I recently had the pleasure of attending the 10th Annual People of Prominence speaker series, virtually of course. The event was sponsored by the Midwest College Project, Inc. I was so incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to converse with these amazing people. Here’s a quick recap of the outstanding individuals and their presentations.
Dorothy Jean Tillman
Dorothy Jean Tillman graduated from college at the ripe age of twelve and got her masters degree at 14. Although she wasn’t able to attend the event, she left a video where she talked about herself and gave a little bit of advice. She described herself as a typical kid and said that her success stemmed from nothing other than hard work. Tillman’s advice was short and sweet: “Find your strengths and play on them.”
Ian Brock is a social entrepreneur and philanthropist and is only 16 years old. He is the CEO and founder of “Dream, Hustle, Code” a non-profit that is designed to teach youth how to code. Brock had a lot of advice to offer. The first tip he stressed was time management and the importance of developing it. When asked about public speaking, Brock’s advice was to practice. He said, “The only way to get good at something is to do it.”
Felicia Davis is the CEO of the Chicago Foundation for Women. An organization that was founded in 1985. Davis is a first generation college student. She thoroughly described the need for women empowerment foundations, saying that women, especially women of color, are disadvantaged in almost every way possible. Davis discussed the gender pay gap, stressing that the average Black woman makes 62 cents for every dollar the average White man makes.
Jahkil Jackson is a 12-year-old entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the CEO and founder of Project I Am, a non-profit started to help the homeless. Within Jackson’s foundation, he makes what he calls Blessing Bags, bags full of toiletries and snacks for the homeless. His advice for anyone trying to start a business is to start small and build your way up. Jackson’s next goal is to build tiny homes for the homeless and he has partnered with Steve Harvey and 44th President Barack Obama to do so.
Esi Eggleston Bracey
Esi Eggleston Bracey sparked diversity in many beauty brands’ ads. She is a Kenwood Academy Alumni and graduated from Dartmouth College after high school. She ran the COVERGIRL brand for many years, but when she started she described everyone representing the brand as blonde haired, blue eyed, skinny models. Bracey made it her mission to diversify COVERGIRL. She brought celebrities that she described as realistic beauties. Bracey also was a huge part in the Crown Act–the act that makes discrimination of the basis of hair illegal.
Celai West is a runway model, author, and entrepreneur. She is the youngest African-American professional supermodel. West is 12 years old but she is a naturalist that pushes for texture diversity. She started modeling at 7 and is currently homeschooled while she fulfills her dream. West also is the CEO of her t-shirt company, The Chatty Chick. She gave some sweet advice: “Have fun, live your dream, and be yourself.”
Lamman Rucker is an actor who has starred in many films and TV shows such as “Greenleaf,” Why Did I Get Married?, and “Meet the Browns.” He is also the CEO and co-founder of The Black Gents, a group of successful Black men. “Creativity gives you the ability to solve problems,” Rucker said, a statement that I wholeheartedly agree with. He also described acting as therapeutic and says the arts saved his life. Rucker had a lot of advice but the one piece that stuck with me was him telling us to push through discrimination and claim your spot at the table.
As always, there is more than enough to take away from all of these incredible people. I certainly look to every one of them as role models, even the people younger than me. I will take their advice and run with it.
By Joi Belcher, Junior, Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep