April 21, 2017
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This 13-year-old is hosting a ‘Brown Girl Magic’ conference to inspire young girls

Get inspired by these three stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

Thirteen-year-old Mikaela Sydney Smith hopes her positive message will inspire young girls of color who may struggle with their self-esteem. Photo courtesy of Brown Girl Magic

Celebrating sisterhood: Mikaela Sydney Smith is 13 years old, and she’s already an inspiring philanthropist. Two years ago, Mikaela founded “Brown Girl Magic,” an organization that provides clothing and meals to the homeless. Next month, on May 7, she will be hosting The Activating Your Inner MAGIC Empowerment Conference and Mother/Daughter Dinner in Douglasville, Georgia. In an interview with EBONY.com, Mikaela discussed her inspiration for “Brown Girl Magic.” The organization, Mikaela explained, was inspired by negative feelings she had about her body, and a subsequent desire to raise the self-esteem of girls like her. The conference next month will be a celebration of those efforts, and will feature celebrities like Douglasville native Rose Genter, the winner of Chopped Junior, and Alasia Ballard, a former contestant on America’s Next Top Model. “I just wanted to get all of the girls who know about Brown Girl Magic and even people who don’t to just get together and have a celebration and a sisterhood of positivity,” Mikaela told EBONY.com. “I know hearing your mom say, ‘Oh, honey, you’re so beautiful,’ may not mean anything to you sometimes, but when it comes from a girl like you, I feel like it touches you more.”

Philanthropic fast food: Last month, celebrity chefs Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi opened a new branch of their new fast food chain, Locol, in West Oakland, California. The chain’s mission is to provide healthy and affordable fast food. Its first store in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles—a food desert with high unemployment—served up both food and employment for residents. Most of the employees came from a single public housing project in Watts and few had prior experience working in a kitchen. But the location wasn’t making enough money to sustain itself, and so Patterson and Choi opened branches in other locations to subsidize the Watts branch and stay true to their mission. “It all comes back to this question of ‘Why does our society always serve the worst food to the neediest people?’ It makes no sense,” Patterson told The California Sunday Magazine. “And everybody always says, ‘That’s just the way it is, there’s no other way,’ but we are going to prove that whole paradigm is fundamentally false.”

There’s an app for that: Two Master of Fine Arts students at Notre Dame, Robbin Forsyth and Miriam Moore, saw a need in their city of South Bend. The city’s residents, 40 percent of whom belong to the working poor—workers who fall below the poverty line—often didn’t have a financial education, and were running into additional fees for not paying bills on time. What Forsyth and Moore also learned, however, was that while many of these citizens didn’t have access to a desktop computer, they usually had smartphones through which they had access to the Internet. Forsyth and Moore designed a smartphone app for the city that allows users to pay their bills and budget ahead. Last month, their efforts were celebrated when the two won first place in the Notre Dame App Challenge.

Mikhail Klimentov

Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor to The Renewal Project