This past weekend, actor, singer, songwriter, and philanthropist Usher, held the sixth annual Disruptivator Summit on the campus of Georgia State University in Atlanta. Launched by Usher’s New Look Foundation, this year featured two days of sessions including mentorship, financial literacy, health and wellness workshops and excursions to corporate headquarters and local businesses.
From the time of its inception, the Grammy Award-winning musician’s foundation has continued to inspire, educate, and empower the young people of this generation and the next, to become leaders and change-makers in their respective communities. “We’ve been a functioning 501(c)(3) for the last 24 years, so this is really an extension of Usher’s New Look,” he says. “The purpose and point is to find those who are already on a mission.”
“If you think about it, people like Dr. Martin Luther King and John Lewis, and organizations like SNCC and other thought leaders; they were the youth at the time, and they were leading the charge because they had their hands on the pulse of what was actively going on in their community,” Usher continues. “What we want to do is to encourage young men and women who are being disruptive in a positive way. These young “disruptivators” – as I branded them – are changing their community, and also, too, being thought leaders for people to recognize things that need to be noticed, or either things that need to be highlighted. We wanted to support them.”
The 2023 Usher’s New Look Disruptivator Summit: Be Your Own SuperHero, kicked off on July 20th, and included a performance from the Atlanta Drum Academy, a keynote panel hosted by DenisèAnn Malcolm, and Ryan Wilson, the co-founder, and CEO of The Gathering Spot, and words from journalist Tony Betton Jr. and teen influencer, Dai Time. The opening day culminated with some introspective words from Usher, who spoke about the importance of passion and commitment, and how those things can be catalysts on the path to success.
Success, is something that has become synonymous with this amazing foundation. Since its creation in 1999, UNL has helped transform the lives of more than 55,000 young people around the world, and shows no signs of letting up. During the summit, Careshia Moore, President & CEO Usher’s New Look, spoke to ESSENCE about how the 501(c)(3) maintains its relevance in today’s climate, saying that it’s chief focus has been to prioritize mental health, as well as providing the youth with the proper tools to navigate in this often-unforgiving society.
“I want our young people to know that there are people who believe in them, who’ve invested in them, and who have their wellbeing in mind, and that they are superheroes and they have everything within them that they need to succeed,” Moore says. “If they need something and don’t have it, they’re going to leave this summit knowing where those resources are and how to be resourceful.”
“Whether it’s with a peer that they’ve met, a mentor, whether they know now where to go for a career because of the excursions, they will be more empowered to be able to create the future that they want,” she adds. In addition to the powerful sessions and activities, this year’s summit also featured an invitation-only Usher Experience at Nobu Hotel Atlanta’s stunning Nobu Villa and Rooftop Terrace. On evening that preceded the opening day, the $2,500 per-person occasion raised more than $75,000 to benefit UNL’s programs designed to provide critical resources for youth disproportionately affected by poverty and educational inequality, adding to the foundation’s expanding impact on communities worldwide.
In regard to the theme of this year’s Disruptivator Summit, Usher feels that part of being your own superhero is learning how to invest in yourself, and to understand that life’s obstacles can also serve as teachable moments for the better. When asked about the challenges that young people face today, Usher gave some powerful words of wisdom. “I think everybody has their own journey,” he says.
“I think the hero’s journey, no pun intended, is one that I’m trying to expose our youth to make certain that they understand that there are going to be these ebbs and flows in life, but to be okay with that,” Usher continues. “Don’t have shame in that and feel like you can’t get back up because your highest peak was really what you perceived as the highest peak, but it really wasn’t. It goes up and it goes up and it goes up, but it only does that as a result of you learning from whatever that moment offered you that was adversity or was difficult.”
The singer closed his statement by saying, “If you want quick success, it’ll be just that – grand opening, grand closing. But if you choose to continue to fight, to continue to have the tenacity to get back up when you feel like you’re knocked down, you’re going to go much, much further.”