How often is it that we hear people complain about things that are NOT happening in the community and nobody does anything about it? Some people will talk but never make any changes.
Andrea Walker is not one of those people.
Both Andrea and Matthew Myles are bringing change to their hometown, Philadelphia. They have recently launched a non-profit organization called I.N.E.R.D Inc. in Philly. I've known Andrea for years and she is someone who is about to make a major impact on her city. I recently interviewed her to find out more about her new movement.
I.N.E.R.D Inc., a new, local non-profit organization plans to launch Campaign I.N.E.R.D. An innovative, thought provoking, empowering, dual educational mentorship and resource initiative, whose “goal is to focus on empowering youth and young adults in our local communities, to nurture, mold and develop a superior understanding of the importance of intelligence,” says Co-founder Matthew Myles. They will begin first by implementing their Sisters Sittin Pretty mentorship program this June 1, 2013. This program will target inner city youth girls ages 6-16. Sisters Sittin Pretty will encourage sisterhood and foster self-respect and self-esteem. It will explore every platform from the controversial conversations that most parents dread having, such as, safe sex, rape, peer pressure, abstinence, and teen pregnancy to life skills, team building, leadership skills, bullying, to high-school and college preparation. The girls will engage in meaningful, thought provoking, and age appropriate activities which will help them develop self-respect and empower them with a core understanding that intelligence is “cool”.
Founders and Philadelphia natives Andrea Walker and Matthew Myles believe that, by getting the necessary resources to the youth, you equip them with the tools required to lead a successful and productive lives as upstanding citizens of the communities. However, deprive a child of knowledge and engage them with substandard community resources and they become the criminals that bombard our media outlets with hate crimes, gang on gang violence and other senseless acts that rip through the communities. “They can’t do better if they don’t know better”, says Co-founder of I.N.E.R.D Inc., Andrea Walker. For Myles, I.N.E.R.D stands for I Never Ever Rely on Dummies an acronym he coined three years ago while living in the inner cities of DC, but for Walker, I.N.E.R.D stands for Imagine New Emotions Rediscovering Dreams, an acronym that speak volumes to her personal struggle with her mother’s diagnosis of HIV. Any way you look at it, I.N.E.R.D stands for a change and the founders of I.N.E.R.D plan to do just that beginning in Philly’s own backyard with hopes of one day operating on a national level.
Sisters Sittin Pretty mentor ship program is just the first of many aids to be implemented by I.N.E.R.D Inc. The organization is also in the process of developing a Soup Kitchen in Camden, New Jersey, as well as a Financial Literacy Program, a Global Language Program, and Trade/Organizer Blend Workshops which will include youth prevention/intervention programs. Walker plans to partner with local AIDS activist to launch a HIV/AIDS Activist outreach and Support Program which will be a dedication to her mother. She plans to make children aware of the epidemic and provide counseling and support for them and their family members, something she wishes would have been provided for her as she struggled with the harsh reality that her mother was battling the disease. Walker says “no longer should people be in fear of the disease HIV/Aids, just like they aren’t about Cancer. Its 2013, it’s not taboo anymore. People contract this disease every day and many times, they are unaware.”
1. What made you decide to start this venture in Philadelphia?
We were all raised in Uptown Philadelphia and most of our team still lives in the city so starting this venture to give back to the city that has molded so much of our lives was an easy decision. That, along with the cities painfully obvious lack of community involvement and the crisis that we see our youth struggling to overcome when it comes to such issues as education or other significant resources. This was an answer for that calling.
2. What separates your non-profit organization from others that may be
What separates us is that we are a collective of young urban professionals who have achieved different degrees of success in our individual pursuits but we all intend to push forward together. Very often, people focus on themselves and create non-profits after they have “made it.” We feel that success is a journey rather than a destination and we intend to share that journey with our community as well as one another.
3. What has been the biggest challenge in launching this movement?
The biggest challenge has been coordinating everyone’s schedules as we are all very active, busy people with responsibilities and goals of our own. Other than that, our shared passion for our cause has made the process relatively smooth. What has been the biggest reward? There are two. The first is being surrounded by such powerful, positive, energetic young people. The second reward comes from knowing that we are going to make a difference in the lives of families and children. We are creating a legacy that will live beyond us. We are creating something much bigger than anyone of us alone could ever do.
4. Where do you see your organization being five years from now?
In five years, we see ourselves running full after school and summer programs that will provide safe, nurturing environments for at risk youth. We see ourselves providing our community members with information that will have a lasting impact on their lives and the lives of their children. Such information will come by way of empowering them with basic to in-depth understanding and ability to manage their finances, to realizing the strength and power that we as a people possess, if we stand together. We see I.N.E.R.D Inc. as a bridge in the disconnect between the generation that once lacked intelligence for fear of scrutiny and the generation who will possess and use it as effortlessly as texting on a cell phone. We see ourselves forming lasting relationships with like-minded organizations such as The Boys and Girls Club, Blues Babe Foundation and Black Girls Rock. We see ourselves providing scholarships for deserving young people who might otherwise not be able to continue their education. At the VERY least, we will be a strong, consistent positive influence on our communities. We may very well save some lives.
While I.N.E.R.D. Inc. is the nonprofit sector of the brand, I.N.E.R.D is clearly not limiting themselves to any one area of expertise. I.N.E.R.D is a one stop shop. From a dope t-shirt and hoodie line to a “feminine, flirty, and sexy line” known as Tulip, by I.N.E.R.D’s own fashion designer Amber Cuff. There is also their music division which is spearheaded by the one and only Verso a.k.a Verse Mega, “The Voice of Reason,” “Dignity in the Flesh,” “An Emcee’s Emcee,” Jamaica-born, Philadelphia-bred lyricist. With unremarkable talent, Verso works alongside some of I.N.E.R.D’s best new and upcoming artist such as Uptown Tone and Friends and the No Names. Although the clothing line and the music division are platforms for the designers and artist, these entities also create opportunities for youth in the areas of internships and shadowing. Members of the mentorship programs are granted a behind the scenes look at how music is created, what goes on in the studio, to live performances, as well as a day in the life of a fashion designer. There are many events that can easily turn into a field trip for the mentees at any given moment.
I.N.E.R.D Inc. is on the move to take back its community. It is calling for any and everyone who has a voice to join them. They believe strongly in their youth and will stop at nothing to empower them with the message that intelligence is cool with the hopes of planting a seed to grow and nurture upstanding citizens of our communities. To learn more about their efforts, donate, or purchase a t-shirt, or to sponsor a child please visit their website at www.inerdinc.com
Co-Founder and CEO