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10 Celebrities Who Give Back to the Community

Posted on March 16th, 2011 by Alley Pezanoski-Browne 15 Comments

Courtesy of David Berkowitz, DINOBRA, DVIDSHUB, Jurvetson, stevebott, and Walmart Stores (via Flickr)

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” -Muhammad Ali

Giving back to your community is an important way of expressing humility, kindness, love, and gratitude for all that you’ve been given in your life. Many celebrities who collect big paychecks also give back in a big way.

Here are 10 celebrities who are leading by example, helping communities nationally and internationally:

1. Mary J. Blige
An international R&B superstar, Blige is also an advocate for women. She co-founded the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now (FFAWN). She also opened the Mary J. Blige Center for Women in Yonkers, New York, and became a mentor at an all-girls public high school in the Bronx, New York, where is also providing college scholarships to the students there.

2. Brad Pitt (and partner Angelina Jolie)
Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt is known for starring in over 30 movies and for having lots of kids, but he is also a philanthropist. Using his knowledge and interest in architecture, Pitt started the Make It Right Foundation, a nonprofit organization that builds green, affordable housing in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. In 2006 alone, he and his partner Angelina Jolie donated more than $8 million to charity.

3. Jennifer Lopez (and husband Marc Anthony)
Triple threat singer/actress/dancer Jennifer Lopez has a long history of giving back. Lopez teamed up with Amnesty International to launch a website that raised awareness about 350 young women who had been killed in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua since 1993. She is an avid supporter of the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and was presented with the Children’s Humanitarian Award in 2004. She and husband Marc Anthony made a large donation to the Children’s Health Fund’s Operation Assist after Hurricane Katrina. Then in 2010, she joined Denzel Washington as the spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Club, becoming their first female spokesperson.

4. Denzel Washington (and wife Pauletta Wahington)
In addition to being the spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Club with Jennifer Lopez, Academy Award-winning Denzel Washington also makes giving a family affair with the Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience. He has also donated $1 million to the historically black college, Wiley College.

5. Rosario Dawson
Rosario Dawson has starred in films like He Got Game, Sin City, and Men In Black II. When she’s not working, she gives her time to many philanthropic campaigns. She founded the organization Voto Latino and is a spokesperson for the Lower East Side Girls Club. She has also worked with Oxfam, Amnesty International, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and she hosted a concert event in support of Global Darfur Awareness Day, with the proceeds going to the International Rescue Committee.

6. Ludacris (and friends Chaka Zulu and William Engram)
Hip hop star/actor Ludacris started his foundation in 2001, with the help of his friend Chaka Zulu and William Engram. Their foundation has donated $500,000 to grassroots organization that help youth, uplift families, and foster economic development in the community.

7. Alonzo Mourning (and wife Tracy Mourning)
Former NBA star Alonzo Mourning and his wife Tracy founded the Alonzo Mourning Charities, which donated over $7 million to non-profits that serve at-risk children and youth, as well as the Overtown Youth Center for underprivileged youth. Tracy Mourning started the Honey Shine Mentoring Program for girls, and the Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High Biscayne Bay Campus was named after the philanthropic couple.

8. Edward Norton
Actor Edward Norton recently launched the website Crowdrise, which is a free, online way for people to create their own fundraising pages. Fundraising pages are shared through social networks, and you can win point and prizes as you give back. Norton came up with the idea for Crowdrise after the using Twitter when he raised $1.2 million by running the New York Marathon for his long-term cause, the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust.

9. Chris Rock (and wife Malaak Compton-Rock)
Actor/writer/director/ comedian Chris Rock has been a quiet donor to his local Salvation Army for many, many years. His wife Malaak Compton-Rock created the organization the Angel Rock Project, and its program Journey for Change empowers youth through global service. She also wrote the book If It Takes a Village, Build One about over 100 ways to live a life of service.

10. Usher
The R&B star Usher started the New Look Foundation, which provides career development, service opportunities, mentorship, and grants for youth-led programs. He also created the projects Camp New Look Leadership Academy, Moguls in Training program, and Powered By Service, which is an initiative that gets young people involved in changing their communities.

Bonus Celeb: No list of community-minded celebrities would be complete without mentioning Oprah! Not only is she the first female African-American billionaire, but she sponsors charitable initiatives worldwide with Oprah’s Angel Network and also started the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Africa. She has championed many other campaigns – from promoting literacy to speaking out against child abuse.

It’s important to note that there are many people who devote their lives to their communities, who don’t have the resources or prestige of the celebrities on this list. Please share your stories of everyday community heroes with us!

Top 5 Movies About Self Love

Posted on March 3rd, 2011 by Alexis Cala 3 Comments

Click here to see our Top 5 Movies About Family Love

Over the last 25 years there have been a lot of movies about a lot of things, but there haven’t been that many that actually have a public-purpose.  What do I mean by public-purpose? Let’s define it as something with some social value for the good of one or more individuals.

Most movies are entertaining, but aside from that, they hold little social value.

So we decided to put together a series of our Top 5 Public-Purpose Movies.

Here was the criteria:

  1. Released within the past 25 years.
  2. Storyline that revolved around Family Love, Community Love and  Self Love.

Sounds simple enough, huh? It was tough, but we did it.

Here are our Top 5 Self Love Movies:

5. I Can Do Bad All By MyselfTyler Perry directs the story of a heavy-drinking nightclub singer, April, who is given three children to take care of by the infamous Madea. April soon realizes that she has to make a choice between her old ways and a new life.

Why it made the list: If you have seen any Tyler Perry movie, you know that anyone of his films could be on this list. We chose this one because it’s about April’s journey toward self love and family love. In the midst of trying times, she realizes that she is worthy of a better life filled with love and happiness. Evolution is the key. She loves herself enough to make the changes that come with mental, spiritual and physical growth.

4. How Stella Got Her Groove Back – Stella is a successful business woman that finds out while on vacation in Jamaica that there is more to life than work.

Why it made the list: First off, how did she lose her groove? Well, let’s just say she lost herself in her work. Stella doesn’t even realize she’s lost something until she meets a much younger islander who helps her get her groove back (wink!).  In the midst of the romance, she realizes that she deserves more than what her life is currently offering her.  How many times have we wanted everyday to be like a vacation? That’s not reality, that’s why they call it vacation. But in the movie, Stella finds a balance between work, love, reality and fantasy. Isn’t that the goal? Way to go Stella!

3. American History X – A former skinhead leader reforms his ways after doing some time in prison, only to find his younger brother following in his old footsteps.

Why it made the list: When I first saw this movie I was blown away by Edward Norton’s performance as Derek Vineyard.  If you ever wanted to see someone go from ignorance to enlightenment, this is it. The visual displays of hate in this film are so disturbing, that it’s often hard for people to get through. Most hate journeys start out cloaked in self pride. This film shows the weakness behind the hate and the strength it takes to stand up for what’s right. It isn’t always pretty, but the selfless acts of Derek to help his brother learn from his mistakes are admirable examples of the power of love. His new found self love is shown through his actions, not through his tattoos.

2. Eat, Pray, Love – A married woman realizes how unhappy she is with her life and decides to go on a round-the-world journey to “find herself”.

Why it made the list: This film is all about self love.  In reality, who can afford to travel the world to find himself or herself? If you don’t find yourself in your expensive travels, you return as the same broke “lost” person who left. What was interesting in this film was that she never really said what she was looking for, but as my mother will say,” if you look for something long enough you’ll find something. It may not be what you want, but you’ll find something.” It appears she found good food, God and the man of her dreams. (Note: Sounds like she could have gone to Singles Night at a Baptist Church for much cheaper.)  She also found a book deal and a film.

1. Precious – A young girl endures unimaginable hardships in every aspect of her life, but finds the strength and power to confront her demons and overcome her challenges to become a better person.

Why it made the list: Did you see it? If you didn’t, do yourself a favor and see the evolution of self love, confidence and will first hand through this film.  Precious had too many challenges and roadblocks to mention. Her daily internal and external fight made despair a popular path which she often traveled. Precious is inspiring. If she had the courage to start loving herself and not let her challenges prevent her from progressing, what are you waiting on? Love yourself!

Runner-ups:

What do you think? Agree or Disagree? Did we miss something? Tell us.

Top 5 Movies About Family Love

Posted on February 28th, 2011 by Alexis Cala 5 Comments

Click here to see our Top 5 Movies About Self Love

Over the last 25 years there have been a lot of movies about a lot of things, but there haven’t been that many that actually have a public-purpose. What do I mean by public-purpose? Let’s define it as something with some social value for the good of one or more individuals.

Most movies are entertaining, but aside from that, they hold little social value.

So, we decided to put together a series of our Top 5 Public-Purpose Movies.

Here was the criteria:

  1. Released within the past 25 years.
  2. Storyline that revolved around Family Love, Community Love and/or Self Love.

Sounds simple enough, huh? It was tough, but we did it.

Here are our Top 5 Family Love Movies:

5. CrooklynSpike Lee directs a semi-autobiographical film of a family living in Brooklyn, New York in the 70’s .

Why it made the list: This was actually one of Spike’s under-rated gems.  The film revolves around the love that exists on multiple levels within a rather large family (two parents with five kids):  brother to brother, sister to brother, mother to father, mother to daughter, father to son and older sibling to younger sibling…whew.  That’s a lot of love going around. Plus, it’s  good “anytime” movie.

4. Our Family Wedding – Lucia and Marcus try not to let their father’s egos and family differences prevent them from getting married.

Why it made the list: Talk about cultural diversity! This film does its best to put a modern day “family” spin on the classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” with Sidney Poitier and Spencer Tracy, not “Guess Who?” with Ashton Kutcher (terrible by the way). Our Family Wedding celebrates the differences between two families through comedy, but in reality, it’s a story about the love, respect and appreciation we should have for our family members and our differences. NOTE: Sometimes that’s easier said than done.

3. The Blind Side – A young homeless boy becomes an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of his adoptive parents.

Why it made the list: It appears that “based on a true story” helps push the voters over the top. If it wasn’t “real”, it would be hokie and I’m not sure that it still isn’t a little hokie. This film shows how a family opens its doors and heart to a young boy with hopes of helping him live a better life. Sound a little familiar? (Different Strokes concept but with real people). This is truly a public purpose film about the compassion and power of love for a child in need (even if he is a 6’6 -330lb-African American teenager from the hood).

2. The Fighter – A look at the early years of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward and his brother who helped train him before going pro in the 1980’s.

Why it made the list: This film is more about the family of a boxer than about boxing. Everyone in the family is a fighter, so you’d be better off leaving all of them alone. The power of family flows through every scene and is evident when you see all seven sisters together every time you see one of them. The mother not only manages her son like an old mule, but she runs the family like the ring master at the circus. The brothers have a bond that is admirable, but when push comes to shove, the film shows that you can best serve yourself and your family by taking care of yourself first.

1. Pursuit of Happyness – A struggling salesman take custody of his son as he faces a life-changing career move.

Why it made the list: If you saw this movie and didn’t shed a tear, you have no soul. Okay, that’s a stretch, but the bond between the father and son in this movie is priceless. The “based on a true story” makes this story even more relevant and valuable to those of us balancing the everyday struggle of career and family. As a father of two boys, I can only imagine the pain he must have felt not being able to provide for his son. His efforts, humility, passion, and shear will to provide a better life for his son, makes this the ultimate public purpose story of love and appreciation for family.

Runner-ups:

  • Four Brothers
  • Taken
  • City Island
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • The Incredibles
  • Where God Left His Shoes

Find out what’s appropriate for your kids to watch. Read more film reviews at CommonSenseMedia.org

Don’t Miss the Latest in Public-Purpose Media: 9INE on Pic.tv NOW!

What do you think? Agree or Disagree? Did we miss something? Tell us.

PIC Talks Love with Iyanla Vanzant

Posted on February 23rd, 2011 by Stacy Gilliam 6 Comments

Few can speak on self-love as eloquently as renowned, spiritual coach and author Iyanla Vanzant. In the midst of promoting her latest book, Peace From Broken Pieces, we caught up with Vanzant briefly by phone to get her thoughts on the subject. Please leave comments with your tips on ways to better love self and community.

Knowledge of Self is Sexy: HOTT Self-Love Expert Ariana Proehl

Posted on February 15th, 2011 by Mohammed Bilal No Comments

Know This! Episode 1 from Ariana KSS on Vimeo.

Ariana Proehl is an entrepreneur and media personality championing the cause of self-love and proving that Knowledge of Self is Sexy™ (KSS). She is also the creator, producer and host of the online talk show Know This! featuring interviews, news and pop culture commentary with a smart and socially conscious point of view, set to debut this Spring. The five minutes of sex tape-fame game is getting old and Ariana is on a mission to give sexy a smarter, more self-respecting look in the mainstream. With a passion for personal development work, roots in social justice education and her young, fresh appeal, Ariana is a fierce voice of this generation, empowering people to make lasting change in themselves, and in the world.

Love Community: Hott Self-Love Coach

And if you need further proof that Knowledge of Self is Sexy, this is why it’s HOTT: The HOTT Framework is a basic guide Ariana developed that is based on her own journey to overcome self esteem issues and know her self worth. HOTT stands for Heal from your past, Own your story, Transition out old habits & in with the new, and Transform the way you look at yourself. To download details of the framework, go here: http://arianakss.com/2010/10/the-hott-framework/

Does Knowledge of Self really make you sexier? I would say, “Ya, boy!”, but what do you think?

For more information on Ariana’s work, visit www.arianakss.com. Follow her on twitter: www.twitter.com/ArianaKSS

Marriage, Love + Community with Author and Historian Stephanie Coontz

Posted on February 14th, 2011 by Alley Pezanoski-Browne No Comments

Courtesy of stephaniecoontz.com

Stephanie Coontz teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. She serves as Director of Public Education at the Council on Contemporary Families, a non-profit, nonpartisan association of family researchers and practitioners based at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

She is also the author of several books, including Marriage, a History, The Way We Never Were, The Way We Really Are, and most recently A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s.

Stephanie recently had a conversation with us about marriage, love, community, and how our definitions of each have changed through time:

Rent-to-Own Companies Do Not Love Your Community!

Posted on January 21st, 2011 by Makebra Bridges No Comments

Ever think about renting?

Loving your community means many different things.  It means loving yourself, loving your family, loving your home, loving your street, giving back, keeping the environment clean, and the list can go on and on.  One important aspect of loving the community is supporting the businesses in it!  Now usually, I’m all for buying local, but when it comes to rent-to-own companies, such as Rent-A-Center, I would strongly DISCOURAGE you to patronize these types of establishments.

Have you ever noticed that Rent-to-Own companies only set up shop in poor neighborhoods.  There is a reason for this madness.  These companies, just like credit card companies, take advantage of people who don’t have enough financial smarts to know that when you purchase something on a rent-to-own basis, you end up paying a lot more for the item.

So, if you rent-to-own a $1200, 55in. televison, at the end of your contract you could end up paying $2000 or more for the TV.  That’s because of the high interest rates!

I understand that sometimes we don’t have the money to buy the things that we want, but instead of renting furniture and electronics, save your money every month until you can buy the item.  Stop making these companies rich and start making yourself rich.

Do I Have a Community?

Posted on January 21st, 2011 by Stacy Gilliam No Comments
Walking in Southeast Washington, DC

Walking in Southeast DC

It is no secret in my social circle that I’ve grown weary of living on my street in my neighborhood. Southeast Washington, D.C. is one of the last quadrants of the city ripe for revitalization. I bought my first house here nearly 7 years ago for that reason. Without jumping completely on a soapbox, I’ll just say that some change is evident, but it’s slow.

There are new condos and single-family homes nearby. One condo building sits atop an organic food market that sticks out like a sore thumb. But in an area crowded with fast food restaurants, the option to choose healthy, organic fare over the artery-clogging stuff is a huge deal!

Still, Southeast has the highest crime rates in the city. Less than a month ago, there was a shooting in the alley behind my house. And I’m consistently reminded of how little respect some have for the properties of others. Suffice it to say, I’ve never felt at home here. I’ve never felt a sense of community, either.

Home for me is Philadelphia, where I spent the first 10 years of my life, and subsequently moved back to for college. When I think of “community,” I think of my old neighborhood, a village, really. We all looked out for each other. We all knew each other. I was blessed to grow up in a loving, two-parent household. But when Jackie and Steve Gilliam weren’t watching me, a host of other unofficial guardians around me were. And we young folks respected them for it. Annual block parties in the summer were a love fest where neighbors grilled burgers and hotdogs for anyone who stopped by, music blared, people danced, and kids played freely. It was the kind of community I wanted to be an adult in one day.

So what happened? Did I grow up and became a grumpy homeowner? Or have communities like the ones I knew disappeared? Do I have a community in Southeast, DC and not realize it? Writing this forced me to put aside the housing section of The Washington Post, and simmer on that idea.

I closed my eyes to think positive thoughts. Who can count on me and who can I count on? There are my immediate neighbors – on one side Miss Barbara, a dog lover like me who travels often for work, and on the other Miss Denise, a retiree who coincidentally grew up on this block and now happily keeps to herself. Both are awesome women who dish out good advice from time to time. When one of us is away, we keep an eye on each other’s property. There’s Cadillac Man, nicknamed for his ever-glistening Escalade, who seems to own every tool my husband and I don’t. When he sees us struggling with a task, he eagerly jumps in and helps. And Mr. Parrot. Without this sweet, old guy, the block would remain littered. He totes trash bags and sweeps it from top to bottom everyday. Now this community doesn’t quite resemble the one I long for. Not even close. Times have changed.

But maybe I need to be part of the solution. Perhaps it’s up to me to help create a more harmonious ‘hood. I can join local organizations to connect myself. I can get to know and extend myself to more of my neighbors. I can come up with a reason for a group of us neighbors to kick back and chew the fat like my parents did back in the day. I can be a part of the revitalization!

Before I move to seemingly greener pastures, I resolve to try. If you’re not happy with the community you live in, you should, too.

Stacy Gilliam is a part-time producer at One Economy Corp. She lives in D.C. with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Mylo.

Coast to Coast

Posted on January 21st, 2011 by Makebra Bridges No Comments

Since I walked across the stage for my high school graduation, I’ve been on the move! I left the sunshine and blue skies of California and walked into the politically-charged, grit and grime of Washington, DC. Leaving California to attend college on the East Coast wasn’t a hard choice, but I didn’t realize how important my close-knit family and ever-faithful friends were until they weren’t a part of my daily routine.

Surprisingly, finding new friends and developing new bonds was easy. There were thousands of people just like me. Recent high school graduates, away from home for the first time, looking for someone and something to connect to. Whether it was the California Club, the student newspaper team, people interested in volunteering, or people that loved making jewelry, the campus offered dozens of “communities” to help people feel connected and comfortable. It was my first lesson in understanding that your community is more than your neighborhood—it is whatever or whoever you feel connected to—the thing that brings you security.

I spent six years in the DC area, only to make a huge move to Buffalo, NY in 2006. Not only was I moving further from home, I was also getting married and preparing to start a family. After arriving in Buffalo, I had a difficult time adjusting. I didn’t have any family, didn’t have any friends, and there weren’t any established “communities” for people like me. Buffalo is a small town. Most of the people living here were born and raised in the area. They have friends that they’ve known since grammar school and they spend a lot of time with immediate and extended family.

I was officially an outsider. Not only am I not from Buffalo, I am from the other end of the country. A place that is as foreign to them, as Buffalo was to me. I struggled to find people that I connected to—struggled to find activities that interested me. All while adapting to being a wife and new mother.

It took some time, and a lot of effort, but just like in DC, I now have a community in Buffalo. Whether it’s my new extended family, a mommy group, or people that are interested in the same things that interest me, I have found a comfort zone. I have found a connection. In only a few years I have extended my kinship beyond my immediate kin. My community is made of people from the West Coast, the East Coast and everyone in between!

Makebra is a producer at One Economy Corporation. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.

Community on the Move

Posted on January 21st, 2011 by Alexis Cala No Comments

I’ve spent most of my life in Oregon, moving around a bit, but never venturing too far from home. And up until recently, I always considered my community to be in and around the Portland area. Then, a few months ago I took a pretty big step, or leap, and moved to the Midwest to be with the love of my life. We also got married and I became an Army wife almost overnight. My life, community, my whole world has quickly changed in a very short time. Of course, it’s all worth it.

But just as I was beginning to feel like I was fitting in to my new community, my husband received orders and we’re on the move again..

The most difficult thing so far, is that I keep finding myself in new communities, with folks who have very different interests, beliefs, etc. And meeting new people in a completely new state isn’t exactly easy. Fortunately, our latest move has proved me wrong and I have already met most of my neighbors. They were eager to find out where we came from, what rank my husband was and what I did with my time – nosy, but sweet.

It hasn’t taken too long to notice that in each community we live – because we’re close to post – there are a lot of people in the same situation. A good majority are military families who have watched their community, neighborhood, etc. change time and time again. A common question around here is where are you coming from and where are you headed? They almost expect you to be moving one way or the other.

Now, as I start to meet people in my new neighborhood I can only wonder how long it will last. It’s hard to get too involved or become too attached to a new community because you never know when you’re going to have to pack up and leave. So, while I have a growing community of military wives and new neighbors, I still consider my family and friends in Oregon and around the U.S. an important part of my community. My friends and family may not be my neighbors any longer, but just because we aren’t living next door, doesn’t mean we can’t use the web and phone, and visit to keep our community intact.

I think it’s sort of like that saying: home is where the heart is. The location itself may change, but the people who make up your community, or home, don’t necessarily have to.

– Alexis is a Producer at One Economy. She lives with her husband in Texas.