Nyamwange Foundation holds Juneteenth gala for Black empowerment in Jersey City


The Nyamwange Foundation held their “Birthright Afrika Gala” on Juneteenth at Hudson House in Jersey City to promote Black empowerment, where they also received a state proclamation.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

Executive Director Dejane Lawrence explained the foundation launched with a two-week educational experience in Kenya for high school. They then launched their leadership academy.

The academy lasts a year and empowers them as civic leaders that includes a trip to Washington, DC. She also explained she participated in their Birthright trip to Africa in 2019 in their first cohort.

“We just wanted to improve inner cities: We got tired of talking about them,” added Founder Joseph Nyamwange explained.

With that in mind, they started teaching and empowering kids in public schools, beginning with those at P.S. 15 in Jersey City.

“We realized real quick money alone is not enough to help students fully achieve. They need to understand empathy. They need to understand leadership,” Nyamwange stated. They have since launched a leadership academy.

“Soft skills alone is still not enough. There is a community of Black and brown students who need more than just skill sets. The superpower that is going to make them transcend is understanding who they are, being connected with their identity.”

Nyamwange further stated that he believes teaching and learning about their African roots is very empowering.

“To see people that look like them and see they’re not just tolerated, but they’re celebrated,” he declared to applause.

“To be Black in America is to yearn for freedom. We say no more. We’re giving a generation of children back their cultural identity, equipping future leaders to serve their communities, framing personal finance in connection with liberation, and inspiring a population of consumers to be a community of owners. Everyone can play a role in helping young black and brown kids. We don’t have to be a statistic. We can do more.”

The Viola Richardson Award, named after the late Ward F Councilwoman, was then presented to Hudson County Commissioner (D-3) Jerry Walker, who is running for Congress in the 10th District.

“When I was a teenager, I was a youth leader in my church, I sent an email to Miss Viola asking her to participate in our program. She didn’t know me from a can of paint. She showed up,” Nyamwange explained.

“You get no political benefits from coming to my event, I can promise you that,” he joked to laughter.

Nyamwange added that she pledged to support his foundation, but then passed shortly after the fact during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She’s one of the main reasons I do a lot of this stuff. Even though she’s dead, her legacy lives on and breathes,” he exclaimed to applause.

“It is truly an honor, particularly since it’s Juneteenth. My first job was with Viola Richardson at P.S. 17 school,” Walker noted.

“She was a tough lady too. I appreciate this award. You guys do a great job I’m going to sponsor a kid in 2026 to go, and I’m trying to go myself. Keep doing good.”

Nyamwange introduced the rising college student scholars going to Kenya in July to great applause.

“I am so proud of these students,” he asserted.

Lawrence explained they received a proclamation from the State of New Jersey and invited Assemblywoman Barbara McCann Stamato (D-31), who brought up state Senator Angela McKnight (D-31), who presented it.

“Congratulations to everyone. I’m so happy you invited me so I can learn about this wonderful organization. Please use me as a resource,” McKnight said.

Stamato then read the proclamation that praised Nyamwange’s efforts in building the foundation.

“After experiencing first-hand the challenges of growing up Black in America, Joseph Nyamwange founded the Nyamwange Foundation to build a generation of leaders,” she read.

Stamato added he works hard to enhance his community and wished him continued success in the future.

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