs, there should be a grace period of three years so you can just focus on starting your business or being a part of a startup and then, hopefully, once your business is successful, your enterprise is successful, then you can focus on starting to pay off your student loans.
I think it’s a pretty comprehensive agenda. It’s called the New College Compact and I hope people go online to HillaryClinton.com and see how their student loan debt might be affected. It also includes graduate school, which I think is really important, because for so many of us the limits of our ambition just don’t stop after our community college or a college experience.
With Election Day fast approaching, Clinton is hot on the campaign trail, rallying democrats and listening to voters’ concerns. During such a critical election, her words couldn’t be more timely and true: “We all have to do our civic duty and vote.”
Are you registered to vote? Visit Vote.org to register!
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Black women and girls sometimes live, work and grow up in areas that welcome neither our blackness nor our womanhood. But At The Well creates an environment for current 10th and 11th grade black girls to find themselves, each other, and a healing space to discuss their collective experiences.
The premise is simple – provide space and learning opportunities for black girls from all over the country to share their collective experience, to grow as leaders, and then send them back to their communities to make a difference using everything from test prep, to using academic papers on feminism in Beyonce’s Lemonade, to heart-to-heart conversations
The academy started in 2011 with a focus on academics after Rev. Jacqueline Glass, Founder, graduated from Princeton’s seminary program. She was inspired after noticing that her own daughter was gifted, but did not perform well on standardized tests. At The Well quickly evolved over the years to also include a focus on leadership, womanhood and culture. About 50 girls attend the program at Princeton University in July for two weeks every year. The program grew this year, and in 2017, At The Well will also operate at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Application requirements are listed on the website. The cost of the program is less than similar Ivy League programs, and scholarship options are available.
Blavity spoke with founder Rev. Jacqueline Glass and intern Melissa Lyken from At the Well to learn more.
Blavity: How did this program come about?
Jacqueline Glass: It was started as a mission to give back. We seek to empower young women to become effective leaders globally. We want them to make a difference in their community. They go back and advocate for themselves and their community.
B: Where are the girls coming from?
JG: They are coming from all different spaces. There were more girls from the upper middle class this past academy and one of the reasons is we lost one of our funders. We weren’t able to give the type of scholarships that we’ve given in the past. A lot of energy is going toward fund development so that we can reach the population we originally intended to reach. But we do get girls from all geographic locations and socio-economic backgrounds.
B: Your focus is to also bring together girls who may be the only, or one of very few, black girls in their school to talk about what it’s like to be in that environment and help build some sense of community there. What do the girls share about microagressions in their schools and how do you help them address it?
JG: Some of the girls expressed they’ve never been in a room with so many girls that look like themselves. We give them space to talk about it, to discuss it, to talk about what it is [microagression]. They may not know how to react to it or how to identify it. They may not know how to address it. We give them space to know they aren’t the only one. There is a commonality in their experience.
B: Melissa – you lead some of the heart-to-heart discussions for the girls. Tell me more about what the girls experience in their schools.
Melissa Lyken: They have so much to share with regards to some of the things that their classmates, their teammates and counselors have said to them. A few girls said their counselors outright called them the n-word. They really love the space to sit there and hold each other. Some of the girls are crying and someone will say something similar like that happened to me on my campus.
It’s really difficult when you’re in school and your very identity is being questioned. Your very personhood. It creates a community and a sisterhood that "I’m not alone." And they discuss what they can do about it when they go back to school...These spaces are definitely healing spaces and organizing spaces. We can talk about self-care and how to combat these issues.
B: What do you hope the legacy of this program will be for young girls?
JG: I hope to gather a sisterhood of dynamic girls that we help them believe in themselves and to think more highly in themselves. They don’t always see the promise in themselves that others see. My expectations that they are able to live the lives they envision for themselves. I came across a conversation at lunch three years ago between two girls. They were talking scientifically about how to reduce those cancer cells and that the cancer can be cured. That’s the type of legacy that I want to leave. That they have the space to be who they are. They need to know they are wonderfully and magnificently made.
I also had a chance to talk with Braxton, a high school student in Georgia and a former participant in the At The Well program. Braxton is heavily involved in school. She’s the current student body president, captain of the varsity track team and a member of other academic clubs in school. Braxton is starting a clothing company for women in male-dominated sports and followed up on her experience in the At The Well program by creating a mentorship group for girls at her school.
B: What do you love most about school?
Braxton: With the positions that I'm in, I have the ability to influence change, equality and fun in my community and my school.
B: What made you apply for this program even though you do attend a mostly black high school?
Braxton: I applied to expand my critical thinking. I wanted to learn more about myself and I wanted the chance to expand my thinking about women of color. In school, we only talk about issues that scrape the surface of black people. I wanted to dig deeper, and I got that at At The Well. Even though our demographics are majority black, we still struggle to make sure that everybody’s voice is heard.
B: What was your favorite aspect of this program?
Braxton: We had floor discussions. I learned a lot about myself and things I never imagined learning. Colorism, cultural appropriation, black hair and black love. I was able to share my experiences and we could talk about how we deal with racism and issues. Through this, I was able to connect with the experiences of other dark skinned women like myself. I also learned about things I never imagined enduring like the girls who are the only black person in their schools.
B: How was the work different than what you experience at school?
Braxton: The work they give you at school doesn’t always pertain to you. Like we had to analyze Lemonade. We didn’t mind that we had to read 20 articles that night because it related to us. One of our papers was a list asking us to identify examples of white supremacy. It’s the subtle things. It was mind blowing to me, because I didn’t think about it. It just seemed like stuff that happened every day. We wrote about different people that are like us...that look like us.
B: How did this program inspire you?
Braxton: Through the topics we discussed and learning different things about my history. I started my freshman and senior mentoring program called Black Girls United. There is a mentoring program at my school but it isn’t for people of color. Not purposefully, but that’s just how it is. I was struggling to figure out what we could talk about and what could connect us. At The Well helped me shape my program.
After completing the program, Braxton continues to use her experience to build up her mentoring program. She even won an award from the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Girls Who Rule the World foundation. Check out Braxton’s small business and mentorship program on Instagram @girls.got.game and @Black.Girls.United
Program like At The Well are essential to our community. If you're interested in supporting this program, applying, or finding out more, please visit At The Well or connect with At The Well on Facebook or Twitter .
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Although you might not realize it, Portlandia has failed you.
The hit IFC-comedy scores laughs about everything from biking and hipsters to extreme localism and weird bookstores. Although calling Portland white is akin to saying it rains there (duh), failing to address the elephant in the room is anything but funny. We ain’t mad at Fred and Carrie because some of these events and groups are fairly new, but here are six of the blackest things the show didn’t spoof:
Partners In Diversity organizes the quarterly Say Hey! event series, which attracts a multicultural crowd — something visually unlike anything you’ve seen on Portlandia. They literally welcome new black people to Portland and shower you with gifts, drinks, food, drinks, praise (maybe an exaggeration... and did I mention drinks?) in hopes that you’ll stay a while.
Black Investment Consortium for Economic Progress
BICEP is a group of community leaders interested in augmenting Portland’s black community through commercial real estate investment, opportunities and revitalization. BICEP has developed the Soul District (yessss!), a neighborhood reclamation project that will feature black-owned businesses. Take that, gentrification!
Da Lab is dedicated to changing the narrative of black love in Portland by gathering black singles and couples for healing, connection, love and kinship through events, group outings + dinners, workshops and more. You WILL leave with a new friend or a (potential) boothang.
Hands Up is a powerful series of seven monologues commissioned by The New Black Fest in response to the Mike Brown and John Crawford shootings, among others. The August Wilson Red Door Project, whose mission is to change the racial ecology of Portland through the arts, puts on the monologues and facilitates a talkback after each show. Gripping perspectives, informational and all-the-feels inducing; did I mention that all the playwrights and actors are black?
Young, Gifted, and Black/Brown
In their own words, “Y.G.B is more than just a party it's a community. We come together to get down, celebrate each other and honor all things YOUNG, GIFTED and BLACK.” This year-old collective has created a safe and welcoming space for black and brown people centered around music and social events. They’re taking it to the next level with a showcase at PICA’s (Portland Institute for Contemporary Art) Time-Based Art Festival.
Like Shark Tank? If so, you’ll love Pitch Black even more. This pitch event features black entrepreneurs, and the crowd decides the winners. Black folks, investors, founders and politicians all in the same room + deals on deals and ca$h shmoney!
What other awesome things are happening in Portland that shows like Portlandia overlook? Let us know in the comments below!
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Stephanie is a recovering lawyer turned life coach, business consultant and matchmaker from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She co-founded Da Lab, a safe space dedicated to changing the narrative of black love in Portland. Enthusiastically inconsistent; continually progressing. Follow Stephanie on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and at her...
Whether it’s Colin Kaepernick taking a knee, Beyoncé performing “Formation” at the Super Bowl, or the widespread demonstrations and conversations centered around the black experience in America, the collective consciousness of being black is a more common topic of conversation than ever. Evident as early as May 2015, EBONY magazine asked “Are We Witnessing the Emergence of A Black Spring?“
Today, we look for positive representation, up-to-date dialogue and cultural pride not only in our social circles, but in the mainstream. All media; television, movies, music, books, fashion and even our classrooms are elements of our life we want to connect with our blackness. It’s not enough to watch a funny movie — we want a funny movie that resonates with our experience and uplifts our communities by providing opportunities for black actors and employing talented people of color behind-the-scenes, too. Just take Ava DuVernay’s flawless display of an #InclusiveCrew on the set of Queen Sugar. Or how about Donald Glover’s Atlanta? These projects are backed by and tailored to an authentic black experience. And we love it.
And who can blame us? It’s not like staying silent and giving in to the status quo has done us any good. This year alone, we’ve seen the murders of Terence Crutcher, Keith Lamont Scott and so many more. For most of us, it hurts to check the news each morning. And with the presidential candidates set up the way they are, there’s not an aspect of our daily lives that doesn’t remind us why these protests, pushes for representation and open dialogues are necessary. But through both the tragedies we’ve endured and the incredible progress we’ve made, one positive has come of it all — our unity. The communities we form after both hard times and huge successes are incredible. And within these communities is where we need to create opportunities to continue to uplift the diaspora. Rather than wait on opportunities to be presented to us, it’s important to invest in ourselves and each other.
So although our collective consciousness might look different from the civil rights movement and fights for equality in the past, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t just as important. The technology and ease of communication we see nowadays allows us to spread our message and have more frequent and specific conversations that bring the right people together to help move us forward.
We’ve already seen a rise in people openly and pointedly supporting and promoting black creatives, buying from black-owned businesses, etc. It’s incredible to see the impact our community can have when we come together, uplift each other’s voices and support our narratives.
There’s a misconception that supporting black businesses is limiting, but that’s simply not true. Just like the variety we demand in other areas of our life, there are so many brands providing exactly what you’re looking for. Do you want books written by black authors that present characters you can relate to and embrace the Blerd culture you love? They’re out there!
Are you tired of sacrificing conscious shopping to get the fashion looks that you want? There’s a solution out there for that, too. Founded in January of this year, BLKR is an online marketplace selling high quality, forward-thinking fashion. At its core, the brand cares about three things: The look, the quality and the message. And really, shouldn’t that be the focus of every brand we support? We want to put our money where it can make an impact. Which brands are worried about providing us with what we want, making it of the highest quality, testing their materials and supporting the causes that mean something to us on a personal level? Those are the ones we should support.
For example, BLKR reinvests in black business and tech startups. As a brand, they hold the broader goal of using money to create opportunity in the black community.
Sure, it’s easy to chase after what’s trendy or pick up whatever’s trending on Instagram, but that’s not really what this generation is about. We haven’t been silent about the violence against our community by those hired to protect us. We haven’t been quiet about cultural appropriation and erasure. We haven’t been quiet about the systemic racism that keeps our history out of classrooms. And we shouldn’t be complacent about where we spend our money. As a purchasing block, we spend $1.1 trillion a year. The next level of the Black Spring is to spend our money where it counts.
Preorder is live on BLKR now. Check it out at blkr.us!
This post is sponsored by BLKR.
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I went to a predominantly white university. In fact, I went to one of the whitest universities in the country. It’s a huge, beautiful campus in the middle of Illinois that is known nationwide for its party culture, playing host to the largest college greek system in the world and its Big Ten football team. It’s the kind of school those college bro comedies are based on. With black people only making up about 5 percent of the population, our culture was not the foundation of the educational or social makeup. But that doesn’t mean we were just lost souls trapped in a world of Ugg boots and North Face windbreakers.
My friends who went to HBCU’s are quick to point out that I missed out on an "authentic" black college experience because I went to a PWI. They insist that the strong sense of community and belonging was a direct result of learning amongst their black peers. Some have even suggested that they could never attend a PWI because of the erasure of black culture and community. And that is where I always have to correct them.
I certainly wish I didn’t have to deal with the racist macro- and micro-aggressions my peers and I experienced at our institution of higher learning: Nooses hung in front of our cultural house, fraternities and sororities throwing parties with racist themes and guests in blackface, our events being over-policed, our intelligence questioned, and my peers not understanding why I wore a bonnet as I checked the mailbox. But those experiences did not destroy black culture at the university. In fact, the adversity made our community stronger, more organized, and if we’re being honest, kind of lit.
Even at a school that was the pinnacle of whiteness, I still had a black college experience.
First, consider the logistics. I mentioned the school I went to was only 5 percent black. But the total population of the university was 46,000. With more than 2,300 black folks, there were more of us at my PWI than some HBCUs entire populations - including Morehouse, Spelman, Dillard and Fisk. These demographics are not uncommon for many black students who attend public, in-state universities that are predominantly white. Many of us transitioned into those colleges from all-black high schools and communities. And as the saying goes: You can take us out the hood but you can’t take the hood out of us.
Chicken and spades parties were official events held by members of registered student organizations. The entrance steps and patio of the student union, which sat at the head of the main quad, was unofficially called “The Stoop.” And in true black neighborhood fashion, it was the place where we all congregated during the day to discuss racial politics, spill tea, shoot dice or just chill between classes. We held double dutch tournaments. Instead of bake sales we opened temporary candy stores where students could their childhood favorites like Flamin’ Hots with cheese and Frooties.
For homecoming weekend, there was a completely separate lineup of black events for the week that made our small college town look like All-Star weekend. The annual step show competition hosted by our black greeks brought visitors from across the entire Midwest to our campus for the festivities. We were constantly out locally, doing community service, creating, organizing, mentoring and collaborating. We had an equal number of naturalistas and baddies with freshly-installed bundles. The impassioned activists were sometimes on point, but sometimes extra and annoying on our campus, too. We were black… AF.
I know the HBCU debate is serious business for some folks, so let me state for the record that I don’t have a dog in this fight. I see both the pros and the cons of attending an HBCU over a PWI. With the current student debt crisis that unsurprisingly affects black folks disproportionately more, my only advice on selecting a college is: Follow the coin!
But if your concern in choosing a university where you're a minority is that you'll somehow miss out on a college experience that supports your blackness, you might be mistaken.
HBCUs have a rich history that has shaped the story of blackness in this country. They are an important part of black culture that can’t be denied. But I haven’t seen a “List of things you’ll only understand if you went to an HBCU” or “X Types of people you meet at an HBCU” that hasn’t also described my college experience perfectly.
This reinforces what we all know to be true about blackness — it’s resilient.
It stretches across time and space, despite intentions. Just as black culture is still flourishing in a country of anti-black racism and state violence, black culture is alive and well at PWIs, too.
We’d love to hear from you! If you went to a PWI, comment below and tell us what events and traditions kept black culture alive and lit.
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After months of push from Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both Democrats, the U.S. Senate has finally passed the Water Resources Development Act, which is good news for residents of Flint.
The bill for nationwide water-related projects includes a whopping $100 million to lead pipes and infrastructure in any area where a state of emergency has been declared because of lead levels in the water. As it stands, this only applies to Flint, MI, where the water pipes were riddled with lead and put the city in a state of emergency earlier this year. But high levels of lead in the water were detected over a year ago, with reports of high blood-lead levels found in children not long after. Many residents are still resorting to bottled and filtered water for their daily needs, as the need for cleaner water remains.
The Water Resources Development Act also includes a $300 million grant program through which communities can apply to receive funding for services including lead testing, corrosion control and education.
Although the passage of this legislation in the Senate is great news, it might be an uphill battle to get the bill passed in the U.S. House in order to finally get to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law. Not only are legislative days running out, they have yet to pass legislation to fund the government itself.
We can only hope, for the citizens of Flint, that this bill makes it through.
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Louisville, Kentucky high school freshman LaRon (Ron Ron) Tunstill Jr. is finding new ways to bring positivity to his community.
On Labor Day, Ron Ron was on the West Side of Louisville with PURPMe, a non-profit dedicated to performing kind acts throughout the community, when he noticed a homeless man wearing shoes with holes in them. What he did next was beyond inspiring.
"So I started looking at what he had on, and I was like, 'you got no shoes,'" Tunstill told WDRB.
Ron Ron took off his new Nike high-tops and gave them to the homeless man.
Jason Reynolds, the founder of the PURPMe, told CNN that the soles of the shoes "were completely gone,” and that "his toes literally touched the ground.”
PURP is an organization that’s “dedicated to help kids find their purpose." They were doing homeless outreach when Ron Ron decided to donate his shoes to the man in need.
"You got 14-year-old kids out here shooting and killing people, and Ron Ron decides he's going to give his own shoes," said Reynolds while filming the video on his phone.
After the video went viral, Reynolds created a Gofundme campaign to support PURP. 100% of the proceeds will go toward helping more kids like Tunstill.
Watch the full video encounter below.
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If you told us four years ago that we would become Under Armour-sponsored athletes, find fulfilling romantic relationships, best friends, and a far-reaching fitness family all through the internet and social media, we would never have believed you. But that’s exactly what happened.
It all started in November 2013 when, after years of suffering with depression, Alison started a running club to meet other people who might be looking to find meaning on the run. Fast-forward a few years to today, Harlem Run has grown to become a movement of trendsetters, fitness experts and community organizers that create an authentic experience around a healthy lifestyle. Our mission is to empower communities to get fit, and we regularly host 150-250 people on a given Monday or Thursday night who are looking for inspiration, family and connection. Now, we didn't get here alone — it took like-minded, passionate people leading the movement. Amir (co-leader), Kai (co-leader) and Alison sat down recently to uncover the madness behind the movement.
1 . Commitment & persistence
When Harlem Run, aka #TheMVMT, started in November 2013, the group was comprised of a party of one: Alison. Had it not been for her persistence -- showing up every week at the same time and publicizing broadly -- we might not be where we are today. Once members started to join, they adopted the same culture. Alison, Kai and Amir committed to being present no matter the weather or occasion, and we have been rewarded for it with a supportive, loving community that pushes us all to be our best!
Real recognizes real so being unapologetically who we are has been an essential component of making #TheMVMT such a loving and supportive atmosphere. The more open and vulnerable we are with our stories and struggles, the more members are as well. Regulars refer to #TheMVMT as a family.
Harlem Run welcomes people of all abilities, ages, sizes and fitness levels — and it’s free! From a walker to 6-minute-per-mile runner, there is a pace group for you. And no one gets left behind. The inclusive nature of #TheMVMT means that there are absolutely no excuses for why anyone should not join us. Inclusivity means social change.
Harlem Run is fearless when it comes to taking risks. We don’t compete with others, we just create. Host a themed run in costumes? CHECK. Host a holiday run in celebration of Thanksgiving, New Year’s and Christmas? CHECK. Create routes that take members to new parts of town they never knew existed? CHECK. Our boldness has been rewarded with excitement and energy week in and week out.
If we were leading #TheMVMT for fame and fortune, we would have been sorely disappointed. What we do is instead fueled by a passion and commitment to make people better.
Passion is the fuel. Your commitment to creativity will push your vision. No matter what, remain persistent. When you remain true to who you are, it will inspire others to join in. Moments come and go, but movements are eternal.
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