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2012 July

27 Jul


IMPACT and Black Youth Vote! Empowering the Youth Vote

July 27, 2012 | By |

IMPACT and Black Youth Vote! want to arm you with the tools you need to raise awareness around civic engagement so you can be #VOTEREADY on Election Day. More than anything, starting the conversation is important.

Who We Are

IMPACT is an organization founded by young professionals of color in 2006.  IMPACT’s  purpose is to: (1) enhance knowledge of the political and legislative processes; (2) foster civic engagement, and; (3) enhance economic empowerment opportunities for other emerging leaders, ages 21 to 40.

Black Youth Vote! is a national grassroots coalition of organizations and individuals committed to increasing political and civic engagement among black youth and young adults between the ages of 18-35.

What We Know

College campuses will have a high number of students that need to register to vote for the 2012 Election Cycle. College-aged citizens were deemed a critical block of swing voters during the last presidential and midterm elections and will remain critical to the outcomes of this cycle. Additionally, college students are disproportionately affected by voter ID legislation in multiple states.

According to The Center For Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), youth voting has risen since from 38p percent to 51 percent, from 2004 to the 2008 presidential election, with 62 percent of college-educated students casting a ballot.  Youth have the numbers to affect a sufficient amount of change.

It is critical that student leaders mobilize their campuses to ensure we have an everlasting effect on this historic re-election campaign.  As these leaders prepare to educate themselves, it is also up them to make sure their campuses have the tools and resources necessary to produce a great turnout for the 2012 election.

How We Can Help

Numerous organizations, including the Advancement Project, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law, and the National Black Law Student Association, have all produced resources to help ease the process of registering voters on campuses. IMPACT and Black Youth Vote! are collaborating to ensure college students are equipped to hold campus-wide events to amplify civic engagement as well as identify and recruit pollworkers and pollmonitors through Foot Soldiers for Democracy initiative for the upcoming election.   From building partnerships, to developing a seamless logistics plan, we want to guarantee students have support not only to educate their peers about becoming #VOTEREADY, but also to effectively communicate the urgency of the youth vote in order to produce historic results.

26 Jul


IMPACT Honors 15 HIV/AIDS Change Agents

July 26, 2012 | By |

IMPACT Presents the Champions of Change Reception #IMPACTHIV.

Special Reception Recognizes Change Agents during the 2012 International AIDS Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C. – IMPACT honored activists, community leaders, scholars and elected officials who have given of their time and talent to contribute to the global fight against HIV/AIDS at a special reception during the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC. These individuals were recommended by peers and selected for their selfless commitment to empowering and educating others about HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and awareness.

The reception was hosted at CoCo Sala Restaurant and Chocolate Bar on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 from 6:30-8:30 pm. The venue is located at 929 F Street Northwest Washington, DC 20004.

“According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we know that in 2009 Americans comprised just 14 percent of the U.S. population, yet they accounted for 44 percent of all new infections in that year. At some point in our lifetimes, an estimated 1 in 16 Black men and 1 in 32 Black women will be diagnosed with HIV. These statistics are beyond compelling,” said Angela Rye, IMPACT Director of Strategic Partnerships.

“We cannot go another day without ensuring that young professionals of color are fully engaged in the call to raise awareness about the continued impact that HIV/AIDS is having on our communities. It is with this in mind that IMPACT honors the inaugural class of Champions of Change,” said Joe Briggs, IMPACT Director of Strategic Operations.

Below is the full list of 2012 Champions of Change honorees:

Larry Bryant, Housing Works/DC Fights Back
Dr. Ayana Elliot, Unity Healthcare
Lisa Bediako, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
Dr. LaRon Nelson, University of Toronto
Damon Humes, The Legacy Project
Kali Lindsey, National Minority AIDS Council
Christopher Chauncey Watson, George Washington University School of Public Health
Bridget Gordon, Activist
Hydeia Broadbent, Activist
Orlando Harris, University of Rochester School of Nursing
Daniel Montaya, National Minority AIDS Council
Jamaal Clue, National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors

Special Recognition:
Magic Johnson, Magic Johnson Foundation
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA, District 9)
Congresswoman Maxine Waters, (D-CA, District 35)

This receptionwas the official kick-off event for IMPACT’s educational campaign to build awareness around the issue of HIV/AIDS. Leveraging social media, IMPACT will provide facts and information from the strategically-selected organizations and honorees to better inform young professionals about prevention methods, updates on legislative issues and ways to get directly involved in changing behaviors in minority communities. Later events include information sessions and tweet-ups as well as a series of Google + hangouts.

IMPACT is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage and build a network of young professionals of color to foster civic engagement, increase knowledge of the political and legislative processes, and enhance economic empowerment opportunities. For additional information about IMPACT, visit     



24 Jul


Winners of the “2012 Nation’s Best Advocates: 40 Lawyers Under 40” Honored at National Bar Association Gala

July 24, 2012 | By |

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  IMPACT and the National Bar Association (NBA) honored the “Nation’s Best Advocates: 40 Lawyers Under 40” at a special awards gala on Sunday, July 15, 2012 during the NBA’s 87th Annual Convention in Las Vegas, NV.

Nation’s Best Advocates recognizes talented individuals (age 40 and under) within the African American legal community who have achieved prominence and distinction, professionally and philanthropically. Selected nominees represent a cross-section of legal professionals: solo practitioners, government lawyers, judges, academicians, corporate counsels, young elected officials, and other lawyers using their degree in innovative ways. Nominees were chosen based on their achievement, innovation, vision, leadership, and legal community involvement.

“The NBA is proud to partner again with IMPACT for this year’s 40 Lawyers Under 40 event.  We applaud the awardees for their significant accomplishments and contributions towards the legal profession and community,” said Daryl Parks, NBA President.  “We look forward to honoring these awardees during our 87th Annual Convention in Las Vegas, and most importantly, we look forward to sustaining our mission of service and ensuring that justice is achieved by all.”

“The 2012 Nation’s Best Advocates: 40 Lawyers Under 40 are continuing the tradition of legal giants in American history,” said Angela Rye, IMPACT Director of Strategic Partnerships. “The invaluable contributions made by these attorneys establish a standard for service and excellence in our communities and our Nation.”

The recipients of the Nation’s Best Advocate of the Year, Excellence in Leadership, Service, Activism, and Innovation awards were recognized at the event, which is the only of its kind.

2012 Nation’s Best Advocates: 40 Lawyers Under 40 

  • Adante Pointer, Senior Associate, Law Offices of John Burris
  • Alisia Mary Adamson, Managing Partner, Hylton, Adamson, Watson & Moore
  • Allen C. Miller, Partner, Phelps Dunbar, LLP
  • Allison C. Danels, Defense Attorney, Office of the Chief Defense Counsel, Military Commissions
  • Allison R. Brown, President, Allison Brown Consulting, LLC
  • Alvin F. Benton, Associate, Holland & Knight LLP
  • Angela Ball, Associate General Counsel, Radio One, Inc.
  • Annamaria Steward-Dymond, Associate Dean of Students, David A. Clark School of Law/UDC
  • Anthony J.M. Jones, Managing Partner, The Jones Firm
  • Ayanna Jenkins Toney, Partner, Law Offices of Ayannna Jenkins Toney
  • Camille Y. Townsend, Associate, Jackson Lewis
  • Catherine Ongiri, Attorney, Alameda County Department of Child Support Services
  • Cedric Richmond, Member of Congress, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Corena Norris-McCluney, Counsel, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, LLP
  • D. Simone Williams, General Counsel, Gulf Coast Funds Management, LLC
  • Derrick T. Simmons, Mississippi State Senator, State of Mississippi
  • Dolores Dorsainvil, Senior Staff Attorney, District of Columbia Office of Bar Counsel
  • Elke Suber, Senior Attorney, Microsoft Corporation
  • Erek Barron, Counsel, Whiteford Taylor & Preston, LLP
  • Goldie K. Gabriel, Director of Legal and Business Affairs, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
  • Jabari A. Willis, Senior Associate, Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo
  • Jennifer A. Prioleau, Senior Counsel, Hewlett-Packard Company
  • Jonathan Goins, Partner, Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan, LLP
  • Kenneth L. Parker, AUSA, Chief Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Ohio
  • Kenya Thacker Pierre, Patent Counsel, Kimberly-Clark Corporation
  • Latrice A.G. Byrdsong, Corporate Counsel-Securities, Governance & Finance, DaVita, Inc.
  • Linnea Willis, Partner, Law Office of Linnea N. Willis
  • Lisa A. Hall-Johnson, Associate, Dickstein Shapiro LLP
  • Lora M. Whitticker, Gen44 Deputy National Finance Director, Obama For America
  • Nikki Johnson-Huston, Assistant City Solicitor, City of Philadelphia Law Department
  • Reginald McKnight, Counsel, WilmerHale, LLP
  • Rodney C. Pratt, Assistant General Counsel-Commercial, Nike, Inc.
  • S. Jeanine Conley, Partner, Baker Hostetler
  • Sadarie Chambliss Holston, Attorney-Advisor, U.S. Social Security Administration
  • Sandra Douglass Morgan, Senior Deputy City Attorney, North Las Vegas City Attorney’s Office
  • Shavar D. Jeffries, Professor, Seton Hall Law School
  • Tchienyonnoh Katuri Kaye, Attorney, Trucker Huss APC
  • Terrill L. Hill, Solo Practitioner, Terrill Hill P.A.
  • Toni Y. Hickey, Senior Counsel, Foley & Lardner LLP
  • Tremayne Bunaugh, Counsel, U.S. Senate, Select Committee on Ethics

Additionally, IMPACT and the NBA honored five individuals with awards for Advocate of the Year, Excellence in Leadership, Activism, Innovation, and Service.

  • Advocate of the Year: Alisia Mary Adamson
  • Excellence in Leadership: Latrice A.G. Byrdsong
  • Excellence in Activism: Goldie K. Gabriel
  • Excellence in Innovation: Camille Y. Townsend
  • Excellence in Service: Catherine Ongiri

The National Bar Association was founded in 1925 and is the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African American attorneys and judges. It represents approximately 44,000 lawyers, judges, law professors and law students and has over 80 affiliate chapters throughout the United States and around the world. For additional information about the National Bar Association, visit

IMPACT is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage and build a network of young professionals of color to foster civic engagement, increase knowledge of the political and legislative processes, and enhance economic empowerment opportunities. For additional information about IMPACT, visit                



17 Jul


My Experience with The Give1Project in Paris, France (Part Two)

July 17, 2012 | By |

At the Economic Social & Environmental Council w/ Elizabeth MAEGHT-DAHAN a diplomat running international relations for the council & Philippe Meraud director of transportation, territory usage, urbanism & housing.

I was recently in a conversation with Madame Elizabeth MAEGHT-DAHAN, a career diplomat who runs the International Relations Department at the Economic Social & Environmental Council in Paris, France.  For three hours, we walked the halls of what used to be the public museum of transportation pontificating on everything from French history to revolutionary tactics to economic policy to international travel-true intellectual stimulation.  As I compare my time in this country to US society and most especially public policy, I was compelled to ask her a question.  I asked her to explain to me the phenomenon behind French people, government and culture—including “social welfare” into their policy decisions and initiatives.   In other words, when France chooses community over individualism, why is it efficient public policy?

Take for example this principle in France called “Housing First.”  Here, housing is not just seen as an urgent need, but since the 1950s has been made a legal right.  For example, if publicly financed affordable housing is demolished in one place, it must be rebuilt in another or replaced by a park.  Furthermore, as these buildings are rebuilt or renovated the original residents are not displaced.  They are guaranteed housing.

Another example is found in the “new towns” I spoke of in my first post.  Here, government officials, project managers and community advocates are structuring their communities so that poor, middle class, wealthy and even students can live simultaneously in various quadrants of apartment housing. In Cergy, I lived at a university that was neighbors to social housing.  In fact, we shared the same courtyard, supermarket and general shops.

The final example can be found on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the most beautiful avenue in the world, where the wealthiest come to play and tourist can rent Lamborghini’s for 80 euros per 20 minutes.  Here I was taught that it is culturally insensitive for a rich person to flaunt their wealth.  In fact, it was former President Nicolas Sarkozy that was chastised when locals found him dinning at one of the expensive restaurants the night he won the election.

Though I used examples strictly in the housing and development arenas, other examples exist across the board.  And no, I am not oblivious to the deep racial and class disparities that exist in Paris and its suburbs, nor the strains of these economic times; however, it is undeniable that the government and its people have a policy approach that includes social welfare.

So when I posed my question to Madame Dahan I seriously needed an answer.  What she encouraged me to do was look at the root of each country’s approach to policy.  In France, they have this phrase- “tout est demandé de l’Etat et accordé par l’Etat,” which means: everything is asked of the state and given by the state.  Because France historically has always been a transient, diverse, predominantly working class country, there has always been a dependability on the government and an expectation that what could not be done or obtained would be provided.

The United States is a bit different.  We have “survival of the fittest, being better than the next person, crabs-in-a-barrel, trickle-down,” mentalities.  The American Dream is a race to the top, which ultimately means there is a bottom.  With that acknowledgement, the question then becomes, who is responsible for leveling the playing field?  Is an individual at the mercy of only their success or failure?  Does “making it” immediately put one in a space of social responsibility?

The French use a word by the Greek: evergete.  In Greece, evergete described the generosity given by royalty to citizens, but the French use it to label social systems maintained for the betterment of the community by those who are the most privileged.  That one’s obtaining of privilege immediately obligates them to aide their neighbor.  It brings to the forefront a word that has tried to nudge itself into the political scene as of late: “equity.”  Some would say Obama’s recent new push on tax restructuring is an example… but I digress.

I made this trip to France because I seek to transform the way in which we approach the rehabilitation of our communities in the states.  A big part of that process, in my opinion, is the full acceptance that equity must transcend greed.  The recession in the states has turned inequality gaps into black holes, although the number of people prospering dwindle the percentage of wealth controlled but that small few has sky-rocketed. Inevitably, privilege, for its own sake, has no choice but to embrace social responsibility.  The Prime Minister of France recently spoke saying that the country has tough choices to make economically but eliminating the entire concept of social welfare is not one of them.  The betterment of society always trumps individualism—that’s not a question. The question really is: Will it be welcomed legislatively, politically and socially or is it going to be taken by force?

written by Randall Keith Benjamin, II

09 Jul


Dining While Black: A Guide to the Art of Modern Dining

July 9, 2012 | By |


A Modern-day Dining Guide for African-Americans

Dining While Black: A Guide to the Art of Modern Dining is a contemporary guide to restaurant selection, online reservations, fine dining/casual dining, modern rules of etiquette, wine and food pairing, tipping, and international dining. Aisha Karefa-Smart explores the world of modern and multicultural dining from an African American perspective.

Aisha drew from her experiences in the world of corporate travel and event planning, as well as her upbringing in the well-known, bustling neighborhood of Columbus Avenue on New York’s Upper West Side to write what she terms as, “The first dining guide for the African-American food enthusiast.”

The niece of the late, great author James Baldwin, Aisha grew up in a family of fabulous culinary divas, who often prepared food for and dined with African American literary royalty. As a young girl, Aisha was exposed to cuisines from all over the world, often dining with her family internationally. Later on, as a corporate travel agent and event professional, Aisha fine-tuned her love of great food by designing and planning events that included deliciously prepared dishes, created by some of New York’s top caterers.

In 2005, Aisha relocated to Washington, DC. It was her year-long stint at a bistro in Washington, DC’s famous Shaw/U Street District, named for another famous African American—Marvin Gaye—that exposed her to the inside knowledge and secrets of the restaurant world that she shares in Dining While Black.

Aisha states, “If one truly seeks to become a savvy diner and gain understanding of the hidden language and cues that exist in the restaurant world, especially as they pertain to African Americans, the best weapon to have at your disposal is knowledge.”

Aisha’s Top Tips While Fine Dining

#1- If you make a reservation, honor it by showing up on time and with your entire party intact.

#2- Be nice to and make friends with the host/hostess. They are the gatekeepers of the establishment.

#3- Do your research. If you are dining at a restaurant for the first time, utilize the Internet by reviewing the menu, the price points, and the ambiance. It is better to have a general idea of what the place is like ahead of time instead of showing up and discovering that it is not what you expected.

#4- Allow one person to be at the head of the table and to be the primary communicator with your server. This cuts down on confusion and give the server a point person to deal with.

#5- When ordering be adventurous, but not too adventurous. If there is something on the menu that sounds interesting but you have never had it, ask your waiter exactly what the ingredients are and if it contains things that may not be to your liking, order something that is more familiar to you.

You can find out more about the book at or follow Aisha on twitter at @AishaKarefaSmar.

06 Jul


IL: Rahiel Tesfamariam

July 6, 2012 | By |

Meet our July 2012 IMPACT Leader (and IMPACT Leader of the Year) Rahiel Tesfamariam— journalist, social activist, and public theologian. She is the Founder / Editorial Director of Urban Cusp, a cutting-edge online lifestyle magazine highlighting progressive urban culture, faith, social change, and global awareness. Rahiel is also a columnist and blogger for The Washington Post and The Root DC.

Born in war-torn Eritrea a decade prior to independence, Rahiel identifies herself as a product of her nation’s tenacious struggle for self-determination. Rahiel holds a B.A. in American Studies from Stanford University and a Master of Divinity (Magna Cum Laude) from Yale University where she was the school’s inaugural William Sloane Coffin, Jr. Scholar for Peace and Justice.

As a lifelong writer, Rahiel interned with National Geographic Society and Time Inc. before being appointed, at age 23, the youngest editor-in-chief in the history of The Washington Informer, an African American-owned newspaper founded in 1964 in the nation’s capital.

Prior to launching, Rahiel served as a program director at a faith-based nonprofit where she managed a $4M program budget and oversaw 40 agencies that serviced youth committed to the District of Columbia’s cabinet level juvenile justice agency.

In addition to studying and spearheading grassroots mobilization, Rahiel has traveled the world on various delegations and humanitarian projects. She has been named a Practical Visionary by The Institute for the Future, a “Top 40 Under 40” by the EnVest Foundation, and a 2012 Beatitudes Society Fellow.

Rahiel has been featured on Press TV, Huffington Post Live, Washington Watch with Roland Martin, Our World with Black Enterprise, Geraldo Rivera on WABC Radio, The Dyson Show, SiriusXM, and more.

You can follow Rahiel on Twitter at @RahielT or @UrbanCusp.

Getting to Know Rahiel Tesfamariam

What inspired you pursue your current career?

I came to found Urban Cusp and pursue media as my form of ministry after years and years of soul-searching, as we all do when trying to arrive at a sense of purpose. Every step in the journey informed the next. After resigning from my full-time job, I began to think more and more about establishing an institution of my own. It seemed that a doctoral program, consulting firm, or an urban think tank was the basis for my passion at the time, but I quickly found those options limiting, realizing that whatever I did had to reflect the full scope of who I am at this point in my life. I knew that what I truly wanted was a job that I woke up excited to go to daily; let’s just say that I found myself inspired to create that job for myself. Months and months of prayer, journaling, talking to mentors, researching what was already being done and maintaining a high degree of solitude led me to take the biggest leap of faith of my life. The magazine and movement that exists today evolved out of my prayer one night that God would grant me a global ministry- a prayer I had never prayed before. Now that Urban Cusp is here, I realize that it was in the making my entire life. I’ve always wanted to establish my own magazine; I just never imagined that it would be completely digital. Urban Cusp is the first thing I’ve ever created/built that brought all of the fragmented parts of who I am together in one unified whole. Urban Cusp is essentially me and my passions in a magazine. I talk about a lot of the “why” I launched it in this post from UC’s launch date:

What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic, and social commitments?

I believe seeking God and cultivating an intimate relationship where you become dependent on God for every aspect of your life will allow everything else to fall into place.

What is the biggest mistake young professionals make, especially when pursuing elected office?

A lot of young professionals play it so safe that they never do anything extraordinary. Success in life cannot solely be measured by how much money is in the bank. Never underestimate the value of social capital. If you don’t have any money but a lot of social capital, that can still get you very far. In this same line of thought, elected officials have to remember that the end does not always justify the means. People want leaders that made it to the top without comprising integrity, self-respect and community values.

What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel in the your career field, especially young women of color? 

Seek multimedia experience, learn the process of developing a brand, gain some social media expertise, and improve on your writing skills. As your doing all of this, identify people who have done what you want to do in the world. Reflect on what you want to do that’s similar to them and what it is that you want to do that’s never been done. Lastly, make up your mind to not give up no matter how tempting it gets. Live for today and don’t be paralyzed by the fear of tomorrow. Don’t let anyone tell you that it can’t be done. Believe in yourself and be the best you that you can be – always remaining committed to your own personal growth and self-actualization.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

So much has happened in my career that I am deeply proud of, but perhaps the thing that gives me the greatest sense of accomplishment is my new position as a columnist for The Washington Post. Growing up in DC, I used to pass the headquarters of the Post often. It was a giant of an institution in my mind. Today, I walk through the newsroom with a sense of belonging and purpose. Knowing I started out as a freelance reporter at a grassroots newspaper in Southeast DC, writing for the Post is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?

My focus right now is on growing Urban Cusp and taking it to new heights. I want it to be a widely known, respected information and inspiration source, as a well as a vibrant community. As I do this, I’m also thinking about the books I want to write, the new media outlets I want to start-up and the platforms I want to offer for my generation to be informed and inspired.

Lastly, give me three words to sum up Rahiel?

Thinker. Dreamer. Believer.