As 2020, nears its’ close, ESSENCE is beyond excited to partner with AT&T, Disney Parks, Disney Studios and Hyundai to bring you the second edition of our ESSENCE Essential Heroes Awards. These awards will honor Educators, Mental Health Professionals, Parents and Community Change Makers who have spent the entire year dedicating their time, energy and expertise to help better the lives of those around them.
Keep scrolling for a look at our honorees and be sure to catch the ESSENCE Essential Heroes Awards streaming on essence.com and the ESSENCE Facebook page beginning November 18 at 6PM EST.
Congratulations to all of our honorees!
Kim Young, Founder, Dope Black Social Worker, LLC
Kim Young is the founder of Dope Black Social Worker, LLC. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in the Commonwealth of Virginia with over a decade of experience working alongside at promise youth, families, and communities. She also has experience in providing direct clinical services to youth and adults in psychiatric hospitals, residential treatment and community based settings. Kim specializes in working with youth and young adults who have experienced, and participated in, acts of community violence. She is on a mission to eliminate suffering for black youth by fighting to eliminate barriers to dreaming, increase youth visibility, and create pathways to opportunities. For more information, visit https://www.dopeblacksocialworker.com/.
Roz Sandifer, Founder, LitMom
LITMOM is a platform that elevates, a bridge that connects, and an outlet that provides empowerment and liberation. Living In The MOMent is the premier destination for today’s black MOM.
Launched in 2018, LITMOM is centered in storytelling and shared experiences dedicated to uplifting, inspiring and celebrating motherhood. For more information, visit https://www.thelitmom.com/.
Yolanda Carson, Founder, When Jade Smiles
Yolanda Carson is the founder of When Jade Smiles. When Jade Smiles is a nonprofit dedicated to providing assistance to children who have lost a parent. Yolanda created the foundation after her 23-year-old daughter, Jade, was killed by a drunk driver, leaving Jade's 6-month-old son nd Yolanda's grandson, without a mother. When Jade Smiles aim to provide a support system children who have lost loved ones so that they can overcome any obstacles often associated with loss. When Jade Smiles is destined to change lives as it honors a special young woman who has changed the lives of her loved ones forever. For more information, visit https://www.whenjadesmiles.org/.
Shirley Raines, Founder, Beauty 2 The Streetz
Shirley Raines is the founder of Beauty 2 the Streetz. Recognizing that the lack of a home does not mean a lack of humanity, Beauty 2 The Streetz aims to serve the homeless by providing necessities alongside the things that make us feel inherently human: a hot shower, a hearty meal and the hope-inducing feeling of looking in the mirror and loving what you see. They are building friendships based on equality and compassion and believe it is this, more than simply the hair and makeup, that brings beauty to the streets. For more information, visit https://www.beauty2thestreetz.org.
Danyelle Jones, Founder, Mindfully Inc.
Danyelle Jones is a Chicago-based art teacher and the founder of Mindfully, Inc. Mindfully’s goal is to help kids learn tell the best self-stories and to be kind and compassionate towards themselves, yet still have a strong sense of accountability for their actions in all situations. Mindfully aims to empower children to take ownership in creating their story; no longer simply believing the narratives and labels they may have been born into, told, or given. Mindfully hopes to expand the emotional intelligence, perseverance and self-love of youth — so that they never give up in the middle of their story. For more information, visit https://www.mindfullyinc.com/
Deryck Toles, Founder, Inspiring Minds
Deryck Toles is the founder of Inspiring Minds. Inspiring Minds offers free after-school and summer programming to more than 500 K-12 students annually in multiple cities across the country. Year-round programming focuses on five areas of IMpact: Education, College & Career Readiness, Exposure to New Experiences, Health & Wellness and Personal Development. Inspiring Minds continues to evolve to meet the needs of the communities and students we serve, but our driving force will always remain the same: Anything’s possible. For more information, visit http://imyouth.org/.
Shanti Das, Founder, Silence The Shame
Shanti Das is the Founder of Silence The Shame. Silence The Shame is a nonprofit organization that focuses on education and awareness around mental health. Through Crisis Response Trainings, Community Conversations, Wellness Trainings, digital content, and outreach programs, the organization aims to normalize the conversation, peel back the layers of shame, eliminate stigma, and provide support for mental well-being. For more information, visit https://silencetheshame.com/.
Nicole Russell, Founder, Precious Dreams Foundation
Nicole Russell is the founder of the Precious Dreams Foundation. The Precious Dreams Foundation provides comfort items for bedtime and programs that inspire youth in foster care and homeless shelters to dream big. For more information, visit https://www.preciousdreamsfoundation.org/.
Mickol Bryant Franklin, Co-Director, Cheer Image Iconz
Mickol is a co-director at Cheer Image Iconz. Cheer Image Iconz is a community-based, competitive recreational cheer program based in Warren, Ohio that aims to develop powerful and self-confident athletes in the sport of cheer. Integrity, work ethic, mutual respect, accountability and a high level of commitment is our foundation for a successful outcome. Through proper training, performances and competitions, Cheer Image Iconz, LLC serves to build a program that develops self-respect and boosts the emotional maturity of its athletes. Cheer Image Iconz embraces the philosophy that "EVERY" child is an "ICON" and with the right amount of love, support and guidance each of them will excel in the sport of cheer and grow in their accomplishments, both on and off the mat. Mickol also works as Site Coordinator for Inspiring Minds and has taught hand eye coordination, sign language, healthy eating and over all wellness to children 18 months - school age as fitness educator with Gymsters. she has committed her life’s work to bettering the lives of children in her community through her work professionally, while also raising her three young daughters and overcoming unimaginable personal challenges along the way, namely during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, visit https://www.cheerimage.com/.
Rodnesha Ross, Founder, Youth Community Agency
Rodnesha Ross, is the founder of the Youth Community Agency. A Detroit mother of four, she founded the Youth Community Agency to help teen moms complete their GED, connect them to local businesses for internships and help them build skills that can prepare them for college or the workforce. The organization's primary focus is empowering WOMEN and IMPROVING the community. Youth Community Agency was created to remind people about the teenage mothers that go forgotten about and to encourage other entrepreneurs/organizations to give back to the Detroit community, to show the importance of giving back! Rodnesha believes it was only right for her to create this organization because as someone who is a success story from her community who didn't achieve her success alone The YCA team believes everyone deserves a second chance and support when we need a shoulder to lean on. For more information, visit http://www.youthcommunityagency.org/.
Ashanti Murdock, Director of Recruitment, KIPP Indy Public Schools
Ashanti Murdock is the Director of Recruitment at KIPP Indy Public Schools. KIPP Indy Public Schools is a nonprofit network of college-preparatory, public charter schools with a 25-year track record of preparing students in educationally underserved communities for success in college and life. For more information, visit https://www.kipp.org/kipp-foundation/.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan, Founder, Decolonizing Therapy, LLC
Dr. Jennifer Mullan (Pronouns: She/ Her) is the founder of Decolonizing Psychology, LLC. Decolonizing Therapy seeks to create spaces to “call mental health professions IN” (rather than call people out). Dr. Mullan believes it is essential to ask mental health professionals to reassess their education, “whom they are serving? “and begin to question the relatability of the mental health industrial complex to the People they serve. It is her belief that we can tend to our emotional/ mental health AND hold systemic oppression accountable. Through the movement of Decolonizing Therapy, she can be found providing international keynotes, holding Radicalizing Rage workshops, doing Coaching sessions while un-training mental health professionals, providing Ancestral healing sessions, or spending time with her Goddess cat, Isis. Through her work, she creates spaces for people and organizations to heal. She believes that it is essential to create dialogue to address how mental health is deeply affected by systemic inequities and the trauma of oppression, particularly the well-being of Queer Indigenous Black Brown People of Color (QIBPOC). She is passionately committed to solidarity work that effectively addresses inequities based on race, gender, class, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, Founder, Therapy for Black Girls
Dr. Joy Harden Bradford is the Founder of Therapy for Black Girls. Therapy for Black Girls is an online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of Black women and girls. Dr. Harden Bradford's workfocuses on making mental health topics more relevant and accessible for Black women and she delights in using pop culture to illustrate psychological concepts. For more information, visit https://therapyforblackgirls.com/
Charles Johnson - 4 Kira 4 Moms
4Kira4Moms was founded with the mission to advocate for improved maternal health policies and regulations. Their goal is to educate the public about the impact of maternal mortality in communities, provide peer support to the victim's family and friends, and to promote the idea that maternal mortality should be viewed and discussed as a human rights issue. 4Kira4Moms is currently calling on Congress to pass H.R.1318. That legislation will support States in their work to save and sustain the health of mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the postpartum period, to eliminate disparities in maternal health outcomes for pregnancy-related and pregnancy-associated deaths and to identify solutions to improve health care quality and health outcomes for mothers.
Karen Washington, Co-Founder, Rise & Root Farm
Karen Washington is the co-Founder of Rise & Root Farm. Rise & Root Farm is strongly rooted in New York City and committed to engaging rural and urban communities through food and farming. Their current and previous farming related affiliations include: Just Food, Farm School NYC, Ecostation:NY, Bushwick Campus Farm, Black Urban Growers, Crock and Jar, La Familia Verde Community Garden coalition, GrowNYC. They have also worked with community gardens and urban farms in NYC and beyond, and have dedicated their lives to increasing the number of people growing and eating good food. They care about justice and equity and in building a strong local food economy. For more information, visit https://www.riseandrootfarm.com/.
Trinket Lewis is an Executive Producer and hard-working mom who turned her basement into a learning pod for children. She is also the co-founder of GetT he Big Picture, which provides movie-enriched curriculum for the culturally responsive classroom. We create opportunities for youth to become informed about different places and perspectives through movies while cultivating their excitement about learning.
Phillip Shung, Dr. Keith White, Kenneth Montgomery and Mali X - BKLYN Combine
BKLYN Combine is a non profit community organization that works with schools, children, and other community organizations to provide programs to youth and young adults in low income and underserved communities. The organization offers a weekend mentoring program within NYC schools, and most recently, they completed a virtual camp this summer in partnership with The Beam Center. They also produce Stuy Talks – candid youth-led conversations about racial justice and the steps we can take to positively impact communities. All programs are free to the public.
Dr. Peter Archer
Dr. Peter Archer is a former middle school jazz band director at Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74 in Bayside Queens, NY, where he taught sixth, seventh and eighth grade for 34 years.
Jacqueline Nickelberry, Global Gift Registry
The Global Gift Registry was founded in 2020 by philanthropist and activist Jacqueline Nickelberry at the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States. Jacqueline birthed this community-led gifting movement after one chance encounter with a homeless woman who was 8 months pregnant and sleeping on a cement bench. On March 28, 2020, while on a run through downtown Miami, Jacqueline met this woman and then spent two days bringing her food and supplies while also trying to locate her safe shelter. Frustrated by lack of resources for expecting women, the Global Gift Registry was founded in the belief that all women and families should have access to the basic necessities to start life off right regardless of their circumstances. With a strong call to action to come together doing what women always do in times of crisis, the Global Gift Registry has rallied women from around the world to “virtual shower” those in need.