Meet Three 2018 College Graduates Reminding Young Women of Color To Always Reach For The Stars

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During a recent trip to New York City to attend the 2018 University Commencement ceremony for The New School, I was met with a very profound and enlightening revelation. As a young girl and even as a young child in general, I would encounter teachers, family members, and strangers on occasion who would remind me that I could do and be anything in this world I wanted to. Although I did believe that to be true, as I got older I also realized that as a young black woman, that would require me to work twice as hard to be considered just as good and it wouldn’t be easy.

I found it difficult to fight back the tears as my younger sister was called on stage to accept the David S. Woods award for humanitarianism at Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts’ recognition ceremony just a day earlier. After spending her freshman year in Ecuador as part of the non-profit organization, Global Citizen Year, having to complete a senior thesis that took 9 months of research, and everything that she’s accomplished in between, I felt like I was finally watching the stars align for her during these graduation ceremonies. And with every young black woman that accepted her college degree that day, I felt as though I was watching the stars align for them as well.

As a way to say congratulations, I wanted to shine a light on a few recent college graduates and remind the younger generations of women to come that you absolutely can do and be anything in this world that you want to. Yes, it will be difficult — no, the road won’t be easy, but I promise it is not impossible.

Congratulations to the entire class of 2018!

Cierra Bland

Graduating from Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts with a major in Global Studies, Cierra Bland was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia and spent her first year of college in Ecuador working on an organic farm and a shelter for victims of domestic violence. She has worked at the Schomburg Center For Research In Black Culture, volunteered as an ESL teacher, and interned at HarperCollins Publishers. As a member of the New School community, Cierra was a TA for Scene Study: Prison Plays, met with activists in Colombia as a Gural Scholar, organized a KnowYourRights campaign, and helped found the Black Student Union. Cierra Bland is a womanist who believes in storytelling as restorative justice.

Elesha Cole

Elesha Cole was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia and is a recent graduate of Valdosta State University, with a major in Chemistry and a minor in African American Studies. Throughout her college career, Elesha joined many great organizations such as NAACP, MAG: Media Art Geniuses, The Beauty Movement, and the Pre-Pharmacy Club. Not only was she able to uphold jobs in the retail and customer care industries while attending college, but Cole also managed to get her Pharmacy Technician license on top of creating, building, and growing her businesses, Ace of Gold Shoetique LLC and Gold Links Collection!

Tamia Mallory

Tamia Mallory was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia and is a recent graduate of George Mason University with a B.A. in Communication, a minor in Journalism, with a concentration in Media Production and Criticism. She has co-hosted The Spill, a talk show about campus life at GMU, and became Editor-In-Chief of Prime + Set. However, it doesn’t stop there for Tamia as she has a recently published article on Refinery29.com on being an aspiring black woman in media!

Meet 5 Black U.S. Farmers Who Are Changing The Way Their Communities View Land & Commitment To Social Change

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With time running out for farmers and ranchers to participate in the upcoming 2017 Census of Agriculture, we thought it would be a great idea to shine the light on five black farmers who are not only growing food according to Yes! Magazine, but are also changing the way their communities view land and commitment to social change.

The Census of Agriculture, which is conducted once every five years, reported in 2012 that the number of black farmers in the U.S. rose to 44,269, which is a 12% increase from the previous survey conducted five years earlier.

The information collected from the census data helps inform decisions on farm policy, rural development, and new farm technologies. It also aids in the creation and funding of loans and insurance programs and other forms of assistance, as well as in the cultivation of the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

In a 2016 article published by Albany farmer and educator, Leah Penniman, she recalls receiving a cold call from a Boston farmer looking for reassurance from another African-heritage agriculturist that despite the discrimination and obstacles she faced as a black farmer and the lack of access to land and credit that it was still possible to make it in the sharecropping business.

Leah states that for decades the U.S. Department of Agriculture discriminated against black farmers, excluding them from farm loans and assistance, which led to the loss of about 14 million acres of black-owned rural land.

In 1982, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights predicted that the black farmer, who only makes up about 1% of the industry, would be extinct by the year 2000. However, these black farmers prove that to be incorrect, including Kafi Dixon, Leah’s cold caller who went on to found Seeds of Change Solidarity Network.

Here’s to a black farmer appreciation post!

Blain Snipstal and Aleya Fraser
Farm: Black Dirt Farm Collective
Location: Preston, Maryland
Number of Years Farming: 7
Revered Elder: Harriet Tubman

About 80 miles southeast of Baltimore, Black Dirt leases 2 acres that long have been home to the Black freedom struggle. Harriet Tubman once rescued her parents and nine other people from enslavement in this place, which was one of the first stops on the Underground Railroad.

The 10 farming-collective members who work here today revere Tubman’s example and work to continue her legacy of revolutionary social change.

Eugene Cooke and JoVanna Johnson-Cooke
Farm: Grow Where You Are Collective
Location: Atlanta and Stone Mountain, Georgia
Number of Years Farming: 14
Revered Elder: Wangari Maathai

Since 2009, Grow Where You Are members have trained more than 100 urban farmers and helped start 18 urban farms, 14 school gardens, and 40 home gardens. They also prepare free vegan feasts for the local community, where neighbors gather for to learn about health, make new friends, and even practice capoeira—an Afro-Brazilian martial art form that brings together elements of dance and acrobatics. Founder Eugene Cook says these events show “what a sovereign community can feel and be like.”

Yonnette Fleming
Farm: Hattie Carthan Herban Farm
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Number of Years Farming: 16
Revered Elder: Hattie Carthan

For Fleming, farm work is an essential part of healing from the trauma of racism. Among her Brooklyn neighbors, she found Black elders who had worked as sharecroppers, as well as young people who’d never set foot on a farm and told her they wanted nothing to do with dirt. She brought the two groups together in a series of monthly storytelling circles in the garden, which built connections between the generations and addressed the young people’s aversion to the land.

Lindsey Lunsford
Farm: Tuskegee United Leadership and Innovation Program (TULIP)
Location: Tuskegee, Alabama
Number of Years Farming: 2
Revered Elder: Booker T. Washington

Lunsford is just getting started as a farmer, but her vision of a healthier community keeps her motivated. “We have a 24-hour McDonald’s, but we don’t have a 24-hour health care facility,” she explains.

When young people come to work in the garden, she starts off by asking them to draw a picture of Tuskegee, where more than 28 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Many draw scenes of violence, she says, often with the McDonald’s restaurant at the center of the image. “That’s what we are working to change.”

Chris Bolden-Newsome
Farm: Community Farm and Food Resource Center at Bantram’s Garden (a project of the University of Pennsylvania’s Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative)
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Number of Years Farming: 12
Revered Elders: Rufus and Demalda Newsome (his parents)

Before the “food justice” movement existed in the United States, Black farmers in the Mississippi Delta were cooperating to feed the community. Raised by farmers in that movement, Chris Bolden-Newsome assumed that growing food was something everybody did and was shocked to find otherwise when he moved north. He now manages a 50-bed community garden in his current home of Philadelphia, where he reconnects Black people to their agricultural heritage.

Black Girl Magic: Two African American Women Become The First Black Female Flight Crew

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Black women are making history yet again! On Mother’s day during a Portland bound flight from San Francisco, passengers onboard Flight 361 got to take part in “history in the flying” as Captain Tara Wright and First Officer Mallory Cave became the first ever Black female flight crew.

In addition to Sunday being Mother’s Day, it was also Wright’s 80th birthday. In a Facebook video posted she introduces herself and her “crew” first officer Mallory Cave to the passengers onboard Flight 361. After she wished everyone a Happy Mother’s Day then she let everyone know that they will be witnessing some #blackgirlmagic up close and personal, “you’ll be piloted by two African American females pilots for the first time in Alaskan Airline history.”

Although according to KTVA, Alaska Airlines, is more than 72 percent of employees are white and 60 percent are male this did not stop the Airline from celebrating the pair.

Alaska Airlines shared Wright’s moment on their Facebook page adding that Bessie Coleman started in 1921 and Wright and Cave are keeping her legacy going.

 

 

 

 

Seven Women Who Received Honorary Degrees

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Grad season is here. You have finally reached the end of the road to the most stressful but best time in your life. You can now rejoice because you are official done with school, but now what? If the transition into the “real world” isn’t what you expected, here are seven women whose stories will grant you all the #blackgirlmagic you need to push forward and kick ass in your field!

 

Aretha Franklin: The “Queen of Soul” obtained an honorary doctor of arts degree from Harvard University in 2014. While she did give the commencement speech, Franklin gave an amazing rendition of the national anthem Alicia Keys style. (only piano.)

 

Kerry Washington: Before she was cast as Olivia Pope, Washington was cast as a frog in the musical “Croak, or The Last Frog” on the campus of George Washington University where she earned her a Bachelor of Arts in 1998. In 2013, 15 years later The “Scandal” actress served as the commencement speaker and was awarded an honorary doctor of fine arts degree.

 

 

Oprah Winfrey: In 2011, Tennessee State University alumni Oprah Winfrey received an honorary doctorate from the University of the Free State in South Africa. She was awarded the degree for her commitment to education in Africa.

 

Global media leader, philanthropist, producer and actress Oprah Winfrey shows off her honorary degree May 21, 2017 during the 139th commencement ceremony at Smith College Quadrangle in Northampton.

 

Maya Angelou: Maya Angelou has several honorary awards. In 2001 the poet was presented with the Doctor Of Letters from Hope College where she spoke at the commencement ceremony.

Maya Angelou Receives Honorary Doctorate from Shenandoah University. (PRNewsFoto/Shenandoah University, Matthew Lofton)

 

Michelle Obama: Our “Forever First Lady” has received several honorary degrees but in 2012, Michelle Obama was awarded a public health doctorate degree for her work in promoting a healthier and nutritious way of living, and encouraging activities to cut down on childhood obesity from Oregon State University.

 

First Lady Michelle Obama holds up her diploma after receiving an honorary degree during the Oregon State University graduation ceremony in Corvallis, Ore., Sunday June 17, 2012. The First Lady gave the commencement address at Oregon State University, the school where her brother is the head basketball coach. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Jill Scott: In 2016 Grammy Award winning singer Jill Scott received the honor of Doctor of Humane Letters from her alma matter, Temple University. The President of Temple University said that Scott “values and achievements embody the mission and ideas of the university.”

 

Patti LaBelle: Our favorite diva Patti Labelle also received a doctorate degree in the honor of Doctor of Humane Letters from Temple University in 2010. Although she did not attend the college, LaBelle partnered with the university to raise awareness about diabetes.

Congrats to all of the graduates!

Five Books That Will Help You Live Your Best Life

We are almost half way through the year. With that being said are their any goals that set for New Years that have now fallen by the waste side? Have you lost your motivation to work out or start that business? Well don’t worry because it happens to the best of us. Here are five books that can assist you in getting that hustler sprit back!

 

Year Of Yes: Do you have the tendcy to talk yourself out of things? Well if you do, you are not alone. In her book, creator of TGIT, Shonda Rhimes, tells a tale of how she was afraid of things such as public speaking and media interviews. During a Thanksgiving dinner Shonda’s sister uttered six words, “you never say yes to anything.” Shondra knew she could not go on like this so she challenged herself to say yes for a year to things that frightened her. The lesson that can be taught from this book is to rise to every occasion and face fear head on. In the end you will be pleased with the results.

 

You Are A Badass How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Start Living An Awesome Life: This is book that I swear by. In the book the author, Jen Sincero delivers a how to guide that includes advice, exercise and inspiration that help target behaviors that are self sabotaging and detrimental to our growth. By the time I had finished reading “You Are A Badass,” I was felt like my mindset had completely changed and I incorporated new behaviors that helped me walk in my bad assery.

 

Be You & Live Civil: Tools For Unlocking Your Potential & Living Your Purpose: “The first step to living in your purpose is to identify what sets you apart, as opposed to looking at what other people are doing and figuring out why you’re not like them.” I received this book as a gift I graduated college in 2016. I was feeling down because my peers were landing jobs at news stations and I wasn’t. I have always been bubbly while my peers were more serious. Now fast forward to 2018 and I’m doing great things and media too. One of the gems Karen Civil dropped in this book in this book is that you can be different and still succeed in life. We are in the social media so it is easy to get caught up in the lives of other and want to be like them. Karen encourages us to march to the beat of our own drum and stay true to ourselves.

 

Leave Your Mark: This book is all about advice on how to land your dream job. Author Aliza Licht gives tips for people who are in he beginning stages of their career and how to move the chain. She emphasizes on commutation and building a personal brand.

 

Prince Charming Isn’t Coming: How Women Get Smart About Money: A good friend of mine recommended this book to me after my boyfriend and I broke up. We were living together and he paid for everything. In the book the author, Barbara Stanny gives practical living advice and inspires women to take control of their money and their destiny.

 

What books are you reading to help you live your best life?

Vanessa Williams Honored By The Hollywood Chamber Of Commerce With A Lifetime Achievement Award

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Vanessa Williams has been honored by The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Williams was given the award on Thursday at the Sheraton Universal Hotel in Universal City, Calif. The event was founded in 2000 to 2000 to “recognize celebrities who’ve made a difference in Hollywood.”

“I ended up doing musical theater in high school and some theater in college and Broadway was the tangible goal for me,” Williams said as she accepted her award. “Hollywood was never on the radar because it was one of those things that were unattainable.”

Williams did more than just make a name for herself in Hollywood, the actress was the first Black Miss America in 1983 and 1984. She also has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and has been in many films and television shows.

“Even though I feel like an outsider because this is all a dream, the fact that I can look at my life and see my achievements and know that Hollywood was such an integral part of what made me and what’s helped my career, I thank you.”

Three Things We Learned About Tyra Banks From Her Memoir ‘Perfect Is Boring’

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Tyra Banks has teamed up with her mother to release her latest book, Perfect Is Boring, which mixes in lessons for mothers and daughters as the duo trace Tyra’s journey from start to top model.

Here are three things we learned about Banks from the book.

She had a nose job

Banks, 44, says she “tweaked” her nose when she was younger.

“I had a Pinocchio nose: It just kept growing. Though instead of growing long, it continued to grow left and right in the area between my eyes. And that spot felt itchy all the time,” she wrote.

She says she didn’t have an issue with her nose (besides the itching), but decided to seek out a doctor after a makeup artist made a comment about it when she started modeling.

“He told me he could stop the itching and sculpt my nose with his philosophy — to preserve ethnic features,” she wrote, after explaining she turned down a previous doctor who wanted to give her a “straight-up-too-thin-too-point-too-WTF” nose. “Did he keep his physical promise and did the itching stop? You nose it.”

She was in the running to become Princess Tiana

Banks also says she was in the running to become the first black Disney princess but lost to Anika Noni Rose, a Broadway singer. The news crushed the model/actress, who loved Disney and was trying desperately to break into the music scene. 

“My dream was over. Done. Was not gonna happen. I was devastated,” she explained.

But it wasn’t all a loss. During a lunch with her (third) music manager not long after, an even better idea of how Banks could connect with people came to them: a talk show.

And so, The Tyra Banks Show was born. 

“Tyra wasn’t meant to be the next Katy Perry or J.Lo,” London wrote. “But the girl could talk and had a gift for helping people see the inner and outer beauty they couldn’t see in themselves.”

She is really good at saving money

“Even before my career, I was a saver. My brother was a spender, I was a saver. I would hold onto it forever and dole it out slowly. My mom explained to me the importance of real estate and that typically in Los Angeles it’s going to appreciate. While a lot of models were partying it up and going shopping and buying a closet of designer clothes or staying at the top hotels during fashion week, I was at the Doubletree or Embassy Suites, saving my money, and bought a house at 20 years old. She explained to me investing is super important.”

Also, when I was 19 years old, I was a new star on the rise. My mom said “You’re starting to make some money. It’s not a lot, but I’ve read about this investment banker and I want to meet with him and tell him that he should start managing your portfolio. So she went to meet with him and he was like, “Look, I don’t take anything below a million dollars to start.” And my mom’s like, “Look, here’s $10,000. They say my daughter is going to be a star and that she’s going to make a LOT of money. And you will not regret this.” And he said yes. And to this day, he’s still my money manager.

I was always conservative. I was always more interested in experiences over things. Things didn’t make me happy. I saved saved saved. But I saved to a fault. About 15 years ago, my accountants pulled me aside, and they were like “Tyra. You’re not spending money. Nothing. You’re just giving it away to the government. You need to spend some damn money!” So we created something called the “F Account.” Which was the “frivolous account.” And I had a budget to spend frivolously for the year, every year. I needed that to feel safe.

A Letter From Michelle Obama On International Women’s Day

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Today we celebrate #InternationalWomensDay, on this day we take the time to truly recognize the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. The past couple of years have been monumental for women, and especially special for women of color. Black women have become the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs and we are continuing to fight through every obstacle that has been placed in front of us.

Today, our favorite First Lady, Michelle Obama sent out an important letter to dedicated to women on #InternationalWomensDay. Please read below and enjoy your day ladies:

Hi there, and happy International Women’s Day.

Growing up, my parents always had a clear message for me and my brother: There is nothing more important for your future than getting a good education. Nothing.

Even though neither of them had a college degree, they were determined to give us that opportunity. And let me tell you, my education changed everything for me — opening doors I never could have imagined and allowing me to pursue the career of my dreams.

For me, education meant freedom and empowerment; the chance to fulfill my potential and make my voice heard in the world. And it breaks my heart that today, there are millions of girls across the globe who don’t have the chance to attend school.

We know the kind of impact educating girls can have — not just for them and their families, but for their communities and their countries as well.

Girls who go to school marry later, have lower rates of infant and maternal mortality, are more likely to immunize their children, and are less likely to contract malaria and HIV. Girls who are educated also earn higher salaries — 10 to 20 percent more for each additional year of secondary school. And sending more girls to school and into the workforce can boost an entire country’s economy.

That’s why, as First Lady, I started an initiative to help more girls worldwide attend school, and before I left the White House, I committed to working on this issue for the rest of my life.

I want every girl on this planet to have the same kind of opportunities that I’ve had, and that my daughters have — and I need your help.

Every single one of us has a role to play in helping girls get the education they deserve, and International Women’s Day is the perfect time to make that commitment.

– Michelle Obama

Bullied 12-Year-Old Turns Negativity Into NYFW Appearance

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At the age of 10, Egypt Ufele was teased by her classmates for her weight. Instead of letting it get her down, she started designing clothes for girls like her, inspired by patterns and prints found across the African continent. The resulting clothing line eventually became Chubiiline and debuted at New York Fashion Week when she was only 10.

“I started Chubiiline because I was bullied for being chubby,” she said in an interview with Insider. “So I turned a negative into a positive by naming it that.”

Egypt, nicknamed “Ify,” sews all of her pieces and styles the models herself for the runway. Her mother admits most don’t take the young designer seriously until they interview her and understand the depth to which Ify knows her company.

When it comes to her design process, she takes inspiration from the African culture of her father.

“And I’ll go to Africa and I’ll see all the different outfits that they’ll just be wearing on the regular or to a wedding or something and I’ll just take that as inspiration and put it with an urban twist,” says Ify. “I’ll see someone, and I’ll like their outfit. I’ll keep it in my brain and then I’ll probably wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning and just start sketching.”

Ify designs for all shapes and sizes, but doesn’t stop there. In 2015, she started the anti-bullying coalition, BullyChasers. The organization hosts events and showcases Ify’s story, inspiring other kids to stay strong. Ify’s work in anti-bullying eventually led to her being named as a junior ambassador to the United Nations.

Ify’s message: “Don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not good enough to keep doing what you’re doing.”

Lupita Nyong’o Sends 600 Children In Kenya To See “Black Panther”

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Black Panther has become a global sensation. The superhero film has earned $404 million at the box office and the number continues to climb. The film’s excitement feuled by multi-cultural, primarily black cast and sci-fi tale of an advanced, never colonized African nation has pushed the #BlackPantherChallenge where funds were raised to send children to see the film.

Lupita Nyong’o has joined in on the efforts.  Nyong’o stars as Nakia in the Marvel film decided to give back to her parents’ home country Kenya by sending 600 children to see her and her co-stars excel on the big screen.

The #BlackPantherChallenge created by Frederick Joseph aimed to “provide an opportunity for young people to see themselves in a story.”

To me, representation is one of the most important things that there is,” Joseph told BuzzFeed News during a discussion about what prompted him to begin the the work he’s doing for children. When I was growing up, the archetype, the stereotypes in the media of black people were typically negative, or if they weren’t negative, we had to exist in this realm of athletics or in this realm of, like, our historical figures, but when does that lend to other experiences?” says Joseph to Buzzfeed.

 

 

Octavia Spencer Shares How Losing Her Mother Inspired Her Career

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Many actresses draw inspiration from the people, places and things that greatly impacted their lives. Octavia Spencer is no different in the source for her passion on screen. Although Octavia Spencer lost her mother at the young age of 18 yet continuously draws from her wise words. During an interview with PEOPLE, Spencer shared how her late mother instilled in her the values needed to succeed.

Spencer’s mother Dellsena worked cleaning and other odd jobs to provide for her seven children as a single mother. Although circumstances may not have been ideal, Dellsena made sure to protect and provide for her children, allowing them to explore and dream big. Her strength is one thing Spencer distinctively notes.

“I had a very strong mom who made me and my sisters understand that there were no limitations on our lives except what we placed on ourselves,” Spencer says.

“She taught us to see people as people. All people. Taught us to understand our place in the world. And our place in the world is, if you want to be a leader, you can be that. There was no glass ceiling until I got into the real world and realized there are glass ceilings everywhere.”

The principles instilled by her mother are what prepared Spenceer to achieve in Hollywood today.

 

 

14-Year-Old Taylor Richardson Raises Money To Send 1,000 Girls To See ‘A Wrinkle In Time’

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Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time will soon take girl power on the big screen to the next level and many are excited see the Ava DuVernay directed fantasy film.  The film which debuts March 9th stars a leading cast of powerful girls and women and 14-year-old Taylor Richardson is doing her part to ensure all girls get a chance to see the film.

Richardson, an aspiring engineer and astronaut from Jacksonville, Fla. launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to send 1,000 girls to see A Wrinkle in Time, as well as gift each a copy of the novel. Her initial goal of $15,000 was surpassed reaching almost $18,000.  This philanthropic effort is not Richardson’s first time raising money to allow girls see different representations of themselves on screen.

Award winning film Hidden Figures starring Taraji P Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer, telling the story of real black women who’s mathematical, engineering and leadership skills helped put man on the moon was also met with similar goals. Richardson raised over $20,000 for girls, especially those interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to see the groundbreaking film.

A Wrinkle In Time is just as important to young girls as Hidden Figures. Starring Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling in leading roles, youth across the world can be inspired by the diversity on screen. Richardson, who has been named on Teen Vogue’s ’21 Under 21′ list writes on the campaign page the significance of this film to black girls everywhere.

“It shows young, black girl girls deserving a chance to be a part of the scifi cultural canon.” writes Richardson.

“Most impressive and importantly it’s a fantasy film that is not about some white boys fighting evil, but about a black girl overcoming it”

Any additional funds raised after sending 1000 girls to see the film and also gift them copies of A Wrinkle In Time will go towards projects, events and scholarships, brining diversity and gender equality in the STEM field.

See the campaign here.