Oprah Tour gives minority and women entrepreneurs $25,000 grant

By: Farrah Estrella

Photos Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns
Oprah’s “The life you want” eight city tour wrapped up recently and one of the highlights of the tour is that in each city Oprah and Paralympic bronze medalist and Dancing with the Stars finalist, Amy Purdy, shared the stage to surprise a local woman with the Toyota Standing O-Vation award.
The award was a $25,000 gift on behalf of Toyota for the work these women did in their community, in the face of adversity. The women chosen all have incredible stories and include the founders of popular movements like Black Girls Code, Final Salute, Black Girls Run and Estella Pyfrom of Estella’s Brilliant Bus just to name a few.
I attended the Miami leg of the tour and I can say that everyone was in tears when Estella Pyfrom of Estella’s Brilliant Bus was honored. Her story touched everyone in the audience; there was not a dry eye in the house, as I am sure the same thing happened in every city.
Check out the list of all of the women that were honored during the tour below as well as pictures from the evens.Their websites are also posted below that way you can find out more about them and support their efforts.
Photos Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns
ATLANTA, GA – September 5-6
BLACK GIRLS RUN! – Ashley Hicks & Toni Carey
About Black Girls RUN!:
Black Girls RUN! is a national running group launched in 2009 by Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks. The organization has grown to include more than seventy running groups across the nation and hundreds of thousands of members across the nation. The group was created to combat the obesity epidemic among women in the African- American community and dispel the myth that black women do not run. The groups include beginner and experienced runners and provide a support system to help members reach their fitness goals. Black Girls RUN! provides a community and inspires all women to run.
Website: http://www.blackgirlsrun.com
Video: http://www.oprah.com/oprahstour/The-Toyota-Standing-O-Vation-Recipient-i…
Photos Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns
Detroit, MI – September 12-13
Kitchen Connect – Devita Davison
About Devita and Detroit Kitchen Connect:
A native Detroiter who came back to her hometown after her NY home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. She sees her move back to Detroit not as an accident of nature, but as something ordained to happen by a higher power. As her mother told her, “God didn’t send the waters to drown you. He sent them to move you.”
Detroit Kitchen Connect was formed by Devita Davison to help home cooks expand their businesses, as one of the biggest obstacles for starting a food business in Detroit is the high cost of setting up a commercial kitchen. Detroit Kitchen Connect aims to increase entrepreneurial success by negotiating affordable kitchen rentals in local churches so start-up businesses can have access to commercial, licensed kitchen facilities and equipment. According to Davison, the program hopes to provide a safe space for entrepreneurs to create their product, so that they can in turn provide a valuable contribution to the Detroit economy.
Website: http://detroitkitchenconnect.com
Video: http://www.oprah.com/oprahstour/The-Toyota-Standing-O-Vation-Recipient-i…
Photos Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns
Washington DC – September 19-20
Final Salute – Jaspen “Jas” Boothe
About Jaspen and Final Salute:
Jaspen “Jas” Boothe lost her home and belongings during Hurricane Katrina while she was training as a platoon leader in the Army Reserves. At the same time, she was diagnosed with aggressive head, neck and throat cancer. After 6 months in the hospital, 30 rounds of radiation and 2 surgeries, Jaspen was in remission, but had no job and nowhere to go. She called the VA and while they had many programs for men, they had virtually none for women. After being homeless, Jaspen finally got a job in the Army Reserves in Washington DC. One day in 2010, Jaspen saw an “Oprah Winfrey Show” episode about homeless female veterans and was shocked to learn this was still such an issue. She knew she must help. Using whatever funds were on her own credit card, Jaspen started her program “Final Salute” to help as many of the 55,000 female homeless veterans in the U.S. as she could. Today, Jaspen’s organization has 3 homes (in WV, VA and OH) for homeless veteran women and their children to live in while they transition to finding fulltime work. To date, Final Salute has helped 270 women veterans and their children from 15 states and territories.
Photos Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns
Newark, NJ – September 26-27
Camden Sophisticated Sisters – Tawanda Jones
About Tawanda and Camden Sophisticated Sisters:
At fifteen years old Tawanda Jones was already a single mom. But, rather than become another statistic, she decided she was going to help break the cycle of teen pregnancies and gang violence in her Camden, New Jersey neighborhood. So, that same year, she started an activity she believed would offer hope and keep her peers off the streets – a drill team organized and coached by her.
Now, twenty-six years later, 4,000 children have gone through Tawanda’s “Sophisticated Sisters” drill team and drumline. Camden’s high school graduation rate is only 49%, but an astounding 100% Tawanda’s children have graduated. To stay in the program, team members are required to perform 200 hours of community service a year and also maintain a C average. They practice 4 days a week and are usually booked Saturdays at parades, local events, private events, etc. There are currently 223 kids in her program – with 214 on the waitlist.
Photos Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns
Houston, TX – October 17-18
Yamile Jackson – Nurtured by Design
About Yamile Jackson & Nurtured by Design:
Yamile Jackson, a breast cancer survivor who moved to Houston at the age of 21, formed Nurtured by Design after being inspired by her son Zach who was born at 28 weeks. Nurture by Design help babies undergoing medical care in a hospital by simulating the touch of their parents when they are unable to be present and hold them. Frustrated with not being able to stay with her son in the NICU during the night hours, Jackson used garden gloves to create pillows, simulating hers and her husband’s touch and scent. “The Zaky,” as she calls her invention, had a noticeable positive impact on her infant son, and she soon realized the need for her invention in hospitals worldwide. Since 2003, Nurtured by Design has manufactured about 50,000 Zakys, and has made donations to 300 hospitals in 49 countries.
Photos Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns
Miami, FL – October 24-25
Estella Pyfrom (age 77) – Estella’s Brilliant Bus
About Estella and Estella’s Brilliant Bus:
Estella was a guidance counselor in the Miami area and realized that many of the students didn’t have access to computers or technology – what she calls a “digital divide.” So she took over 1 million dollars of her and her husband’s own savings to found contractors and designers to create a bus with 12 computer stations. The bus now travels to underserved communities where the children are able to use the computers and a specialized program she developed that helps the kids in reading, math, science and history, etc. Between the bus and her computer program, she has reached over 61,000 children. She says “it’s not just a bus, it’s a movement.”
Photos Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns
Seattle, WA – November 7-8
Lorraine Kerwood-McKenzie – NextStep Recycling
About Lorraine and NextStep Recycling:
NextStep Recycling was founded by Kerwood-McKenzie to provide computers to individuals who could not afford them. After struggling in school her whole life and ultimately learning she had Asperger’s Syndrome, Kerwood-McKenzie knew firsthand the immense benefits of computer education for individuals with special education needs. After discovering her skill for refurbishing computers, she enlisted the help of other tech-savvy community members and began providing refurbished computers to those who needed them. NextStep also trains individuals to refurbish the computers, thus providing them with a useful education to carry into the workforce. Today, NextStep has two separate locations with over 35,000 square feet, 37 employees and hundreds of volunteers.
Photos Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns
San Jose, CA – November 14-15
Kimberly Bryant – Black Girls Code
About Black Girls Code:
Kimberly Bryant is convinced the next Mark Zuckerberg could be someone who looks like her. She started Black Girls Code in 2011 with $100,000 of her own savings after realizing her 12-year-old daughter was the only girl of color attending a technology summer camp at Stanford University. Kim has had a 20 year career in the technology and bio tech engineering working for companies like Pfizer and DuPont. Black Girls Code teaches computer programming and entrepreneurial skills to girls of color, ages 6 to 17, hoping to train them to become tech leaders of the future. In just three years, the program has reached 3,000 girls through chapters in seven U.S. cities and in Johannesburg, South Africa. Eight additional chapters across the country are planned for 2014, with the goal of reaching 1 million girls by 2040.
Photos Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns

By Farrah Estrella

Farrah Estrella is an award winning Latina, plus size, fashion, beauty and lifestyle blogger. A native of the Dominican Republic, she was a previous writer for Examiner.com and has been the editor of the Estrella Fashion Report since 2012. Follow her on twitter at @FarrahEstrella and @EstrellaFReport

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