As we celebrate the Fifth Anniversary of Lemonade, we take a look back at the launch of one of our amazing scholarship programs, and catch up with our first four scholars.
The Formation Scholars Award, which encouraged young women to be bold, creative, conscious and confident, was established to mark the one-year Anniversary of Beyoncé's critically lauded Lemonade visual album. The merit scholarship was awarded to four recipients for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Four incredible scholars from The Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Howard University, Parson's School of Design at The New School, and Spelman College were named as the recipients in June 2017.
Almost four years later, we checked in with Sadiya Ramos, Avery Youngblood, Bria Paige and Maya Rogers to find out where they are in their quest to make a mark on the world, how they coped with the pause and chaos that was 2020, and what they learned about themselves.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Avery Youngblood is a scholar. Scholar. She has earned degrees from Stanford University, Parsons School of Design at The New School and next year she will earn a graduate degree from Yale University School of Art.
Mixing her love of language, her fascination with social interaction in our multicultural society and her innate creativity, 2020 served the young scholar lots to decipher, all while spending time away from the people who built, planned and has the best days with.
"I missed the social aspect," she says, as she reflects on the year that was. "I miss my classmates and the interactions. The best part is that it is a collaborative program and that becomes part of your artistic process."
Avery studied Linguistics and Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University, so when the conversation turned to the racial pandemic, police brutality and the abundance of talking heads with sensitive descriptive language about people of color, Avery says it remains just too much.
"It is overwhelming," she explains. "It has become kind of anything goes. When will it stop?"
But in terms of coping and taking control of the situation the whole world experienced, Avery turned to additional knowledge, finding comfort in learning more and her ability to grown in the midst of stillness. She enrolled in additional classes online and connected virtually with her classmates. She studied the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the works of James Baldwin, films, drama and linguistics.
"They all connect," Avery says. I feel there is a thread through all of it and there is a meaning to everything. It gives me hope."
Truly an overachiever, Avery Youngblood found no comfort in standing still. In her season of discovery, she stops to describe what she learned the most about herself. Currently calling Dallas, Texas home, she is also a fellow at Google in a program designed to bring in African American without design and tech backgrounds to join spaces like Google to learn, to grow and to create more spaces for others.
"I learned that I need to keep moving forward," she says with profound joy. "I thought this (the pandemic) was going to stop me, make me shut down, but you end up picking up skills here and there. Whether it is at a protest or from reaching out to others, you learn to pull through. When I come out of this, I will be more prepared."
Bria Paige was one of the last college grads who enjoyed what we traditionally thought of as a commencement exercise. The gown. The cap. The stage. Parents and friends traveling to sit with other proud parents from all over the country, Walking in with your class, absent of Zoom.
She graduated from Spelman College in the spring of 2019, and she describes her time at the celebrated HBCU as some of the best years of her life. The English major says she is still celebrating her win as a Formation Scholar, one of four women and one of two from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
"We so appreciated Beyoncé celebrating HBCUs," she offers. "And I was able to attend the Homecoming screening, and I was screaming."
As a Spelman undergrad, Bria stayed busy, and she loved every minute of it. She maintained membership in the Ethel Waddell Githii Honors program, Alpha Lambda Delta honor society and was a Dean’s List scholar. She also held leadership positions in Spelman Student Government Association and the English Club.
So, what did the scholar do after graduation? "I took the summer to rest," she laughs.
Today, back in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, due to the world paused, Bria Paige is a second year PHD student of English Literature at Rutgers University, taking her classes online and teaching writing to her freshmen classes.
The plan is to be a professor. "I want to teach at an HBCU," she says gleefully. "And maybe be a president of an HBCU one day." But did you think that a full schedule of pursuing her PHD was all that occupied Bria Paige’s time? Currently, she he is also an intern at the National Endowment of Humanities, learning about the digital humanities.
But even the busiest scholar had to figure out a way to handle the emergency at hand; how to cope during the pandemic.
"The pandemic required a reconnection with all sorts of people," she explains. "It required us to check on each other, to continue to be social. We need to schedule in that time to check in on others." Bria says checking on others gave her time to pause, listen and learn. But probably the best lesson she learnt is the definition of joy. "I learnt how to be still with myself," she says. "I was always on the go. But being back home in Mississippi, I had to be still, and that journey was hard. I had to figure out what joy and happiness are to me. It is not a degree, not a job that I am pursuing. It is the relationship with me. To sit aside and re-learn myself. To learn who I am."
A car accident in 2013 left Maya Rogers with a traumatic brain injury that caused memory and temporary vision loss. It was an uncertain future as she had to re-learn everything. But music saved her, and it became a constant in her rehabilitation on the road to recovery.
Years later, by the time she enrolled at Howard University, she had already earned a dual bachelor's degree in Film Scoring and Songwriter from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. With music as her healing ingredient, Maya decided to try her hand at forging a music career through her studies in Music Therapy.
Her use of music as a healing tool in her own recovery inspired her to try to help others, from children, who benefit from the repetition of sounds, lyrics and phrases to brain injury patients, who need to learn from scratch. Maya graduated in 2019 with a special certificate in Music Therapy.
Today, she is a music therapist teaching at a Montessori school in Connecticut, where she moved a little over a year ago from Washington, DC as a newlywed. Maya is now the mother of a 10-month-old son, Cedar Orion.
She says she has a special love language for him and of course it involves music. "He needs touches, and he loves singing," she says proudly. "He pays attention to my singing, so we sing a lot."
Maya released an album in 2019, just before the world went on pause, due to the pandemic. Looking back at the one event that inspired the album title, she says it was a sort of preparation for how she would fare in 2020.
The album, The Gathering, came after Maya successfully beat ovarian cancer, the second major health crisis of her young life.
"The songs speak to everything that everyone is going through now," she starts, making it clear that she wants to share this part of her story. "The Gathering for me was symbolic of the actual tumor. It gathered up everything that no longer served me and put it in one place so it could be removed. So much like what we are all going through now. Everything changed after that. It was a revolution. The impetus was the health crisis and I turned it into something beautiful."
Maya is a walking picture of strength, drive and determination. This Formation Scholar has seen her fair share of setbacks, but she always manages to pull through. When the pandemic became a reality for the globe, she turned to her talent and skills as a creative to cope.
"My songwriting became more introspective," she recalls. Maybe it's because I am raising a son, but I took time to be with family, to be positive and to go inner. I was intentional about taking the time to go in to take care of myself physically and emotionally."
Sadiya Ramos recalls heartbreak for herself and her senior class at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee. Their big show, their final performance before graduation in the spring of 2020, in New York City, was not to be. It was canceled because they would learn what became a reality for all of us; the world would shut down due to the pandemic caused by COVID-19.
"It was so difficult dancing in my living room," she tells us. "Dodging my dog and my couch."
But before long, the ballerina, who started dancing at age 6, and trained under the guidance of Arthur Mitchell at the Dance Theater of Harlem and with François Perron at the French Academie of Ballet as a teenager, turned disappointment into a creative project that fed her soul and made a statement about Black women.
Challenging the misconception of Black women, Sadiya made a short film, "How Do You See Me?" with women she knew to celebrate Black women through the lens of dance. She also joined MindLeaps, an organization that focuses on children's development through dance. Traveling to Rwanda to teach the young dancers was powerful and revelatory to her.
"MindLeaps uses dance as a medium to help vulnerable children," she explains. "It's ballet, jazz, contemporary and modern."
It was obvious to her that the young dancers were not used to seeing a Black ballerina. "At first they were so intrigued, but in the end, they embraced me," she says. "It was a selfless experience. They gave me so much. Seeing Black children do ballet was so rewarding for me. It was healing. It was the most impactful experience of my life."
As far as coping with the pandemic that derailed her graduation performance, Sadiya turned to writing.
"I wrote every day. I just allowed myself to be genuine, vulnerable and ugly with my thoughts, because it was the most trying time in my life. I had to be honest with myself and with my family. I felt like a caged bird but by delving into the arts and by being honest, that became the biggest mechanism for coping. For me transparency got me through 2020."
Today, Sadiya calls Harlem, New York home. She is surrounded by energy, even if she is working primarily from home. Her dream is to continue her career in dance, including her work with the young dancers in Rwanda, to join a dance company and to ultimately bring more diversity to ballet.
"Dance is the perfect way to teach kids confidence," she says. "It is about your individuality. It's about building your confidence."
We're so glad to share with you this inaugural quarterly newsletter. There's so much taking place in the world right now, it is important that good news becomes part of the narrative. We are living through a pandemic that has taken so many of our loved ones, drawing us to a communal grief. We came together and spoke out against injustices, facing the truth to change systemic racism. We are innovative and powerful, celebrating music, art and creativity. Through it all we are working on changing the world and making it better – and THAT's GOOD NEWS!
In 2013 the Philanthropic arm of Parkwood Entertainment was launched to inspire people everywhere to be kind, to be generous and to be GOOD. It seemed simple then – which was our intent to make BEING GOOD easy, as such something everyone could do. So, we set out on the Mrs. Carter World Tour with an idea, a few #BeyGOOD branded t-shirts and the single hope to make real lasting impact. To our surprise and delight, the simple message quickly became a global movement. And eight years later, we've met some of the bravest souls, kind hearts and absolutely brilliant minds, with some of the most fascinating stories, far too inspiring NOT to share.
We've curated this space for you to journey with us to the many places visited and for you to meet some of the faces of change, hope, inspiration and social impact. From St. Damien's Pediatric Hospital in Haiti to the Global Citizen stage in Hamburg, Germany and Johannesburg, South Africa, Hurricane Harvey survivors in Houston, Texas to young warriors battling physical illnesses and defying the odds. BeyGOOD was present at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, then on to Brazil, Australia, London and showing support for 900 plus small businesses here in the US, along with mental health support, both as a response to the deficiencies caused by the pandemic.
From scholarships to housing grants for those at risk of losing their residences, to financial grants to those who experienced loss due to the Winter Freeze in Southern states, we've partnered with some dynamic organizations, including adidas, NAACP and #STARTsmall.
It is my hope that through our work you are inspired to do your part, and that this newsletter makes you feel empowered to BE! There have been so many recent winds of change that have taken place in our world, it is my hope you find our words propelling for you to remain a current of GOOD.