Dozens of African-American males received college scholarships from the Ezekiel Taylor Scholarship Foundation (ETSF) this year during its 6th annual scholarship fundraiser, gala, and silent auction. To date, the program has awarded more than $125,000 in college scholarships from a grassroots level and has highlighted the academic achievements and success of young black males in the Chicago area who have been impacted by gun violence.
The event honors the legacy of Ezekiel Taylor who was robbed and killed on Chicago’s Southside in the early 80s by teenagers. The gala, usually held in person, is virtual again due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic, social injustices, and inequities in our communities have forced our students to survive, thrive, and think outside of the box, and it has also caused our foundation to become more innovative and creative,” says Tenisha Taylor, daughter of Ezekiel Taylor and ETSF CEO. “These young men are defying the odds, despite what the media says… there is good news about our young Black men and we are celebrating their success,” adds the former CNN Executive Producer.
The virtual gala, Onward & Upward, is a one-hour production that celebrates each of the 2022 scholarship winners and highlights their achievements. Special guests this year include Good Morning America news anchor T.J. Holmes, Oscar-Nominated Actress Aunjanue Ellis, and The Honorable Dr. Rev Raphael G. Warnock (D-GA).
“You have chosen the high and noble road,” Senator Rev. Warnock said to scholarship awardees. “You’re congratulated, we celebrate you and we stand on tip-toe anticipation to see all what you shall become to the glory of God.”
Besides financial support, the foundation conducts quarterly life skill programs for high school and college students. It also boasts a one-on-one mentoring program.
“I’ve gained internships and so many opportunities through this foundation,” says Jordan Alfred, Illinois Institute of Technology rising senior. “My mentor, Cedric Malone, and the men I’ve been able to connect with truly care about my future.”
Onward & Upward is sponsored by Procter & Gamble, Aunt Bessie’s, Discover Financial, and The Boka Restaurant Group.