From ventures centered on bridging the digital divide through eliminating socioeconomic barriers that impact accessibility to tech to those focused on spreading awareness about food insecurity, the projects backed by the program are reflective of a vast set of social issues. However, one common thread is that they’re all powered by purpose.
Johnston’s Harlem-based tour company, Our Story Tours, merges her passion for preserving the community’s rich cultural history and dedication to helping those affected by the criminal justice system.
“The vision is that Our Story Tours will be an inclusive walking tour company that prioritizes and amplifies the Black and Brown voices of Harlem’s next generation of residents and leaders,” she said. “Through radical storytelling, the company will address this systematic lack of historical preservation that erases Harlem’s rich cultural history by telling the stories of Harlem’s past, present, and future. Our Story Tours is a tour company that will teach and train young people from Harlem that have been victimized by the criminal legal system to lead historical walking tours through Harlem. The goal is to build community power through self-determination and self-agency.”
Johnston strives to use her business as a pathway to help Black and Brown youth launch careers in the travel industry and change the narrative surrounding representation in that space.
Brown’s nonprofit SELF, an acronym for Strengthening and Empowering the Lives of Females, was birthed along her own path toward self-discovery. What started as a commitment to instill the value of self-love into her daughter led to the vision for a nonprofit centered on doing the same for other young girls as they come of age in a society that often perpetuates warped beauty standards.
“I didn’t want my daughter to grow up with self-esteem issues and I knew to prevent that I had to embrace myself,” she said. “SELF is a holistic rite of passage program that helps girls build their self-esteem. We connect with our girls individually to discover their goals and what they’re passionate about. We also focus on the values of sisterhood, cooperative economics, and giving back to your community.”
From yoga sessions to HBCU college fairs, the nonprofit—which is currently gearing up for a September relaunch—has facilitated efforts designed to teach youth about the importance of wellness, education, and civic engagement.