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The Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education announces $1M grant recipients ahead of 1954 Project Luminary Awards

The Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education announces $1M grants for five Black entrepreneurs.

The Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education announces $1M grant recipients ahead of 1954 Project Luminary Awards

The Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education (CAFE Group) has announced it has awarded five $1 million grants to Black business leaders in education.

Reuben Ogbonna, Carmita Semaan, Brittany Young, Chris Chatmon, and Alex Bernadotte were announced as recipients through the virtual 1954 Project Luminary Awards.

“This year we have the honour of hosting the awards on the 69th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling,” Liz Thompson, president of The CAFE Group, said in a statement. “We are delighted to have Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and friend Nikole Hannah-Jones join us as a special guest for this year's celebration.”

Ogbonna runs The Marcy Lab School, a New-York based college alternative that provides a one-year software engineering fellowship. Meanwhile, Semaan runs a Black-owned non-profit organization that educates and develops leaders of colour in education — The Surge Institute.

Young runs B-360 Innovation in Teaching & Learning, a non-profit organization that uses dirt bike culture with kids under 16 and STEM education to bridge gaps and build bridges between communities.

Furthermore, Chatmon leads Kingmakers of Oakland, a leadership development and systems change organization that works with Black boys aged 15–24.

Lastly, Bernadotte heads Beyond 12, a national technology-based non-profit whose mission is to significantly increase the number of students from under-resourced communities in tech.

Since it was founded in 2021, the 1954 Project has granted more than $15 million to its fellows, a statement reads.

The awards are funded through contributions from 1954 founders Don and Liz Thompson, along with a host of 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, a statement reads.

"Every year, we continue to be impressed by the creative and collective genius of Black leaders in the areas of diversity in education, economic mobility, and innovation in teaching and learning. This year, we received over 400 applications from prospective Luminaries across the country, and we expect that number to grow over time,” Don Thompson said in a statement.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones will kick off the award presentation on May 17 with Helene Gayle, M.D., MPH, president of Spelman College and BMe Community CEO Trabian Shorters.

Hannah-Jones is recognized for her investigative journalism and her work on the 1619 Project, which reframes the contributions of enslaved Black Americans to U.S. history.

"I started my journalism career as an education reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer covering the majority-Black Durham Public Schools," said Hannah-Jones, who added: "During those years, I saw the critical impact of race and class and the widespread consequences of the Brown vs. Board Supreme Court decision, so I understand the vital work that the 1954 Project is doing."