Photo courtesy of Omar Barlow
Eastern University Academy Charter School CEO and principal Omar Barlow with students.
Philadelphia citizens are working to make their communities better. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is recognizing them for their efforts.
The Foundation sought to honor the good work of everyday community servants whose work aligns with their mission, which is to lift up Philadelphia black men as role models and to financially support their community enrichment project.
The Foundation's latest project, Black Male Engagement, was formed to combat the "negative narrative" of black and to highlight "the bigger truth that black men are assets to our nation."
This year the foundation awarded $200,000 in grants to selected BMe Leadership Award winners. The grant program awarded grants to 19 Philadelphia men, ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. They were selected from 125 applicants.
Temple business professor Chris Rabb is among the dogooders that received a $20,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. Rabb believes people are "doing well by doing good." He teaches low-wealth community members how to leverage invisible capital and identify assets in plain sight to help level their playing field.
"I'm interested in helping people grow enterprises that result in shared prosperity," said Rabb. "The more we can help people understand what's at stake, we can create more jobs and community wealth."
Educator Omar Barlow is another grant recipient. He's the CEO and principal of Eastern University Academy Charter School. His mission is to support his students in finding their passion. Filmmaker El Sawyer is working on "Pull of Gravity," a portrait of three men reentering society after prison. Musician Lovett Hines is using jazz as the centerpiece for student collaboration. Anton Moore created "Peace Week," which empowers South Philly residents and provides teens access to a night of activities.
“The grant is a game changer. It will allow us to fund a number of student projects,” said Barlow.
He says the BMe program has helped empower his students to become “stewards of their destiny” and to live out the school’s motto—“Think big, live on purpose and excel at life.”
The $10,000 award will support Eastern University Academy Charter School’s “Passion Project,” which supports the development of a student’s individual passion and promotes reading.
With the BMe project and others through the years, the Knight Foundation has invested $100 million dollars in Philadelphia since 1970.
One of the foundation's primary goals is “to help government better connect to citizens,” according to program director Donna Frisby-Greenwood. Knight dollars have gone to improve local institutions such as the Franklin Institute, Rodin Museum, Barnes Foundation and Dilworth Plaza.
“Our organization believes in the power of journalism and the power of the story. The foundation came up with this idea for black men to share their stories and inspire others,” Frisby-Greenwood stated.
BMe created an online portal to share the stories of more than 500 black men to uplift others.
The BMe program is also administered in Detroit and Baltimore and supported by the Open Society Foundation. The Knight Foundation intends to expand the program nationwide in the coming years, according to Frisby-Greenwood.