10 Moments of Black Genius for VOW in 2015

10 Moments of Black Genius for VOW in 2015


2015 has been a busy and amazing year but in this update we’ll spare you the minutia and hit the highlights in roughly chronological order. Stay tuned for a more in-depth recap to come at a later date.

1. We organized two Black Genius Field Trips exposing 20+ youth and their families to the great work of Dr. Mark Anthony Neal and Phil Freelon.

Youth testing fabric

2. We teamed up with Black August in the Park to host an event that attracted over 1,200 participants. We hosted a family zone along with our amazing friends over at Spirit House.

Image by Derrick Beasley

Image by Derrick Beasley

3. Education Pioneers called and apparently they believe every Educator in America should talk to our founder.

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4. We hosted Black Genius Fest & Mural Dedication partnering with Durham’s Office of Employment and Workforce Development and the Durham Civil Rights Mural team. Over 200 people attended with their families.


5. We attended over 15 community events, resource fairs, and convenings to spread the word about VOW.

Liz and Dwight

6. We were named semifinalists for Camel Back Venture fellowship. We find out if we win the fellowship in 2016.

7. We teamed up with leaders of color, and parents from across the nation to present the idea of Revolutionary Black parenting and protecting Black Genius to a national audience at #AGOL2015.

8.We got to know 10 local families in Durham a little better and they helped us better understand Black Genius our Black Genius Profile.


9. The Blueprint for Black Genius emerged. We wrote about it and Huff Post published. Thanks for the assist Echoing Green!

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10. We raised over $6000 in funds as a part of a crowdfunding campaign to Protect Black Genius. You all — our supporters raised $2000 in the first 2 days of the fundraiser. Even better, more than 75 donors contributed before the end of the campaign. Big thanks to CBMA for coordinating. We’re giving everybody who donates more than $50 a super fly Black Genius Sweatshirt. You still have time to support and help us win a $5000 grant if you donate before 12/30/2015.

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And that’s all folks. Thanks so much for making 2015 an amazing year. We can’t wait to show you what we have in store for 2016!

Black Genius Field Trip: Freelon Agency

Black Genius Feild Trips

Fifteen boys, with their parents standing behind them, watched a digital video rendering of the soon to be completed National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) on the National Mall in Washington DC. They were all inside of a large boardroom, which was decked with furniture that a few of the younger boys referred to as “Grown Up Chairs.” Chairs where the leaders of the Freelon Architecture Group sit and discuss how to make the buildings they design best represent and reflect the communities in which they are built.

Phillip Freelon, a Black man, leads the firm, which has been responsible for designing numerous libraries, museums and more across the country, including Durham’s own Bulls’ stadium and the beautiful Public Health building on East Main Street.

Three Black women described the firms winning pitch to build the NHAAMC. Zena a principal at the firm explained, “We proposed to have five floors below grade because the history of Black folks in this country was too deep and rich for the mere four stories that were allotted for the museum above ground. So our firm proposed digging five stories below grade to match the depth of the African-American story.”

As I sat there taking it all in I was nearly moved to tears, thinking about the confluence of the moment. My thoughts raced about the state of schools in America for Black children. Our visit to the agency occurred just a few days after the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education and on the same day as Malcolm X’s birth. Reflecting on all that had been sacrificed for the moment we were in to happen and all that must be given to create such moments in the future, was a bit heavy for me. I knew this was a story that Kendrick would have probably never heard if one of VOW’s hardworking volunteers hadn’t swung by his mother’s house to pick him up after a last minute request. A story that would have gone unheard by too many youth if VOW board member Kaia Clarke didn’t hustle to get her church’s young men’s ministry to come through with only a week’s notice. But the story was told and heard, and it could be credited to the resilience of the Black American spirit.

I frequently ponder what would happen if in schools where 80% or more of the population was White but 80% of the history taught was about Black people and only 20% about White people. As discordant as this scenario sounds I fear many children of color in this country face a tragically similar situation. Even more as a teacher I personally taught science curriculums that were frequently disconnected from the very real jobs students should be competing for once they matriculate. Indeed students of color often experience a curriculum that is low on real-world application and un-affirming of their cultural identity. Unfortunately, many students in this country frequently learn from teachers forced to focus undivided attention into test preparation and not preparing them for the world they must navigate.

So as we all stood there pondering the levels of spectacular to celebrate the impact of Black life past, present, and tomorrow, there was still one more layer of awesome to enjoy for me, as a recovering science teacher. The conversations on this day were interwoven with themes of creativity, design, science, math, art and energy efficiency. On this day we made good on creating an experience that was intellectually stimulating and reaffirming of our children’s racial identity. On May 19th for 90 minutes, thanks to the Freelon Group and the VOW family, I couldn’t think of a better place in the world to be.

#VOW2Discuss Parent Guide Vol. 1

#VOW2Discuss Parent Guide Vol. 1

Parent Resources

We are extremely excited to share the first in a series of parent guides for caregivers of Black youth looking to instill the racial and cultural confidence their children need to maintain a positive self-image, as well as navigate and disrupt racism. Our first parent guide as you will see encourages parents to engage in Cultural Pride Reinforcement (CPR). CPR is a term renowned scholar Howard Stevenson coined to describe the process when parents encourage children to take great honor and dignity in their cultural heritage.  This guide is not a prescriptive document, but rather a prompting nudge offering information to parents who are looking for ways to have the potentially challenging but incredibly necessary conversations about race with their children.

Without further ado please check out the #VOW2Discuss Guide Vol. 1. If you find the guide particularly dope, then please tell us about it in the comments below.

Colorful Version                                                         Printer-Friendly Version

VOW2Discuss Vol 1 Thumbnail                          VOW2Discuss Vol 1 Plain Thumbnail

Newsletter 1: Our First 5 Months!

Newsletter 1: Our First 5 Months!


It has been a busy year for Village of Wisdom (VOW). To be more precise, I should say it has been a busy five months for the organization. Since August 1st of 2014, we have witnessed VOW evolve from an idea to an organization that has worked with over 20 families with a potential reach of over 50 children. We have organized a four-person board and a squad of twelve dedicated volunteers.  Thus, I’m happy to report that Village of Wisdom has a growing team of passionate supporters and we are pushing towards making significant impact.

While this is all exciting news, there is a great deal of work ahead of us.  One of our parents said it best,  “We are trying to do undo generations of mistreatment!”  With our parents at the lead, we move into the New Year seeking to understand how many #WiseWords we have inspired and the impact those words are having. So, you may ask, what are #WiseWords and what exactly is VOW seeking to accomplish?

At VOW, our goal is to work hand-in-hand with families to close the academic opportunity gap that exists for Black youth.  Our main goal is to implement a unique, two-generational approach that focuses on engaging parents and children. Wise Words are the conversations shared within and between families that ensure children develop a healthy identity about race, gender, and academic ability. We witnessed these wise words come to life as two of our parents practiced the conversations they planned to have with their children and saw them pour love out of their souls and into each other.

The opportunity gap families face is the consequence of current and historical injustices and currently comprised of social and resource inequalities. Socially, we know families have to prepare Black children to adapt to the different environments they navigate between school and home. Black children have to be prepared to navigate schools and a society that treats them with negative bias, along with encountering negative identity messages. Related to resources, we know Black children are more likely to live in poverty and have less access to pivotal out-of-school learning opportunities than other race groups.  So, in reaction to these challenges VOW works with families to help their children develop a resilient identity and when necessary we connect family units to a suite of resources that increase economic stability and access to out-of school learning opportunities.

The primary mission of VOW is to encourage parents to share with their children wise words about race, identity, and academics. Words that convey to a child that as a Black person, she or he comes from a long line of inventors, scholars, creatives, dreamers, freedom fighters and generally dope individuals. This is a story that has to be instilled in Black children because far too often they first learn of their blackness through a negative experience, seeding their first thoughts of self-doubt and inferiority. Even more, the task is necessary because subliminally and explicitly, our society erroneously suggests to Black children that they are less capable. These transgressions do not come without a cost to the self-image, emotional health, and academic performance of these beautiful and capable human beings. The VOW of our organization is to work with families as their children pay this unfair cost and assist them in defining their own way to destroy the policies and traditions that force this payment.

Although we believe we are taking an innovative approach to the challenges facing Black youth, we also recognize that we stand on the shoulders of countless advocates, parents, and scholars that have illuminated this path. Even more, we know that we can’t move forward without tapping into the existing community of folk who believe in making sure families can build on their inherent strengths to guide their children to success. So, as we move into this season of reflection, family, and hope we ask you to consider contributing to the future of our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers.

You can make a donation to our organization here or sign-up to volunteer here. We can’t say thank you enough for the support many of you reading these words have already extended.



William P. Jackson
Village of Wisdom