Archive of ‘TFG Spotlight’ category

Happy Fifth Birthday to Bright Pink!

Bright Pink is a kick-ass organization and I am a huge fan of almost anything that they do. This week marks their fifth anniversary and I am loving the beautiful post written by the Founder, Lindsay Avner. Lindsay is equal parts fearless leader and a true sweetheart with a dose of fabulousity sprinkled in for good measure.

With Lindsay in 2008

While reading her post, I was particularly inspired by her decision to not only undergo a double mastectomy (something which I already knew about), but also her decision to leave her marketing position at a global company. She states, “While I was enjoying my role in marketing at Unilever, I felt a compelling responsibility to fill the gap for a community of young women who so desperately longed for education and support.”

Well, my dear…You have done all of that and more.  Thank you for your advocacy, your leadership, and (of course) your fun events! I can’t wait to see what the next five fifty years bring to you!

At a health fair with BP gals

Supporting BP at BowlHer

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Do Good Chicago – School Supply Drive

Image: GoDoGoodChicago.com

I’ve been meaning to blog about GO DO GOOD all summer…I’m so ashamed of myself that it’s taken me this long to put something up on TFG. *hangs head*

Here’s a little background on GO DO GOOD…Artist Kay Rosen unveiled an installation in the Loop of the same name at the beginning of the summer and the Chicago Loop Alliance and the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago subsequently launched the GO DO GOOD campaign to inspire individuals, organizations, businesses, residents and students in the Loop to connect art to action in what has been a summer-long, city-wide movement to prepare Chicago’s kids to succeed in school. So, as a way to do this, they asked Chicagoans to try to log 100,000 good deeds this summer via various activities and events.

Chicagoans were encouraged make a donation to United Way, share their good deeds on Facebook/Twitter, and/or choose one (or more) or 60+ “do good” activities listed on the site. Last month, several office buildings served as dropoff locations for a food drive and this month’s focus is on school supplies.

The United Way of Metropolitan Chicago is hoping to collect new supplies for 2,000 8th graders. If you are in the Loop area and want to contribute, you can drop-off supplies in the lobbies of the following office buildings:

  • 55 E. Jackson
  • 8 S. Michigan
  • 11 E. Adams
  • 16 N. Wabash
  • 17 N. State
  • 29 E. Madison
  • 177 N. State
  • 180 N. Wabash
  • 180 N. Michigan
  • 134 N. LaSalle
  • 223 W. Jackson

The supply drive goes until the end of the month (maybe later), so you (and I) still have plenty of time to contribute. I recently saved some art supplies, binders, and index cards from the throwaway pile at work so I think they will make good candidates to donate!

It’s moments like this that I wish I was starting undergraduate life again. What I wouldn’t give to be moving into a dorm right now and buying ECON 101 textbooks again. Sigh…Okay, I’m back! Anyways, to learn more about the supply drive and all the other awesome things happening around DO GOOD Chicago, visit GoDoGoodChicago.com.

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Dear Izzy…

…I love you. Specifically, I love your contributions on the field (DA BEARS!) and off the field. It’s no secret that Israel Idonije is one of my favorite Bears players. As a matter of fact, I totally plan on adopting a pug and naming her Izzy. I’m impressed with the charitable work that Izzy spearheads through his foundation. The Israel Idonije Foundation is committed to providing positive experiences to economically disadvantaged families. IIF executes programs in Chicago, Manitoba, Canada; and Africa.

Within the past few months, Izzy has been listed to Crain Chicago Business‘ “40 Under 40” list, was named a finalist for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and was recognized as a “Hometown Hero” by Bank of America. He even found himself (temporarily) memorialized on a billboard along the Kennedy Expressway (below). I just want to take the time out to salute my third favorite player* and thank him for all that he’s doing to give back to various communities. To learn more about IIF, check out the foundation’s website http://www.israelidonije.org.

Go Bears!

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*Robbie Gould and Brian Urlacher round out my Top 3 Bears players.

Dedicated to My Favorite B-Girl

“I’m dedicating this one to my favorite girl…” – R. Kelly

My sister has always been a passionate little person. In fact, we often called her the “Militant Midget.” Word to Good Times. When she puts her mind to something, you can pretty much consider it set in stone. So, a couple of weeks ago, when she told me about her newest project…her baby, I knew that she was onto something great. That day, she told me how she wanted to start an organization called B-Girls. The goal of B-Girls is to enhance the lives of Black girls and provide a safe space where they can  celebrate the unique experience that is Black girlhood. There was so much committment in her voice…Y’all it was powerful to hear.

Generation after generation, little brown girls have always had to battle obstacles both physical and mental, but now? I’m sorry…it’s pretty bad, guys. Statistics and the media tell our girls that they have nothing to strive for, that they are ugly, and if they make it out the “hood” and go to college, they’ll never get married. That’s not what I want my daughter to EVER hear or believe and neither should you.

Okay…back to my favorite B-Girl.

Today, Brittany launched her website, LetGirlsBGirls.com. The B-Girls program will provide leadership for young girls, promote health awareness education about nutrition and sexuality, offer career development and teenage-specific educational and cultural programming. B-Girls will also train young ladies to become peer-to-peer mentors. She’s currently seeking writers for her website and developing a program curriculum AKA not sleeping. Get it, girl!

Sister...Sister

My sister is the ultimate B-girl and no one can ever take that away from her…

Bold…Brash…Beautiful…Baffling…Brilliant…Bossy…Benevolent…Brown…Brittany

Catch her on the web three different ways…

URL – http://www.letgirlsbgirls.com

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/letgrlsbgrls

Tumblr – http://letgirlsbgirls.tumblr.com/

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Giving Props to a BOSS (and a Few Divas)

I’m all about giving props where props are due…especially when I see someone radiating positivity, being supportive, and pursuing a dream. That’s why I’m so inspired by Cameka Smith, the founder of The BOSS Network. The BOSS Network “is a women empowerment alliance dedicated to highlighting women and creating opportunities for growth through networking beyond events.” The network recently celebrated its first year anniversary, and the ladies behind the group definitely had a lot to celebrate. In addition to connecting ambitious women across the country, the website has honored as a Top 100 site for women by Forbes and a Top 10 career site for women by Forbes. That is huge…It’s also what happens when you combine a vision, faith, and hard work.

Cameka Smith, Founder of The BOSS Network, and KB

Cameka and the lovely ladies of The BOSS Network are taking their “influence” on the road (literally) with a six-city nationwide tour. The “Influencers” series is recognizing movers and shakers in Washington D.C., Atlanta, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami, while raising money for local HIV/AIDS organizations and programs. Tomorrow evening (Wednesday, 9/8) is the first stop of the tour in our nation’s capital. I wish I was attending for so many reasons…If you’re a fan of this site or read my tweets, then you know that I consider DC to be my second home. So, that’s the first reason! Additionally, one of my mentors, Amanda Miller Littlejohn (Mopwater PR) is being honored AND Divas MPH is the beneficiary organization. Divas MPH is doing some great things in DC, promoting public health with innovative events and programming. The funds raised at tomorrow’s event will benefit Divas MPH’s “Saving Our Sisters” HIV/AIDS summit in March. Dope.

 

I feel so blessed to have fallen into the company of the women who not only represent BOSS, but support the ideals as well. When you’re going for what you want in life (especially if you’re creating your own path), it can be difficult and even lonely. So, for me to connect with powerful and faithful women has really touched me in ways that are hard to explain. And, I’m not exaggerating at all! I look forward to continuing my relationship with The BOSS Network and making new connections.

For more information on The BOSS Network, you can visit http://www.thebossnetwork.org.

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“Single for Good” Has A Great Ring to It

All the Single Ladies...

I hate dating.

If you ask me what about dating specifically grinds my gears, I will say everything. So, a few people were more than shocked when I agreed to participate in the Venus vs. Mars Speed Dating Party hosted by The BOSS Network this past Saturday. I participated in the event for three reasons:

  • I was asked…
  • I need to break out of my comfort zone…
  • It seemed more about fun than actual love connections (no pressure *whew*)

I am glad that I dragged my patootie out and played along. I had a blast getting to know the other participants, including two cool chicas that I partied with well into the evening.

Having said all of that…I still hate dating, but think that’s it more fun when there are drinks and great music involved. But, for the ones that don’t go so well, I’ve decided to be “Single for Good.” No, not in that way. Keep reading!

Single for Good is a blog that I discovered while participating in the Chicago Cares Serve-a-thon. The author, Bianca, and her friend were at our volunteer site rocking shirts with the blog logo and URL. So, you know that I had to check it out…And, I LOVED the concept of the blog. The author intertwines tales of dates gone awry with good deeds to atone for the sketchy encounters. I took the following passage from her first post:

I am a Single for Good…an uninhibited, love-crazed, romantic humanitarian. I give love-as I look for love-as I blog about love. I challenge myself to not dwell (too long) in the funk being single can sometime bring but, instead, to delight in performing acts of compassion for life and Earth.

The concept is so refreshing and something that I and other single ladies should openly embrace. It’s pretty easy to forget about the shortcomings of that short banker when you’re giving your attention and time to a worthy and (appreciative) cause. While I don’t plan on being single forever, I definitely am excited about being “Single for Good,” and look forward to reading more on this site!

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Chic Fashion for a Cause: Sonya Leathers

I learned about Sonya Leathers after she commented on the wall of The Red Pump Project’s Facebook page. While reading her words of support, I couldn’t help but notice her profile picture. It was a sketch of the beautiful gown below.

sonya_main
ANYTIME someone combines style with philanthropy and awareness, I’m all in. And, this time was no different. I reached out the Sonya and told her that I had to talk about her and her designs on my site. So, that’s what I’m doing. Sonya’s “Charity Collection” not only address HIV/AIDS, but breast cancer and diabetes. By incorporating the respective ribbons of each cause into the design, she’s reminding all of us that style and awareness are not mutually exclusive.

Sonya, a New Orleans native, studied at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in LA and has worked in the fashion industry for more than 25 years. While living in Houston, she volunteered regularly at the Bering Omega Residential Hospice House, a “safe and loving environment where people in the late stages of HIV/AIDS could live their final days with dignity.” Her time there definitely gave her the spark to design the collection of gowns. Drawing on influences from the 80s, the “Charity Collection” has received more than its fair share of praise and in 2008, New Orleans Magazine presented her with a “People to Watch in 2008” award. The publication said that Sonya was “a new face doing something interesting with her life that worthy of our awareness.” I couldn’t agree more.

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Meet Fab Do-Gooder, Bessie Winn-Afeku

I’ve had the opportunity to come across so many great people within the past year. Even if I’ve never met them in person, there are certain people that I have a connection to, especially if they share the same life outlook or passion for bettering their community. So, when I first “met” Bessie Winn-Afeku (@fabdogooder), I was immediately a fan. Bessie, a former beauty queen, has leveraged her intelligence, charisma, and concern for others into a creating a mentoring organization for young girls, The She is Me Program. Anyone who takes the time to work with our youth gets my automatic respect. I’ve wanted to profile Bessie for awhile and thought, “There’s no better time than now.”

You’ve mentioned that your past experiences motivated you to reach out and mentor young girls. Did it take you some time to become comfortable with the idea of sharing your story? And, how did you get “over it,” so to speak?

bessie_winnWhile I was going through the abusive relationship with my boyfriend at the time, I did not talk about it with anyone because I was embarrassed and ashamed.  It took me about a year after the relationship was over to come out and share my story with people. The more I spoke about overcoming an abusive relationship, the more I spoke out about suicide, the more I spoke out about low self esteem, the more I became confident about talking to people. And sharing my testimony helped me get over it, because I would always meet another young women who were either going through a similar situation or had been through one.

Tell me how the “She Is Me, Inc.” program started.

The She is Me Program actually began as an organization that educated teens on dating violence and making healthy choices. But as time went on, I decided to broaden our scope. In mentoring and speaking to young women I noticed that there is not one single issue and one single solution when it comes to empowering young women, and that everything ties into each other. So we shifted the focus  of The She is Me Program to empowering young women through workshops, seminars, the arts; and exposing them to various careers, positive images, goal setting, and positive role models.

What’s the biggest thing that you’ve learned about yourself and the girls over the course of your speaking engagements, mentoring, and workshops?

The biggest thing that I have learned is that I will always leave inspired. When you spend time with our youth (especially young women) you always end up becoming inspired and empowered by them and how strong and courageous they are. Our young women have so much they have to deal with and on a daily basis–way more than we had to at that age-and still they rise.

What’s next for you and the She Is Me program?

We are in the planning stages of expanding to various cities, middle schools and high schools across the country. We will also be hosting a multi-media festival in the fall of 2010 in Atlanta, GA.

What does being a Fab Giver (or DoGooder, in your case) mean to you?

Being a Fab Giver/Do-Gooder means using the life that you have been given to “do good.” We must be of service to others and give. Whether we are giving our time, our wisdom, or our resources, it is included in our purpose and mission in life.

I’m constantly impressed and motivated by Bessie’s committment to the young girls that she mentors, and I make it a point to often tell her so. To learn more about Bessie and her program, then I would encourage you to head on over to her website. You can also find her in the blogosphere over at The Fabulous Do-Gooder.

**Thanks, Bessie!

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TFG Spotlight: The Dreamcatcher Foundation

Last week in reaction to the Derrion Albert killing and other violence in Chicago, I blogged about getting involved with our youth and the need to recognize community organizations leading the fight. While trying to think of my first spotlight, my mind immediately went to a story that I read in the Chicago Weekly about The Dreamcatcher Foundation. This organization was started by Stephanie Daniels and Brenda Myers-Powell, two Chicago-based survivors of the sex trade industry. Focused on Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, the mission of The Dreamcatcher Foundation is reach out “to girls and young women between the ages of 12-25 years old with the hopes of igniting confidence, courage, independence, and inner strength within them.” Englewood is one of Chicago’s most crime-ridden communities with high rates of violence and prostitution.

Some of the young ladies who participate in the programs have been victims of mental, physical, and sexual abuse. This past makes them vulnerable for sexual exploitation, and this is exactly what Daniels and Myers-Powell want to help them avoid. In addition to traditional mentoring activities, such as arts and crafts, field trips, and academic support, the girls also have access to health services, emotional and psychological services, and personal development workshops.

I think the work done by The Dreamcatcher Foundation is some of the most important work being done in our community. Many people, young/old and male/female, often make unsafe and unhealthy lifestyle choices because they aren’t sure about their self-worth. This foundation makes an earnest and holistic approach to helping these girls set goals and understand that they are so much more than a vessel for sexual relations, either consensual or forced situations.

To learn more about The Dreamcatcher Foundation and how you can become involved, please visit http://www.thedreamcatcherfoundation.org!

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Why The Chicago Lighthouse ROCKS!

On September 11th, I went to visit The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired. I was BLOWN away by the facility, the programs, and the services offered. As the Director of PR, Dominic Calabrese, took me on a tour of the place, I literally kept saying “Wow” and “This is awesome!” Up until the moment that I walked in that building, I felt like I was up to speed on the issues facing disabled individuals. But, I realized that lack of mobility and lack of sight are two different monsters (in the same family). Learning about the challenges faced by the blind and visually impaired completely opened my mind.

1. The facility houses a school for blind and developmental disabled young people between the ages of 3-21. The Chicago Lighthouse Development Center provides free, year-round services for students who need the additional attention that public schools often can’t provide.

chicago lighthouse clock factory

2. There is a clock factory at the Chicago Lighthouse. Yes, I’m talking a full out factory. See, The Chicago Lighthouse has been producing clocks for federal agencies for over 32 years. Today, the facility continues to employ visually impaired workers and cranks out clocks for the government, some colleges, and companies.

3. There’s a house band that rehearses in-house and performs at Lighthouse functions and across the city. The day that I visited, they performed with Bears coach and legend Mike Ditka! I missed the performance but I definitely plan on making my way back to hear them. The word is that they are GOOD!

4. Ever tried to wash clothes or do other living skills with your eyes closed? Probably not. But, if you did, then you would know how crucial your sight is to these tasks. Visually impaired adults can learn independent living skills in a room equipped with a washer, dryer, kitchen appliances, and more. Other lessons include learning spatial cues, reading Braille, and folding/stuffing.

5. Providing employment opportunities for blind/visually impaired individuals is a huge priority at the Chicago Lighthouse. Did you know that the unemployment rate for the blind/visually impaired is 70%? In addition to the employment seeking resources, the Chicago Lighthouse also employs many great and dedicated visually impaired employees. They also have employment partnerships with local companies

6. Our veterans are some of our most important citizens. They’ve sacrificed their lives for us, and as they deal with their vision issues, The Chicago Lighthouse will be right their supporting them. The organization distributes low vision equipment and independent living aids to veterans around the country. This includes canes, talking watches, magnifiers, etc!

7. The Chicago Lighthouse has been providing services to the blind and visually impaired for 103 years, and is regarded as a nationwide leader in issues related to this population.

I only listed 7 reasons, but this list could honestly go on for awhile. There are computer labs to teach office skills, a radio station, a national help line for technology for the visually impaired. I can’t imagine navigating this world without my sight, but plenty of people wake up everyday and do it for themselves. I think that it’s so wonderful that The Chicago Lighthouse is around to provide support and programs for this population. I’m looking forward to building a relationship with The Chicago Lighthouse now and in the future.

Thanks to the staff for their amazing hospitality!

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