During its Jan. 17 meeting, Greensboro City Council members approved a resolution that would offer one-time financial assistance to eight nonprofit organizations, using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. 

Passed in March 2021, Greensboro has received $59.4 million from ARPA which has funded initiatives like the Tanger Center, the IRC, the city’s Juneteenth festival and affordable housing.

The most recent resolution passed 8-1, with District 3 representative Zack Matheny voting against. 

The eight nonprofits were previously approved by council to receive funding for their American Rescue Plan Act Enabled Projects. The nonprofits eligible for reimbursement include the Black Suit Initiative, Level Up Parenting, WD Mohammed Islamic Center, Guilford Child Development, I Am A Queen, Positive Direction for Youth/Families, Glenwood Together and Royal Expressions Ballet for Juneteenth Greensboro Festival support.

One stipulation of receiving the funding requires the organizations to submit financial statements. The agenda report for the Jan. 17 meeting reads: “In order to ensure fiscal stewardship, the City requires recipients of City funding to submit financial audits/reviews as part of standard contractual provisions and procedures.” The resolution passed at the meeting on Jan. 17 will allow nonprofits to submit their invoices to the city and receive reimbursement in the actual amount due, up to $20,000.

The Black Suit Initiative, an organization that aims to empower young men in middle and high school through their leadership and community-engagement program, is receiving $50,000 as part of the funding. The funding was originally unanimously approved during a Sept. 20 council meeting. 

In an interview with TCB, founder Evainna Ross said that the program is training leaders for the future by providing them with career exploration opportunities, helping them improve academic performance, explore their career interests and participate in positive team-building exercises.

Members of the Black Suit Initiative (courtesy photo)

“We do a different curriculum every year,” Ross said. “The young men meet with us year-round, at least three Saturdays a month.”

Ross said that the curriculum for this year will help young men learn how to maneuver through life 10 years after graduating from high school or college.

“We want them to know that you have to be prepared for whatever life may throw your way,” Ross said. The founder wants this program to help young men prepare “for the best, and for the worst.”

The Black Suit Initiative has not received their funding yet, but Ross said that the audits are not due until 2024.

The $50,000 will go a long way to helping fund the group’s mission, which is offered to participants free of charge.

“Everything we provide these young men is free,” Ross explained. “That includes everything from weekly meals, admission fees to cultural events, out of state educational field trips, novels for book discussion, and of course, black suits.”

Members of the Black Suit Initiative (courtesy photo)

KeShaun Rhodie is an alumni of the Black Suit Initiative. Rhodie owns his own clothing line, CYOR Clothing which stands for Create Your Own Reality, Rhodie told TCB

And he’s done just that.

After graduating from Livingstone College in 2021 with a Computer Informations Systems degree, Rhodie now works as part of MetLife’s data analytics team, and last July he opened CYOR Clothing’s storefront in Raleigh’s Triangle Town Center.

One of Rhodie’s biggest takeaways from the program was a strong sense of purpose, garnered from Ross’s example.

“She taught me that when you’re passionate about something, regardless of how much money you can make from it…doing something with a purpose makes a big difference,” Rhodie said.

Members of the Black Suit Initiative (courtesy photo)

Rhodie also said that he’s developed lifelong friendships through the Black Suit Initiative, and that the program made him feel like he was doing something different within the community.

Rhodie said that the lessons he learned through the program have helped him through college and into his career. “The Black Suit Initiative helped me diversify myself,” Rhodie said, adding that the program offered plenty of challenges and equipped him with tools that he uses on a daily basis. 

“Always working on becoming a better man,” Rhodie said.

Members of the Black Suit Initiative have the opportunity to earn their very own full black suit upon successfully completing their first year of the program. Even before he became a businessman, Rhodie said that wearing a suit made him feel like one. 

“It was a representation of the man that I could be, that I was yet to be, and that I’m still striving to be,” he said. “Sharp, intelligent, polished.”

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