In The News

Miami Foundation Gives Grants To Five More Miami Organizations


The Miami Foundation announced a round of grants to five organizations Friday. The grants were part of the foundation’s 50th anniversary celebration. It’s investing $1 million over the course of the year to various organizations.

Xavier de Souza Briggs works with the Ford Foundation to promote economic fairness. He was the featured guest at the Miami Foundation’s breakfast on Friday. He said Miami is diverse, but not necessarily inclusive.

“Inclusion requires more than coexisting. It’s about respect, fairness, acts of opportunity generation,” he said.

Miami Foundation President and CEO Javier Alberto Soto announced grant recipients during the event. They include Breakthrough Miami, Carrfour Supportive Housing, Overtown Youth Center, Voices for Children and Grameen America.

Tina Brown is the Overtown Youth Center’s executive director. She said the Miami Foundation grant will help to expand the center’s programs to Little Haiti.

“We’re super excited about the fact that we’ll be able to impact so many more lives — predominantly students who are of Haitian descent and who are of Hispanic descent,” she said.

Overtown Youth Center focuses on youth development through academic and recreational programs. It received $50,000.

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LEGAL PROFESSIONALS COMPETE TO HELP OVERTOWN YOUTH


Legal professionals from all across South Florida faced off at the 3rd annual Zo’s Hoop-Law Madness Tournament, held Saturday, March 11.

PHOTO COURTESY OF MC GREGOR LAPIERRE

Staff Report

MIAMI – Hundreds of legal professionals returned for the third year in a row to face off on a different type of court at the Overtown Youth Center’s 3rd Annual Zo’s HoopLaw Madness (ZHLM) Charity Basketball tournament.

Over 200 people attended ZHLM on Saturday, March 11. Jason Gilliam Alexander of Most Valuable Protege’s (MVP) served as the day’s host.

Eighteen teams competed in the tournament, which began in 2015 as a way to bridge the gap between urban youth and the legal community as well as raise funding for OYC’s programs and services.

This year marked a ‘three-peat’ for the reigning champions, a team composed of lawyers from the firms Eaton & Wolk, Vasallo Law, Hark Clasby & Bushman and Rasco Klock. Second place was DLA Piper and third place went to Pathman Lewis.

Participants enjoyed the players lounge complete with complimentary massages, open bar and three big screen TV’s showing March Madness games.

Midway through the day, attorneys competed against OYC’s high school boys who play basketball for Booker T. Washington.

Since the tournament’s inception, legal professionals have returned beyond the day of play to get involved with the work OYC is doing as donors, volunteers, tutors, etc.

OYC’s executive director Tina Brown said she was pleased with the success of the third year.

“I felt this year’s Hoop-Law was another great event. More importantly it continues to be a great way to connect the legal community to the work that we do,” Brown said.

Nike was the title sponsor for the event, donating $25,000, as well as providing volunteers to assist throughout the day. OYC staff said the center raised a total of $50,000 for OYC’s programming.

“Investing in the event provides OYC the opportunity to serve as a vehicle for ensuring that young people in the urban core are able to maximize their potential,” Brown continued.

She encouraged more firms to participate and serve as sponsors in future tournaments.

“Though ZHLM is a fun and competitive platform for hundreds of attorneys; the event’s proceeds continually give our students a competitive edge in life long after the game is over,” Brown said.

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The do-good ‘Sharks’ pick a winner: pop-up barbershops


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The “Sharks” had a tough choice among the four social ventures. Would they choose Master Honey that empowers low-income women to start their own micro-beekeeping businesses? Or perhaps prefer Miami is Kind’s concept to create jobs for young people on the autism spectrum baking cookies for schools? Would they pick Mind&Melody, which crafts music engagement experiences for Alzheimer’s patients? Or do they like Buzzbox’s pop-up barbershops that dispense life advice with the haircut? All were competing for a $10,000 prize.

Zo’s Hoop-Law Madness 3-on-3 basketball tournament to benefit Overtown Youth Center


Professional musicians repay their mentors by giving free lessons to Miami youngsters


Nicolaus Gelin, 14, performing at The Gleason Room at the Fillmore Miami Beach.

When Nicolaus Gelin started middle school at Young Men’s Preparatory Academy in Wynwood, he dreamed of being in the school’s music program.

“I saw them play at the pep rallies and I wanted to be a part of it,” said Nicolaus, 14.

The opportunity came in 2013, when the school’s former band director told Nicolaus there was going to be free guitar lessons after school twice a week.

“I went home immediately, asked my mom and I signed up the next day,” Nicolaus said.

The free guitar lessons were sponsored by Young Musicians Unite, a nonprofit organization that provides free music education to more than 70 students in areas of Miami such as Overtown and Wynwood. They are funded through grants from Citizens Interested in the Arts and Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs’ The Youth Arts Enrichment Program, and through partnerships with bands such as Arrowhead, Avalanche and Ripcord.

Young Musicians Unite was founded in 2013 and is led by Sammy Gonzalez, 31, a Miami Beach professional musician who learned to play guitar in the public school system.

“If the free music education I received while in school didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be a musician right now. Which is crazy because I work sometimes 80-plus hours a week doing what I love,” Gonzalez said. “It’s all possible thanks to the great mentors I had that were constants in my life while growing up.”

Gonzalez wanted to give back to public schools that lack financial support in the arts.

YMU started in partnership with the band Reckless Youth, whose members Gonzalez gave private lessons to. The funds collected at performances went directly to buying guitars for Young Men’s Prep Academy and to fund the after-school program.

“The parents of the band members had already a vision for me,” Gonzalez said. “The first shows Reckless Youth played, we donated the money to other foundations. Then the parents and I decided to keep the funds within what we are doing. We said, ‘Why don’t we go into a neighborhood that doesn’t have a great music program?’ ”

Almost four years later, YMU has expanded to provide music education to any student interested in learning from Young Men’s Prep Academy, Jose de Diego Middle School, Booker T. Washington High School and the Overtown Youth Center.

Students who participate in YMU become members of a classical guitar ensemble, a jazz ensemble or a student rock band.

Gonzalez joined forces with Allan Valladares and Juan Camilo Pelaez to mentor the students. All three are New World School of the Arts alumni.

“Sammy is very passionate about this cause,” Pelaez said. “Helping him and spending time with the kids teaching them music brings me great satisfaction because I feel I’m making a difference in their lives.”

After a year of learning guitar under Gonzalez, Nicolaus found his passion in playing the trumpet. Gonzalez helped him score a private lesson with New World Symphony fellow Aaron Norlund.

“I was shocked how good Nicolaus was. He was like a dry sponge ready to absorb as much knowledge as he possibly could in the time we spent together,” Norlund said. “Not only musically was I impressed, but in his ability to communicate. It’s really remarkable to see the support he receives from his parents.”

Nicolaus’ mother, Maryline Gelin, is a physical therapist and his father, Sonder Gelin, is self employed in the transportation field.

Nicolaus auditioned and got accepted to New World School of the Arts High School’s class of 2020.

“Because of Sammy, Nicolaus was able to get help,” Maryline Gelin said. “Sammy is doing wonderful work. The kids flourish through his program, it’s very effective. I appreciate the doors that have been open to Nicolaus.”

YMU students each get eight to 10 lessons a month. All students receive their own instruments, sheet music and other related materials.

Gonzalez hopes to bring YMU to every school in Miami-Dade.

“My vision is to impact as many kids as I can, change their lives, give them music,” Gonzalez said. “Some are just gonna play during our lessons and maybe never play again, but some are gonna make a career out of it and go on to better places.”

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