( ENSPIRE Features ) The CAFE Group Awards $5 Million Through Their 1954 Project to Support Black Leaders in Education
ENSPIRE Contributor: Wesley Tran
The Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education Group (The CAFE Group), awarded five one million-dollar grants to Black educational leaders on May 17, 2023. This happened during the virtual 1954 Project Luminary Awards. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones kicked off the 3rd broadcast of the event. It featured Helene Gayle, M.D., MPH, president of Spelman College, and CEO, BMe Community, Trabian Shorters, who have signed on as presenters.
The 1954 Project is an initiative of The Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education Group. The CAFE Group is a 501c3 that provides financial and programmatic support to Leaders of Color that are constantly in touch with current and historical challenges in education. Because of these leaders’ proximity to the challenges, they can influence philanthropic decisions and create meaningful and relevant solutions in a more impactful way. By leveraging their lived experiences and the genius within our communities, The CAFE Group has developed a glide path from College Intern to Established Leader designed to catalyze lasting systemic change.
The 1954 Project aims to bloom the unique assets and deep reservoir of talent in the Black community so that all students will benefit equally. With a focus on areas such as innovation in teaching/learning, diversity in education, and pathways to economic mobility, the project has all its bases covered to promote diverse and fair education for all. It was named after the year that the historic ruling of Brown v. Board of Education promised an education system where everyone can learn together. Instead, Black teachers and school leaders were fired and could no longer transform the lives of Black and non-Black children in the years following 1954. This effect has caused a ripple effect that The 1954 Project aims to eliminate.
Don and Liz Thompson, the founders of the CAFE Group, grew up on Cleveland Avenue. Faced with a life that lacked mentorship, guidance, and financial support, they started the Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education Group (CAFE) to give others the support that they needed when they were young. The CAFE Group reflects their life’s work, paying homage to their deep Chicago roots and 40+ year partnership. The 1954 Project specifically invests in Black leaders because this is the community for which we have lived experience and first-hand expertise. With focuses on history, perspectives, unique assets, intergenerational learning, and joy & love, the CAFE Group proudly continues to fund innovative Black Educators.
Since it was founded in 2021, the 1954 Project has granted more than $15 million to its fellows, or Luminaries as they are called. These awards are funded through contributions from 1954 founders Don and Liz Thompson and other donors, including the Walton Family Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. To date, the 1954 Project has raised $35 million to support Leaders who can use the money to bring about a better future for everyone.
Watch The 1954 Project’s 2023 Luminary Awards here!
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