From companies focused on bridging the digital divide by removing socio-economic barriers that impact technology accessibility to those focused on raising awareness of food insecurity, projects supported by the program reflect a broad set of social issues. However, a common thread is that they are all driven by a lens.
Johnston’s Harlem-based travel agency, Our Story Tours, fuses his passion for preserving the community’s rich cultural history with his dedication to helping those impacted by the criminal justice system.
“The vision is that Our Story Tours will be an inclusive walking tour company that prioritizes and amplifies the black and brown voices of the next generation of Harlem residents and leaders,” she said. “Through radical storytelling, the company will address this systematic lack of historical preservation that erases Harlem’s rich cultural history by telling the stories of Harlem’s past, present and future. Our Story Tours is a travel agency that will teach and train Harlem youth who have been victims of the criminal justice system to conduct historic walking tours through Harlem. The goal is to empower the community through self-determination and self-agency.
Johnston strives to use her business as a pathway to help young black and brown people launch careers in the travel industry and change the narrative surrounding representation in this space.
Brown’s nonprofit SELF, an acronym for Strengthening and Empowering the Lives of Females, was born along her own path to self-discovery. What started as a commitment to instilling the value of self-love in her daughter led to the vision of a nonprofit centered on doing the same for other young girls as they grow up in a society that often perpetuates distorted standards of beauty.
“I didn’t want my daughter to grow up with self-esteem issues and I knew to avoid that I had to kiss myself,” she said. “SELF is a holistic rite of passage program that helps girls build self-esteem. We communicate with our girls individually to find out their goals and what excites them. We also focus on the values of sisterhood, cooperative economy and giving back to your community.
From yoga sessions to HBCU college fairs, the nonprofit – which is now gearing up for a September relaunch – has facilitated efforts to teach young people the importance of wellness, education and civic engagement.