“Give me two claps and Ric Flair!” shouted Troye Bullock from the stage, joined by the other two founders of GOODProjects, Darius Baxter and Danny Wright. Again, they shouted in unison, “Give me two claps and a Ric Flair.”
As the room of 500 erupted with “WOOO,” I realized I’d stumbled into something big. With undeniable chemistry and charisma, these modern-day Musketeers have started a movement. “We as young men have stepped up to the plate and created an environment of love and a culture where it looks good and feels good to do good,” Troye explained as we discussed the meaning of GOOD.
The evening on April 11 began with a reception in the green room of the always impressive Andrew Mellon Auditorium. Guests were greeted by carnival-style games, confections, live music and a stream of libations. As I mingled through the crowd, I met friends, community partners, local influencers and residents all full of nothing but positive things to say about the work being done by GOODProjects.
“It’s important to uphold and uplift the youth so they can be the leaders we need them to be.” said Bianca Andrews, a partner with Catholic Charities. “I’m impressed by these young men and how they are running their organization, how they have touched the community, they are doing a fantastic job,” chimed another bystander. “To be able to contribute to the next generation and keep this city great. To see the success stories and to know where all of this energy is going is really special. As a native Washingtonian, that’s so powerful to me,” said Gushed Matthew Herbert, a friend of the founders.
In its second year, GOODGala is a celebration of impact and a reminder of the long road ahead. The event featured performances by students from Stuart Hobson Middle School, Eastern High School and Bishop McNamara. Honorees included D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser; Tom Raffa, founder and CEO of Raffa, PC, a company that offers business solutions to the nonprofit community; and Frank Luntz, a noteworthy political consultant.
Luntz was also the spark that charged Darius, Troye and Danny with reaching back into the communities from whence they came post-graduation. A testament to their gratitude for his guidance, the GOODGuyz introduced the Frank Luntz Award for Mentorship. This special recognition was given to Father Raymond Kemp, who played an integral role helping each young man transition into their college years and navigate life at Georgetown University.
“Tonight isn’t about us, it’s about making a statement to the city. We can honor the Mayor, get dressed up and have this 500-person gala, but we are also challenging people…. Because it’s about these kids, their families and the victories, both big and small we see everyday,” Darius beamed.
True to the statement, the night was also filled with testimonials from those whose lives were touched by the nonprofit. Stories ranging from broken cycles of incarceration to discoveries of self-worth kept the audience grounded with perspective. “We are reaching people who didn’t think they had a chance and giving them the permission to dream,” said Danny.
Much like the population they serve, Darius, Troye and Danny came from backgrounds that almost guaranteed a life subjected to poverty, violence and other socio-economic trappings. Fortunately, through sports and studies, each was accepted to and graduated from Georgetown University. They could have easily taken their blessings and ran. Instead, they chose to channel their energies into uplifting the forgotten. “We were three young men with stories to tell, it was a calling more than anything,” explained Darius.
Just three years old, GOODProjects is a thriving nonprofit reaching a level of stability that even the most long-standing of organizations may never see. With that momentum, the guys have turned their attention to fighting poverty from a more holistic standpoint. GOODZone, their latest project, addresses the problem using a 3-phase approach. The first develops an individualized out-of-poverty plan for each family. The next phase is designed to strengthen incomes. Families will receive assistance mapping paths to increased earnings. Finally, ownership and wealth creation will offer programming and learning opportunities that elevate asset aggregation and community investment.
The Southwest neighborhood of Greenleaf Gardens was announced as the test site for the initial roll-out. The goal is to convert a poverty-dense, U.S. Treasury labeled “Opportunity Zone” into a GOODZone where 100 percent of the households can sustain incomes above the national poverty level. Once realized, the program will be replicated in other neighborhoods across the district and ultimately the nation.
“We are GOOD and we are here to stay,” Danny proclaimed. Ending the night with a charge to raise $5 million for the GOODzone initiative and bound by the unrelenting need to do GOOD, Darius,Troye and Danny’s marathon continues.