JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Young, Gifted and Empowered is a growing non-profit that highlights influential African American Mississippians between the ages of 25 and 45.
Organizer Shameka Reed was motivated to change the portrayal of African Americans in media after the death of Trayvon Martin.
“I remember being in Washington D.C. and hearing that George Zimmerman was going to be acquitted. I just felt helpless, and I began to think about they were portraying Trayvon in the media, how they were portraying his friends in the media, and then I began to think about how they just portray African Americans in the media altogether. Sometimes our good stories don’t get told. What I wanted to after that was what can I contribute?” said Reed.
In 2015, she started the Young, Gifted, and Empowered non-profit organization, which honors trendsetting African Americans who positively impact the community.
“These are people that are right here from our communities in Mississippi. These are people that we go to church with, that we have lunch with, go to sorority meetings with. So these are people we can physically reach out and touch. We can pick up the phone, call and say hey can you come to my school or can you come and speak to my youth group.”
Reed received inspiration from exhibits in a Civil Rights Museum in Washington D.C. and developed a way to display the exhibits in the Arts Center of Mississippi in Jackson.
“Firstly Shameka Reed is a rockstar of ours. We have been supporting her artistic movement as far back as about five years. She’s been apart of our grant program that receives support for local artists that are putting on exhibits. Every culture needs to be able to express themselves in ways that have their voices heard, and Shameka Reed does a wonderful Kobe being able to express what a young African American looks like empowered and motivated, inspired in the culture that we’re living in here in Jackson, MS,” said Silbrina Wright, Community Outreach Director for the Arts Center of Mississippi.
One of the Young, Gifted and Empowered honorees is Chinelo Bosah-Evans. She was honored during her time as Principal of Northwest Jackson International Baccalaureate Middle School. Her leadership led the school to rank number one in academics in the state and 45 out of 98,000 middle schools in the nation.
“I am both humble and thankful for this opportunity. I mean little ole me here on exhibit with such wonderful Mississippians with such wonderful stories. I can’t thank Shameka Reed enough and her organization for just thinking enough to recognize me,” said Bosch-Evans.
The exhibit showcases many other notable Mississippians, like comedienne Rita Brent, Forbes 30 before 30 Sheena Allen, award winning chef Nick Wallace and more.
“Having this exhibit here means that there are folks that look like us, that have lived in Jackson, MS, that have supported Jackson, Mississippi, that are young. And it inspires our young cultural experience here in Jackson as one that is powerful and as one to be implemented into all kinds of different facets of life,” stated Wright.
The exhibit will be on display until March 9. It will then be moved to Delta State University. Reed wants to see the organization continue to grow.
“I think this a great addition to Black History Month and I think it’s so timely so needed. This month all over the country and world, people are celebrating the contributions that our community has made to society and this world and I think this is another addition to it,” said Reed.
The exhibit is free and open to the public. If you bring your smartphone, you can scan the QR code to see videos about each honorees’ personal stories. On February 29th, there will be a televised award show for the 2020 Young, Gifted and Empowered honorees.