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How Three Ramsay HS Grads Turned Their Dreams Into A Successful Business

BIRMINGHAM TIMES — They all are 24 years old, attended Ramsay High School and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)—and together they started a movement. Micah Lewis, Jerrod Dukes, and Joshua Echols are the team behind Vibestreet Photography and Recording Studios, a rental space near Five Points South that opened this year and hosts a broad range of photo shoots, videography, art shows, meetings, and even served as a site for a local reality show.

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From left: Joshua Echols, Micah Lewis and Jerrod Dukes in front of Vibestreet Studios. (Photo by: Ameera Steward |The Birmingham Times)

By Ameera Steward

They all are 24 years old, attended Ramsay High School and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)—and together they started a movement.

Micah Lewis, Jerrod Dukes, and Joshua Echols are the team behind Vibestreet Photography and Recording Studios, a rental space near Five Points South that opened this year and hosts a broad range of photo shoots, videography, art shows, meetings, and even served as a site for a local reality show.

“Vibestreet is a conglomerate,” said Lewis, the founder. “It’s a lot of moving parts.”

It’s also an example of what can happen when young African-American creatives pool their talents and resources to form a business that was not around when they were coming of age.

“I wish there had been a Vibestreet when I was 16 or 17, a place I could rent out affordably and just try [things],” Lewis said. “… A lot of people that come here, it’s their first time … and they really get to shoot. We always try to take pictures of them taking pictures, so they can use that to promote themselves. Everything is about helping people and being what they need earlier on.”

He added that it was important to start in Birmingham because it’s a growing city with many different kinds of people.

“I love it here!” he said. “Being that we are from here, I think it’s important to have a platform here. … As much as Vibestreet has done, there is nobody in front of us helping us do that. We can be a platform that does that. Who knows how far this platform can send kids who are 4 and 5 now, when Vibestreet gets bigger and they’re older and trying to do something.”

The studio already has become a gathering place for people throughout the city.

Echols, chief financial officer, said, “Some of the people we call our friends now, we go out to eat [together]. We just had a pretty big dinner in August with a lot of people who came into the studio. … That friendship, just bringing people together through the community is what [Vibestreet] does for me.”

Coming of Age

Vibestreet started with a variety of events, including art shows and a business that sold apparel, such as hats and T-shirts.

“It’s always been a passion of mine to give people in the community a platform where they are able to express themselves because I’ve never been somebody who’s big on taking a lot of credit for myself; it’s always been about putting other people in a better light,” said Lewis. “That’s what Vibestreet at its root has always been.”

Lewis and Echols met in the sixth grade at the W.J. Christian K-8 School.

“We all played basketball a lot,” Lewis said. “I lived really close to the school, so after school we would walk to my house and play basketball before everybody went home.

“When you’re younger you just kind of hang with people who have similar interests. … Even if we have differing opinions, … [Echols and I] always have similar core values, … [so] we can have civil disagreements. It comes down to I know there are some things Josh would never do and I would never do. That’s why you never really have to worry. … There’s always a mutual respect.”

Lewis and Echols both lived in the Roebuck area, so they rode the same bus every day during high school.

“I call him ‘brother’ because we’ve known each other for so long,” Echols said. “We started out hooping in his backyard. … I’ve always been around. Even since his days at the Grand, [a club where Lewis was a DJ], I was always there supporting him.”

Lewis, who had a residency at the now-closed Grand, started DJing when he used to play the music video game DJ Hero. His mom thought it was funny and bought him his first turntables when he was 16.

“I really liked it,” said Lewis, who kept moving up to the next set of turntables.

Click to view slideshow.

Meeting of the Minds

Lewis and Echols attended Ramsay High School, where they met Dukes, who is Vibestreet’s operations coordinator.

“We weren’t as close as we are now,” said Dukes, who is from Pleasant Grove.

All three graduated from Ramsay in 2013 and made their way to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Dukes graduated in 2018 with a degree in business administration. Echols graduated the same year with a degree in computer science. Lewis studied audio engineering at UAB but left due to family issues, and that pushed him to focus on his dream.

“I always wanted to open a recording studio, … to have a multiuse space. That’s what [Vibestreet] is,” Lewis said. “When we started out, it was a recording and photography studio where people could also host events. Everything kind of led up to having a home base even before we had this studio. There was always an intention to have maybe a workshop, … to have an address, and to venture out and do other things. That was always the goal.”

When Dukes saw what Lewis and Echols were working toward, he wanted to be a part.

“I like these guys, so let me try to help any way I can,” said Dukes. “If that means selling merchandise, if that means helping out at whatever event [or] venue we might be at, it just seemed like the natural thing to do, to help out people out you like.”

Dukes has a behind-the-scenes role at Vibestreet, which he finds exciting.

“I really like making sure everything goes the way it’s supposed to go,” he said. “If you ever see me at any Vibestreet function, you’ll probably see me roaming around, checking to make sure everything goes right, checking in with [Lewis] if he’s DJing, checking in with Josh if he’s at the door.”

Limitless

Even while running Vibestreet, each member maintains employment elsewhere.

Dukes has a position in the UAB logistics department, where he works with teaching specialists that develop science and math curriculums for counties across in Alabama; he’s been in this role for four years. “My managers are very understanding,” he said.

Lewis, who has worked with the UAB parking company for five years, also has support from his managers.

“I haven’t worked a weekend in years because I used to DJ, so they set that up for me,” he said. “At the day job, … I work on graphics and things like that for Vibestreet. Everything feeds into the studio. I see my day job as a part of this.”

Echols has been an implementation consultant at the information technology (IT) services company everis USA for a year.

Still, all three devote a lot of time to Vibestreet, which Echols described as “limitless.”

Dukes agreed: “I think what the future holds for us is literally whatever we can imagine. … Because the space is as big as it is, it can be as big as your imagination. So, as much as we can put into it, as much hard work, as many buildings as we can get, … it’s all just about how much effort we can put it in to help it grow and help other people.”

To get more information about Vibestreet Studios or set up an appointment, visit www.vibestreet.com or email info@vibestreet.com. The photography studio can be booked for $35 an hour, and events can be held at the space for $50 an hour. 

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

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Carolyn’s Kids Foundation Honors Graduates

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Each 8th-grade student received a $100 gift card to go towards their high school fees. Additionally, two high school seniors received the CKF HBCU-Jackson State Bound Scholarship. Jamari White and Kevin Barber Jr. both received $1000 each. Two $500 scholarships were awarded to mothers who are continuing their postsecondary education.
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On Sunday, June 5, 2022, the Carolyn’s Kids Foundation honored 140, 8th-grade students across Chicagoland areas. Hosted at Visions Events Chicago at 11901 S. Loomis, parents, students, and schoolteachers participated in the 6th Annual CKF Scholarship Luncheon.

HBCU Bound Scholars-Jackson State University Carolyn Griffin Palmer, CKF-CEO, Kevin Barber Jr., Jamari White, and Brendolyn Hart-Glover, President of the Jackson State University Chicago Alumni Chapter

HBCU Bound Scholars-Jackson State University
Carolyn Griffin Palmer, CKF-CEO, Kevin Barber Jr., Jamari White, and Brendolyn Hart-Glover, President of the Jackson State University Chicago Alumni Chapter

HBCU Bound Scholars-Jackson State University
Carolyn Griffin Palmer, CKF-CEO, Kevin Barber Jr., Jamari White, and Brendolyn Hart-Glover, President of the Jackson State University Chicago Alumni Chapter

Each 8th-grade student received a $100 gift card to go towards their high school fees. Additionally, two high school seniors received the CKF HBCU-Jackson State Bound Scholarship. Jamari White and Kevin Barber Jr. both received $1000 each. Two $500 scholarships were awarded to mothers who are continuing their postsecondary education.

Carolyn’s Kids Foundation has awarded over $50,000 in the past 5 years, and this year $17,000 was distributed to the Class of 2022. To support the Carolyn’s Kids Foundation and learn more, please visit their website: www.ckfchicago.org and follow them on FB @ckfchicago.

The post Carolyn’s Kids Foundation Honors Graduates appeared first on Chicago Defender.

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Justice Department Announces Investigation of the Louisiana State Police

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Every American, regardless of race, has the right to constitutional policing,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Based on an extensive review of publicly available information and information provided to us, we find significant justification to investigate whether Louisiana State Police engages in excessive force and engages in racially discriminatory policing against Black residents and other people of color.”
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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a pattern or practice investigation into the Louisiana State Police (LSP) to assess whether the law enforcement agency uses excessive force and whether it engages in racially discriminatory policing.

According to a news release, the investigation will include a comprehensive review of LSP policies, training, supervision, and force investigations, as well as LSP’s systems of accountability, including misconduct complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition, and discipline.

“Protecting the civil rights of all Americans and building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve are among the Justice Department’s most important responsibilities,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in the release.

“This investigation, like all of our pattern or practice investigations, will seek to promote the transparency, accountability, and public trust that is essential to public safety.”

The DOJ said it’s conducting the investigation pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which prohibits state and local governments from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of rights protected by the Constitution or federal law.

The statute allows the DOJ to remedy such misconduct through civil litigation, and law enforcement practices under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as under the Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Officials called the investigation separate from any federal criminal investigation of LSP troopers.

Before the announcement, DOJ officials informed Governor John Bel Edwards, Colonel Lamar Davis, and Deputy General Counsel Gail Holland of the investigation.

According to the news release, each pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

As part of the investigation, DOJ officials will reach out to community groups and members of the public to learn about their experiences with LSP.

The Special Litigation Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts of Louisiana are conducting the investigation jointly.

“Every American, regardless of race, has the right to constitutional policing,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

“Based on an extensive review of publicly available information and information provided to us, we find significant justification to investigate whether Louisiana State Police engages in excessive force and engages in racially discriminatory policing against Black residents and other people of color.”

Clarke continued:

“The Justice Department stands ready to use every tool in our arsenal to confront allegations of misconduct and to ensure legitimacy during encounters with law enforcement.”

The DOJ ask that anyone with relevant information to contact them via email at Community.Louisiana@usdoj.gov or by phone at (202) 353-0684.

Individuals can also report civil rights violations regarding this or other matters using the Civil Rights Division’s reporting portal, available at civilrights.justice.gov.

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PRESS ROOM: 81 Grassroots Organizations Awarded a Total of $750,000 in Grants through Industry’s ‘Make Golf Your Thing’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The grant program is part of the industry’s broader commitment to making the sport more inclusive for all. Last month, a new Make Golf Your Thing search directory was launched for consumers, consisting of more than 8,400 registered golf programs and organizations across the U.S.
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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – 81 grassroots golf organizations will receive a total of $750,000 in funding to further their efforts to engage underrepresented populations of the sport. These groups (*full list below) are being awarded with a grant through Make Golf Your Thing, the industry’s commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in making the sport more welcome for all.

Initially introduced in 2021 (by the Make Golf Your Thing youth & adult player development work group), the grant program to date has provided 155 grants to 111 unique grassroots organizations, totaling more than $1 million overall (May 2021: 43 grants totaling $150,000; Jan. 2022: 31 grants totaling $150,000).

The program was established to support organizations dedicated to increasing participation among golf’s underrepresented populations (i.e., Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous communities, as well as women, LGBTQI+ individuals, veterans, and individuals with disabilities).

“When the game comes together and pools every resource to grow and broaden the reach of the game, only great things can happen,” said Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA and executive sponsor of the youth & adult player development work group for Make Golf Your Thing.

“This unifying movement is helping to make a difference in communities across America and advance the game in ways none of us can do alone.”

“Access to golf in a business context is a pathway to opportunity,” said Anna Alvarez Boyd, co-founder of FairWays to Leadership (one of the 81 grant recipients).

“Our group’s mission is to increase diversity in business and in golf by teaching college students from diverse backgrounds the skills they need to become effective leaders. The financial commitment of the grant program to organizations like ours will only further golf’s collective efforts to bring new and diverse audiences into our sport.”

The grant program is part of the industry’s broader commitment to making the sport more inclusive for all. Last month, a new Make Golf Your Thing search directory was launched for consumers, consisting of more than 8,400 registered golf programs and organizations across the U.S.

The directory allows individuals to search for programs and events using filters such as location, age, ability, gender, etc., giving new and diverse audiences an opportunity to become more engaged in the sport through programs in their own community.

Formally launched in May 2021, Make Golf Your Thing is the industry’s movement to make golf accessible to individuals from all backgrounds.

Led by six cross-industry work groups, the initiative is specifically focused on: education & skill development, talent acquisition, procurement, human resources, youth & adult player development, and marketing/communications.

Funding for the grant program is being administered by the American Golf Industry Coalition, a partnership among golf’s leading organizations to promote and advocate for the collective interests of the sport.

Financial support for the program is led by a contingent of industry supporters committed to making the sport more welcoming and inclusive for all.

About Make Golf Your Thing

A multi-faceted, multi-year movement, Make Golf Your Thing is a collaborative effort across the industry to invite more people to golf from all backgrounds.

Six cross-industry work groups are committed to making the sport more diverse, equitable and inclusive, with a specific focus on: education & skill development, talent acquisition, procurement, human resources, youth & adult player development, and marketing/communications. For more, www.makegolfyourthing.org.

About the American Golf Industry Coalition

The American Golf Industry Coalition advocates on behalf of golf’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts; environmental and sustainability initiatives; contributions to the economy (local and national); health and wellness benefits, as well as charitable giving.

The organization unites the golf industry in pursuit of goals designed to enhance the vitality and diversity of both the business and recreational levels of the sport. The American Golf Industry Coalition is a division of the World Golf Foundation.

To learn more, visit www.golfcoalition.org.

Grassroots Organization City/Town State
A Perfect Swing Foundation Inc. Charlotte NC
Adaptive Golfers North Myrtle Beach SC
Annika Foundation Orlando FL
Be Counted On Foundation Gahanna OH
Black College Golf Coaches Association Vestavia AL
Button Hole Providence RI
Cameron Champ Foundation Citrus Heights CA
CitySwing Foundation Washington D.C.
County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation Alhambra CA
DC on the Green McKinney AL
Edu-Sports Academy Willingboro NJ
El Dorado High School Golf Team El Paso TX
Excel Youth Academy Lawrenceville GA
FabNewport, Inc Newport RI
FairWays to Leadership, Inc. Orlando FL
First Tee – Central Florida Orlando FL
First Tee – Central Mississippi Flowood MS
First Tee – Greater Charleston Mt. Pleasant SC
First Tee – Greater Richmond Richmond VA
First Tee – Greater Sacramento (Sacramento Area Youth Golf Association) Sacramento CA
First Tee – Greater Trenton Trenton NJ
First Tee – Greater Tyler Bullard TX
First Tee – Greater Washington, DC Washington D.C.
First Tee – Greater Wichita Wichita KS
First Tee – Indiana Indianapolis IN
First Tee – Jersey Shore Point Pleasant NJ
First Tee – North Florida (Rising Leaders of North Florida, Inc.) St. Augustine FL
First Tee – Omaha (Hogan’s Junior Golf Heroes) Omaha NE
First Tee – Pittsburgh Pittsburgh PA
First Tee – Southeastern New Mexico Roswell NM
First Tee – Tennessee Knoxville TN
First Tee – Triangle Raleigh NC
First Tee – Tulsa (Youth Development of Tulsa) Tulsa OK
First Tee – West Michigan (Lake Michigan Junior Golf Association) Kentwood MI
Fore Life Inc. Lauderhill FL
Fore the Ladies Sylvania OH
Future Successors Atlanta GA
Gator Junior Golf Association Gainesville FL
Girls Golf of America, Inc. Greensboro NC
Golf. My Future. My Game. Washington D.C.
Greater Cleveland Junior Golf Scholarship Fund Bedford OH
Harris Park Midtown Sports & Activity Center Kansas City MO
Hi-Tee Junior Little League Golf Program Renton WA
Hit It Straight Golf Academy Homewood IL
I AM a Golfer Foundation Dallas TX
iGolf4VETS, Inc. Riverview FL
Inland Golf Academy Riverside CA
Inner City Youth Golfers’ Inc. Palm Beach Gardens FL
Inspiring Greatness In You Covington GA
Jackson Park Golf Association Chicago IL
Ladies of Futurity, Inc West Palm Beach FL
Latina Golfers Association Foundation Los Angeles CA
Little Linksters Sorrento FL
Matrix Human Services Detroit MI
Michigan Women’s Golf Association Detroit MI
Midnight Golf Program Bingham Farms MI
Milwaukee Area Youth Golf Academy, Inc. Glendale WI
Moore-Myers Children’s Fund Jacksonville FL
My Vision Golf Fayetteville GA
New Jersey Golf Foundation Inc. Bedminster NJ
Next 18 Fox Point WI
Northern Texas PGA Foundation – Fairway to Success Dallas TX
One Hundred Black Men, Inc. New York NY
Par Excellence Youth Development Huntsville AL
Range Fore Hope Foundation Blythewood SC
Rose Hill Schools Rose Hill KS
Southern California Golf Association – Junior Golf Foundation Studio City CA
Southern Area Youth Program, Inc. Los Angeles CA
Special Olympics Connecticut Hamden CT
SwingPals, Inc. Durham NC
Ted Rhodes Foundation, Inc. Chicago IL
The Caddie & Leadership Academy Kenosha WI
The Darby Foundation Lafayette LA
The Glove Foundation Mobile AL
The Honors Junior Golf Program Corona CA
The Pinkney Foundation Pittsburg CA
Upstate-Carolina Adaptive Golf Greenville SC
Western States Junior Golf Association Las Vegas NV
Women Golfers Give Back Plymouth Meeting PA
Women in Golf Foundation, Inc. Ellenwood GA

The post PRESS ROOM: 81 Grassroots Organizations Awarded a Total of $750,000 in Grants through Industry’s ‘Make Golf Your Thing’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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