1954 Project Awards $5 million to Black Leaders

Gaby M. Rojas

The Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education [CAFE Group]—will award five $1 million grants to Black leaders in education during the 1954 Project Luminary Awards on April 28. Actor and comedian Cedric the Entertainer, whose mother was an educator, kicks off the 2nd annual event. Musician and education advocate Pharrell Williams and actress Vanessa Bell Calloway are featured presenters in the virtual awards show.

The 1954 Project has raised nearly one-third of its $100 million goal through contributions from its founders, Don and Liz Thompson; the Walton Family Foundation; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and many other donors.

“For this year’s Luminary grants, we received over 200 applications from Black leaders in education,” says Liz Thompson, The CAFE Group President. “We are so impressed by the caliber of the applicants that—in addition to the $5 million we’re awarding—we’re funding an additional $250K to outstanding finalists to further support the vast ecosystem of Black-led education nonprofits.”

2022 1954 Project Luminaries:

Diversity in education

  • Adrinda Kelly, Black Education for New Orleans
    • Supports Black educators and select Black-led schools in the Crescent City.

Innovation in teaching and learning

  • Nikole Collins-Puri, Techbridge Girls (Oakland, California)
    • Equips educators and STEM professionals with curriculum and training for BIPOC girls pursuing STEM.
  • Jamyle Cannon, The Bloc (Chicago)
    • Leverages sports-based education to provide academic and social resources to youth.
  • Will Jackson, Village of Wisdom (Durham, North Carolina)
    • Uses Black parent power to ensure Black learners a culturally affirming educational environment.

Economic mobility

  • Jerelyn Rodriguez, the Knowledge House Fellowship (Bronx, New York)
    • Teaches digital skills to populate the education­-to-­employment pipeline nationwide.

The 1954 Project 2022 Luminary Awards are on April 28, 2022. Learn more at




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