Black Female Entrepreneur Shares Timely Support & Kindness to Harvey Stricken Black Communities
HOUSTON- When Kania Kennedy watched from Atlanta, Ga. And saw the flooding and devastation Hurricane Harvey inflicted on neighborhoods in Houston, she told herself that she had to do something.
Kennedy swung into action and started with $700 and collected as much basic living needs as possible from people and business in her community with the goal of filling a U-Haul truck and coming to Houston to make a difference in a stricken community.
“I saw it and immediately wanted to make a difference in the lives of our people and our community,” she said. “It is important to me to help empower our communities and neighborhoods whenever I can and where ever I go.”
Action Not Just Words
In particular, Kennedy was concerned that often times, low-income communities of color can be overlooked during governmental and NGO relief efforts and/or funds collected often do not get to those most in need.
After seeing several social media videos and posts about African American communities who had yet be visited by well-known relief agencies, and social media debates about who should be responsible, she decided to get into action and be part of the solution.
She started a local grass-roots collection effort titled SMART Sista 4 Harvey Relief, and reached out to friends, family, and associates via social media, texts, emails, calls, and a fundraising campaign. Kennedy contacted an African American community focused Houston Newspaper, “African American News & Issues,” and requested to be connected with a local organization that would make good use of all contributions.
After collecting hundreds of shoes, clothes, diapers, baby wipes, body washes, sanitary items, clothes and other items, she came to Houston pulling a U-Haul and distributed clothing, toiletries, shoes, and cleaning supplies to residents in Houston’s 5th Ward.
Kennedy is a native of Detroit, MI from a working class family focused on higher education.
She received her elementary and middle school education from the Detroit Public Schools, including Alonzo W Bates Academy, and was awarded a full academic scholarship to University of Liggett School (ULS), where she received her high school education.
After graduating Magna Cum Laude from ULS, Kania went on to attend Duke University and earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical & Computer Engineering.
After completing her education at Duke University, Kania began her career in Beauty, Health, & Fitness; she later worked in the non-profit sector where she discovered her desire to make a difference in the quality of people’s lives.
She started her entrepreneurial career in 2000 and published her first book, “The SM.A.R.T. Sista’s Guide to College” in 2010. Currently, Kania is serving as CEO of Diva Dance, and working with groups and individuals as a coach, trainer, seminar leader, professional speaker, and workshop facilitator with her SMART Sista, TechnoDiva, & Diva Makeover projects.
Kennedy, known as “The SMART SISTA” departed from Atlanta, GA on a cross-country trip to take relief supplies to communities in Houston, TX impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
911 in Post Harvey Black Communities
It was what Kennedy found after she got to Houston that even more shocking.
Though millions of relief dollars have been given to Houston, little is actually reaching those needing it still landlocked and devastated in Black communities.
The historic Lockwood area of East Houston and other areas of the Fifth Ward have multitudes of Black families still suffering in the aftermath and FEMA or the Red Cross is yet to come into the neighborhood to help the hundreds of Black elderly and disabled people still living in potentially dangerous homes where germs, mold, mildew and damage are festering daily,
“I learned quickly that the system is broken,” she said. “I saw first hand the suffering, misery and frustrations of not getting help they needed.”
According to Kennedy, many of those she helped whose homes were damaged were the elderly, disabled and those without transportation to get to the areas being currently served by FEMA and the Red Cross.
“These people are struggling and is is so sad,” she said. “It is time to mobilize the hood. We need to leverage our own power and help our people with boots on the ground in our own neighborhoods.”
While in Houston, Kennedy met and teamed with Parents Against Predators Founder Sonia Parker to work neighborhood tirelessly giving out food and providing key help to the elderly and disabled still trapped and living on basics in damaged homes with no relief in sight.
Serving in her capacity as a ., Kennedy also facilitated a self-care event for Parents Against Predators founder and supporters. This event taught and allowed participants to experience stress-management techniques including, yoga, dance, meditation, and other modalities to help them cope with emotional and mental distress during recovery efforts.
“More needs to be done for our people in these areas.,” she said. “This is still and emergency here and It is time for us chocolate brothers and sisters to develop plans to help each other in our own communities and neighborhoods.”
She said there are many Black organizations, fraternities, sororities, businesses that can unite to answer the call and help the community during this time of need.
Compassion Passed Down By Example
Much of who she is Kennedy attributes to her mother and father who were compassionate about the Black communities in Detroit and reached out to make things happen in their community growing up.
“They gave me my values,” she said. “I learned by observing their actions and by doing what they did.”
She said her parents were doers and that she had a lot of practice working in the community where he mother and father worked so hard.
“They were good people who made a difference in their Black community,” she said. “They supported the community by shopping and doing business within the community with those who could provide the services in the community.”
From the example nurtured by her parents has come a woman who has committed her life to empowering people in living lives they love and constantly works with women, teen girls, and small and emerging business owners in the areas of technology, wellness, self-love, living passionately and productivity.
PAP Focuses Concerns On People In Neighborhoods
Parker has been very frustrated by the response to Lockwood communities and other minority communities that still are suffering hidden miseries underneath all the news and press going to the Millions of dollars being give through to funds including Houston Texan J.J. Watt, The Red Cross, Mayor Sylvester Turner and County Judge Ed Emmett, but none appears to be reaching the Black communities were Parker and Kennedy served daily after the floodwaters receded.
“Kania came to Houston with a Uhaul filled with supplies and cash donations like so many other came as outsiders to my city to help,” Parker said. “All of that funding and supplies went directly to children and families needing it and for three days we worked nearly nonstop helping the elderly and disabled people survive.”
Kennedy even tried to ease the concerns of resident by providing a yoga classes to help some relax who were struggling and worrying about their uncertain futures, Parker said.
According to Parker, many of those same elderly and disabled people are still waiting for someone to show up and help them through the next steps of recovery.
“We want to know where are you mayor and county judge?” she said. “Why give money to organizations already receiving money and grants from the state. Where is all the money to help the people with building materials to help families make repairs and rebuild. The people need proof that these people care about their plight and that is just not happening through FEMA or the Red Cross.”
Houston Be Ye Encouraged:
As she left Houston this week, Kennedy said she has a simple message for Houstonians.
“Keep your head up,” she said. “Know that you are loved and not alone in this. Don’t lose hope and don’t give up.”
She also said to look for ways to help one another and focus on the power we have when we work together, share and help one another.
Find out more about Kania Kennedy at www.kaniakennedy.com.