7|X Legacy Series: A Platform to Drive Change

7|X Legacy Series: A Platform to Drive Change
A Conversation with Kwame Owusu-Kesse, CEO-Elect of Harlem Children's Zone

  • 7|X Legacy Series is a space dedicated to bringing together like-minded leaders to address some of the biggest challenges facing our Black communities
  • Our framework for action is simple: Time + Resources + Network = Impact. We may not be able to offer all three, but we can commit to at least one
  • Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) CEO-elect Kwame Owusu-Kesse is leading the charge to serve the children and families of Harlem through schooling, mentorship and community services
  • 7|X is coordinating a donation effort to support the on-going efforts of HCZ in serving the youth of the Harlem Community as they navigate the global COVID-19 pandemic
  • To donate, please click this link to contribute directly to Harlem Children’s Zone!

Part of our 7|X mission is to leverage the power of our community to support social, cultural, and economic equity for Black and other underrepresented communities.

We are not unique or original in this effort. And we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the countless activists, leaders, organizations, and communities who have fought—and continue to fight—tirelessly on the front lines of these issues every day. In fact, it is because of them that we have any of the civil liberties, education, housing and employment opportunities that we enjoy today.

Now it is time for us to join the fight.

We are actualizing a longstanding vision of ours—creating a space where we bring together like-minded leaders to address some of the biggest challenges facing our Black and underserved communities. We have the ability to make an impact during these times, and we believe that if we pool our time, resources and network, we can contribute to creating a legacy for our collective future.

This is the genesis of the 7|X Legacy Series.

Systematic injustice and racism are far-reaching and complex. Our programming will follow a range of issues—all of which directly impact Black and underrepresented communities—including education, criminal justice reform, homelessness, public health, economic equity and more. We will host sessions facilitated by subject matter experts to help educate and point us toward action.

We held the first event in our 7|X Legacy Series, which featured a conversation with Kwame Owusu-Kesse, the CEO-elect of Harlem Children’s Zone. Education is a vital issue facing our youth, and we know all too well the ways in which communities of color are left behind in terms of resources, investment, and educational outcomes.

Aimed at providing comprehensive, critical support to children and families and reweaving the very fabric of community life, Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) began as a one-block pilot in the 1990s led by Geoffrey Canada. With bold ambition, careful planning, and a strong infrastructure, HCZ set out to address not just some, but all of the issues children and families were facing within a finite geographic area: crumbling apartments, rampant drug use, failing schools, violent crime, and chronic health problems.

Today, Harlem Children’s Zone continues to strengthen the foundations of their community by rooting out poverty on every front—block by block, need for need. From life-shaping early development and education programs to life-affirming community wellness and outreach initiatives, HCZ’s all-around approach opens pathways for opportunity, mobility and prosperity. Today HCZ encompasses 97 blocks and serves 14,000 children and 14,000 adults. Backed by a generation of proof, HCZ is relentless in their pursuit of creating opportunities for the children, families and community they serve.

The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the importance of the Harlem Children’s Zone’s efforts. As communities of color grapple with the disproportionate impact of the public health crisis, children and families are left managing through unprecedented uncertainty especially given the government’s inadequate response. This type of instability threatens access to safe and productive learning environments for underrepresented students. HCZ has embraced these challenges by augmenting their strategies to continue to provide excellent educational support for the next generation of black and brown students.

Kwame shared with us the five-pronged COVID-19 response that his team is leading to address the critical needs of the Harlem community over the coming months:

  1. Emergency Relief Fund… raising funds to provide emergency needs and put cash in the hands of those impacted by COVID-19.
  2. Protecting the Most Vulnerable… providing access to protective resources to keep high-risk residents safe, including masks, thermometers, oximeters, and other basic equipment.
  3. Bridging the Digital Divide… ensuring children have access to technology, including devices and internet.
  4. Zero Learning Loss… developing programs to ensure children remain connected to continued learning during stay-at-home.
  5. Mitigating the Mental Health Crisis… offering services to manage through emotional trauma resulting from the impact the global crisis is having on communities.

Over the decades, Harlem Children’s Zone has demonstrated remarkable student and family outcomes. With thousands of young people well on their way to achieving the ultimate goal of college graduation, they have not only reached the tipping point, but they have become a national model and thought leader in the fields of education, youth and community development, and the fight against poverty.

7|X admires the work of Kwame and Harlem Children’s Zone, and we call on our community to support HCZ’s efforts on the front line.

7|X believes that we can mobilize our community to support the issues we care about by leveraging our time, resources and network. This simple formula will guide the work of the 7|X Legacy Series.

“Time + Resources + Network = Impact”

Volunteering time could mean raising awareness via social media, attending virtual events, promoting causes on our platforms, or doing acts of service. Offering resource could mean writing checks or donating goods and supplies. Tapping our network could mean making a phone call, sending an email, or reaching out for support. No matter the form it takes, this is action.

As individuals, we may not be able to offer all three—our schedules may prevent us from investing time, our resources may be limited or tied up, our network may not be relevant for a given cause. But each of us can find the space for at least one. And if each of us creates that space and encourages those around us to do the same, then the power of our collective influence generates its greatest impact.

To that end, one of the commitments we made during our 7|X Legacy Series was to tap into our collective resource. The primary funding for Harlem Children’s Zone comes from individual donations, from folks like us who are willing to give a little in order to make a big difference. Let’s open our pockets or purses—to whatever extent possible—and support the COVID-19 response efforts of the Harlem Children’s Zone.

To make a donation, please follow the link here. All proceeds will go directly to Harlem Children’s Zone and the members of the Central Harlem community.

We know the power of our 7|X community. Tell a friend. Let’s get to work.

For more information on Harlem Children’s Zone, please visit their website and follow them on social media.

Also, please follow Kwame Owusu-Kesse (Twitter and Instagram) to stay up-to-date on the latest from HCZ.

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7|X Legacy Series: A Platform to Drive Change
A Conversation with Kwame Owusu-Kesse, CEO-Elect of Harlem Children's Zone
7 minutes read
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