“We’re intervening in the lives of the worst of the worst,” says Davis-Bellamy. “It’s got to be a shooter, someone in prison. We’re looking for ones that are causing the problem and intervening in their lives. We’re trying to interrupt the violence that these guys are already engaged in.”
Funding for the program—which requires an estimated $250,000 per year per neighborhood site, depending on the size—runs out June 30. Davis-Bellamy says Mayor Nutter—who just announced a $500,000 fund to dole out rewards on tips leading to the arrest of murderers—is interested and that she is “aggressively” trying to identify funding to sustain the program. “When you think about the investments made in terms of building prisons, you think … ‘Why can’t we do some of this on the front end?’”
Donna Frisby-Greenwood, the Knight Foundation
By Laura Goldman
Paying it forward has been Donna Frisby-Greenwood’s mission in life since she was a kid. At 15, she started the NAACP Youth Council in her suburban Philly neighborhood. By the time she was 23, she founded her first nonprofit to help urban youth. Today, as the program director of the Philadelphia office of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Frisby-Greenwood continues to tear down the barriers that make it difficult for communities in need to access funding. “When most people think of foundations, they think of them pairing with only elite institutions. We encourage everyone to apply,” says Frisby-Greenwood.
As the 26th largest foundation in the country, with more than $2 billion in assets, the Knight Foundation differentiates itself from its peers by awarding grants to deserving organizations headed by people from all walks of life, including the formerly homeless and imprisoned. Since joining the foundation in 2010, Frisby-Greenwood is working hard to ensure that Philly is on the receiving end of Knight’s philanthropy, creating forums that enable disenfranchised voices to be heard.
“Since 1970, the foundation has donated $92 million in Philadelphia,” she says. “I am proud that we have over $20 million on the street in Philadelphia now.”
The foundation funds 413 projects that enrich the lives of ordinary Philadelphians, supporting ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, nurture community engagement and foster the arts. Frisby-Greenwood, a former teacher, says Knight is working closely with the Free Library of Philadelphia to expand access to broadband technology and digital literacy training beyond the physical library walls. One of its most popular projects is the “Random Acts of Culture,” which is a series of spontaneous cultural performances in nontraditional settings. Shoppers at Macy’s, along with a million YouTube viewers, were delighted to be treated to a stirring performance of “Hallelujah” by the Opera Company of Philadelphia.
Frisby-Greenwood is excited about the opportunity to change lives with a grant to the Urban Youth Racing School. The stipend will be utilized to expand an e-mentoring program for black youth. “Sports are the hook to attract the kids,” she says. “We then bring in speakers such as Howard White, manager of the Jordan brand for Nike, CBS sportscaster James Brown, former 76er Darryl Dawkins to talk about what it takes to be successful. Afterward, these wonderful role models will continue to encourage the participants by email via a specially developed platform.”
But of all the foundation’s programs, the closest to Frisby-Greenwood’s heart is the “Be Me” (BME) challenge, which shines a light on the black men who are making significant contributions to their community. More than 1,000 men in Philadelphia participated in the challenge; 10 Philadelphians were awarded grants this year. Solomon Jones, a former Daily News columnist who now teaches at Temple, intends to use his award to expand his “Words on the Street” program, which works to increase the literacy of 650 children.
Loraine Ballard Morill, the news and community affairs director at ClearChannel Media and Entertainment, was thrilled to work with the Knight Foundation. “As a veteran of urban radio, we often report negatively on young adults and men in our community, so it was great to be able to highlight the vast majority of men that are making extraordinary and real contributions,” she says.
Before joining the foundation, Frisby-Greenwood enjoyed a career devoted to public service. Working at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under Secretary Henry Cisneros in 1994, she fought against the proposed law that would take away driver’s licenses from fathers who were late making their child-support payments. Later that year, she was instrumental in the Clinton administration’s battle to keep Head Start inside the Department of Health and Human Services. Her work there was noticed by Rock the Vote, which recruited her as director of development. Her efforts there led to the registration of more than a million young voters. But Fisby-Greenwood says her heart belonged to Philly, so she turned down Arnold Schwarznegger’s offer to head his Inner-City Games organization in Los Angeles. After returning to Philly, she married a local business executive. Living in Northern Liberties, she began working at the School District of Philadelphia, where she succeeded in dramatically increasing the number of students taking the PSAT and SAT tests.
But Frisby-Greenwood isn’t into accolades. She just wants to keep helping others less fortunate. “I count my success by the number of Ph.Ds earned by the youth—who are often from low income neighborhoods—in my programs.”
Leslie Odom Jr., actor
By Lacey Clark
Actor Leslie Odom Jr. can often be found in what he calls the “L.O.J.” zone.
Every morning, he’d appear on set calm, prepared and focused. With a big cup of black coffee in one hand and a script in the other, Odom would leisurely peruse his marked-up script—even though he had already committed the lines to memory.
And the script in question?
Red Tails, the George Lucas-produced box-office hit about the famous Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black fighter-pilot squad in WWII.
“The Tuskegee Airmen are legendary,” Odom says. “They overcame hate with excellence. Red Tails inspired me because of this.”
Humble yet self-assured, 30-year-old Odom describes himself as driven, honest and present. He is a professional triple threat as a movie star, TV actor and Broadway performer. Aside from Red Tails, he has a recurring role on the NBC’s Smash (produced by Steven Spielberg), which comes out this month, and a role one of Broadway’s newest productions, Leap of Faith\, if scheduling permits. “I’ve only just begun” says Odom, adding that he got to where he is today with “real love” and endless dedication.”
As a boy growing up in Philadelphia, Odom learned theater, dance and singing techniques at Philadanco, the New Freedom Theater and the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. He credits the “powerful, beautiful support” he received from his arts teachers for laying the foundation for his success.