End of the beginning: Rashawn Davis finds his footing after Newark’s municipal race

It’s an early spring Saturday afternoon in Newark, and I’m bumping along Springfield Avenue in the backseat of a red Buick. Rashawn Davis, 22, is seated in front of me in the passenger seat discussing the details of his next event with his campaign manager, Chad Montague. He’ll be visiting St. Ann’s Soup Kitchen in Newark’s West Ward to read at a literacy program and serve food to the kitchen’s Saturday morning clientele.

For Davis, this Saturday afternoon is the coda to a week spent working at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on community policing issues by day, and talking to the likes of me at night (I interviewed Davis for this story four days prior to our soup kitchen excursion).

rashawn-davis-reading

Image credit: Andaiye Taylor

At St. Ann’s, Davis is greeted warmly by the soup kitchen’s staff. He heads into a long, thin reading room where children have gathered around a table, and reads Babar Comes to America to a young girl. When he’s finished there, he crosses the facility and heads into the kitchen, where he dons a baseball cap and matching apron, and receives a rundown of the day’s menu from kitchen staff. Asked to make some remarks to the people he’ll soon serve, he assents readily and walks out to the middle of the floor to say a few words.

His basic message to the soup kitchen attendees: that he’ll be working on their behalf in the political off-season, far away from the klieg lights and media hype that contribute to the circus-like feel of campaign season here in Newark. This, in a nutshell, is the blueprint for Davis’ life after his first political run.

Unto the breach

Newark might be one of the oldest cities in the country, but look at its current demographics, and at the people who are most affected by the city’s most pressing problems, and the watchword is undoubtedly “youth.”

Newark indexes slightly higher for pre-adult youth than the state of New Jersey, and the city boasts a senior population of only 8.6 percent, versus the state’s 13.5 percent. Young people are the subject of the city’s raging debate about education, and the hardest hit by unemployment. They’re both the most frequent victims and perpetrators of violent crime.

Yet Newark’s political leadership is characterized by legacy, incumbency and, well, age. It’s a particular concern for Davis, who worries that the experiences, worldview, and talents of the millennial generation are essential for moving the city forward, but missing from the city’s local government leadership. The needs of that generation, and of the city on the whole, can’t be sufficiently addressed because of youth underrepresentation, Davis says.

So in 2013, while the Newark native was still a college undergraduate at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and buoyed in part by his core group of friends – all enterprising young black men from cities around the country – Davis decided to “be the change” and run for office in his hometown.

Failing forward

Davis entered the campaign with the intent to do as well as he could, but on the merits, it was highly unlikely that he’d pull out a win. In the beginning in particular, attention to his campaign was slow-going, and money was scarce. He was also up against Newark voters’  tendency to vote for incumbents and other known entities in local elections (a tendency they share with the average American voter). Davis was decidedly neither.

Davis made it clear to me that losing wasn’t fun (“for a week or so after the election I didn’t talk to many people, and I was a little disenchanted with the system,” he said, mostly due to vandalism and other assorted ugliness his campaign weathered as voting day drew closer). But Davis also knew that losing the race was merely the end of the beginning of his plan to be a change agent in Newark. “We still had a ton of opportunity ahead of us, even if we didn’t win,” he observed.

In the technology startup world, this is called “failing forward.” The concept: statistically, an entrepreneur’s first venture is unlikely to succeed. But launching a new venture, and all the activities that go along with it – defining a vision, creating an execution plan, hiring the right (or the wrong) team members, getting investors to contribute funds – these make for such dynamic learning experiences that founders often find themselves in high demand for new opportunities, even if the business they founded didn’t succeed. They fail forward.

Davis’ first run conferred similar benefits. Hearing from Newarkers helped him understand what he would need to accomplish to make his pitch to Newarkers resonate better. Trying to get an audience for his message with a lean team and even leaner funds made the importance of serious fundraising and smart staffing apparent. And the attacks Davis said his campaign experienced after his first big press mentions – on PolicyMic and MTV – awakened him to the ugly realities of Newark politicking during campaign season.

Back to the day-to-day

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Image credit: Brian Rock

In this way, Davis’ first run helped bring shape and clarity to the work he does now. Working backwards from the types of arguments he would like to have made to Newarkers about his record during his first council race, Davis has been able to marry issues he sincerely cares about with a plan to accomplish milestones that the community can easily understand and appreciate.

In the most concrete way, that work has involved the creation of a Civilian Police Review Board under the aegis of the ACLU. While systemic – and often deadly – abuse of communities of color by police has recently become a marquee issue in national conversations, Davis’ work precedes this attention, instead coming on the heels of the Justice Department’s announcement last July of a federal monitor to keep watch over the Newark Police Department.

Davis is being intentional about how he spends his post-campaign time in other ways. One of his initiatives is to bring young professionals and creatives together to collaborate on projects in Newark, and to simply be aware that they’re a resource for one another here in town. To that end, he recently hosted an “Innovator’s Happy Hour” at Newark’s new Skylab rooftop bar. “I knew what it was like to wonder if you had a community here,” he said of his motivation for organizing the event.

Davis is also continuing to hone his ideas for how to elevate civic life in the West Ward, and in the city at large. One of his favorite ideas? “‘City Hall to Go’,” he said. “You take a van of City Hall employees to a different corner in a neighborhood each week, park it there, and let people come and get their questions answered there. It’s like a City Hall substation,” Davis explained of the idea he first learned of at the “innovation lab” at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

And in general, Davis is in favor of a muscular approach to the city council office. “The demand on council people is so much more” than what they are required to do by statute, Davis said. “Council members need to have visionary insight,” in order to do their part to improve the city, he added. From figuring out how to reform the blighted Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery site on South Orange Avenue, to maximizing commercial opportunities along the Orange Street corridor, Davis says an “expansive mindset” is required for council members to help unlock Newark’s potential.

In the next few months, Davis says he expects to continue dedicating considerable time to the Civilian Police Review Board, an initiative given new dimension by the current national climate. More tactically, Davis plans to start interviewing for communications, funding, and intern staff.

And perhaps he’ll accomplish a thing or two he can’t anticipate at the moment. “This in-between time is new,” he said.

Featured image credit: Brian Rock


#AfterTheRun is our yearlong series examining the life and work of Rashawn Davis after his city council run.

Read the next article in this series, Settling into the campaign post-season, Rashawn Davis doubles down on issues and builds bridges.

Here’s why Newarkers should care about Earth Day

riverfront park visitors

Pictured above: Visitors enjoy Newark’s Riverfront Park

While Earth Day salutations conjure up images of flower-laden hippies hugging trees and one another, the reality of its roots are much grittier, mired deep in political struggle that has created major paradigm shifts of power dynamics.

Conservation efforts to preserve wilderness and keep the plants, animals, land and water that make up an ecosystem intact is still at the forefront of many major environmental organizations. However, the health and well-being of people has been the main focal point of the fresh-faced grassroots organizations that are springing up all over the nation. The movement’s most heated battles in the past few decades have been communities of color — often low-income, working class citizens confronting industry and claiming a stake in the decision-making that directly affects their living spaces.

So where did Earth Day start and why? Forty-six years ago Gaylord Nelson, the founder of the now middle-aged holiday, decided to shift the youthful energy behind the anti-war movement towards the air and water pollution rampant in America’s booming years. The end result was 20 million people taking the streets on April 20th to lift their voices on myriad environment-related issues and rally for a healthier, more sustainable environment. Out of the first Earth Day came the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Act, major environmental legislation to protect our most vital resources.

Fast-forward about 30 years, and we introduce a new facet of environmentalism termed “eco-justice.” The idea behind eco-justice is that environmental racism is, to quote at length from sociologist Robert Bullard’s The Quest for Environmental Justice:

…as real as the racism found in the housing industry, educational institutions, employment arena, and judicial system. Environmental racism in public policies and industry practices results in benefits being provided to whites and costs being shifted to people of color. Environmental racism is reinforced by government, legal, economic, political, and military institutions.

Bullard is an Alabaman sociologist known as the father of environmental justice. He discovered in the 1970’s that in Houston, Texas, 100 percent of the incinerators were located in black communities, even though blacks only made up 25 percent of the city’s population. He wrote the book Dumping in Dixie in 1990 that sparked conversations on the intersectionality between race and the environment, resulting in the “17 Principles of Environmental Justice” being put together at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991. Bullard later assisted President Bill Clinton in formulating the executive order requiring that all federal agencies consider eco-justice issues on their agendas.

Grassroots groups challenge the “business-as-usual” environmentalism that is generally practiced by the more privileged wildlife-and-conservation-oriented groups. The focus of activists of color and their constituents reflects their life experiences of social, economic, and political disenfranchisement. ~Robert Bullard

History has shown that communities of color have the most to lose when industrial endeavors go south. Out of these communities have risen powerful movements of working class folks of color pushing back for the safety and health of their communities.

Today marks the unfortunate anniversary of the BP oil spill that wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast. The worst environmental disaster to date was felt most by the working class community that depends on the water as a source of income. African-American oyster fishermen had their entire livelihoods stripped as contaminated waters wiped out the oyster population almost immediately. A riveting documentary entitled “Vanishing Pearls” by Nailah Jefferson outlines the story of the Pointe à la Hache fishermen and their mobilization to get compensation and restore their way of life.

Across the nation, communities of color are up in arms to keep the integrity of their communities intact. In North Dakota, the Three Affiliated Tribes made up of Mandan, Hidatsua and Arikara people are mobilizing to keep their reservation land at Fort Berthold out of the hands of the fracking industry. In Chester, Pennsylvania, coalitions of faith-based institutions and activists at the DelCo Alliance for Environmental Justice have worked tirelessly to keep incinerators that burn trainloads of trash from New York City at bay.

And here in Newark, the stalwart Greater Newark Conservancy offers job training and student internships, and has built an ambitious central city Urban Environmental Center, while the multicultural non-profit organization Newark Science and Sustainability takes a multidisciplinary approach to educating the community about the environment and healthy living, and creates partnerships to tackle environmental justice issues and their effects. Most of these grassroots groups are volunteer-based, working off of their own resources or little-to-no funding, yet with relentless commitment they are seeing slow but steady victory over industry once thought a formidable and insurmountable foe.

Earth Day has become more than just another day to appreciate the budding flowers or recite “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” ad nauseum. It has become a global day of solidarity, to remind the powers-that-be that communities are wide awake and unwilling to accept the costs of their health and quality of life for the financial benefit of a few.


Joanne Douglas is an elementary science teacher at Jubilee School, an environmental activist, and founding member of EDGE (Encouraging Development of a Green Economy), a grassroots eco-justice arts collective based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She can be reached at joannedoug@gmail.com.

 

Home news: Introducing Brick City Bucks! More about this free program and how to sign up

We’re proud to announce the pilot launch of a free new deals program right here in Newark!

Earlier today, we sent a note to a number of our email subscribers inviting them to test out Brick City Bucks, a Newark-based deals program launching May 1st by BrickCityLive.com that is free for consumers. Those who are interested in receiving the card in a later issue can sign up for the waiting list at brickc.it/buckswaitlist.

An idea conceived very soon after the site launched in 2013, the thinking behind Brick City Bucks is simple: BrickCityLive.com readers get a free physical card (and later a companion mobile app-based card) they can use to get deals in town, and local businesses get increased daily visibility among community members on our website, on social media, and via email. Our goal is to connect community members with these businesses by giving them a little extra reason to become customers.

The five founding Brick City Bucks partners are Art Kitchen, Commerce Downtown Kitchen, Market City, Mercato Tomato Pie, and Taste Venue. Three of the five partners have already set their deals, which include everything from reduced prices during specified days and times to free breakfast on Monday mornings! Readers should expect additional partner announcements in the coming weeks – they will include non-restaurant merchants.

go local get rewarded 5

Brick City Bucks partners determine their own deals, when the deals are in effect, and what the exceptions are. To see what deals are being offered so far, visit our mobile-optimized deal site at http://brickcitylive.com/bucks.

Unlike other deal programs offered by companies like Groupon, this program seeks to create sustainable deals that businesses can alter to fit the needs of their customers and encourage repeat visits. “It’s so important to our success to bring together people who live and work in Newark daily with people who visit to have a good time,” said Tami Brown, owner of Taste Venue. “Our regulars are so important to our business, and I look forward to creating new ones with Brick City Bucks.”

Readers who were invited to the pilot will start signing up today, will begin receiving their cards in the mail during the last week in April, and can begin using their cards with our merchants on May 1st. Readers who would like to join the waiting list to receive the free card can sign up at brickc.it/buckswaitlist, and will be added after the test period gets underway.

 

#GiveNewark: Let’s help get Newark’s Ayana Stafford to a prestigious film program in Cannes, France

First, a full-disclosure author’s note: I am contributing to the campaign I’m about to describe in the story below.

Second, if you read nothing else, know that Ayana Stafford — Newark native, Arts High School graduate, William Paterson alumnae, film entrepreneur, and film teacher — has been accepted into a prestigious film program taking place this May during the Cannes Film Festival, and that if we join forces with the sixty-plus people who have already contributed to her GoFundMe campaign (as of this writing), we can all help her get there.

Here is the link to her GoFundMe campaign: gofundme.com/ayanafrance.

Video about the “Creative Minds” program

Now for Ayana’s story. Ayana initially studied theater while a student at Arts High School, but a teacher there introduced her to television and film, opening up an entirely new world to the young performer.

“Our teacher was new, he was young, he was fresh out of school, and had a lot of energy and passion,” Ayana said. With his help, Ayana and her classmates launched “Jaguar Journal,” a student-produced television show that Arts High School students still produce today.

The experience made it clear to Ayana that she was more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it, so when she matriculated at William Paterson University for college, she decided to study film.

Since then, Ayana has made television and filmmaking her world, including working for News12 New Jersey and VH1, helping out with a few independent films in New York City, and even working on the set of hit television show Gossip Girl.

But a life change caused Ayana to rethink the balance between her career aspirations and her personal life: just as her television and film career started gearing up, Ayana became a mom. “Working 13-hour shifts would not be possible for a new mom,” Ayana said. She knew she would continue working in film, but decided to localize her career. “I wanted something here in Newark, to be on my own schedule,” she said.

So Ayana took all she’d learned and started Leopard Stripes Productions here in town. Eager to add business management to her skillset, she took a local entrepreneurship course offered by Brick City Development Corporation (now the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation). BCDC also awarded Ayana a $5,000 startup grant, with which she purchased the cameras, audio equipment, and lights she still uses today.

Under the banner of her new film production company, Ayana has launched a number of television and film projects, including TTYL, a youth-focused talk show featuring local college students, and a documentary entitled The Race to Save Brick City, about the 2014 election between Ras Baraka and Shavar Jeffries, which she screened at CityPlex12 just prior to the mayoral election.

Trailer for The Race to Save Brick City

Ayana also trains recent high school graduates in film production.

All that experience made Ayana feel ready when the “Creative Minds” film program at Cannes opened up the application for its internship program earlier this year. The program, according to its website, enables early-career film professionals to “make key contacts that will help them establish a career in the film industry.” (The Cannes Film Festival is one of the most esteemed film festivals in the world.) A mere two weeks after Ayana submitted her application, she was accepted into the competitive program.

But her journey to France doesn’t end there. Before she can jet to Cannes to work on a short film, network with peers from around the world, hobnob with some of the top executives and creatives in the film industry, and tout Newark’s potential as a film hub in a high-powered international setting, she needs one more important resource.

“Money!” she said when I asked how the community can assist her. The program granted Ayana a $500 scholarship, but the lion’s share of the $5,000 in program and travel costs are up to her.

And that brings us back to her GoFundMe campaign, which has already raised a little bit over half of the money Ayana needs to fund the program. In order to lock down her place in Creative Minds, she needs to see a surge in contributions to the effort by Friday, April 17.

If Ayana has her way, potential supporters will get back more than just the warm and fuzzy feeling of helping a deserving Newarker reserve her spot in a coveted program. “I want people in the film industry to know about Newark and to bring [the industry] here,” she said. “We have a great urban landscape, and were so close to [New York] City.” She sees serious potential to bring crews here to shoot city scenes (just like the makers of The Dark Knight Rises did back in 2011), and to employ Newarkers in film production.

To contribute to Ayana Stafford’s GoFundMe campaign, visit gofundme.com/ayanafrance.

Play Pacman on the streets of Newark

Did you know you can now convert a Google Map into a game of Pac-Man? We decided to play near Springfield Avenue and Bergen Streets.

Visit brickc.it/pacman to play our map. Tag BrickCityLive.com on Facebook (facebook.com/brickcitylive), Twitter (@brickcitylive), or Instagram (@brickcitylive) with your score. Winner gets a gift card for two to Monk Room — you’ll need to include a screenshot to qualify.

 

The Gateway Project: Expanding art opportunities in Newark

Newark, NJ – The Gateway Project today officially announced the expansion of its program from temporary pop-up gallery to permanent arts hub.
With the support of C&K Properties, the Gateway Project will expand from a 14,000 sq exhibition to a nearly 50,000 square foot facility that includes sixty rentable artist studios, an artist residency program, and a gallery space. The revamped facility is slated to open on April 30, 2015.
The occasion will be ushered in with the opening of the Gateway Gallery’s first exhibition in the new gallery space, Color Polemics: Exploring Conversations of Race, Art, and Politics in America. Further information about the opening festivities and exhibition will be released throughout April. The opening reception and ribbon cutting will take place on April 30, 2015 from 6 – 9 PM.
“We are thrilled to be expanding opportunities for artists and creative businesses not only at a local level, but by opening more doors with connections nationally and internationally as well,” said Rebecca Jampol, co-director of The Gateway Project. “The Gateway Project will be a resourceful arts complex for the City of Newark, comparable to that which one would find in New York City.”
The Gateway Project Expansion is not only marked by an increase in physical space, but also a vast growth in programs, and opportunities for multidisciplinary artists. The new facility will span over three floors in the Gateway Two Center, which attaches to Newark’s Penn Station. Within this expanse The Gateway Project will offer affordable studios to artists and cultural practitioners. Studio tenants will be provided with a diverse array of significant amenities including: 24 hour indoor access to Newark Penn Station’s transportation systems (PATH, NJ Transit, Amtrak, LightRail); 24 hour access to secure and monitored studio facilities; high speed WiFi internet; and temperature controlled studios. In addition to building and facility amenities, The Gateway Project is also cultivating bi-monthly open studio events, and a program for artists to interface with visiting critics, curators, and collectors.
The Gateway Project’s non-profit arm will be organized through its partner organization, Project for Empty Space, which aims to create spaces and programs that address social issues and inspire social discourse through contemporary art. The Gateway Project Gallery and Residency Program exist within this arena, and directly address this mission.
“The Gateway Project has invigorated previously empty, underutilized space in the heart of downtown Newark,” said Jasmine Wahi, co-director of The Gateway Project. “The gallery and studios will play an important role in helping to continue moving forward the renaissance happening here in Newark. Art is inspiring and we are proud that our residency programs will have community outreach components in place to engage students, residents, workforces and visitors year-round.”
The Gateway Project Residency Program and Gallery Space is for mid-career to established artists whose practices work within the context of social engagement. Participants are selected biannually and will present an exhibition in the Gateway Project Gallery at the conclusion of their residency. The first cycle of participating artists will be announced in mid-April.
The Gateway Project is directed by Jasmine Wahi, an independent curator and co-founder of the Project For Empty Space, based in New York City, and Rebecca Jampol, who founded both The Gateway Project and Solos Project House, both based in Newark.

All the world’s a stage: Solo play ‘American Moor’ explores the inner life of a black man


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In our first-ever podcast, I sat down at Newark’s Alva Tavern in late March to discuss the solo play American Moor with the man who authored it and is currently performing it, Keith Hamilton Cobb.

Some might know Daytime Emmy-nominated Cobb from his roles on shows like All My Children and Andromeda, but Cobb has been interested in, studied, and intensively trained in many aspects of performance art since his youth. Cobb brought many of those talents to bear on his solo play, which will open for a 12-show run in New York City at the The Wild Project starting April 21.

American Moor explores the inner life of a black man auditioning for Shakespeare’s Othello, and in the process unpacks themes of race, theater craft, and the human complexity black men are often asked to sand down for audiences who don’t understand them.

Cobb drew the script from his experience auditioning for another Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and being denied the opportunity to act out the complex angles of a character he knew very well. Seeing that as a metaphor for how we’re all often asked to “perform” in our actual lives, Cobb wrote American Moor. Like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it’s something of a play within a play, with Cobb delivering lines from Othello, but in the modern context of a working actor fighting for a role.

During our conversation, we discussed his play and the contemporary themes around race and identity in America it addresses, his appraisal of his career to date, his creative aspirations in a world where new media platforms open up exciting possibilities, and black actors’ place within the modern Hollywood scene.


Purchase tickets for American Moor
Visit our location sponsor, Alva Tavern

April 4, 2015: This podcast has been edited and condensed from its original version

#NewarkToLondon: Travel maven Madeline Boughton personally funds Newark students’ London trip

Six Newark public high school students are spending spring break in London, an all-expense-paid weeklong trip made possible by the diligence – and the 401(k) funds – of one passionate Newark native.

“No one is talking to children in Newark public schools about travel,” said Madeline Boughton, the trip’s organizer and primary benefactor.

At the age of 31, Boughton has traveled to 21 countries, camped out in the Sahara, and spent two years in Paris earning her Master’s degree. While she credits her parents with instilling a love of travel, she says discussions about studying abroad were nonexistent in high school.

Boughton has since become an outspoken advocate for the inclusion of international travel programs in urban school districts. Her platform has taken her door-to-door, visiting public high schools throughout the city where, she admits, several principals have flat out rebuffed her offers to speak with students.

“Sometimes they tell me no,” Boughton says. “They say we have to focus on graduation, and getting a job, and going to college. It’s not something we have time for.”

But she is hoping – “gambling” may be the better word – that this trip will inspire school leadership to shift their perspective. That is why she has invested $12,000 of her own money to make the trip happen. Without any corporate or philanthropic sponsors, Boughton initially turned to crowdfunding to cover the cost of airfare, hotel fees, and food. But when a two-month Indiegogo campaign only yielded $2,330, she withdrew the rest of the money from her own 401(k).

Madeline Boughton pitches the benefits of a weeklong London trip for Newark high school students in a video posted to Indiegogo. After the $25,000 campaign yielded just $2,300 in donations, Boughton funded the rest of the trip out-of-pocket.

“I was really stressed out and worried because I really didn’t want to cancel the trip, because I didn’t want to let the children down,” she said.

For their part, the students themselves were excited as the trip got underway. “The wait in Newark airport seemed like a couple minutes, it’s amazing how time flies when you’re excited,” blogged Joshua Skillern, a junior at Technology High school, as the trip got underway on March 29. “When we boarded the plane, none of us could keep quiet.”

With the help of an essay contest, Boughton hand-selected Skillern and four other high-achieving Newark high school sophomores last spring.  All honors students, the London entourage boasts two Rutgers Future Scholars, an NJIT Upward Bound student, and several athletes.

The itinerary includes touring Wimbledon and attending a Royal Shakespeare Company production. Students will also spend three days at Wroxton College, Fairleigh Dickinson’s satellite location in London, and the site of Boughton’s study abroad experience as an undergraduate. There, they will further explore Anglo-American cultural differences.

“We’ll be giving the kids that are coming over guidance about what it is they are seeing, some of the differences they may encounter, and why those differences are there,” said Dr. Nicholas Baldwin, dean at Wroxton College.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that international travel programs are absent from the curricula of Newark’s traditional public high schools. In a district where school administrators are saddled with addressing grave realities like low test scores and graduation rates, and where there’s been confusion and wrangling over the controversial “One Newark” school district reorganization plan, it’s easy to understand how a weeklong trip overseas could seem extraneous to school administrators, if not downright frivolous.

But in spite of both the steep monetary requirements and competition with more pressing priorities, access to excursions abroad for Newark students could be worth the effort in the long run, offering a global outlook for students who are inheriting an increasingly connected world where unprecedented global competition is a reality.

With this trip under her belt as a proof-of-concept, Boughton says she will seek the funding and support required to take a group of Newark high school students overseas every year.


 To read more about Boughton’s endeavors, see pictures from the trip, and read student blog posts, visit TravelingMad.com.

ayesha fainesAyesha K. Faines is a North Jersey-based writer and television journalist. Her non-fiction work explores millennial entrepreneurship, personal development, and the intersection of race and popular culture. A self-proclaimed “afromantic”, she also enjoys writing romantic fiction and poetry. She blogs regularly at www.xoAyesha.com and tweets @ayeshakfaines.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Madeline Boughton invested $23,000 of her own money into the students’ trip. In fact, she invested $12,000.