Founded in 2017 by then high school sophomore, Amber Anderson, Black is Gold Organization will be holding their first Community Day: Popup Bookbag Shop on Sunday, August 2nd. Taking place at Urban Legends Barbershop, located at 1419 East 79th Street, from noon to 3 pm, the event promises to donate 150 bookbags to students in need as they prepare for the 2020-2021 academic year.
To further explore the Black is Gold Organization, we had a conversation with the founder, Amber Anderson, on the origins, different programs, impact, and the future.
Racquel Coral (RC): So I know that the inspiration behind Black is Gold Organization was based on the song by rapper, Wale, of the same name, but how did you get started?
Amber Anderson (AA): I first talked to my mentor about it, who was a student at Spelman College at the time. I wanted her to feature Black is Gold in the Maroon Tiger, which is Morehouse College’s newspaper, but she couldn’t do it because it didn’t have any community impact. She then encouraged me to think outside the box of different ways this organization can influence those around me. At the time, I was also reading the book, Pushout, by Monique Morris, and in it, she talked about Black girls and education, and how we need to create solutions to push them and create spaces for careers and college readiness. And it was a combination of the two that led me to create the mentoring program.
RC: Speaking of the mentoring program, what other programs does your organization offer?
AA: We have three different programs. They are the Saturday Mentoring Program, ANA’s Mentoring Program, and Black is Gold University.
The Saturday Mentoring Program is specifically tailored towards high school students and focuses on career and college readiness, socio-emotional learning, civic engagement, community service, and building sisterhood. ANA’s Mentoring Program, which is for middle school students, has a heavy focus on socio-emotional learning and discussing topics that are under-discussed in the classroom. Lastly, we have Black is Gold University, which is for college students. It focuses on building sisterhood, community service, and preparing Black women for their careers. There are five Black is Gold University chapters, which are located at Hampton University, Emory University, University of Kentucky, Northern Illinois University, and Clark Atlanta University.
RC: And how do young women become involved in each program?
AA: For Black is Gold University, interested participants have to reach out to us to launch a chapter. As far as the ANA’s Mentoring Program, we select which elementary schools to partner with. And for the Saturday program, there’s an application process.
RC: In addition to your Pop-up Bookbag Shop on Sunday, what other events do you have?
AA: In the past, we’ve done back to school bookbag drives; however, due to COVID, we had to change how we do them and make this year’s drive a pop-up shop. Since doing the drives, we have given away a total of 600 bookbags to students, and this year we have a goal of 150. We also have an annual toy drive, where we partner with a CPS school to give away toys to the students. In addition to those two events, we also partner with an elementary school each year for a holiday bash. There, we have different games and activities for the students as they prepare to go on break for the holidays.
RC: Since you are now attending Hampton University, how do you manage a national non-profit as a full-time college student and not live in the same location as all of the chapters and programs?
AA: So, I have a team. Each Black is Gold University chapter has a designated Advisor, President, Vice-President, and executive board. For the Saturday program, we have eight mentors, including myself, and a team of two young ladies who work specifically with ANA’s Mentoring Program.
RC: Since launching Black is Gold Organization, have you had any partnerships or sponsors for your events?
AA: In the past, we’ve had Panda Express, Box Water, and Luster’s Pink as sponsors. Luster’s Pink will be a sponsor this year and provide hair care products that we will put into the bookbags. We’ve collaborated with other youth organizations around Chicago, and in May, partnered with the Ladies of Virtue for College Decision Week. This event was to celebrate graduating seniors since their senior year was taking away due to COVID.
RC: And speaking of COVID, how do you plan on continuing your various programs?
AA: Everything will be done virtually over Google Meets until we can meet in person.
RC: What has been the most significant impact on the lives of the young ladies who have gone through your program?
AA: The greatest impact has been this past school year. All of our graduating high school seniors had a 100% graduation rate, received 219 college acceptance letters, and collectively received $12M in scholarships.
RC: When initially setting out to launch Black is Gold Organization, did you imagine the growth that it currently has?
AA: To be honest, no. I didn’t think it would get this big. I didn’t even have plans on starting a non-profit. I just never imagined it for myself.
RC: What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned since launching?
AA: The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is accountability. I have to keep doing the work that I’m doing because other people depend on me to do it. I’m responsible for making sure that they get those resources and just having the place and space just to be themselves. Also, knowing that a lot of things in life are bigger than me.
RC: And lastly, what does the future hold?
AA: To keep growing and progressing by launching more chapters on college campuses, and bringing awareness around Black women and girls in society. Also to continue shining a light on our stories, because they are often ignored.
For more information on Black is Gold University, visit https://www.blackisgoldchicago.org/.
Contributing Writer, Racquel Coral is a lifestyle writer based in Chicago. Find her on social media @withloveracquel.