( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) TSJF Collaborated With ProSeed Foundation To Build Schools in Africa
ENSPIRE Contributor: Gabrielle Maya
Tanya S. James is a woman who is the embodiment of leadership and philanthropy work. She is an entrepreneur and an icon in the entertainment industry. She is the founder and CEO of the artist management company, TJ Entertainment Group. For two decades her company has shined a bright light on the musically gifted and entertaining individual or group. She is known for her business not only in the United States but also Africa. Her twenty years have consisted of humanitarian efforts which have impacted communities, organizations, and underprivileged communities and individuals.
Tanya James is a Black woman who is the founder of a nonprofit organization called KJ’s Hope Foundation which educates encourages and empowers living with sickle cell anemia. Her other nonprofit Tanya S. James Foundation (TSJF) helps build a better life for the underprivileged. She has established a college scholarship, medical bill assistance, adopted classrooms, funded mission trips, donated to study-abroad ventures, and refurbished homes damaged by natural disasters. TSJF broke ground in January 2023 on a school she is building in the Kapakoko Village of the Divo in the West African country of Côte D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). The goal is to provide education and opportunities for the youths of the Kapakoko community. Tanya James is investing her own resources and is collaborating with her connections with a nonprofit called the ProSeed Foundation. ENSPIRE has interviewed Tanya about her journey as an entrepreneur and philanthropist, and entertainment founder, her accomplishments with KJ’s Hope Foundation and Tanya S. James Foundation, and her collaboration projects with the ProSeed Foundation.
Tell us about yourself and your journey as an entrepreneur and philanthropist, where did it all start and what do you expect for the future?
Honestly, they both started in my childhood. When I was growing up, my family had little as far as money or monetary things. In 8th grade, I made the cheerleading squad, but I knew my parents could not afford my uniform, supplies, and cheerleading camp. The six of us lived in a three-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in a neighborhood that was full of kids.
So, I had the bright idea of opening up a freeze-cup business (think styrofoam cups with frozen Kool-Aid). I sold them for 25 cents each. That summer, I made enough to pay for my cheerleading expenses and buy some school clothes. The week that I went camping, I ‘employed’ my father to run my business because I didn’t want to lose sales or have another kid start a similar business while I was gone.
I believe that experience planted a seed within me that let me know I could achieve anything that I put my heart and mind into.
Also, growing up under our circumstances, I saw and experienced a lot that could have been roadblocks. I had parents that encouraged and believed in us so we turned roadblocks into stepping stones. But, that is not everyone’s story. It is my life’s goal to be that voice that encourages others to push through and when I can to be that vehicle that helps to eliminate obstacles and ignites purpose.
Tell us about the creation of TJ Entertainment Group and what it’s like catering to different music and entertainment talent.
After graduating from North Carolina A&T State University and then obtaining my Masters Degree from the University of Georgia, I entered the corporate world. Although I knew that wasn’t necessarily the path that I wanted to take because I loved more creative spaces, it was the safest (most financially stable) path to take.
Shortly after starting my corporate job, I started moonlighting in the entertainment industry by assisting a new artist, PJ Morton in 2002. I literally started by running his merchandise table at his shows on weekends. Over a short period, he enlisted me for greater responsibilities. Going to work M-F from 8 to 5 weighed heavy on me. I dreaded it daily. On the flip side, everything that I was doing on the entertainment side brought out the best of me. I was driven and felt like I was working on my purpose; I was very passion-driven.
Eventually, I took the leap of faith to leave my corporate job and work for myself. Initially, I called my company ‘The Master Plan’ because in my heart that was exactly what it was. Over the years, I changed the name to TJ Entertainment Group and expanded beyond just working with music artists. My roster now includes writers, documentary film producers, DJS, lighting directors, speakers, and more.
We also do more than manage creatives, we sponsor events and curate our own events and shows. TJEG’s mission statement simply says ‘where vision meets execution’. It is an honor to undergrad creatives in ways that allow them to truly walk in their purpose and passion. And what I’ve discovered lately is helping others pursue their dreams, continuously ignites a new passion within myself and my pursuit of my dreams.
I am also a writer, but recently I stepped completely out of my comfort zone of writing books/blogs and I co-wrote a song called Dream Again. It will be the official theme song for the Dream Exchange, which will be the first minority-owned stock exchange. The song will be released publicly on June 2nd.
What challenges have you experienced in your role as a leader in the entertainment industry and what have you done to influence a positive change?
My industry is very male-dominated on the leadership side. Being a female is a challenge, being a black female can be even more challenging. But, I continue to work hard, uphold my standards and values and walk with integrity across the board. Every chance I get, I connect with others doing the same and we have built our own support team amid all the chaos. I also try to lead by example for anyone watching from the sidelines or coming up in the next wave of entertainment leaders.
In the fall, I plan to launch a mentoring/internship program where I will specifically seek out female college students interested in various areas of entertainment and connect them with industry leaders whom they can learn while obtaining on-the-job training and experience.
What projects has TSJF done to help build better lives for underprivileged individuals? What are the key points in conjuring up solutions?
TSJF has awarded a full-ride scholarship to an incoming student at North Carolina A&T State University. We’ve covered medical expenses each month for a sick child. We have helped financially assist single moms that are in jeopardy of losing their housing. Over the years, we have served many nonprofits locally, nationally, and internationally. We have adopted classrooms, helped families get back on their feet after a house fire, helped to send kids on mission trips, and more.
There is never one method of how we help or even who we help. We are always looking for opportunities to serve and when an opportunity presents itself, and my spirit connects with the opportunity, we move forward in the capacity that best suits that situation. Additionally, we create our own opportunities to serve by researching nonprofits that are already working in areas that interest us and recruiting other volunteers to partner with us to serve.
Can you provide details on your wonderful work and experience with ProSeed Foundation and your educational plans for the Kapakoko Village in Côte D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)?
TSJF has partnered with ProSeed Foundation to build an elementary school in Kapakoko Village. The opening ceremony is on September 20th. Many of the children in these areas have to walk for miles to get to the closest school. Or they don’t get to go to school at all and begin working instead. It is an honor to open the Tanya S James Elementary School there. The experience has been life-changing and I look forward to working with them on future projects.
Your non-profit KJ’s Hope Foundation assists those who have sickle cell, explain why this was your focus for this foundation and what are some things every Black parent should be aware of.
Sickle Cell Anemia is near and dear to my heart. In 2009, my son was born and a couple of weeks later we learned he had sickle cell disease. It devastated me. Growing up, I recall being told that I carried the sickle cell trait one time. But, it was never discussed further, and I knew nothing about it.
After learning that Kyle had the disease, I had to do a crash course in learning everything I could about the disease. It was overwhelming, and I quickly understood the need for a village… a support system… a community of people on this same journey… that birthed KJ’s Hope Foundation.
In 2015, my son was fortunate to have a bone marrow transplant with my daughter being his donor and is now cured of sickle cell. However, my heart remains with those still in the fight. KJ’s Hope Foundation was created to educate, empower and encourage those living with sickle cell and those who love someone with sickle cell.
My word of advice: Long before becoming a parent, long before entering a serious relationship… get tested to see if you carry the trait. It’s a simple blood test. And know the status of your partner. If two people carry the trait, you have a 50 percent chance of having a child with the disease. So many of us carry the trait, some unknowingly, and because most people don’t have medical issues with the trait, it’s easy not to think about it. But our community, the Black community needs to educate ourselves more about this disease since it affects us more.
Tanya James has impacted the Black community and other marginalized groups who deserve an education, health, home, and medical assistance. She is not only a mother to her children but for the youths and individuals who are underprivileged. Follow Tanya James on her Instagram for more updates and announcements on future projects. You can view her foundations: Tanya S. James Foundation, KJ’s Hope Foundation for sickle cell research, and upcoming community projects.