Giving Black: The Transformative Power of Black Philanthropy

5 mins read

Philanthropy plays a crucial role in creating positive change and addressing societal issues, particularly in the Black community.

By promoting equity, addressing systemic inequality, and supporting individual and community empowerment, philanthropy can make a significant impact.

Christal, the founder of Head and Heart Philanthropy, is dedicated to helping people and organizations maximize their impact through her social impact firm. She also serves as a board member of the National Black MBA Association and as the Chair of the Board of the Africa-America Institute.

In this interview, we delve into Christal’s perspective on philanthropy and her endeavors to empower the Black community through her work.

What inspired you to become a philanthropist?

The goal was never to be a philanthropist as much as it was to be a good citizen.  I believe when you are blessed you should seek to be a blessing to others.

I can not remember a time growing up when my family was not giving to help people.  In my mind, it’s the normal human response to help people when they need it and you have the capacity, especially when your support will make a difference.

As a senior in high school, I was selected to be a part of a United Way initiative called Kid’s Way.  This opportunity provided me with a life-changing opportunity to see up close the importance of philanthropy. We were involved in every aspect from raising the funds to being a part of the deployment of capital.

I’m so fortunate to be able to build a career around my values.   It was what I saw in my family and early exposure to the sector was very impactful.  Being engaged in philanthropy is a great way to serve others.

What are some common misconceptions about philanthropy?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that you have to be extremely wealthy and that’s not the case.  We all have something to give and that’s where you start.  I started by supporting ideas and organizations that I’m passionate about.

Most people may not know that my first convening and the five years to follow were all about the role of philanthropy in addressing stubborn social problems.

I still believe as I have for nearly two decades that philanthropy is a very important sector.  Being engaged in philanthropy has a way of bringing people from diverse walks of life and lived experiences to focus on one common goal.

What are your top philanthropic interests and why?

My top philanthropic interest is supporting young people.  I believe it is very important to support the leadership development of young people.  It gives them a sense of ownership of the world that they will have to live in and manage.

As board chair of the Africa-America Institute, my exposure to the tremendous talent on the continent of Africa will likely be a place where I hope to make an impact through philanthropy.

What is your impact investing thesis?

My work for the past two decades has been focused on closing gaps.  One of those gaps is economic.  When financial issues are addressed then many of the other societal issues will also be addressed.

The global pandemic showed us the impact of years of lack of investment in underserved entrepreneurs revealing how fragile our society has become.

My thesis is pretty straightforward if we can invest in those proximate to innovators and entrepreneurs, then we are closer to creating an inclusive economy where everyone can participate.    An inclusive economy is a healthy economy and that is good for everyone.

What advice do you have for aspiring philanthropists?

My advice to aspiring philanthropists is to start giving where you are with what you have. 🙂

In the words of the late great, Gwendolyn Brooks, “We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

by Tony O. Lawson

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Black Owned Headwear Brands You Should Know

3 mins read

Headwear is an essential part of any outfit and can be used to make a statement or simply to add some extra style. If you’re interested in adding some unique pieces to your headwear collection, there are plenty of Black owned headwear brands to explore.

From fedoras to bucket hats, these brands offer a wide variety of styles and designs that are sure to suit any taste.

Black Owned Headwear Brands

Dungeon Forward

Dungeon Forward is a purveyor of precision designed innovative headwear. Founded in 2007 by architect David Castro, their mission is to inspire, uplift, enlighten, and tell authentic cultural stories by crowning the culture.

Wear Brims

black owned headwear

Wear Brims was founded on basic principles that are at the core of every decision and every design. Faith, Family, Confidence.

Frances Grey

Frances Grey is a line of custom, statement hats designed with a bold and creative sensibility. Designed by Debbie Lorenzo, each design embodies simplicity and timeless sophistication.

Nicholas Daley

black owned headwear

Nicholas Daley is a London-based menswear designer who explores the interplay of fashion, music, and culture. Daley builds a label around diversity, inclusion, and community while creating space for a multicultural British identity to unfold.


Monrowe is a unisex line of ready-to-wear hats, made in the USA and created for the bold at heart. More timeless than trendy, the brims blend nuances from ‘40s and ‘50s Jazz Era styles with classic Western shapes and contemporary elements.

Fruition Hat Company

Fruition Hat Company is a lifestyle hat brand that encourages freedom of expression through style and accessories; no boundaries attached.  The only rule: Be you, Be True.

Nappy Head Club

Nappy Head Club is known for its trend-savvy, inclusive clothing, where thoughtfully designed wearable affirmations create a rare opportunity to affirm Black identity through fashion.

FlameKeepers Hat Club

FlameKeepers Hat Club is a Harlem-based, upscale hat store that offers an array of sophisticated hats in many styles.


Uptown Yardie

Uptown Yardie wool Felt Crowns are made and hand finished in London, constructed on hat blocks with an internal elastic band, for fit and comfort.

by Tony O. Lawson

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How to Grow Your Business With Community Crowdfunding

8 mins read

Community crowdfunding is a form of crowdfunding that includes equity crowdfunding and debt crowdfunding as its subcategories. For entrepreneurs who face difficulty in securing funding from traditional sources such as angel investors, venture capitalists, and banks, these alternative crowdfunding methods can be a viable option.

Equity and debt crowdfunding allows entrepreneurs to raise capital from a diverse group of investors who contribute small amounts of money in exchange for equity or debt in the company. This type of funding can be facilitated through online platforms, and the amount of capital that can be raised depends on the offering and the platform used.

To successfully utilize equity or debt crowdfunding, it’s crucial to have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of community crowdfunding. This includes the types of investors that participate and the potential amount of capital that can be raised. 

In this article, we will explore how to grow your business with equity crowdfunding.

Understand the basics of Community crowdfunding

Prior to pursuing funding through community crowdfunding, it is essential to understand its fundamentals. Equity crowdfunding enables businesses to raise capital through online platforms by offering shares of the company to investors or allowing investors to lend capital to a founder in the form of debt. These investors may be individuals, organizations, or groups. Depending on the platform and the type of offering, the amount of capital a business can raise through equity crowdfunding can vary.

Regulation Crowdfunding (Reg CF) and Regulation A+ are types of equity crowdfunding. Reg CF permits businesses to raise up to $5 million, whereas Reg A+ permits businesses to raise up to $75 million. Unlike donation crowdfunding, Reg CF and Reg A+ require greater regulatory compliance and are governed by the SEC and FINRA for protection and transparency.

Choose the right equity crowdfunding platform

There are a variety of equity crowdfunding platforms available, and it is essential to select the most suitable one for your business. Each platform has its own rules, regulations, and fees; therefore, it is essential to investigate each platform to determine which is the best fit for your business.

Each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses, and it is important to consider the platform’s fees, investor network, track record, and other benefits. Seed At The Table, for instance, provides a diverse founder focus as well as advisor and resource matching.

Create a compelling pitch

A successful equity crowdfunding campaign requires a compelling pitch that clearly communicates the value proposition of your business as well as the benefits of the partnership to potential investors. Your pitch should highlight your business’s unique selling points, market opportunity, and growth potential. It should also address any potential risks or challenges associated with your business.

Your pitch should be visually appealing and include multimedia elements such as images and videos to engage potential investors. It is also important to include a clear call to action that directs potential investors to your crowdfunding page. The goal is to allow both your investors and customers to be advocates of your business.

Set realistic funding goals

A successful equity crowdfunding campaign requires setting attainable funding goals. Your funding goal should be based on the financial needs and growth plans of your business. It is essential to set a funding goal that is neither too low nor too high, as this can deter potential investors. According to research, the average raise is $200k.

Setting a realistic funding goal also helps to create momentum for your campaign. If you achieve your funding goal early in the campaign, this can generate excitement and encourage more investors to contribute. Also, only 150 Black women have ever raised more than $1 million in any capacity, so it’s important to keep your expectations realistic. Two of the 150 have been launched by Seed At the Table.

Build a strong investor community

Building a strong investor community early (even before launching) is key to the success of your equity crowdfunding campaign. Your community should include early adopters, supporters, and evangelists who are passionate about your business and can help spread the word about your campaign.

It is important to engage with your investor community regularly through social media, email newsletters, and other communication channels. This helps to create a sense of belonging and fosters loyalty among your investors. You can now legally “test the waters” which means assessing your communities intentions to invest in private before fully launching publicly.

Deliver on your promises

Equity crowdfunding is not just about raising capital; it is also about building a community of supporters who believe in your business. It is important to deliver on your promises and provide regular updates to your investors. It’s also important to be transparent about your business’s progress and any challenges you face along the way. This is not only encouraged, but required by FINRA/SEC. Delivering on your promises also helps to build trust and credibility and create a positive reputation for your business, which can attract more investors in the future. 

Leverage the power of equity crowdfunding beyond funding

Equity crowdfunding can provide more than just funding for your business. It can also provide valuable marketing and exposure opportunities. A successful equity crowdfunding campaign can generate media coverage, attract new customers, and create buzz around your business. It’s an opportunity to allow your community and customers to participate in your growth journey while continuing to consume and advocate your product as fans, customers, and investors.

By leveraging the power of equity crowdfunding beyond funding, you can create a virtuous cycle of growth and success for your business. For example, you can use the funds raised through equity crowdfunding to launch new products, expand into new markets, or invest in marketing and advertising campaigns.

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DIARRABLU: Where Math, Tradition, and Sustainability Meet Fashion

10 mins read

DIARRABLU is a luxury fashion brand that blends mathematics, sustainability, and cultural traditions to create unique and beautiful clothing.

In this interview, we spoke with founder Diarra Bousso about her journey as a fashion designer, her passion for creative mathematics, her insights on the future of the fashion industry and more.

Diarra Bousso

What first drew you to become a fashion designer, and how did you get started in the industry?

I started my parent company in 2013 after feeling very unhappy on Wall Street and craving more creativity in my life. I returned to Senegal to reconnect with my artisanal heritage and started designing. For years, I was testing accessories and various types of clothing until 2015, when I decided I wanted to focus on building a contemporary lifestyle brand. However, the big breakthrough happened in 2018 when I went to Stanford for my Master’s exploring creative mathematics.

I used to draw and paint since very little, and for the first time, I was so swamped with teaching and grading that I no longer had the time or bandwidth to draw. I then had the idea to use math equations and concepts to create my textile patterns faster. This changed the direction of my company, and from then on, DIARRABLU became a fashion tech company using math to create fashion more efficiently and more consciously. 

Can you tell us about your teaching and research of Creative Mathematics in Silicon Valley and how it relates to your work in fashion design?

I became a math teacher after getting my Master’s in Math Ed at Stanford in 2018. One day I was grading Algebra papers focused on graphing linear, absolute value, and quadratic equations and started seeing their mistakes differently. Many students would place the vertex of the quadratic elsewhere or just get confused with the symmetry.

I looked at the realm of their answers across 88 students and started daydreaming about the patterns all their combined mistakes could produce. The next day, I stayed up all night graphing various equations and coloring the intersecting regions randomly. It set the tone for how I would re-teach graphing in my Algebra class for the following weeks but also informed an innovative new design process for my prints.

Being from an artisan family, the natural next step was to fuse both worlds. Today I create innovative ways to teach mathematics using art/fashion and my lessons are used by over 20,000 math educators around the country. 


How do you merge algorithms, tradition, and sustainability in your design concept?

As a mathematician, I’ve always been fascinated by numbers. At DIARRABLU, we’ve created a system that utilizes math algorithms to generate numerous print iterations using a combination of shapes, colors, textures etc. I either manually write equations to create patterns, use AI and machine learning or hand paint my designs.

Often it’s a combination of both as I love merging the authentic and the automatic. These prints are rendered on digital designs and shared on social media for people to vote. We only move to production based on customer demand and engagement. Through this approach, we’ve been able to reduce textile waste by 60% while continuously introducing new designs digitally.

In my culture, sustainability is a way of life rather than a fleeting trend. By producing on demand instead of stocking inventory, we remain true to our values and help the industry to reduce waste. It’s who we are and what we stand for. 


How do you manage your global team between Dakar, New York, Sao Paulo and San Francisco? 

Our team has grown from less than 10 pre-pandemic to over 45 today, the majority is in Dakar, Senegal, but we also have great members in New York, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Madrid, The Philippines, Cape Town, Abidjan, among others.

Today, I organize my routine to ensure I support all of them; it’s a challenge, but I’m lucky to have a great team that supports each other. My mom manages the artisan team in Senegal and she now works with great operations managers. My US operation team is managed out of New York and I am focused on managing the creative and marketing teams that are fully remote.

I am also managing the overall company and that requires a lot of alignment and planning. Luckily everyone is so excited and passionate about what they do and we feel like one big international family.

What are some of the challenges you face in leading a global team? 

The biggest challenge is navigating cultural differences. For example, our Dakar team is 100% West African but with multiple countries, languages, and ethnicities and it was so eye-opening to witness how much diversity exists even in a seemingly all Black team. The notion of leadership is very different in Senegalese culture vs Ivory Coast, Benin, or Cameroun.

On the US side, we also see that a mindset focused on efficiency and optimization sometimes goes against the traditions and beliefs of our artisan team in Senegal. There are also language barriers whereby most of the team in Senegal speaks Wolof and French whereas in the US we conduct all meetings in English.

From a global standpoint, the DIARRABLU team features multiple ethnicities across various continents which also means we often can get lost in translation as for most of us, English is a second or even third language. For me, managing people across all these cultures, time zones and languages has helped me grow tremendously. It’s definitely a very humbling challenge I truly welcome every day


You’ve showcased your collections during New York and Paris Fashion Week and represented Senegal at World Fashion Week Paris. What is your biggest achievement so far?

Starting and running a fashion brand out of my childhood bedroom makes every achievement a big deal. From selling with huge retailers, like Nordstrom, to seeing many people wearing DIARRABLU around the world and supporting our stories. For me, it’s not about money or success. It’s about magic, life, people, and my passion for fashion and math. 

If I had to pick the biggest achievement, however, it would be the fact that this company has allowed my mom to find her true passion in life! Mom left her career to raise 4 kids while my dad worked tirelessly and together they dedicated everything to us and our education. I feel so much gratitude and respect for my parents and their sacrifices. Today, we are all grown and Mom gets to do something she loves, manage a team and feel fulfilled through work that is so meaningful for her and the entire family. 

Diarra’s mother

How do you see the fashion industry evolving in the next few years?

I believe the industry will continue its shift towards sustainability and transparency in production, with technology playing a major role in improving efficiency and reducing waste. I also think that there will be a greater focus on inclusivity and diversity in the industry as consumers demand more representation from the brands they support.

What are your future plans for DIARRABLU?

I want to explore further what we can create by merging math and fashion with our iterative design philosophy while amplifying our message for a more ethical and sustainable fashion future. I am excited to explore home goods and accessories and also invest more time in releasing more art in the forms of paintings, digital prints and NFTs.

by Tony O. Lawson

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10 Ways to Teach Financial Literacy to Black Children

5 mins read

Financial literacy is an essential skill that everyone needs to have, but unfortunately, it is not taught in most schools, and many parents do not prioritize teaching their children about it. This lack of financial education has a significant impact on Black children and their families, as they are often more likely to experience financial hardships and inequality.

Teaching Black children about financial literacy can help them develop healthy financial habits and make informed decisions that will benefit them in the long term. Here are some ways to teach Black children about financial literacy:

1. Start early

Financial literacy should be taught to children from a young age. Even preschoolers can learn basic concepts such as the value of money and saving. Teaching children about money early on helps them to develop good habits and gives them a head start in understanding financial concepts.

2. Use relatable examples

When teaching children about financial literacy, it is important to use examples that are relatable to their lives. For example, you can use examples of how they can save money from their allowance or use their birthday money to buy something they really want. By using examples that are relevant to their lives, children are more likely to understand and remember the lessons.

3. Teach them about budgeting

Teaching children about budgeting is an important part of financial literacy. Show them how to create a budget and stick to it. Teach them how to prioritize their expenses and save for big purchases. Children who learn how to budget at an early age are more likely to be financially responsible as adults.

4. Teach them about credit

Credit is an important part of the financial world, but it is often misunderstood. Teach children about credit, how it works, and how to use it responsibly. Teach them about the importance of building good credit and how it can impact their financial future.

5. Teach them about saving

Saving is an important habit to develop from an early age. Teach children about the importance of saving money, and show them how to save for different things, such as a college education or a down payment on a home. Encourage them to save a portion of their allowance or any money they receive as gifts.

6. Teach them about investing

Investing is a powerful tool for building wealth, but it can also be complex and intimidating. Teach children about investing, the different types of investments, and how to invest in a responsible and safe way. Explain the concept of compound interest and how it can help their savings grow over time.

7. Teach them about taxes

Taxes are a part of life, and it is important for children to understand how they work. Teach children about taxes, why we pay them, and how they impact our lives. Explain to them how taxes are used to pay for public services like schools, roads, and emergency services.

8. Use games and activities

Games and activities can be a fun way to teach children about financial literacy. There are many board games and online games that teach children about money and financial concepts. You can also create your own games and activities, such as a savings challenge or a budgeting exercise.

9. Teach them about entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is a great way to build wealth and create a better future for oneself. Teach children about entrepreneurship, how to start a business, and how to manage the finances of a business. Encourage them to think creatively and come up with their own business ideas.

10. Be a good role model

Children learn by example, so it is important to be a good role model when it comes to finances. Show your children how to manage money responsibly, and demonstrate good financial habits. Talk to them about your own experiences with money, both good and bad, and teach them how to learn from mistakes.

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Empowering Minorities in Banking: A Q&A with Nicole A. Elam, President and CEO of the National Bankers Association

10 mins read

The National Bankers Association (NBA) is the leading trade association for the country’s minority depository institutions (MDIs). The Association strives to preserve and promote Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, and women-owned and operated banks across the country, all working to help communities that are underserved by traditional banks and financial service providers. The NBA works collaboratively with its member banks to eliminate the racial wealth gap.

MDIs are at the center of wealth creation by providing financial services, mortgages, and small business loans to minority, low- to moderate-income, and underserved communities — when other financial institutions would not.

Today, there are 21 Black banks. At its peak, there were 134. This decline means that fewer banks are serving Black communities. The National Bankers Association is working to address the decline in the number of Black banks and the growing digital divide that is exacerbating racial inequality in financial services.

The Association’s nonprofit affiliate is leading the way by creating partnerships with technology and fintech companies to provide solutions for minority banks that help bridge the digital divide and support their continued growth and success.

Nicole A. Elam, Esq. is the youngest President and CEO of the National Bankers Association since the Association’s founding in 1927.

In this interview, Nicole A. Elam, Esq. discusses the technical assistance and resources being offered to Black and minority banks in the digital era, the importance of increasing access to Tier 1 capital, encouraging private-sector investment, and more.

Nicole A. Elam

What technical assistance or resources are being offered to Black banks to help them thrive in an era of digital disruption?

Digital innovation is needed now more than ever to scale and remain competitive in the banking industry. But implementing technology is expensive. The largest banks spend $10 to $11+ billion a year on technology. Contrast that with $374 million, the average asset size of a Black bank.

As small banks, MDIs will never be able to outspend competitors. To solve this, the nonprofit arm of the National Bankers Association, in partnership with the Alliance for Innovative Regulation, launched MDI ConnectTech to bridge the digital divide and support the continued growth and success of these critical institutions.

With $10 million in leading grant support from the Citi Foundation’s Community Finance Innovation Fund, MDI ConnectTech works with MDIs to develop and integrate technology solutions that multiply their lending capacity and effectively increase the accessibility and affordability of financial services to underserved customers.

These efforts enable minority banks to remain sustainable financial epicenters for economically vulnerable consumers and small businesses.

How are Black banks best positioned to help our communities recover and overcome many of the systemic issues that have placed them at an economic disadvantage?

Black and minority banks were born out of racism because Black, brown, and immigrant communities could not go to mainstream financial institutions for their banking services. The unfortunate reality is that’s still the case today.

Since the Freedman’s Savings Bank founding in 1865, MDIs have been the cornerstone of efforts to narrow the racial wealth gap by providing financial services, mortgages, and small business loans to minority, low-to-moderate-income, and underserved communities — when other financial institutions would not.

Today, MDIs serve communities that are 77% minority, originate a higher share of small business loans to borrowers in low- and moderate-income census tracts when compared to non-MDIs, and generate 37% of their mortgages to minority borrowers compared to only 13% from non-MDIs. Data continues to show MDIs support the community when they need it the most.

What steps are being taken to give Black banks greater access to Tier 1 capital that would allow them to scale?

Tier 1 capital is essential for banks to grow and scale. For every dollar of capital invested, they can increase their lending and impact on the community by a multiple of ten. The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Emergency Capital Investment Program provided an unprecedented $3 billion in capital investments to MDIs to augment their efforts to support small businesses and consumers in their communities that were impacted by the pandemic.

The private and philanthropic sectors have also stepped up. Over the last three years, MDIs have experienced explosive growth, growing by 35% in assets – which is faster than the national average in the banking industry. And Black banks have experienced the most growth, growing by 56% in assets.

The global pandemic and the racial awakening of 2020 brought increased attention to MDIs. The federal government, private sector, and philanthropic community have all acknowledged that supporting communities and businesses hardest hit by the pandemic, and closing the racial wealth gap, involves investing capital into the financial institutions that sit in and serve those communities.

In what ways is the capitalization of Black banks an environmental issue as well as an economic one?

A 2021 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that minority and underserved communities are often more vulnerable to the harmful impact of climate change. During financial hardships brought on by events like climate change or a global pandemic, Black and minority banks are on the ground, deeply rooted and active in the community.

The National Bankers Association, and ten other organizations led by the African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs, formed the Community Builders of Color Coalition to urge EPA to ensure that minority communities benefit equally from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

The Fund provides $7 billion in competitive grants for clean energy and climate projects that decrease greenhouse gas emissions and enable low-income and disadvantaged communities to access or benefit from zero-emission technologies. The Coalition is seeking a grant through this Fund for community lenders, like MDIs.

By supporting renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other clean energy projects, Black banks and MDIs help to create jobs, stimulate economic growth and promote social equity while positively impacting the environment.

How can private-sector investors be encouraged to make equity investments in Black banks?

The White House-led Equitable Opportunity Coalition is a great example of the private sector stepping up. Several Wall Street banks and Coalition members have made equity investments in Black and minority banks, realizing that if you want to support communities of color then you must invest in the community lenders that support them.

Over a century of data proves the important role Black and minority banks play in closing the racial wealth gap. Add that data to the fact that every dollar of capital invested in a Black bank can be leveraged to increase lending and impact in communities of color by a multiple of ten.

Taken together that makes a compelling argument of why the private sector is making equity investments in Black and minority banks to catalyze impact and advance their racial equity efforts.

How can the minority ownership status of our Black banks be protected?

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation defines MDIs as a depository institution in which minority ownership is at least 51% or the majority of board members are minority, and the community served is predominately minority. Given the role Black banks and MDIs play in communities, it’s essential to protect their ownership status.

One of this year’s legislative priorities for the National Bankers Association is modifying the Bank Holding Company Act to allow for significant infusions of non-dilutive equity investments in MDIs without jeopardizing their minority status.

Under the Act, a MDI’s minority ownership status is jeopardized when an investment exceeds 25% of the institution’s equity, which is easy to do if you’re a small bank. The Association is advocating to exempt community banks under $3 billion from the 25% change-of-control provisions to attract significant equity investments and to help protect the minority ownership status of minority banks.

by Tony O. Lawson

Black Hair Matters: How the CROWN Act is Fighting Back Against Hair Discrimination

5 mins read

The CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair)) is a California law that extends protection under the FEHA and the California Education Code to prohibit discrimination based on hairstyle and hair texture. It is the first state-level legislation in the United States to prohibit such discrimination.

The CROWN Act has been enacted in several U.S. states, including California, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Colorado, as well as in some municipalities.

The CROWN Act represents a significant stride in tackling discrimination in various institutions. This legislation prohibits employers, schools, and other entities from discriminating against individuals because of their natural hair texture, style, or protective hairstyles such as braids, twists, and locs. Furthermore, it offers protection against discrimination based on hair length, texture, or hairstyles associated with a particular race or ethnicity.

One of the most notable cases of hair discrimination in recent years was the case of Andrew Johnson, a high school wrestler from New Jersey. In 2018, Johnson was forced to cut off his locs before a wrestling match, or else forfeit the match. The incident sparked outrage and reignited the conversation about hair discrimination in schools and sports.

Andrew Johnson of Buena Regional High School being forced to get a haircut rather than forfeit the game.

In 2017, two Black high school students in Massachusetts, Mya and Deanna Cook, were prohibited from participating in any extracurricular activities at their school, including prom.

The school threatened to suspend the Cook sisters for violating the dress code after they refused to take out their braided hair extensions and were given multiple hours of detention. The Cooks fought back. Students, parents, organizations, and the Massachusetts attorney general rallied against the school, condemning its rules as discriminatory and in violation of both state and federal laws.

C.R.O.W.N. Act
Mya and Deanna cook

Another high-profile case was that of Chastity Jones, who lost a job offer because of her dreadlocks. Jones was offered a job at Catastrophe Management Solutions in Alabama, but the company rescinded the offer after she refused to cut her dreadlocks. Jones filed a lawsuit, but it was dismissed by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the company’s policy did not constitute race discrimination.

These cases illustrate the pervasive nature of hair discrimination and the need for legislative action to protect individuals from discrimination based on their natural hair. The CROWN Act and similar legislation are essential steps towards ending this form of discrimination and creating a more inclusive society.

However, some critics argue that it is unnecessary and could lead to frivolous lawsuits. Opponents argue that employers and schools should have the right to enforce dress codes and grooming policies as they see fit. They also claim that it could lead to confusion and legal challenges, as it may be difficult to determine what constitutes discrimination based on hair.

Despite these criticisms, the CROWN Act has received widespread support from advocates, lawmakers, and civil rights groups. Supporters argue that natural hair discrimination is a serious issue that has long-lasting impacts on Black individuals, including limiting job opportunities and affecting their self-esteem.

In addition to legislation, many companies and organizations have also taken steps to address hair discrimination. For example, in 2019, the Army revised its grooming policies to allow for natural hairstyles such as twists and locs. Several major companies, including Dove and Pantene, have launched campaigns to celebrate and promote natural hair.

This legislation is an important step towards ending hair discrimination and creating a more inclusive society. It sends a powerful message that discrimination based on hair texture, style, or protective hairstyles will no longer be tolerated. However, more work needs to be done to address systemic racism and discrimination in all forms.

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The Cultural Significance of Coffee in Africa and Black America

5 mins read

Coffee has a rich and fascinating history in Africa, dating back several centuries. The story of coffee in Africa is one of trade, migration, and cultural significance. The journey of coffee from Africa to America was a long and winding road that took many years, but today it is a staple beverage on both continents.

Coffee is believed to have originated in the region of Ethiopia, where it was first discovered growing wild. Ethiopian tribesmen were known to have used the beans for medicinal purposes, as well as to produce a beverage that was used in religious ceremonies. It wasn’t until the 9th century that coffee began to spread beyond Ethiopia, reaching the surrounding countries of Yemen, Egypt, and the Middle East.

coffee africa

The first coffee plantations in Africa were established in the 16th century by the Portuguese, who had colonized many parts of the continent. From there, coffee spread to other European colonies, including the Dutch and French, who established coffee plantations in what are now known as Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa.

Coffee quickly became an important crop in Africa, providing jobs and income for many people. It also played a significant role in shaping the cultural and economic landscape of the continent. In the 19th century, coffee became a major export from Africa to Europe, with trade routes established between the two continents.

The journey of coffee from Africa to America was a slow and steady process that took many years. The first coffee plant was introduced to the Americas in the early 17th century, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that coffee became a major commercial crop. Today, coffee is a staple beverage in America, with millions of people drinking it every day.

The cultural significance of coffee in Africa and America is undeniable. In Africa, coffee is often associated with hospitality and is a symbol of generosity and friendship. In America, coffee has become an important part of the daily routine for many people, serving as a pick-me-up and a source of comfort and energy.

Coffee has also played a significant role in shaping the history of both Africa and America. For example, in Africa, coffee was an important commodity in the slave trade, with enslaved Africans being forced to work on coffee plantations. In America, coffee was a major part of the civil rights movement, with coffee shops serving as gathering places for activists and leaders.

Coffee shops in America played a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement by providing a safe and neutral space for activists and leaders to gather and discuss strategies. They were also used as a platform to spread awareness and mobilize people to take action against racial discrimination and inequality.

coffee africa

For example, the famous Greensboro sit-ins in North Carolina were started by four African American college students who sat at a Woolworth’s lunch counter, demanding to be served. The sit-ins quickly spread to other cities and became a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. Many other similar protests were also organized in coffee shops, which served as meeting places for activists and leaders to plan their actions.

Coffee shops also provided a safe space for artists and musicians to perform and showcase their work. Jazz and blues music, which were popular among African Americans, often had their roots in coffee shops and provided a powerful voice for the Civil Rights Movement. The music conveyed messages of hope, unity, and resistance, and inspired people to come together and fight for their rights.

Today, coffee shops in America continue to serve as gathering places for people from all walks of life. They are places where people can come together to socialize, work, and discuss important issues.

coffee africa

The legacy of coffee as a tool for social and political change lives on, and its cultural significance cannot be underestimated.

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Creating Profitable Spaces: The Basics of Real Estate Development

4 mins read

Real estate development is a process of improving and enhancing land or property to increase its value and make it suitable for specific use.

This can involve developing new structures, such as commercial or residential buildings, or renovating existing ones. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of real estate development and explore the opportunities available in both the commercial and residential sectors.

Commercial Development

Commercial development involves the construction or renovation of buildings for commercial use, such as office buildings, retail spaces, and hotels. The goal is to create spaces that will be in high demand by businesses and generate a profit for the developer. Opportunities in commercial real estate development include building new retail centers, renovating existing office buildings, and developing hotels in tourist areas.

Residential Development

Residential development involves the construction or renovation of homes and apartments for people to live in. The goal is to create high-quality, attractive homes and apartments that people will want to live in, and to generate a profit for the developer. Opportunities in residential real estate development include building new subdivisions, renovating existing apartment buildings, and developing luxury homes.

Key Considerations

Regardless of the type of real estate development you’re interested in, there are several key considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Market demand: It’s important to research the demand for the type of property you’re planning to develop. For example, is there a high demand for luxury homes in your area? Are there enough businesses that would be interested in leasing office space in your proposed retail center?
  2. Location: The location of your development is key to its success. Consider factors such as proximity to transportation, access to amenities, and the local economy.
  3. Financing: Real estate development can be expensive, so you’ll need to secure financing. This can include loans, investments, and partnerships.
  4. Zoning and regulations: Before starting a development project, it’s important to research local zoning laws and regulations to ensure that your project is allowed and meets all necessary requirements.
  5. Building and construction: Construction is a complex process that requires careful planning and management. Make sure you have a team of professionals, including architects, contractors, and engineers, to help ensure that your project is completed on time and within budget.

Real estate development can be a lucrative and exciting field with opportunities in both the commercial and residential sectors. However, it requires careful planning, research, and execution to ensure success. By considering market demand, location, financing, zoning and regulations, and building and construction, real estate developers can create profitable and attractive spaces that meet the needs of businesses and individuals alike.

Whether you’re interested in developing new commercial spaces or creating beautiful homes and apartments, the possibilities in real estate development are endless. With dedication, hard work, and a little bit of creativity, you can turn land into profitable assets and make a positive impact in your community.

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Black-Owned Climate Tech Startup, BlocPower Raises $150 Million to Decarbonize America’s Buildings

4 mins read

BlocPower is a Black-owned climate tech startup that is making American cities smarter, greener and healthier. BlocPower partners with utilities, government agencies, and building owners to identify unhealthy, energy-wasting buildings to retrofit.

The New York based startup then works with these building owners to develop, install and finance upgrades that reduce fossil fuel consumption—like replacing an oil burning boiler with an electric heat pump. BlocPower earns revenue via installation profits, financing fees, and enterprise contracts.

Today, BlocPower announced a successful fundraising round of $150 million, which includes over $24 million of Series B corporate equity led by VoLo Earth Ventures and $130 million of debt financing led by Goldman Sachs. Other investors who joined the equity round include Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, Credit Suisse, Builders Vision, New York State Ventures, Unreasonable Collective, Kimbal and Christiana Musk, Gaingels, Van Jones, Kapor Capital, My Climate Journey, Tale Venture Partners, and NBA superstar and entrepreneur Russell Westbrook.

To date, BlocPower has raised over $250 million of capital to finance building decarbonization in low-income communities.

The investment round will enable BlocPower to expand its heat pump and building electrification programs across the U.S. The company will further develop its proprietary BlocMaps SaaS analytics platform, grow its financing and administrative capabilities, and broaden its Civilian Climate Corps green workforce initiative, which focuses on training and hiring at-risk individuals in vulnerable communities.

“Since 2014, BlocPower has focused on decarbonizing America’s urban core, developing the green economy’s workforce, and bringing climate justice to underserved and vulnerable communities. We are fighting the climate crisis while improving quality of life for city residents. Series B equity and working capital financing from Goldman Sachs will allow us to accelerate building decarbonization across America. We will help low-to-moderate income communities to access the benefits of President Biden’s once in a lifetime green economy investments,” said Donnel Baird, CEO and founder of BlocPower.

The company has shown significant growth since its 2020 Series A, with 4,000% revenue growth and signing city-scale decarbonization projects in Ithaca, NY and Menlo Park, CA, as well as large-scale projects in Denver, CO; San Jose, CA; Buffalo, NY; Atlanta, GA; and San Luis Obispo, CA. The company has completed hundreds of green energy upgrades across the country, bringing the total number of completed projects to more than 5,000 apartments, homes, houses of worship, and commercial buildings.

BlocPower’s Civilian Climate Corps was awarded a two-year, $108 million contract from New York City Mayor Eric Adams to train 3,000 city residents for clean energy jobs and to help reduce gun violence as part of Mayor Eric Adams’ Precision Employment Initiative. The new contract expanded upon a $37 million contract from 2021, which launched the NYC Civilian Climate Corps. To support that growth, BlocPower opened two new training facilities in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

BlocPower’s work has been recognized by Vice President Kamala Harris, who is honoring the company as an Emerging Leader in Washington, D.C. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ensuring that 40% of climate infrastructure investments impact “Justice 40” communities, which are communities that have a history of excess pollution, disenfranchisement, and underinvestment.

by Tony O. Lawson

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