Woke Mondays: Jesse Williams is Crown.

Actor and Activist Jesse Williams woke us all during the 2016 BET Awards.

He was honored with BET’s Humanitarian Award for his activism last night. In October 2014, he joined protests in Ferguson, Missouri to protest the shooting of Michael Brown. He was also an actor and executive producer of Stay Woke, a documentary about the movement that premiered in May. He has written extensively on Black Lives Matter and met with President Obama earlier this year to discuss his humanitarian work.

Last night, he used one of the most watched awards shows to further drop jewels on an audience which may have never heard of his political/organizing work. Further, he did it in such a relate-able way, nearly everyone was speaking on it then and will for a very long time. One of my favorite quotes:

This award is also for the black women in particular who have spent their lives nurturing everyone before themselves — we can and will do better for you.”

But wait. There’s so much more. Check it out via Billboard.com:


It’s Lit (thanks to Akon).

One of the first celebrity philanthropic projects I worked on was over a decade ago under the helm of Senegalese -American R&B singer, Akon. It was with the Konfidence Foundation which concentrates its efforts in Senegal and West Africa to empower individuals, communities and nations.

It’s great to see that he’s still dedicated to doing great work.

Recently, Akon launched an ambitious project to provide millions of Africans with electricity through a groundbreaking solar power initiative: Solar Academy. The academy, scheduled to open in the Mali capital of Bamako, will train locals to install and maintain solar-powered equipment.

The Solar Academy is under the umbrella of the singer’s Akon Lighting Africa (ALA) initiative, launched in 2014 to bring solar power to Africans who currently live off the grid. Akon’s ALA initiative, in partnership with Give1Project and ADS Global Corporation SA, has already provided solar power to more than 1 million households. ALA has installed solar-powered streetlights in more than 11 countries on the continent.

The initiative includes installing solar-powered streetlights and residential solar systems in African villages, as well as solar tailored equipment in households. There are an estimated 600 million people in Africa who live without electricity.  Twenty-five African countries are experiencing an energy crisis, according to the World Bank.

Take a look:

Nas Lends a Hand (and Diversity) to Tech

A new fund is being created by General Assembly, a private New York City technical school, which has the goal of addressing the lack of minority representation in the tech sphere. Dubbed,”The Opportunity Fund,” it will offer scholarships to women, veterans, African-Americans, and Latinos, all groups who have historically and systematically been denied equal access to the sciences. Nas, who has stepped up his involvement in the tech world in recent months, is joining Google, Microsoft, and Hirepurpose as one of the fund’s backers.

Nas’ QueensBridge Venture Partners project will provide the funds for scholarships to African-Americans and Latinos, while Google will fund women and Microsoft and Hirepurpose will pay for veterans to attend the school.

The New York rapper, with several platinum albums and Grammy nominations under his belt, is gaining cred as a tech investor. QueensBridge Venture Partners has backed start-ups from Dropbox to Meerkat to Lyft. The firm is also backs Walker & Co Brands, of which I am a fan. Here’s more about that company:



I am a huge fan of writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates. These are important times and his focus on issues of race, inequality and injustice via his works are right on time. Additionally, I am so glad to see that his ideas are widely being received. I am not sure that would have been the case just a few years ago.

I was annoyed that I missed Coates at the Schomburg Center here in NY last week. But pleased when I found out the entire discussion was available online. Grab a glass of wine, sit back, click the pic below and take notes:


Oh, and if you want to read what Coates reads (don’t we all), go here.

A Tidal Fail.

So Jay-Z has been struggling to get people to buy into his streaming music service, Tidal. Folks don’t appear to be biting. Last night, Jigga made another effort to push the offering. This time around, he used charity along with his wife, Beyonce, Usher, Nicki Minaj, T.I., Lil Wayne and the results weren’t too hot. I didn’t say it, The New York Times did:


At least Bey had a good time.

For the most part, the stars came out, put in their few minutes, then disappeared — the night played like an old-fashioned telethon. Maybe that’s why the performances from the show that were broadcast later in the night on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” were more impressive: Sweeping cameras and strong editing can do wonders. 

Oh. And it get’s worse:

This show was merely too big to fail, and so of course it did. It’s hard to see Tidal as something other than an oligarchic hustle when it primarily engages in oligarchic behavior.


Well at least good will get done: 100 percent of the ticket proceeds from the show went to the New World Foundation, with the money earmarked for “organizations dedicated to advancing positive community relations and effecting systemic change for the development and sustainability of just societies,” according to Tidal’s website.

Read the entire review here.

Lupe Fiasco Does Good in Brownsville, BK.

I have always loved Lupe Fiasco. It looks like now, the Chicago-born lyricist is giving us more than super-solid lyrical genius.

Lupe recently announced that he’s co-founded a new non-profit endeavor with the goal of helping young inner-city entrepreneurs “turn ideas into start-ups.”

The project,  is called the Neighborhood Start Fund and according to the website its mission is to create “a neighborhood-specific fund to support entrepreneurs and start-ups from underserved areas and of course so the best new ideas won’t go wasted. We provide access, network, workshops, mentoring and of course funding.”

Fiasco and project co-founder Di-Ann Esinor will kick off the inaugural neighborhood fund for entrepreneurs and start-ups with a live pitch event in Brooklyn next month.

“Our first neighborhood is Brownsville Brooklyn,” says Esinor. “We’ve just opened the idea competition and the first live pitch event will be Nov. 13, 2015. We will be housed at the Dream Big Foundation’s new entrepreneurship center and cafe opening in Jan. 2016.”



Learn more here.

This makes me happy to hear as I’m originally from Brownsville. The neighborhood could use some healing. This week a disturbing report was released by NYC’s Health Department which pointed out that in the neighborhood, the average person can expect to live to 74, just over 3 out of 10 adults are obese and 8 of every 1,000 newborns don’t make it to their first birthday.

Things are different in the borough’s upscale Park Slope and Carroll Gardens neighborhoods: life expectancy tops 80, just over 1 out of 10 adults is obese and about 2 of every 1,000 infants die.

Brownsville has about twice the teen birth rate, three times the poverty rate, nearly four times the rate of adult psychiatric hospitalizations, and over five times the rates of new HIV infections and assault-related hospitalizations that Park Slope has. But Brownsville also has more supermarket space, on a per-capita basis.

Tupac Keeps on Giving.

“Measure a man by his actions fully from the beginning to the end.” – Tupac Shakur

Recently Allhiphop.com highlighted the top ten charitable doings of the late Tupac Shakur. Here are a few that I absolutely loved reading about:

A Place called Home 

Tupac put together a benefit concert to help a growing non-profit organization, A Place Called Home, raise money for a new building. Founded in 1993, A Place Called Home is a safe haven in South Central LA where at risk youth are empowered to take ownership of the quality and direction of their lives through programs in education. More here.

Tupac Goes to the Prom 

Pac at Prom.

Pac at Prom.

A Tupac fan wrote a letter to his fan club, asking the late rapper to be her prom date. About a month later, Tupac showed up at her doorstep. He came inside the home and talked to her family and offered to purchase her prom dress & escort her to the dance. Before leaving her home, Tupac gave the family $1500. When her prom day came, Tupac arrived in a limo to pick up his fan. At the school function Tupac signed autographs, took photos, and even got on the dance floor with her for five songs before he left.

Tupac’s Partnership with J Cole 

He may not be here in the flesh, but his work continues on.
The Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation and J Cole’s Dreamville Foundation recently joined forces and started a youth book club in North Carolina. The first book read and discussed was, A Rose that Grew from Concrete. Tupac’s non-profit organization recently celebrated 15 years of serving the community. The center teaches vocal training, ballet, jazz, recording & engineering, theater and creative writing. The nonprofit is still spearheaded by Afeni Shakur. Other family members including Tupac’s sister are active volunteers and staff.

Get the full list on Tupac’s philanthropy here.

Shady Boots: Jay Z Gets Checked For Being Stingy – Again.

Jay Z’s presence is enough. That’s what he said a few months back. Specifically, “My presence is charity. Just who I am. Just like Obama’s is. Obama provides hope. Whether he does anything, the hope that he provides for a nation, and outside of America, is enough.”


In 2010, Jay-Z only reportedly donated $6,431 of his $63 million earnings to his own Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund. Out of the $87 million Beyonce earned in 2010, not a single penny went to her husband’s foundation.

Online magazine, The Root, put Jay on blast (again) recently. They compared Hov’s non-giving to that of “less fortunate” rappers, The Game and Drake.  After learning that Anna Angel had lost her boyfriend and five children to a tragic mobile-home fire, The two split a $20,000 donation to help Angel with the funeral expenses.

It baffles me. One of the reasons I left the entertainment industry and got into non-profit marketing was because I was so tired of seeing fans worship celebrities that could care less beyond an album sale. That was almost a decade ago. One would think that things have changed. apparently they haven’t for the majority.

Here’s hoping Jay secretly learned a lesson from Game and Drizzy’s actions. I would bet that even if he did, he’d keep that to himself.  Check out The Root’s article here.

Money can't by generosity.

Money can’t buy generosity.

Did Mos Make the Point?

This week marked the start of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, and at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, in Cuba, more than a hundred prisoners (approximately a hundred and six of the hundred and sixty-six held there) continued an ongoing hunger strike against the conditions of their confinement. The Obama Administration has been force-feeding them, citing “the policy of the Department of Defense to support the preservation of life and health by appropriate clinical means and standard medical intervention, in a humane manner.” In a further nod to the humane, it has decided, for the duration of Ramadan, to force-feed them only after sunset and before dawn.

A London-based human-rights group called Reprieve released a video, directed by Asif Kapadia, in which the musician and actor Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, undergoes nose-to-stomach force-feeding according to military instructions that Al Jazeera leaked in May. The video, nearly five minutes long, is interesting to watch: Bey is shackled to a chair while a tube is forced down his throat by a medical attendant, all according to “standard operating procedure.” He jiggles, writhes, pleads, and breaks down.

Many people on Twitter were amazed by Bey’s courage, but others mocked him. One user tweeted, “what is tougher to watch this Mos Def video or 2 planes crashing into the Twin Towers?” Another said, “Mos Def is officially a retard.” However mean-spirited these pronouncements, they raise useful questions. Why would Bey take this upon himself? Is  the video just another publicity stunt? Or is it a legitimate form of performance art?

Here’s a video rewind if you missed it. Oh, and let me know what you think.