Moshoeshoe I, 1786 - 1870 Wise Founder and Ruler of Basotholand

One of southern Africa’s most significant leaders, Moshoeshoe I, began to distinguish himself at the dawn of the 19th century. As the region was increasingly subjected to land theft and conquest, the young chief began uniting smaller groups into one larger community. By focusing on commonalities, he compelled varied ethnicities into unified action. 

As a consolidated group, Moshoeshoe I led the larger community into almost impenetrable mountain terrain—insulated from adversaries—to safe refuge. Once secured, a highly effective army was built and a legendary diplomatic campaign launched, that enabled the creation of Basotholand, the foundation for present-day Lesotho.

Under the leadership of Moshoeshoe I, smaller groups under attack from outside forces turned inward and became the Basotho. As a result, they not only survived, but preserved a distinct language, culture, and homeland. Click below to learn more about the power of a people who find refuge in one another.

2021 August Newsletter, History and Culture

Denmark Vesey, Planned One of Largest US Slave Revolt

Inspired by the 1804 freedom fighters who ended slavery in Haiti, Denmark Vesey organized the 1822 Charleston, South Carolina revolt. His plan was extensive, involving those free and enslaved, who reportedly numbered thousands. The liberators were to slay captors as they slept, and then fight their way to the docks from which they would sail to Haiti. While Vesey’s plans were eventually leaked, resulting in his execution along with 37 others, his courageous vision of freedom that required him to free not only himself, is instructive.

Years before the revolt was planned, Vesey managed to purchased his own freedom and set up a carpentry business. He became a lay preacher among Charleston’s free community and worshipped at the church that became Mother Emanuel after the civil war. Despite Vesey’s relative accomplishments, his earnest offer to purchase his wife and son from bondage were refused. He was continually reminded that despite experiencing individual freedom and more opportunities than most, he was not really free until the larger community of Black people were also free. 

Click below to learn more about a revolt that began in the heart of Denmark Vesey, a free man who understood how his individual well-being was inextricably tied to the well-being of other Black people.

2021 August Newsletter, History and Culture

BONUS: To listen to a vintage audio drama about Vesey’s revolt,  click here.

Brilliant High School Scientist Invents Sutures That Detect Early Infection

She’s only 17. Yet, Dasia Taylor has created a unique medical technology that makes surgical sutures change colors to detect infections. Since post-surgical infections are a common problem, being able to more closely monitor and know when infections begin could be a significant game changer. Taylor’s invention could directly impact an untold number of lives.   

It was learning about another post-surgical technology for infection detection that inspired Taylor to create a process that did not require a patient to use their smart phone. She recognized that many people, particularly in developing countries, would not be able to afford a smart phone. So she worked on creating an infection detection process with less associated costs, that could therefore provide patients more equitable access. The patent application for Taylor’s invention is pending.

In addition to Taylor’s great scientific mind, she displays a refreshing level of maturity and self-less responsibility. While discussing the technical aspects of her invention, she highlighted its importance as a source of uplift and inspiration for others. “Knowing that I have inspired people all over the world is the real prize to me . . . This isn’t just for me”.

To learn more about the brilliant Dasia Taylor, click below to view a PBS news segment in which she was featured. Allow her genius to inspire your own.

Heroic Father Rescues His Twin Girls, Despite Raging Fire

Ray Lucas and Shi’Ann Brown were shocked to return home, after being away only 15 minutes, and find their house in flames. When the parents of 18-month twins realized none of the relatives standing outside the house were holding their girls, both mother and father ran into the house to save their children. Facing intense heat and flames, Brown was forced to retreat. But Lucas would not be deterred. Completely blinded by smoke and darkness, the determined father had only his memory to guide him through hall-ways and stair-wells. To reach his girls  Lucas sustained second and third degree burns, injury from smoke inhalation, and eye trauma that left him temporarily blinded. And Ray Lucas rescued his babies.

One newspaper article reporting the tragedy stated “the family looses it all”. Perhaps—because of the indomitable courage and heroic love of a father—the family gained it all.

Ray Lucas reflects a long and enduring legacy of Black fathers who protect and provide for their children. They are  generally easier to find when we look for them. Click below to read more about the invincible Black man who walked through fire and saved his twin girls. 


2021 August Newsletter, Present Day Achievements

Two Young, Gifted, and Black Girls Win Harvard's International Debate Competition

It was after the 10th round, having faced more than 100 other debaters from around the world, when Emani Stanton and Jayla Jackson won Harvard University’s illustrious international summer debate competition. The dynamic duo synched a historic victory as the first Black girl team to win.

Together, leaning into and leveraging each others skill, intellect, and creativity, they debated whether the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should substantially increase its defense commitments in the Baltic States. They were introduced to this and other debate topics as participants in the Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project, an Atlanta-based debaters pipeline that recruits, trains and matriculates Black youth into Harvard’s summer debate residency. This is the 4th win for students trained by the Diversity Project.

In many ways, Stanton and Jackson’s victory was not their’s alone. Their exemplary achievement helps expand the pathway of possibilities Black girls and boys throughout the world, can see and follow. Click below to learn more.

HBCU Graduate Purchases Georgia TV Station

April Ross first interned at a television station while studying communications at Alabama State University. After graduating in 2001, she worked at the same station as a production assistant before becoming a reporter. During that time, Ross had no idea that one day she would own the station. Today, she and her husband are the proud owners of WJCN TV-33 in  La Grange, Georgia. 

The thought of owning a TV station did not occur to Ross until after she experienced unexpected success reporting news stories on social media. She was surprised by the number of followers her reporting attracted, and encouraged to do more. Recalling her unpredictable career path that lead to ownership, Ross said, “Don’t ever give up on yourself. I don’t care what it looks like. It was crazy for me to go out with literally a cellphone, but it’s not crazy [any] more. . . “.

Click below to learn more about the HBCU graduate who worked hard, stayed true to her passion and now owns a television station that serves over 600,000 households.

10-Year-Old Offers Crayons and Other Art Products That Celebrate Brown Skin

When Bellen Woodard first heard a classmate refer to the color peach as “skin tone”, she knew something was not right. After all, her honey-golden skin color was not peach. Even though she was the only Black child in her class, she spoke-up.

Woodard explained to her classmates how aligning the concept of many colors with a phrase that only represented one, was grossly problematic. Determined to help shift the faulty practice, Woodard–with family support–began selling crayon packages, colored pencils, and a host of other art related products that represented a range of skin colors, including her own.

Since 2019, Woodard’s “More Than Peach” business project continues to grow. To learn more about the work of a honey-golden girl who spoke-up, and is now showing up as a champion for inclusion, click below.