A Very Special Famous Friday!

Alexis Cook

On behalf of Project RACE, I am so excited to introduce my awesome new Project RACE Teens Co-President, Alexis Cook! Alexis is talented, smart and dedicated and we are delighted to welcome her to our team. Whether it be as a leader at her high school or out serving in her community, Alexis is all about loving people and bringing them together.

“I’ve often heard my parents say, build a longer table, not a higher fence,” Alexis shared. “This quote speaks to the need for conversation and community, versus bias and separation.  I got to grow up being both sides of the same coin. I come from both an African American and Caucasian background and I am proud to be both!

Alexis is the youngest of three incredible girls born to Wade and Debbie Cook. Wade is black and Debbie is white.  Both of Alexis’ older sisters are students at Duke University. When asked about her multiracial heritage, Alexis replied, “Growing up in an interracial family was a blessing because I got to learn from two cultures instead of just one. “

Alexis embodies our core values and philosophies here at Project RACE. She is about to enter her senior year at Eaglecrest High School in Aurora, Colorado, where she is in the top one percent of her class and will be serving as Student Body President. Alexis is compassionate and caring; energetic and enthusiastic.  She’s also a great public speaker! She is a servant youth leader with HOPE worldwide and a youth ministry student leader with the Denver Church of Christ. She has also worked in a nursing program with a young African immigrant from Arusha, Tanzania to help the newcomer practice her English and assimilate into American culture. A golfer, cheerleader, and editor of her school magazine, Alexis is busy with many valuable things, but is determined to make a contribution to multiracial advocacy.

I have had the honor to work alongside some amazing teen advocates here at Project RACE and am looking forward to partnering with Alexis to see what our team can accomplish for the growing multiracial population in the coming year.

-Karson Baldwin, Project RACE Teens Co-President

Photo: Alexis Cook and Karson Baldwin, Project RACE Teens Co-Presidents

It’s Famous Friday!

Famous Friday: Karson Baldwin

My awesome co-president was so sweet to use last week’s Famous Friday post to write about me! Well, guess what? It’s my turn to write the blog and I bet you can guess who I’ve decided to write about!

Three years ago, I joined Project RACE’s youth leadership team of high achieving, hard working teens who were passionate about multiracial advocacy. The youngest and the one with the longest history with Project RACE was Karson Baldwin! Karson was only 13 then, but he’d been working with Project RACE for as long as he could remember.

“Yes, I have worked with Project RACE for a long time,” Karson told me. “I look back at old videos and listen to interviews and laugh at how young and small I was.” (check out this 2009 Project RACE Teen video PSA on equality in healthcare for multiracial Americans and you’ll see exactly what he means! So cute!  https://youtu.be/Ila0AsDpyf8 )

Karson had the good fortune of growing up in a house full of social justice advocates. When he was just four years old, his oldest sister became Project RACE Teen President. When that sister went off to college, his other sister succeeded her as president. A couple years later, when his second sister followed the first to Harvard, our Executive Director Susan Graham, spoke to Karson about the possibility of taking the PR Teen torch. But rather than step in to the role of PRT president, Karson had an idea of his own. He told Susan that he would like to launch a new division of the organization, Project RACE Kids!

“Susan loved the idea,” Karson said, “not only because multiracial people are the fastest growing racial group, but also because multiracial people are the youngest racial group. All these younger multiracial people needed a safe place for their voice to be heard. I was fortunate to grow up in an amazing family with a supportive community, but not everyone has that.”

So at 13 Karson founded Project RACE Kids for multiracial youth ages 8 to 12! He established the “PRK Kids Krew” made up of a dozen young difference makers from across the U.S. to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences with the multiracial population and beyond. He held minority focused bone marrow drives, helped launch Multiracial Heritage Week, gave media interviews and so much more! Karson has done an awesome job with PRKids, so I was really happy when he stepped up this year to join me as Project RACE Teens Co-President!

“I intend to work with Project RACE for a long time because our work is important to me, to our country, and even the world,” Karson told me. “There are many nice organizations that focus on celebrating the growing multiracial community, and that’s cool, but none are committed to advocacy like Project RACE has been for all these years. ”

Karson’s long history of work with Project RACE is impressive, but it’s even more impressive when you understand that he fits that in with so many other meaningful pursuits. In addition to being a straight A student at the top all-boys school in his state and a two sport high school athlete, Karson is leading in a huge variety of areas. He helps lead singing at his church every Sunday, he was student body president of his school, he was selected to represent his school at the Student Diversity Leadership Conference and at the leadership meetings of the Cleveland Council of Independent Schools, just to name a few.

He has many passions. But along with multiracial advocacy, school and sports, he is passionate about service to the materially poor. He serves on the HOPE worldwide National Youth Advisory Council and designs and regularly leads youth service efforts in his community. He is currently working on an exciting partnership with a one-of-a-kind public school for kids that have been in the United States for two years or less. The 900 member student body at this school is from 47 different countries and they speak 28 different languages!

“It’s an amazing place, the only one of it’s kind,” Karson says. “A lot of the kids are refugees and who knows what they’ve been through to get here. I am really excited about the projects we’re working on and the relationships we’re building to help them feel at home here. Like at Project RACE, my work at the International Newcomers Academy is all about acknowledging each individual’s identity and fostering mutual respect among diverse groups of people.”

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that this guy is just 16.

Photo Credit: Baldwin Family

FAMOUS FRIDAY: Kamala Harris

Most of the world was expecting November 8, 2016 to mark the election of the first female president of the United States.  It did not. Many believe, however, that it was the day when America met the woman who could “shatter that glass ceiling”… perhaps as early as 2020.

Kamala Hakamala_harris_official_attorney_general_photorris is California’s new Junior United States Senator-Elect. Harris is both the second black woman and the first Indian-American ever elected to the Senate. Yes, she is multiracial, the daughter of an Indian-American Hindu mother, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a breast cancer specialist, who immigrated from India, and a Jamaican-American father, Donald Harris, a Stanford University professor. Before this accomplishment, Harris was the first woman, the first African-American, the first Indian-American and the first Asian-American to become California’s Attorney General.

“My mother had a saying ― ‘you may be the first to do many things, make sure you aren’t the last,’” Harris told CQ Roll Call in June. “We need to work to ensure the leaders reflect the people they are supposed to represent, and until we achieve that full representation, I think we should understand we are falling short of the ideals of this country.”

People have compared Harris to President Obama, who himself is a Kamala Harris fan and endorsed her senate campaign, and many leading Democrats believe she could one day occupy the Oval Office. As Attorney General she has had the opportunity to advocate for the issues that are important to her. She has led on Black Lives Matter, rehabilitating first-time drug dealers, internet privacy issues. Following her election as senator, she vowed to protect immigrants from the policies of Trump.

 “It is the very nature of this fight for civil rights and justice and equality that whatever gains we make, they will not be permanent. So we must be vigilant,” Harris said. “Do not despair. Do not be overwhelmed. Do not throw up our hands when it is time to roll up our sleeves and fight for who we are.”

 – Karson Baldwin, President Project RACE Kids

FAMOUS FRIDAY: Mayor Frank Jackson

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Me with Mayor Frank Johnson at his office yesterday.

Yesterday, I got to spend some time with Cleveland’s 56th mayor, Frank Jackson.

I can not share all the details about the off the record conversation that a small group of African American and multiracial students from University School had with Mayor Jackson. I can tell you it was deep and he was very open about his thoughts and feelings on some really important issues.

We asked:

How do you feel about the allegations of excessive force by Cleveland Police?

How do you feel about the Cleveland Police Union endorsing Donald Trump for President?

What are your views on immigration?

How do you feel about Stop and Frisk?

What is your view on what Colin Kaepernick did?

And he thoughtfully and wisely responded to each question. It was awesome to hear the views of a multiracial political leader on these difficult topics.

Mayor Jackson was elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2009 and 2013, making him just the second Cleveland mayor to serve three terms. Clearly, he is a very popular mayor and has led the City of Cleveland to a really great era. This year the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship, Cleveland hosted the Republican National Convention and now, the Cleveland Indians are headed to the World Series! Go Tribe! Go!

Jackson was born in Cleveland in 1946 to a black father and a white mother. After graduating from High School, he served in the Army. When he returned, he went to Cleveland State University to study Urban Studies and History. He also earned his master’s degree in Urban Affairs. He became an attorney, working as an assistant city prosecutor, after putting himself through law school also at CSU. Soon he won a seat on the Cleveland’s City Council where he was involved in creating a lot of positive change in an area of the city that had many problems. He is the first sitting member of Cleveland City Council to become mayor since 1867.

During his mayoral campaign, Jackson said that if he didn’t restore hope to the ailing city within 200 days of taking office, he would consider himself a failure. I have only lived in Cleveland for a year and a half, but this city is full of hope and excitement.

Shortly after winning the election he appointed his former opponent Triozzi as law director. This is really interesting because the law director would become mayor if the elected mayor is out of the city, resigns or becomes incapable of serving. Try to imagine Donald or Hillary appointing the other to a position like that! Many consider Mayor Jackson to be a unifier. An advocate for regionalism for Cleveland-Cuyahoga County, Mayor Jackson, in his Election Day 2005 speech, said, “We are one Cleveland, we no longer have the luxury of city and suburbs separate.”

Soon after his inauguration, Jackson began working with the Cleveland Police Department. He introduced a new use of force policy that states: “Excessive force shall not be tolerated.” It is very interesting that Cleveland has been a prominent city in this discussion of excessive force and police gun violence against black men since the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice by a Cleveland Police officer in 2014 and it was good to hear the Mayor’s views on it.

Thank you, Mayor Jackson, for spending time with the Junior Pembroke Society and #GOTRIBE

  • Karson Baldwin, Project RACE Kids President

FAMOUS FRIDAY: Laila Ali

lailaMuhammad Ali was an amazing man. A world champion fighter, a civil rights activist, and a hero to many people. When he passed away this summer it was a great loss to the world. My mom worked for Muhammad for a number of years and was lucky to consider him a special friend. Below you can see pictures of some of the fun times they shared. But as much as my mom and people around the world will miss The Greatest, there are, of course, few people who will miss him as much as his children. Today’s Famous Friday is Laila Ali, Muhammad’s 8th, and probably most well-known, child.
Like her father, Laila was a boxer. Boxing among women was pretty new when she began the career, which earned her multiple middleweight and light heavyweight championships and ended without a single defeat! Laila graduated from Santa Monica College with a business degree. She is also a TV personality and an author of Reach! Finding Strength, Spirit, and Personal Power, a book written to motivate and inspire young people. Laila married Johnny McClain, who became her business manager but divorced after 5 years. In 2007, she married Curtis Conway who played for the Bears, Chargers, Jets and 49ers. Together they have a son and a daughter.

Laila was born in 1977, to Ali and his then wife, Veronica Porsche-Ali who is multiracial (Louisiana Creole). The picture above of Laila wearing a “Beautifully Blended” tshirt was posted by Laila recently on her Instagram account.  It received a ton of comments about her shirt and whether or not she is multiracial. Here are a couple of them:

You are true beauty, true inspiration. Love your t-shirt! I’m tri-racial 💕💜😊

I have this same shirt. It means whatever you are blended with created something beautiful. Does not mean you have to be “mixed” but that we live in a MixedNation 💜💙💚💛

-Karson Baldwin, Project RACE Kids President.

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FAMOUS FRIDAY: Coffey Anderson

bnjCoffey Anderson is a popular country and contemporary Christian singer. Since I do not usually listen to country music, except unwillingly when my sister Kendall is home, it is not a surprise that I had not heard of Coffey until recently. I have always found most country music a little silly, but the reason this country singer came to my attention is not silly at all.

With the recent officer-involved shootings of people of color, Coffey made a video giving advice on exactly how to behave if you are stopped by police to increase the odds that you will make it home safely. The video called, “Stop the Violence Safety Video for When You Get Pulled Over by the Police”, addresses stereotypes and is a very caring and respectful message. Before posting it he checked with a Texas sheriff to make sure the information in it was correct.

 

The steps, according to Anderson, are:

  1. Turn off the car.
  2. Put your ID on dash.
  3. Place both hands on steering wheel.
  4. Keep the radio volume low.

This video has gone viral with over 36,000,000 views.

Conversations of race and discrimination aren’t usually associated with the country music scene. But, Coffey grew up in Texas with a black mother and a white father. Interestingly, his father worked as a corrections officer. This background, as a multiracial individual and the son of an officer, must give him a unique perspective on this important issue.

Anderson agrees that people deserve respect but states that there is a larger issue at work.“At the end of the day the policeman wants to get home safely, we want to go home safely,” he says. “Even if the cop is having a bad day, you have to go home. You gotta make it home. You’re needed.”

Coffey has made eight albums so far and founded his own indie record label, Coffey Entertainment. Another thing I admire about him is that he was an All-American basketball player  at Howard Payne University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Ministry. He now lives with his wife, hip-hop dancer Criscilla Crossland, and child in Nashville and has performed on many shows including American Idol. His charity work has mostly focused on helping  veterans.

I may not be a huge country music fan, but I have become a Coffey Anderson fan.

–Karson Baldwin, Project RACE Kids President

“never too young to serve”

photo: icoffey.com

Meet Karson Baldwin!

Karson did a great interview with SwirlNation! Click on the link to read it.

http://www.swirlnationblog.com/blog/2016/1/13/swirl-nation-kid-meet-karson

Project RACE Kids: Have you seen these twins?

I saw a post about these awesome twins on facebook. I Looked at the article and thought all of you at Project RACE might like to see it too. Being a twin would be really fun and interesting. But these twins are even more interesting than most. Genetics are so cool. They must have inherited different genes from their grandparents and parents. I’d like to say I know something about genetics because I did my Science Fair project last year on genetics of hybrid felines. But I definitely want to study more about genetics.         – Karson

Kian and Remee, who were born a minute apart, just turned 7, and even though they are twins they have completely different skin colors. They are now closer than ever, and their unique appearance is the result of pure genetics. Thei mother Kylee Hodgson and father Remi Horder both have white mothers and black fathers.

Big Wife.com reports:

Kylee, now 25, recalls the moment she saw them for the first time: ‘I noticed that both of them had beautiful blue eyes,’ she said.

‘But while Remee’s hair was blonde, Kian’s was black and she had darker skin. To me, they were my kids and they were just normal. I thought they would start to look the same as time went on.’

Time, however, only accentuated their differences. Kian’s eyes changed colour and her skin got darker. Remee’s complexion got lighter and her curly hair stayed blonde. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kylee found herself fielding questions about whose children they were, or who Kian’s fair-haired friend was, when she pushed them in their side-by-side buggy.

Big Week for the Project RACE Youth Leadership

 
We really do have an AWESOME team here at Project RACE, from our Executive Director, to our Board, to our thriving membership! One part of our team that always shines bright is our youth leadership of Project RACE Teens and Project RACE Kids! Not only are our youth leaders doing great things in the field of multiracial advocacy, but they are doing great things in the field of sports. This week is particularly exciting!  – Kelly B.
 

Olivia Mukendi, Project RACE Teens President

 
The President of our Teen division, Olivia Mukendi, has qualified to compete in the 2013 Penn Relays this week! Penn Relays is the oldest, largest and among the most prestigious track and field competitions in the world. Olivia and her team from Hillsborough High School will compete in the Girls 4 x 400 relay. Running in this event is a dream for many track athletes. Qualifying as a sophomore is a truly amazing accomplishment! Congratulations, Olivia!!
 
 

Nico Mukendi, Project RACE Teens Panelist

 Olivia’s brother, Nico, who serves as a National Panelist for Project RACE Teens is also making a huge splash in the sporting world this week! Nico is a member of the US Team Handball Junior National team playing in the International Handball Federation tournament next week in Guatemala City, Guatemala. In response to his extraordinary and versatile athletic abilities, Nico was recruited earlier this year to represent our country and train for the 2016 Olympic Games even though he had never played handball before ! Go USA! Go Nico!

 

Karson Baldwin, President Project RACE Kids

Never one to miss out on the excitement, Project RACE Kids President, Karson Baldwin, is heading into the finals of the New Jersey State AAU Basketball Championship this weekend. His Bayshore Bulldogs are undefeated in the tournament and have beaten teams in the prelims by 30 and 35 points! Go Dawgs! Go Karson!

 
We at Project RACE are very proud of our advocate-athletes!
These are some impressive kids!

PR Kids Krew: My Fave Multiracial Celeb Is …

Today I am sharing with you the first part of a fun series from the awesome Project RACE Kids Krew! We asked our Kids Krew to tell us about their favorite multiracial celebrity.  Below are the first two responses from Alexandra and Kelly. I know who I am going to write about when it is my turn, but I wonder who the rest of the Kids Krew will pick!   – Karson

Hi! I’m Alexandra and my favorite multiracial celebrity is Vanessa Hudgens. Her father is Irish and Native American and her mother is Spanish, Chinese and Filipino. She is an actress and singer who became famous in the High School Musical series. She is my favorite because she is both beautiful and multitalented and represents the perfect mix of many races. – Alexandra D.

I’m Kelly and my favorite biracial celebrity Rihanna, is actually multiracial. Rihanna’s real name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty.  She was born on February 20, 1988 in Saint Michael, Barbados to Monica Braithwaite (who is a mix of African and Guyanese), and her father, Ronald Fenty (who is a mix of Barbadian and Irish ancestry). Rihanna is actually referred to as West Indian. She is a famous recording artist, actress and fashion designer. I am huge fan of Rihanna’s music. – Kelly V.