A national after-school program dedicated to breaking the cycle of intergenerational incarceration brought their star-studded annual Power of a Dream Gala to Washington.
The U.S. Dream Academy for the 16th year held their biggest fundraiser — this year themed “Igniting Dreams” — on Tuesday, June 6 at the Washington Renaissance Hotel in Northwest.
“One of every three African-American males between the ages of 18 and 30 are in prison right now, or supervised by the court system of the United States of America,” said Wintley Phipps, founder of U.S. Dream Academy. “Almost 60 to 70 percent of children in some communities end up going to prison, and they come from those who are in prison now.
“It’s a cycle,” he said. “We developed going into almost our 20th year a focus on tutoring and mentoring to break that intergenerational cycle.”
Actor and producer Larenz Tate and singer Michelle Williams of music group Destiny’s Child emceed the event honoring Robert Logan for the Mentor of the Year Award, and three Dream Academy Award recipients, Dr. David R. Williams, France A. Cordova and Wanda Durant.
“I have a heart for children and I think my mantra fits into the mission of the Dream Academy that if you teach children, spark their interest and let them know they have hope it gives them the wherewithal to believe they can achieve whatever,” said Durant, mother of NBA star Kevin Durant and president of Hope, Dream, Believe, Achieve (HDBA).
“I’m grateful to the Dream Academy and Mr. Phipps that they allow me to come in and be a part of their vision,” she said.
Phipps, a Grammy-nominated gospel singer, founded the academy in 1998 with the vision of creating an army of young men and women with positive dreams for their lives.
Since 2001, the annual Power of A Dream Gala has raised more than $17 million to assist with the provision of high-quality after-school programs specifically tailored for children living in high-risk communities.
The Academy said more than 700 young people in seven cities including Baltimore, Houston, Indianapolis, Orlando, Florida, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and D.C. benefit each day from their programming.
“Did you know by the age of 30, 60 percent of all black boys in America who don’t graduate from high school will be in prison?” Phipps said. “So we’ve got to break that cycle.”
Youth in need can access the programs through their schools in communities where they live.
“We partner with the schools, teachers, principles and they let us know which children could really use our help,” Phipps said. “We don’t really talk about it in our community, but most of us have family members that are incarcerated or have been incarcerated.”
Phipps agreed that incarceration continues to be a taboo subject, but said it must be faced head-on.
“You never know whose life you’re going to touch,” he said. “Thirty years ago [when] I was a gospel singer singing in Baltimore, I felt a tap on my shoulder and a lady told me she wanted to talk to me. She came over to my house and we prayed and God put it in on my heart to tell her you’re going to speak to millions, and that lady was Oprah Winfrey.”