(AllHipHop Features) A dedicated visionary, philanthropist and social entrepreneur, Chandra Pitts is committed to growing youth into their true greatness through education, entrepreneurship and the arts. As a first-generation Mexican American and a Black woman, her passion, integrity and authentic voice of advocacy for marginalized youth locally, nationally and globally is driven by her own life experiences. A justice-driven businesswoman, Chandra created a social enterprise securing her first multi-million dollar contract to address the needs of marginalized youth and families.
Chandra Pitts began her life’s work organizing youth in Jamaica whose families could not afford to send them to school. In 2008, she developed the largest school-based mentoring program in Delaware’s Christina School District serving 247 at risk youth. In 2009, she founded The Village Learning Center securing a 2.1 million dollar federally funded contract to continue her work with marginalized youth. Her company's innovative education model was adopted by the Department of Education in Delaware and New Jersey, implemented in 42 schools throughout the region, and created 62 new jobs in its first year alone.
She used this successful social enterprise to launch non-profit, social impact agency, One Village Alliance, Inc. As founding President & CEO, Chandra’s primary work takes a gender specific approach to growing purpose-driven youth into their true greatness with a strong focus on education, global leadership and social enterprise. “Girls Can Do Anything!” empowers hundreds of girls throughout the Delaware Valley to redefine womanhood and what it means to be a girl. Raising Kings changes society’s prominent image and expectations of men and boys of color by elevating the level of positive male engagement in the lives of boys. And Suitable Men provides fatherhood training, man-to-man mentoring, and leadership support for dads in our "village" approach to holistic youth development.
In 2017, Chandra Pitts became the youngest person ever inducted into the Delaware Hall of Fame for Women, an esteemed honor she accepts on behalf of all the extraordinary women who paved the way before her. Also,Chandra graced the September 2017 cover of Delaware Today Magazine as one of the most Intriguing Delawareans.
AllHipHop hopes to add to her numerous accolades but connecting the dots between her work and the Hip-Hop community.
AllHipHop: First of all, tell me about the Wakanda Warrior photo shoot you recently put together inspired by the Black Panther. My daughter and I were included and loved it.
Chandra G. Pitts: It was such an honor to have you and your daughter join us for this fun celebration of all things Black and Beautiful! The idea of the Wakanda Warrior photo shoot was something that I knew my artist friends would share my excitement about. I called my girlfriend who makes jewelry, a few of my photographer friends, natural hair enthusiasts and of course, my Marvel fanatics and it was on! We were all so excited to be a part of history through this project that everyone who collaborated on the project fully sponsored their time, talent and resources.
Seeing the marvel of Black Panther on the big screen was not just for comic fanatics. I appreciated the film as a Black culture fanatic. Seeing Hollywood depict a truly Black superhero, African culture celebrated for its wealth and beauty, the worlds wealth buried on the continent, and such intelligent, strong and beautiful Black siblings, scientists, and warriors; AND STRONG BLACK WOMEN at that!!! For many of us living in America as a "Black" person, Wakanda is a real as anyplace we've ever traced the African part of our "African American" existence too.
We showed up in theaters around the world like we were from Wakanda! Tribal make-up, African garb, special order t-shirts, and most importantly, proud to be Black! As a result, the Black Panther film made history. The truth is WE made history! Our Wakanda Warrior photo shoot during Black History Month captured all this beauty, culture and melanin in a way that we will never forget. #WakandaWarriorsDE forever!!
AllHipHop: Explain what your job entails?
Chandra G. Pitts: I have six jobs! I'm the CEO of a social impact agency called One Village Alliance. This is my dream job, which allows me to create my own course and determine my own destiny. It's a purpose driven journey to grow youth into their true greatness and transform lives through education entrepreneurship and the arts. Having started this organization myself as a social entrepreneur, I still do much of the work. My job consists of everything from HR to advocacy including: fundraising; grant writing; organizational development; program development; even the administrative management. My dynamic role requires me to be a boss in business, build relationships at the legislative and corporate level, as well as stay connected on the ground to stay in tune with children, families and the community we represent.
AllHipHop: Tell me how Hip-Hop has factored in the work you do in the communities you serve.
Chandra G. Pitts: I was born and grew up with Hip-Hop and it's still very much a part of who I am today. Hip-Hop was created to represent a culture for those most marginalized in high-poverty neighborhoods and give voice to the struggles devastating people's lives. Even as Hip-Hop continues to be bought, sold and co-opted, the culture is still growing as a global social justice movement. My work is a part of that activism that was and continues to be inspired by hip-hop. Like Tupac, Public Enemy, KRS-1, Queen Latifah, and many others who used their platform to share the struggles of youth growing up in extreme poverty and call for action, I use every platform possible to raise awareness and bring change to the communities we serve. What defines the greatest lyricists is their storytelling ability. The most important part of my work is telling the story. In order to do that with integrity I work closely with our youth. That means staying relevant in our approach. My goal is to continue the movement toward social justice while building a counterculture of greatness, fortitude and power for our people.
AllHipHop: What’s the most enjoyable part of the job and your duties:
Chandra G. Pitts: I love waking up every single day with the knowledge that I'm living in my purpose. I enjoy using my voice to change people's mind; about education and their ability to learn; about black males and mass incarceration; about themselves. Our words have the capacity to change the world. I'm a research person. The more information I have, the more empowered I become. I enjoy sharing information with others. Numbers are one thing. Everything in my world is data driven but without the narrative, the numbers can lie. I enjoy using the power of my voice and the capacity of words to bring truth to life.
AllHipHop: What is the hardest part:
Chandra G. Pitts: Building the right team around me is by far the most difficult part of my job. It's right up there with dealing with the suffering and loss of life of youth in our streets. Seriously. It's a world changer when you have the right team of passion-driven, uniquely qualified, creative professionals working together with integrity and a standard of excellence.
Strong leadership is highly respected in the world we live in... Unless you're a young woman of Color. I'm a first generation Mexican American and a Black woman. It has definitely presented more than one challenge that people have had to overcome or not. But it makes building that loyal, dedicated team a very conscious, strategic and tireless effort. It means having to deal with funding partners in an almost exclusively white world of philanthropy; personal agendas, jealousy and complacency among staff; dare I mention the lack of willing mentors committed to cultivating the next generation of Black and Hispanic women leaders.
Yes. I've received lots of accolades and have become a well respected for all that we're accomplishing in the world. I've worked very hard and earned every ounce of it. But the knowledge that there is always someone there to underestimate, undermined and undervalue me is something that I'm very conscious of. That's okay. My staying power is unquestionable.
Chandra G. Pitts: As a philanthropist, everything I do is for the love of humanity. I face my greatest moments of adversity when I'm fighting against a system with no army. I distinctly remember walking through the neighborhood one day early in my work in an effort to mobilize residents to fight for equitable education for their own children. While many thanked me for the work we were doing on their behalf, they declined to join the movement. Most are so disenfranchised and locked out that they feel they no longer have a voice. The uphill battle becomes a lot more steep when the people who are most impacted by injustices are immobilized.
AllHipHop: What keeps you from giving up?
Chandra G. Pitts: My son. I remember my conscious thought the moment I found out that I was going to bring a child into this world. I knew I had a lot of work to do. And raising him has made me even more aware of the sense of urgency. There's no way I can turn my back and walk away from the injustices facing our sons and daughters.. It's not in me. I'm clear about my purpose. I feel a great sense of personal responsibility to my ancestors who came before me and risked their very lives; the elders who gave their freedom, many of whom are still incarcerated even today; and most importantly, the generations who are coming up in this world. It's really that deep for me.
It's our responsibility to do something and there's an urgency. I remember when I was developing our Raising Kings initiative to change the image, expectations an outcomes for our men and boys. I came across a music video that had a huge impact on me. It showed me what was happening right outside my door with our children in a way that I had never seen it before. Through the lens of Hip-Hop, I was able to experience life, being a kid, fatherhood, even youth engagement in "Out Delaware" by local rapper known as Bobby Dimes. Just a few short years later when the same young man who enlightened and inspired me lost his life to gun violence, I was painfully reminded of the extreme urgency to keep going.
AllHipHop: Who inspired you to become a leader or boss?
Chandra G. Pitts: I was raised by a civil rights activist. With the constant support from my dad, my mom was a fierce advocate for justice in education and beyond. She continues to serve as my inspiration, role model and trusted confidant.
AllHipHop: How do you balance work, and personal life?
Chandra G. Pitts: That's a challenge. My work is a huge part of my personal journey. But I make it a point to stay physically strong through proper, eating, rest, and breathing. I give my mind a rest through comic relief and make time for frequent world travel. And most importantly, I remain spiritually grounded with lots of prayers of gratitude!
AllHipHop: What do you like to do for fun?
Chandra G. Pitts: I travel. I love to cook. And I'm a great cook so I entertain friends often which is a lot of fun for me.
AllHipHop: Final words?
Chandra G. Pitts: Keep going!