Black History Now-Meet Leslie Burrs

In celebration of Black History Month, I’ve been sharing interviews on local Black Entrepreneurs-Making History today!

This is my 5th and final year that I’ll be presenting this series as an exclusive interview series. So, I hope you enjoy 🙂

My guests are willing to share some tips and advice for aspiring business owners and community leaders who are willing to step up and make things happen for themselves and those around them. I would like to introduce to you all my final guest of this series…

Meet Leslie Burrs- Award-winning performer & Composer

leslie-burrs-headshot In this interview Leslie shares with us:

1) What prompted him to get started in his work as both an artist and director of a boutique opera house.

2) How he evolved from composer and flutist to creating art with healing properties for those dealing with Mental Illness.

3) And how he currently defines and measures success as an ever evolving entrepreneur.


Check Out Our Interview Here:

You can find out more at:

Leslie’s Website:

Opera North’s website:

DBHIDS’s website:

This is the the film Leslie produced for Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services titled Autumn Journey.

Until next time…Peace!


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Be The Change Series Interviews- Featuring ChopArt

Be The Change Series Interviews- Featuring ChopArt

If the video didn’t show up here’s the direct link:

About ChopArt’s Founder

Malika Whitley is the Founder & CEO of ChopArt, a nonprofit arts organization for homeless youth in Atlanta, GA and Hyderabad, India. ChopArt has served over 4,000 youth in 3 countries with the assistance of professional artists, arts organizations and volunteers. Malika is a graduate of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, GA and has worked on five different continents within the international marketing, arts curation and social enterprise industries. As an advocate for youth and the arts, Malika has dedicated herself to the development of her community through inclusion in creative and meaningful ways. She has been featured as Atlanta Tribune’s “Young, Gifted and Black” entrepreneur and her programs have been publicly recognized by the governments and business leaders of Hyderabad, India; Cape Town, South Africa; and London, England. In her spare time, Malika enjoys attending events around Atlanta, binge watching television shows and spending time with her family. To learn more about ChopArt visit

Support ChopArt with a Donation: Click Here

Check out this video about ChopArt by clicking here

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Community Outreach and Backpack Giveaway

Over 600 Backpacks for the community Photo by: L. Davis

About a month ago, I participated in a Twitter chat geared towards helping small nonprofits grow their funds, and build better relationships with donors, volunteers, and the communities they serve.  The topic of the chat was “What are you doing to strengthen relationships?” I was proud to announce to my fellow tweeters that I finally stepped up and became an official fundraiser for a small grassroots nonprofit, and we were preparing for a huge community festival and backpack giveaway.

Fast forward to today, The Victory Group, a small nonprofit whose mission is “Strengthening the Community One Family at a Time,” hosted their Annual community outreach event. From start to finish, this project had the needs of its community completely in mind. Small group leaders came out to represent their local support groups that house resources in the surrounding areas. Local medical providers such as Kennedy Health System, South Jersey Eye Center, Colgate Dental, and Underwood Memorial Hospital came out and conducted free health and dental screenings.  We also had games, moon bounces, face painting, balloon art for the kids and even a massage therapist on board to ease the tension of their parents (and volunteers). And what summer community festival would be complete without plenty of free food and beverages, water ice, great music, dancing, and of course backpacks full of school supplies. I honestly had a great time as a runner for other volunteers and registering families so that we could keep in touch for future outreach. Best of all, I was glad to be apart of the fundraising committee that helped solicit the funding, volunteers, and local vendors for the event. But I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed this time of community fellowship:

Tracy, a local, had rave reviews about the event “I enjoyed it! Everyone was very friendly, the children were very happy with it.”

Donna, another local agreed, “They couldn’t do enough for us!”

When one mom started to acquire her son’s backpack, he ran ahead of her happily exclaiming, “I’ll get it, I can get it myself!”

The volunteers were enthusiastic, and willing to help out wherever there was a need. When asked how she came to be a volunteer for the children’s game section a volunteer responded, “Actually I signed up to help with registration, but they said they were short people for games so I said that I would switch.”  There was no animosity in her response. She was already starting to think of ways they could make the game section better next year to cater better to all age groups who participated.

Not only were we able to provide outreach to families in need, but we also networked and connected with first-time volunteers, small business owners turned philanthropists, and community advocates from all walks of life. By the community coming together for a good cause were we able to foster relationships to build upon, and sustain for years to come.

Feel free to see the happy people from today’s event!

Keeping The Dream of Homeownership A Reality/ The Isaiah Project

It is well known that in times of economic depression, a few brave souls will step out of their comfort zones, and start up their dream company. Some of them build castles in the sky, while others build foundations upon which legacies are born. Some start-up companies are derived from a job lay off or termination. Some start-ups see a lack of resources and are an attempt to fill a void out of necessity. During my networking, I came across a start-up in the works called The Isaiah Project.

The Isaiah Project rose out of desire to help people fulfill their dreams of home ownership. The program was initially conceived to walk unqualified applicants through a pipeline process that ultimately opens access to a mortgage they would have otherwise been denied. Traditionally, the story usually ends once a new homeowner receives their keys, but not with The Isaiah Project. In seeing the rise of short sales and home foreclosures the founder, Andres Viloria, saw an opportunity to help save families from foreclosure by making their home a primary focus to program participants looking to purchase a home. He also saw a serious need for shelter of displaced families. His vision is to assist those families who can no longer afford their mortgage, get placed in homes provided by investors. Once an investor provides a home to a displaced family, the family would then rebuild their lives and renew their faith in the great investment of homeownership. They would then begin the pipeline process of credit restoration, followed by lender approval, and finally once again securing a home,hopefully they will help another family in the same situation they were once in. Mr. Viloria says,  “People need to have a sense of hope in their lives and know that there is someone out there that understands and is looking out for their best interest.”

The Isaiah Project is still in its conception stages but the founder hopes to spark a national movement within the mortgage and real estate industry. The goal is to encourage companies to stick with their
clients during their journey to homeownership rather than leave them
hanging when times get rough.

If you have any suggestions that will aid in the vision of opening doors
to homeownership for those who are willing to work for their dream,
you can find more information here.

Hope For Chronically Ill Children and Their Caregivers

In one of my previous posts I mentioned that I became aware of two awesome local nonprofits. I’ve already exposed you to one, now let me introduce you to the other, the Erick J. Umstead Memorial Foundation(EJUM).

The EJUM Foundation is a nonprofit that provides resources for chronically ill children and their caregivers. Some of programs within the Foundation include: “Caregivers Count” which address the monetary need of the parents and caregivers of chronically ill children, “My PJ’s” which addresses the need of the children to have fresh pajamas during their time at a medical facility, and “The Scholarship Program” to help high school seniors pursuing education that addresses the chronically ill community.

The need for nonprofits such as the EJUM Foundation has truly grown
over the years. There are literally Millions of Children living with diagnosed chronic illnesses. Parents and caregivers are very overwhelmed as they try to care for their loved ones without going broke. The Erick J. Umstead Memorial Foundation is here to break down the barriers that keep parents and caregivers from getting the help they deserve as they take on the very challenging task of caring for chronically ill children.

What makes the EJUM Foundation so special is the passion and determination held by its founder, Sabrina Umstead Smith. After experiencing first hand the struggles of a working parent trying to raise a chronically ill child, Sabrina knew she could not keep all of her experiences and resources to herself and so the EJUM Foundation was born, in loving memory of her son Erick. The EJUM Foundation currently serves Southern New Jersey, Central New Jersey, and Philadelphia. By localizing its efforts, the people served get focused attention and their needs met from an organization that is aware of the high cost of living in these areas.

If you would like to aid in the efforts to help chronically ill children and their caregivers you can do so here.

Connect with EJUM Foundation on Facebook and Twitter