In an America where the political climate has shifted and social progress seems to be in reverse, it’s easy to feel discouraged about the state of humanity. Fortunately, frustration often moves people to action.
Red Bull’s global social entrepreneurship summit, Red Bull Amaphiko Academy, searched the US for founders and entrepreneurs with innovative solutions to problems affecting them in their communities. Meet three whose exceptional approaches to racism (both overt and systemic) earned them a spot in Red Bull Amaphiko’s first US Academy, taking place in Baltimore in August. Two of three founders are Baltimore natives; examples of the many Charm City citizens who’ve channeled their frustration about the city’s chronic violence and discrimination into social innovation.
Matthew Kinkaid // Overcoming Racism // New Orleans, LA
Matthew Kincaid attended his first anti-racism workshop at 14, and it had a profound effect on him. “As a country, we struggle with the idea of difference,” says Kinkaid. “Our fear of embracing differences often paralyzes our ability to have productive working and social relationships with people who are different than us.”
Understanding that school-age children are exposed to racism on a daily basis, and may know it isn’t right or fair but don’t know what to do about it, Kinkaid used his experience as a schoolteacher, school administrator, and activist to found Overcoming Racism.
With an eye toward a world where difference unites instead of divides, Overcoming Racism seeks to build more equitable institutions through comprehensive race and equity training, with a focus on education. The organization equips educators with the tools to build culturally responsive schools and classrooms that promote the development of the next generation of anti-racist agents of change. It also hosts community events and workshops, and provides comprehensive training to companies looking to eliminate structural racism in the workplace.
C. Harvey // Baltimore’s Gifted // Baltimore, MD
After scaling a successful clothing business and hitting a roadblock with production, C. Harvey was living in a basement, close to giving up on her dream of creating an empire. After applying unsuccessfully for several jobs she was qualified for, Harvey found she’d only get responses when adopting a white-sounding name. She dropped her full first name, Cadeatra, in favour of “C.” She knew she wanted to figure out a way for other creative youth to fulfill their potential, overcome systemic racism, and avoid getting to the point of despair and giving up on making a living doing what they love.
Harvey founded Baltimore’s Gifted, an organization that seeks to address the exploitation of black youth artists by nonprofits, predominantly white institutions, and youth unemployment. “While I was getting myself out the basement, I knew I had to figure out a way other youth, other people like me wouldn’t have to be stuck in the basement,” Harvey told Let’s Give a Damn Podcast’s Nick Laparra. “That’s kind of how Baltimore’s Gifted came about.”
The platform, which advocates ownership as the path to freedom, allows young people to showcase and sell their original visual art as well as art-derived apparel and reproductions in its online store and in pop-up shops. The artists learn career skills in a real-world setting — and keep 80% of the profits. They also have access to a dedicated advisory team to help them develop and navigate a self-paced action plan for their business.
Changa Bell// The Black Male Yoga Initiative // Baltimore, MD
Changa Bell is the founder of The Black Male Yoga Initiative. While pursuing a Ph.D. at American University, Bell decided to take some time off to travel the world and got exposed to the transformative power of yoga. When he returned stateside, he became a certified yoga teacher had the opportunity to teach the practice to autistic children, then to foster children. Seeing an influx of young black men coming through the foster system, Bell realized yoga could alter the course of their lives.
“I’m working with Freddie Gray before he’s #FreddieGray,” Bell told American University’s Zim Ezumah. “I’m working with boys who the world might judge and write off… I want to have a sustainable farm where I can offer boarding for programs and offer certification for them to become registered yoga teachers. Hopefully, they can go back and teach their communities to become in tune with the benefits of yoga.”
The Black Male Yoga Initiative provides information, workshops, retreats, and teacher training. It seeks to help black men of all ages become aware, engaged and empowered using mindfulness, meditation, and yoga to help heal themselves and their communities.
Ashley Letts is a freelance writer and senior consultant at Yulu PR, an impact-focused public relations firm and certified B Corp. Yulu partners with socially innovative organizations that see beyond the bottom line and think beyond the status quo. Its motto is simple: do great by doing good. Ashley lives in Vancouver, B.C.