Letter from our CEO AND FOUNDER, SAMIERRA JONES

  

The first time I could actually see positive change in an individual because of interactions and encounters with me, I was hooked! The light, the positive energy, the renewed since of hope and determination that emanates from a human being getting back up and trying again is the most amazing experience. It’s what fuels me. It’s the reason I get up in the morning. The “ah hah’ moment in an individual’s eyes is an event that I’ve been working to be a part of since I was a very young lady. Yes, my mother raised a lady! The poise and power that women possess is what I’ve witnessed in the generations of women before me and I work every day to make them proud. As an African American woman and more specifically, a resident of Baltimore City, I use that power, poise and influence to make positive change in my community. 

January, 2018, my younger sister, a Baltimore city high school student, became ill. She complained about being cold in school and eventually caught the flu. A little further investigation unearthed the tragic truth that her school was among many that lacked proper heat. I discussed the scenario with a few constituents, one of which was a Baltimore city school teacher. What we found were that there were many students forced to wear winter coats, hats and gloves inside the school! Who forces a child to learn under these conditions? No heat! That was and still is very unacceptable. I partnered with those same constituents who soon became like family to start a project, appropriately called Operation Heat (www.operationheat.org). Through GoFundMe, the Operation Heat campaign raised more than $85,000 in an astounding six days. The campaign garnered attention worldwide. Individuals from Africa to Germany contacted myself and the rest of our team about the important grassroots work we were doing. There were a host of lessons I would learn through this campaign. I learned that you must be very aware of the individuals you allow in your space and in your psyche, I learned how to manage a large scale project in front of media and the entire world, and I learned how to preserve. The most important lesson I learned was how much positive change we can create if we lift up unified voices and work together to accomplish the change we have been relying on politicians to create. Operation Heat was able to create valuable partnerships with Baltimore City school educators and we were able to deliver to truckloads of winter coats, hats, gloves, and space heaters. Have you heard the story of the five fish and two loaves of bread and how that seemingly small amount fed five thousand men? That’s the best way to describe how the more we gave, the more we had to give. Through the Operation Heat campaign, we were able to supply schools with teacher care packages, winter clothing items, heating units, etc. We could not have done it without you!

Aaron maybin, co-founder

Aaron Maybin is a 30 year old Art-Activist and former professional football player from Baltimore City, Maryland. Maybin was selected as the 11th overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills as a former All-American defensive end at Penn State University. Aaron went on to play in the NFL for the New York Jets and the Cincinnati Bengals in his 5-year career. Aaron also played professionally for the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL before making the decision to walk away from the game of football to pursue his career as a professional artist, activist, educator and community organizer.

His transition from full-time NFL superstar to full-time artist and philanthropist has been extensively covered by ESPN, CBS, Fox 45, and even garnered an HBO documentary warmly received by critics. His art, photography, and writing deal with many socially relevant themes and issues, drawn from his own personal experiences as a former pro athlete and growing up as a young Black man in America.

Aaron uses his platform and gifts to advocate for racial and economic equality, arts education, and programing in underprivileged communities across the country. In 2009, Aaron established Project Mayhem to provide aid, both personal and economic, to help underprivileged and at risk youth excel beyond their current conditions. Through his work with Project Mayhem, Aaron has implemented art workshops and curriculums into several Schools in the Baltimore City area that have had budget cuts due to a lack of State Funding.

Aaron is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity incorporated, The Mayors “One Baltimore” initiative, and a Fox 45 Champion of Courage Award recipient for 2016, He continues to advocate for public policy to see Art programs restored in the schools and more economic opportunities to be provided for the underprivileged people of Baltimore.

Valerie Arum, co-founder

Valerie Arum, 24 years old, was born in Eldoret, Kenya and moved to Baltimore, MD at the age of eight years old. She is currently a student at Morgan State University majoring in Strategic Communication at the School of Global Journalism and Communication.

Growing up on both sides of the world has allowed Valerie to have a first hand perspective on issues affecting colored people across the globe. She has an interest for youth empowerment, women’s issues, community activism, education in communities of color, and international relations.

Valerie serves as the assistant director for the Tom Munyama Foundation, is a member of the National Council of Negro Women, an intern for DTLR Radio, and contributing writer for thedemotape.com. One of her greatest accomplishments thus far, was helping to lead and organize a successful lawsuit that got additional funding for Maryland’s HBCUs. 

Valerie’s mission is to bridge the gap between all people in the African diaspora as well as create opportunities for colored youth across the globe.