Pharrell Partners With Verizon To Launch Music Education Program

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Pharrell is giving back to his hometown of Virginia Beach in a major way. In addition to bringing the highly anticipated Something In The Water music festival to the coastal city, the songwriter and record producer has reportedly partnered with Verizon to launch a new music education program in nationwide Verizon Innovative Learning schools, according to Billboard.

Launched under the Verizon Foundation, the organization will provide free technology, internet access, technology-focused curriculum to under-resourced middle schools. The partnership also includes the building of a Verizon Innovative Learning Lab, which will feature cutting-edge technology such as augmented reality, virtual reality, robotics, and machine learning. The lab will be located in a middle school in Virginia Beach.

“I want all children to have access to that kind of creative growth, access, and support. All kids, not just my own,” Pharrell tells Billboard. “There’s a lot of variables in a situation as to why something falls apart, but there’s only one scenario where it holds together, and that’s when all the variables are there. The environment, the family, the school, the system — there’s so many things. We just want to do what we can to balance the odds so that as many kids as we can afford, or help and assist in whatever ways, get this access and support.”

Pharrell’s Something In the Water festival kicked off last night in Virginia Beach. The event will be going on all weekend long with performances by Chris Brown, Travis Scott, Sza, Pusha T, Jhene Aiko, and many more.

Hennessy Partners With Thurgood Marshall College Fund To Create Fellowship For HBCU Graduate Students

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Hennessy’s new partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) is being called a major game-changer. The two have joined forces to create a fellowship for HBCU graduate students.

What is being called the Hennessy Fellows Program is an initiative that will award scholarships and professional development resources to ten deserving graduate students. The premium cognac brand has made a commitment to support future African American leaders by donating $10 million over the next 10 years to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Recipients will be awarded financial assistance towards collegiate graduate level education programs, as well as curated corporate development experiences, including training forums and networking to enhance the exchange of ideas and provide direct exposure to the inter-relatedness of corporate, social and economic systems.

“We are honored to announce a ten-year partnership with Thurgood Marshall College Fund,” said Jim Clerkin, President and CEO of Moët Hennessy North America. “As a charter corporate sponsor of the fund, we continue to support the work of this organization in developing a pipeline of talent and future leaders from historically Black colleges and universities. I am proud of the work we have done together to date and look forward to continuing our efforts to build a broader, more inclusive talent base for corporate America.”

According to Blavity, the program will also look to help students who are often overlooked by financial aid programs.

“The issue of financial aid is not only limited to undergraduate students on our HBCU campuses. Limited resources for graduate students also lead to student drop off,” said Dr. David Wilson, President of Morgan State University, one of the schools participating in the program. “Hennessy’s initiative will be a lifeline of support providing more opportunities for graduate students that are often forgotten.”

The Hennessy Fellows Program is now accepting applications for the Fall 2019 semester through May 5. The selected 10 will be announced in June. For more information, including eligibility requirements and how to apply, please visit

“When such a tremendously successful global brand like Hennessy invests in a higher education non-profit like ours, it tells the world that HBCUs and PBIs have value and are worth investing in, and TMCF is the best steward to carry out such a monumental investment,” said Dr. Harry L. Williams, President & CEO, TMCF. “This is major, and it can’t be overlooked as just a financial contribution, it is a real partnership that is a game changer for the students and our community.”

Tarana Burke Announces #MeToo HBCU Tour For Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and Tarana Burke is looking to continue the #MeToo conversation by going on a tour to several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) across the country. Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, made the announcement on Instagram.


“I’m so excited to finally announce this!! This has been a vision of mine for many, many years,” Burke’s caption reads. “Every year during April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) college campuses around the country turn their focus towards dealing with sexual violence but very little activity happens on HBCU campuses during SAAM even though we know it’s happening.”


Burke says that in 2018 she spoke at more than 70 schools and surprisingly only two of them were HBCUs. She’s looking to change that by teaming up with Yaba Blay to “bring this right to the yard and provide a space for HBCU students to talk, vent, strategize and heal.” Dr. Blay is the creator and producer of a number of online campaigns including #PrettyPeriod – a visual celebration of dark-skinned Black beauty – and #ProfessionalBlackGirl – a web series and digital community dedicated to celebrating everyday, ‘around-the-way’ #BlackGirlMagic.


“While we are working in service to survivors of sexual violence from all walks of life,  it’s always been about Black people, particularly Black women and girls. This tour is important because we know that Black women make up the majority of the student population at HBCUs,” Burke tells Blavity. “The college tour is an extension of our work to center marginalized communities in the movement to end sexual violence wherever it exists.”


According to the, each stop on the tour will include strategic convenings with campus leaders, a workshop for men and male-identifying individuals, and a fireside chat featuring special guests. The tour will be sponsored by The Root and Lifetime with free admission for the public.

Aoki Lee Simmons Gets Accepted Into Harvard University

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Following an Instagram Live video earlier this month where she admitted to being bullied at school, Aoki Lee Simmons has not let that interfere with her studies as the 16-year-old has been accepted into Harvard University.

Aoki, the daughter of Kimora and Russell Simmons, shared a tearful video that documented the moment she found out she was accepted into the Ivy League school with the caption that reads, “I’m only 16 and I’m going to Harvard baby! Insert emotional crying face.”

Aoki also quoted her mother Kimora Lee Simmons saying, “thank god you got in on your own honey cause you can’t row,” which is in reference to the recent USC scandal involving Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. The women are among 50 people being charged for their involvement in a bribery and cheating scheme to get unqualified children into top colleges. According to NBC News, court papers revealed that Loughlin allegedly told a cooperating witness that she would arrange for one of her daughters to be photographed on a rowing machine to bolster the false claim on the college application that her daughter was on a crew team.

“Thank you so much to every single person who helped me along the way. I am excited and honored and so so grateful,” Aoki writes.

Congratulations to Aoki!

Steph & Ayesha Curry Foundation Launches Scholarship Program For Girls

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The Steph & Ayesha Curry Family Foundation has launched an annual scholarship for college-bound female students from the Bay Area who are interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

The idea of the scholarship was inspired by 9-year-old Riley Morrison, who wrote a letter to Steph Curry expressing her frustration with the lack of sneakers in the girls section of the Under Armour website. Not only did the Golden State Warriors point guard send Morrison two pairs of Curry sneakers, but the two also collaborated on a special purple colorway version of the Curry 6 sneakers, which was introduced in honor of International Women’s Day. Because Curry didn’t feel comfortable profiting off of Riley’s shoe design, he decided that the profits will fund a scholarship.


“The Steph & Ayesha Curry Family Foundation is funding an annual scholarship that’s given to a college-bound female student from the Bay Area who has shown an aptitude for overcoming adversity, catalyzing change within her community and demonstrating excellence in a STEM-related field of study,” according to the foundation. “The $30,000 scholarship, whose first recipient will be announced at tonight’s Golden State Warriors game, is paid over two years and requires the recipient to take two or more STEM-related classes each semester while maintaining a minimum 3.0 GPA.”


During the Golden State Warriors’ Friday night (March 8) game against the Denver Nuggets, the first recipient of the scholarship was announced. Vivian Wu is a senior at Oakland Tech, has a 4.2 GPA, and has completed over 300 hours of community service as an advocate for marginalized communities, including survivors of domestic violence.

Bennett College’s Accreditation Restored By Federal Judge After Appeal Rejected By Accrediting Body

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After celebrating the victory of being able to raise nearly $10 million in an effort to keep from losing accreditation, it was announced Friday (Feb. 22) that the Southern Association of Schools Commission on Colleges had rejected Bennett College’s appeal to have their accreditation restored. However, the institution then filed a lawsuit against the accrediting body, in which a federal judge granted the college a temporary restraining order to prevent the organization from revoking the college’s accreditation and notifying the Secretary of Education of its decision. It is because of the judge’s decision that Benett College’s accreditation has been restored and will remain restored during legal proceedings, which is expected to last several months.

For more, see the press conference below.


Bennett Colllege Raises $8.2 Million To Help Keep Accreditation, Surpassing Goal of $5 Million

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It was announced in December 2018 that HBCU Bennett College was at risk of losing its accreditation and could possibly close its doors after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges had voted to remove Bennett’s membership due to financial instability. The all-female institution was met with the challenging task of raising $5 million in an effort to stay open. Following the news, Bennett College received an outpour of support from everyone, including actor Jussie Smollett and brother Jake Smollett. The pair posted a photo on Instagram using the hashtag #StandWithBennett.

All of the support from the community and campaigning by Bennett students, alumni, and school officials has brought about amazing results as it has been announced that the North Carolina HBCU has surpassed its fundraising goal of $5 million by raising a total of $8.2 million.

“When we were cited in December that we would be removed from membership in SACS, we were told that we did not meet one standard, which was financial resources. And so, SACS has 90 to 95 standards, and that’s the only standard we did not meet. So, to that extent we have to produce $5 million to demonstrate financial stability,” Bennett College President, Phyllis Worthy Dawkins said.

Although Bennett has met its financial goal, they still have to undergo a formal appeal for its accreditation on Feb. 18. Community members will learn the accreditation board’s decision on Feb. 25. However, this is certainly a step in the right direction!

“As of today, we have raised $8.2 million! We could not have done it without any of you! We are forever grateful! THANK YOU!,” reads a tweet from Bennett College.

Morehouse College Receives $1.5 Million Donation From Billionaire CEO Robert F. Smith

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Morehouse College has announced that Robert F. Smith, the Founder and CEO of Vista Equity, has donated $1.5 million to the institution.

One million dollars of Smith’s donation will go toward creating the Robert Frederick Smith Scholars Program, while the rest will be used to create a park that will give students a new outdoor study area near the campus’ Ray Charles Performing Arts Center.

“Robert F. Smith’s donation of $1 million for student scholarships will have a profound impact on the lives of deserving young men who have the desire to attend Morehouse College, but lack the resources,” said Morehouse President David A. Thomas. “We appreciate his generosity and his investment in a generation of students who will follow in his footsteps as global leaders and entrepreneurs.”

Robert F. Smith is a billionaire, investor, philanthropist, and businessman, who founded Vista Equity Partners in 2000. A global leader in software and technology investments, Vista currently manages equity capital commitments of more than $46 billion and oversees a portfolio of more than 50 software companies, employing 60,000 people worldwide.

In 2016, Smith donated $20 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The donation from Smith was one of the largest gifts to the museum by an individual and supported the museum’s digitization program as well as community outreach and curatorial initiatives. To show their appreciation for Robert F. Smith’s donation, the museum renamed its Explore Your Family History Center to the Robert F. Smith Explore Your Family History Center.

“Robert F. Smith has been a trailblazer in the world of finance and technology, and he is now bringing his resources and expertise to empower, engage and enliven the African American community to embrace its history and culture,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the museum. “Robert’s gift exemplifies his commitment to increasing access to opportunity, recognizing the potential in each of us and his respect for our past.”

Robert F. Smith was listed on the Forbes 400 list as one of the 400 richest Americans.

Kevin Durant Opens After-School Center For Underprivileged Students In Hometown

Kevin Durant is looking to give back to his community in a major way by partnering with College Track to open The Durant Center in Prince George’s County, Maryland. College Track is a program that recruits students from underserved communities and works continuously with them from the summer before they begin high school on through college graduation.

The after-school center, which celebrated its launch Wednesday (Jan. 23) will serve as a place where students will receive the academic, financial, and social-emotional support needed to succeed. According to Yahoo! Sports, Durant has pledged $10 million over the next decade to the program, which features 69 students in its first class.

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Just last year Kevin Durant (@easymoneysniper) announced a $10M, 10-year commitment to bring College Track to his hometown of Prince George's County. Today we celebrate the launch of @durantcenter, welcoming 69 students from Suitland High School to this transformative program! – @washingtonpost chronicles the evolution of College Track at the Durant Center and our partnership with The Kevin Durant Charity Foundation and @pgcps here: – As Kevin says: “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard." Here's to the College Track at The Durant Center Class of 2026👨🏽‍🎓✨👩🏽‍🎓 We can't wait to see you soar. – #wearecollegetrack #educationfirst @35ventures @suitlandhigh1 #collegetrack #kevindurant #kevindurant35 @angelaalsobrooks #301 #princegeorgescountymd #sheisgoingtocollege #heisgoingtocollege @kevindurantfoundation

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The Golden State Warriors basketball star says it all starts with someone believing in you just like educators believed in him.

“I had coaches and teachers that believed I could be something special. That’s where it starts,” Durant told The Mercury News. “Just older folks that believe and trust in your potential, whether it’s coaches, teachers or guidance counselors. You need someone with more experience who believe in you.”

Kevin Durant made the decision to collaborate with College Track after becoming familiar with the work they’ve done in the Bay Area. College Track is an Oakland-based program, which will ultimately open its first east coast site through working on The Durant Center. According to The Washington Post, a second College Track location will open this autumn in Congress Heights in Southeast D.C. and a third is in the early planning stages.

“It wasn’t so much that he didn’t want to do something in the Bay,” College Track chief executive Elissa Salas said. “But he was looking to really invest really deeply in his home community.”

To learn more about College Track, click here.

Philadelphia Teen Who Was Once Homeless Receives Full Ride To Harvard University

After living in a homeless shelter, being bullied for being a “bookworm”, and spending a great deal of time in the hospital for severe migraines due to stress, Richard Jenkins has found a way to turn life’s negatives into positives. The Philadelphia teen has been accepted into Harvard University on a full scholarship.

In an interview with Philadelphia public radio station WHYY, Jenkins recalls an embarrassing yet life-changing moment where he admits to being ashamed to say he lived in a shelter.

“In the sixth grade, one time I was walking from school with my friend, and he was asking me where I lived,” he recalled. “The shelter looked like a big house — it could have been a mansion. So I told him, ‘Yeah, that’s my house right there,’ because I was so embarrassed to say I lived in a shelter. That’s when I realized I’ve got to buckle in because I can’t have my potential kids going through what I’m going through now.”

Ironically nicknamed “Harvard” for being devoted to academics, Jenkins began to take his studies more seriously, attending a non-profit after-school program at his middle school called Mighty Writers, which helps students sharpen their writing skills. Richard also began the agonizing process of applying to attend a selective high school, which started to a toll on his health.

“My migraines started in the eighth grade because of all of the stress I was dealing with at the time. There was a lot of pressure to get into high school and succeed. And then my dad had a heart attack,” he recalled. “I was eventually able to fight through it and get my work done because, at the end of the day, that was what was the most important to me.”

After being accepted into Girard College, a full-scholarship boarding high school for students from single-parent families with limited financial resources, Richard Jenkins went on to become his class valedictorian. He applied to several institutions, including three Ivy League schools, where he was ultimately accepted into Harvard on a full ride. There he plans to major in computer science.

“I’m most excited about the opportunity to expand my knowledge, because there’s so much history inside Harvard’s halls and so many people from different backgrounds, and I think it’s the perfect place to cultivate a mind,” says Jenkins.

Richard also says that what keeps him focused is the desire to want better his family.

“My drive comes from just wanting to see myself and my family be in a better situation and I do think drive is important for everybody, but what’s more important is that once you find what it is that you want, you have to keep working for it,” he says. “People may think that they’ve done enough, but it’s never enough.”

Freeform’s ‘Grown-ish’ Partners With Scholly For Student Loan Payoff Program

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The second season of Freeform’s Grown-ish, starring Yara Shahidi, premieres tonight with two back-to-back episodes. The Black-ish spinoff has partnered with Scholly, a scholarship search app, to help student loan borrowers pay off up to $125,000 in student loan debt. According to Scholly’s official website, the average student will be $40,000 in debt by the time they graduate.

“Scholly, up until now has focused on helping students avoid student loan debt but, we want to help those who have already amassed a certain amount of student loan debt break free of it,” Scholly founder Chris Gray tells Black Enterprise. “This is just the beginning. Our plan is to do a lot more of these sorts of grants in the near future.”

Scholly was named in Inc. Magazine’s Top College Start-Ups, won Under Armour’s Cupid’s Cup competition, and won Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest Competition. Gray was also named Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the year for 2015 for Philadelphia and is one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 for 2016. The company was featured on ABC’s hit show, Shark Tank, landing a deal with Daymond John and Lori Greiner. After being featured on the show, Scholly grew to become the #1 overall app in both the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store for over 3 weeks.

You have from today up until Jan. 31st at 11:59PM PST to apply for the Student Loan Payoff Program. Winners will be announced at the 2019 Freeform Summit. Good luck!


7-Year-Old Georgia Student’s Book Added To Library of Congress Catalog

Something that started out as an idea to help her son build his vocabulary turned into a children’s book that would soon be added to the Library of Congress catalog. Danielle and her 7-year-old son Nicholas Buamah are the creators behind the animated children’s book Kayla & Kyle The Walking Dictionaries: Election Day.

Kayla and Kyle are described as twins who are competing against one another to become their school’s next class president. Before their friends can cast their votes, they must first have a class debate to show that they are worthy contestants. This book is not only designed to expand the vocabulary of young children but to build their confidence and give them the proper tools to aspire to greatness.

“I developed the character of Kayla when Nicholas was younger to help teach him expanded vocabulary,” says Danielle. “After being praised by his first-grade teacher for using the word ‘collaborate’ during his first week of school, I asked Nicholas what he thought about writing a book to help his friends expand their vocabularies. He thought it was a great idea, as long as one of the main characters could be a male figure, and that’s when he created Kyle.”

Following the success of his first public appearance at a recent book signing in Snellville, Georgia, Nicholas Buamah was invited back to Barnes & Noble after Kayla & Kyle The Walking Dictionaries: Election Day sold out in one hour and several requests were made by parents looking to get their hands on this book. Danielle tells Black Enterprise that 7-year-old Nicholas described his experience as “phenomenal.”

Volume 2 of The Walking Dictionaries is scheduled to be released in Summer 2019. You can purchase Volume 1 at Barnes & Noble and on Amazon.

Nicholas is described as your typical charismatic second grader and when he’s not making public appearances, he’s engaging in a few of his favorite activities like chess, tennis, and basketball.