“To realize the end of AIDS for children and families, by combating the physical, social and economic impacts of HIV.”
For 12 years now, Alicia Keys’ and Leigh Blake’s Keep a Child Alive (KCA) organization has made that their mission and have been making remarkable strides in philanthropic work, research and support in order to make that a reality.
To assist with the efforts of fighting against HIV/AIDS, KCA hosts an annual Black Ball that helps to raise the funds necessary to provide treatment and care for children, youth and families affected in Africa and India. The Black Ball is also an event that celebrates the power and potential of Africa and the millions of people living with HIV/AIDS.
This year at their 12th Annual Black Ball, KCA successfully raised $3.8 million. The musical celebration was led by the theme, “Black to the Future” and emceed by actor and comedian Chris Rock. The Black Ball was filled with celebrities who came out in unison to support and it featured some enlightening performances by Alicia Keys, Wale, Lion Babe and Lenny Kravitz.
The Black Ball was also filled, however, with everyday people who have an equally fervent passion to help the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Recent Pennsylvania State University graduate and 2014-2015 Homecoming Queen, Kenya Crawford, 22, has been actively involved with KCA and helped with the Black Ball this year.
How long have you been involved with KCA and what initially prompted your involvement?
KC: My involvement with Keep a Child Alive began in 2011 [when I was] a junior in high school. I was granted the opportunity to travel to Malawi through a program called “Trek for Knowledge” in order to assist with the construction of a school in a rural village. While my time in Malawi was breath taking, I felt that there was still an enormous amount of work to be done. The beautiful people of Malawi were in need not just of education but of access to HIV treatment as well. As I learned more about the multitude of this disease, I knew I had to do something. Therefore, upon traveling back to the U.S., I sought universities with several service organizations. One of the many reasons I chose Penn State was discovering their dedication to serving others. During freshmen year [of college] I became heavily involved with KCA as secretary. After serving as the secretary for one semester, I took a leap of faith and ran for President. Although I was excited in this new role, I also worried about how I, a sophomore on campus, could make a difference. It is in those moments of doubt I channel the love and support my host family provided me while living in Malawi.
What were some of the things you did at Penn State to support KCA?
KC: While at Penn State, KCA chose to focus on three pillars: fundraising, education and community service. In order to achieve our fundraising goals, we’d host events such as the Valentine’s Day candy grams, bake sales and date auctions. To educate the community we’d host our Halloween “Sweet and Protected” where we’d give away candy with HIV statistics attached. We’d also collaborate with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. to host the Battle of the Sexes where we’d discuss the negative effects of gender roles on safer sex practices. In serving the community, general body members have sat on educational panels and traveled to South Africa to volunteer in HIV/AIDS programs. Our biggest event that encompasses all three pillars is the K-Ball. This is a mock Black Ball that includes performances by student artists, a keynote speaker relevant to the field and raffle prizes to raise money.
Even after graduation, you’re still involved. How’s that been for you?
KC: I am now pursing my masters in Psychological Counseling at Columbia University. The amazing thing about being in New York City is that our [KCA] headquarters is located just minutes from me. With the close proximity, I am able to lend a hand whenever they are in need.
What gives you that spark to help continue the fight against HIV/AIDS and support KCA’s cause?
KC: When I walked out of that village in Wimbe, Malawi for the last time, my host mother asked me to promise to never forget her. Through my tireless and continuous work with KCA I hope to make her proud.
How was the Black Ball this year and what was your role?
KC: Like every year, it has brought me to tears of happiness. It’s easy to feel defeated fighting against this disease, but to see the hundreds of people who care enough to donate thousands of dollars is heartwarming. Last year I attended the Black Ball as a representative for Penn State. This year I was able to check in with various guests to ensure their comfort during the evening. In addition, I helped during the pledge session where we’d walk over to tables and provide guests with a tablet in which they could electronically donate to Keep a Child Alive.
What is something you feel we all can do to help fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic?
KC: It’s imperative to be educated on this epidemic. So many people, especially our generation, have been consumed by the ideology that “this cannot happen to me.” With 1.2 million people affected by HIV in the United States and 12% of those individuals being unaware of their positive status, the potential is there. I’d advise everyone to get tested frequently and communicate your status with your partners. You can save a life.
“When the history of our times is written, will we be remembered as the generation that turned our backs in a moment of global crisis or will it be recorded that we did the right thing?” – Nelson Mandela
Now signing off with the reminder: Don’t wait for the world to recognize your greatness, live it and let the world catch up to you.
Drake Releases Most Important Project of His Career
Today Drake released the visual for his song, “God’s Plan”. In this video, it showcases Drake giving back to communities, schools & even families in more ways than one. Whether it was signing checks for scholarships, paying for grocery bills or just handing stacks of cash to families, the 6 God decided to use the million dollar budget given for the video to instead, give it all away.
It’s empowering to see celebrities use their platforms for good and to give back to those in need.
Drake, in case no one has told you yet – you’re doing amazing sweetie.
‘The Real’ Surprises Staff Member at Community Academy of Philadelphia
Jeannie Mai, co-host from The Real took over Philadelphia to surprise a special staff member from the Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School. The Assistant Operations Manager, Vilma Ray (also known to everyone as grandmom Ray) has dedicated over 16 years of her life serving the children and staff at Community Academy. She’s held multiple jobs for the school, to name a few – she’s driven the bus, mowed the lawns, cleaned up after students, supervised discipline room and the federal lunch program. Regardless of whatever the job was, big or small – she’s said to have completed each task with a smile on her face.
“Momma Ray is a miracle worker” – Alberta O’Brien, High School Principal.
Everyone that comes into grandmom’s Ray life, she is known to impact them in an empowering way. When needed, she is always a ray of sunshine and the backbone for everyone. It is because of this, Jeannie Mai came to the school to surprise and honor grandmom Ray for her years of service and commitment. Grandmom Ray originally thought she was randomly selected to play their infamous “Dimestore to Deluxe” game but little did she know there was a huge surprise for her at the end. Check out the segment of #TheRealOnTheRoad Philadelphia below:
Why Being Kind is Too Much Sauce
You’re probably already aware that your smile could change someone’s day. We hear it all of the time: Smile. Be kind. Be courteous. Use manners. But would you believe it if I told you that your smile could change someone’s life?
It can. Because it’s not just the smile, it’s also what comes with it. The confidence, the happiness, the positive vibes and energy that are released into world that may translate to a silent affirmation for someone else.
Smile, because you never know who’s watching feeding off of you. It’s a small act of kindness with a big impact on both the giver and the receiver.
And when it comes to small acts of kindness, too often we underestimate the power of them.
When you do things that aren’t required of you in hopes of helping or uplifting a person you know nothing about, not only does it become infectious, but the world finds a way to bring that goodness back around to you.
When Florida State University football player, Travis Rudolph, recently ate lunch with Bo Paske, an autistic boy who sat alone in the cafeteria, he could not have fathomed the national attention that small act of his was about to garner.
Not only did he help to bring more awareness to the autistic community, but he changed the lives of both Bo and his mother, and caught the attention of the media and sports community that will only prove to be beneficial to his career.
And all of this sparked from a picture he didn’t even know was being taken.
Again, you never know who’s watching you.
The powerful possibilities that come with randomly doing something nice for people are endless and rewarding. You could simply change their day by lifting their spirits or you could change their way of thinking about both the world and others.
Not only are acts of kindness significant, but they’re really easy to practice. Here are five ways you can be kind to someone today:
- Hand write a thank you note: handwritten anything is becoming so rare that taking the time to do so in the form of a thank you note will be sure to linger in the mind of the receiver.
- Support a dream or positive venture: You see it on your Facebook or Twitter timeline all of the time. Someone asking you to “like” their new business page or fill out a brief survey for their new idea. How long does it really take to do something like this? Do it.
- Compliment someone: You never know the kind of day someone is having. Write a compliment on your waiter or cashier’s receipt. Tell your coworker how great they are at their job. Tell the person on the train next to you how much you love their hair.
- Tell someone you appreciate them: It’s so easy to go on about our days expecting to receive certain things from certain people. Whether that’s money from mom or an invitation from your friend, tell that person you appreciate them for playing a positive role in your life.
- Smile: Like Nike, just do it.
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