LeBron James Opens School in Akron

Today a new elementary school in Akron opened with the help of the LeBron James Family Foundation. Here’s what you need to know:

1. It’s part of Akron Public Schools, with some big private money backing its launch

The school was the idea of James, an Akron native and NBA All-Star reports the Akron Beacon Journal. The school is getting the same public funding per pupil as the other schools in the district, but it is also backed by large donations from organizations including James’ foundation and others who are covering the extras not paid for by the school district.


2. The students will be children considered academically at risk.

There will be smaller class sizes, a curriculum with STEM and social-emotional learning priorities, and a resource center to support students, according to Akron Beacon Journal. The students starting Monday are 240 third- and fourth-graders. More grades will be added and by the 2022 to 2023 school year, there will be first through eighth grade students at the school.

3. The proposal was first unveiled April 2017

James’ foundation already funded the I Promise Network, which at the time was supporting 1,100 students in grade schools in the Akron area. The idea for the school was first introduced last year as a way to take what works in the I Promise Network to build a curriculum and bring it under one roof.

I am so for this! Congrats to King James on truly making a difference and good luck to the students this coming school year!



Jay-Z Pens Urges Fans to Fight For Social Justice

Jay-Z has published an essay addressing the importance of social justice titled “This Is Our Power.”

Written for The Hollywood Reporter, the essay begins with Jay-Z writing about Kalief Browder, the young black man who was wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit and served at Rikers Island for three years.

“The post-traumatic stress disorder he came out with led him to suicide two years ago, but not before he had the chance to talk about what happened to him,” Jay-Z writes. “…He’s just one example in a system that is broken. We need to be the ones who fix it.”

The rapper and entrepreneur then talks about the documentary series he made on Browder, Time: The Kalief Browder Story, and the importance of demanding change from the people we put into office.

“But social justice isn’t a political issue. It’s a human issue. It’s a story of empathy. When we are able to identify that we are all not perfect and have compassion for someone else, we can move forward as a society,” Jay-Z concludes. “Look around at what’s happening in your town and your city right now. Think small, and you can do much bigger things.”

Read more here.


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:

What I Think About, “Think It Up.”

I am rarely home on Friday night but after a doosie of a week (more on that another time), I nestled on my couch, flipped on the TV (yes, I still own one) and was surprised to see that Hollywood was hard at work towards a better tomorrow simultaneously on all of the major networks.

Celebrities including Jessica Biel, Kristen Bell and Austin Mahone all came together this evening in Santa Monica, Calif. for the Think It Up telecast, a fundraiser aimed to support students and teachers across the nation.

Justin Bieber kicked off the hour-long event with a performance of his new song “What Do You Mean?” before handing it off to a number of A-listers who discussed the current state of education, and what everyone can do to improve it.

Ryan Seacrest, Jennifer Garner, Wilmer Valderrama and Halle Berry were on hand to reminisce about their own classroom days, and Matthew McConaughey took viewers inside U.S. schools working to unlock student potential.

ThinkItUp-AboutImage-1920x1080-KOGwyneth Paltrow discussed the “need to empower teachers to help students become creative thinkers and problem solvers,” and Eric Stonestreet encouraged students to “be bold.”

Audience members were brought to their feet as Big Sean closed the show with a moving rendition of “One Man Can Change the World.”

Think It Up is an initiative of the Entertainment Industry Foundation charitable organization, created to bring broad cultural attention to the urgency of improving the learning experience in America. The national education initiative will seek to re-frame the public discussion about education, create a culture of excitement about learning everywhere in America and build a sense of optimism about the potential of education in classrooms across the country.

Overall, it was a good show and informative too. I love the idea of tapping into celeb power for good. I do wish that just as the networks were taken over there was a more prominent social media component to the fundraiser. That was noticeably missing and would have been appropriate given the subject-matter. Perhaps next time? Learn more 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.

Hero of the Week: Oprah Winfrey

I love Oprah. You love Oprah. The Smithsonian loves Oprah…and they have 12 million plus reasons to do so.

That’s because the philanthropist and media mogul is donating $12 million to them.

Combined with the $1 million she gave in 2007, it is the museum’s largest donation.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture

The National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Ground was broken on the five-acre site, adjacent to the Washington Monument, in February 2012. Congressional funding accounts for half of the museum’s $500 million design, construction and exhibition costs. The museum is raising the remaining $250 million.

The museum has received a $10 million donation from both the Gates Foundation and the Lilly Endowment.

The Museum of African American History and Culture, which hosts a gallery at the National Museum of American History, is scheduled to open in 2015 (um, I can’t wait for it).

Advisory council co-chairs are Linda Johnson Rice, president and CEO of
Johnson Publishing Company Inc., and Richard D. Parsons, former chairman of Citigroup. Other members are:
• Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), U.S. House of Representatives
• Willie Brown, Jr., former mayor of San Francisco
• Laura W. Bush, former First Lady of the United States of America
• James Ireland Cash, Jr., retired professor and senior associate dean of Harvard Business
School Publishing
• Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and CEO of American Express Co.
• G. Wayne Clough, secretary, Smithsonian Institution
• Ann M. Fudge, retired chairman and CEO of Young & Rubicam Inc.
• Allan C. Golston, president, U.S. Programs, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
• James A. Johnson, vice chairman of Perseus LLC
• Robert L. Johnson, founder and chairman of RLJ Companies and founder of Black
Entertainment Television Inc.SI-125-2013 3
• Quincy D. Jones, CEO of Quincy Jones Productions Inc.
• Ann Dibble Jordan, executive committee member, National Symphony Orchestra
• Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund
• Brian T. Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America
• Homer Alfred Neal, director of the University of Michigan Atlas Project and professor of
• E. Stanley O’Neal, former chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.
• Samuel J. Palmisano, chairman and CEO of IBM Corp.
• Gen. Colin L. Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State
• Franklin D. Raines, former chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae
• Ruth J. Simmons, president of Brown University
• Gregg W. Steinhafel, chair, CEO and president of Target

What’s All Of The Chiming About?

For the past few days, I have been taking in news stories that feature glossy and celebrity packed images of Beyonce, her Boo and her buddies for the Sounds of Change concert to benefit the Chime for Change initiative. Not one of the stories has gone beyond the glitz to really explain what all of the chiming is about.

Shoot, even Beyonce’s website simply states, Chime for Change, founded by Gucci, is a new, global campaign focused on girls’ and women’s empowerment. It serves to convene, unite and strengthen voices speaking out for girls and women around the world, and to raise funds for non-profit organizations pursuing change.

She then directs to the Chime for Change Facebook page.

Girl Power?

Girl Power?

I did some more digging and found that even Gucci’s website doesn’t do a good job explaining what the campaign actually is or what the goals are.

Well after much research, I found out Sound of Change was broadcast to more than 150 countries across the world. Aside from raising over $4m, which will fund approximately 200 projects in 70 countries (please don’t ask which ones), the concert, attended by more than 50,000 people, was meant to put issues such as genital mutilation, domestic violence, maternal death and adult illiteracy on the news agenda.

Chime for Change was  founded by Gucci’s designer Frida Giannini, and her friends Beyoncé and Salma Hayek, focuses on improving education, health and justice for women around the world.

Besides Beyoncé,  Jessie J, Rita Ora, Haim, Ellie Goulding, Jennifer Lopez and Florence Welch took to the stage to champion the cause. Other celebrity endorsements came from Madonna, Katy Perry, Halle Berry, Jada Pinkett Smith, Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz, who all are featured in videos explaining why they support the movement, making Chime for Change seem like a grown-up version of girl power.

I ask: What about the organizations involved? The programming? How can people really be inspired to change things beyond ‘liking’ pictures and then downloading a popstar’s latest single?

I can’t help but feel that a huge opportunity to truly engage people beyond a donation or a concert was and is sorely missed here. But, I will assume that there will be plenty more chiming on the way and I just might be proven wrong.

Wanted: Celebrity to Sell My Sh*t.

As you very well know by now, among other things, I write about celebrities and their philanthropic efforts (or lack thereof).

I think it’s a great thing when a celebrity can support a cause that is already well-established.  Surely, it can’t be denied that the right starlet aligned with a charity can mean major brand awareness and increased financial support.

However, should a celebrity be at the helm of an organization? Should they be Chief of Development or President and CEO of  an effort to put a dent in the ailments of our world?

My answer is hell no.

Dr. Huxtable as VP of Marketing, Texas Instruments

Dr. Huxtable as VP of Marketing, Texas Instruments

To be a savvy NPO leader requires years of study, finesse and expertise. Experience is the best teacher when it come to good organizational leadership. Further, there are thousands of highly qualified applicants in the pool.  Why add celebs into the mix?

So why, oh why, corporate America, do you choose celebs to not only endorse your goods, but take on ‘roles’ as well?

Marc Jacobs is  “creative director” for Diet Coke.  Justin Timberlake is “creative and musical curator” for Bud Light Platinum.  Alicia Keys  has a desk at BlackBerry. Beyonce wears a suit at Pepsi.

The list goes on and on. As someone who was in the entertainment industry for many years, I know that in fact, it isn’t these celebrities who are generating and acting on these ideas. It is likely those who support them and these companies.

Please, let’s stop insulting the intelligence of consumers and the millions who are out of work who could very well serve as marketing super-rockstars for way less.

I think celebs belong on a stage and should keep to using their super-powers for good not dollars.




While the world waits with baited breath for the premiere of the scandalous Lance Armstrong/Oprah interview today (and will learn of how his LIVESTRONG charity will or won’t be negatively impacted), my attention has been turned towards another cause.

Earlier this week, one of my heroes, Good Morning America Anchorwoman Robin Roberts, appeared on the show for the first time in more than four months since undergoing a bone marrow transplant.

While still recovering at her New York apartment, Robin announced that she had been cleared by her doctors to gradually come back to the popular news morning program with the target date being sometime in February.

When Robin revealed last year that she had been diagnosed with MDS, short for myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare blood and bone marrow disorder, some assumed she would be absent for six months to a year. But her body is responding well to the transplant from her older sister, Sally-Ann, according to her doctors.

In addition to this great news,  Robin’s illness and recovery has brought tremendous attention to the need for more bone marrow donor registrants of color via organizations such as Be The Match. For people with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma or other diseases, a cure exists. Be The Match connects patients with their donor match for a life-saving marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant.

It was over 7 years ago that my mother was lost to AML, a form of leukemia that could have been cured had she found a matching bone marrow donor.

To see Robin thrive means so much to me.

Further, Robin’s story of recovery is a shining example of how a cause can be supported INDIRECTLY by way of a spokesperson in a highly positive light without the direct ask of donations of any sort.

On Monday, she began the “process of re-entry,” as she described it, by waking up at 4 a.m. for the live interview, about the same time she used to wake up for the show. She said she would continue the process next week by doing a “dry run”: coming into the studio and getting dressed for the show, but not actually co-hosting it.

I’m rooting for her and can’t wait to see her back live from Times Square.