Cause and Consequence

Jun 22, 2011 No Comments

Never before has the saying “every action has a consequence” held such validity as it does for Lea Black and her annual fundraiser, The Black Annual Gala. While this ‘Real Housewife of Miami’ has become more popular due to her televised life, she has also used it to her fundraising advantage. Action? Check. Consequence? Check.

Approximately 15 years ago Lea Black began her cause, The Consequences Charity, to support and mentor at-risk youth. Her ultimate goal is to raise funds and awareness to reduce juvenile crime and incarceration. This passion, along with her drive, outspoken demeanor, and entrepreneurial skills has enabled her to put together The Black Annual Gala. The gala draws some of Miami’s finest philanthropists, business leaders and socialites alike. Interviewher.com spoke with Ms. Black to find out just what type of consequence her actions are reaping.

lea-black

The Initial Action

Seeing the effect incarceration has on our youth is devastating to watch and made me realize something had to change and that through opportunity we could help those kids to lift themselves out and find another way. I created an annual fundraiser called, “The Blacks Annual Gala” and for many years, gave it to a school for boys in trouble. A few years ago, a friend and I started discussing doing more in the realm of education for these kids and created “The Consequences Curriculum,” a program inspired by philanthropist and friend Engin Yesil. The curriculum is designed to help kids recognize the “consequences” of their actions. From there, I formed a new foundation and we began working with The Juvenile Services Department, taking our curriculum into the marketplace to help all troubled teens and their families.”

Baby Steps

“At first we recruited some volunteers and jumped in with both feet. I did the charity by myself or with a few volunteers for about the first ten years. Today – several years later – I am still involved every day with the two organizations and the charity has one employee and the foundation one and 1/2. We have one fulltime person on the charity and (for a few weeks a year) an additional part-time person. For the foundation we have one fulltime person and one part-time person.”

Exposing the Cause

“We got the word out by working hard, raising a lot of money and recruiting high profile people…. Keeping in mind its taken 17 years, but who is counting?”

Raising a Gala

“The gala was the next step and idea to raise the money to then fund the charity and foundation programs. The gala was in my yard (or house if it rained) for the first several years. We’ve gone from 500 people in my yard to over 700 people at a luxury hotel and a multi-faceted event. It’s a 24-hour a day job for about four months out of the year. Then there’s the follow up and aftermath and then we start planning for the next one.”

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Raising the Funds

“One year with donations and pledges we were able to raise over 2 million, which included the one million dollar pledge from Engin Yesil, to be donated over time for the implementation of the Consequences Curriculum. We raise most of our funds through ticket sales, sponsorships, live and silent auctions, as well as general donations. We try to give 100 percent of the ticket sales and auction items to the charity. Our challenge is to get sponsors to underwrite the gala and hopefully we have sponsorship funds left over for the cause – we often do because we work very hard at getting most everything donated.”

Lessons Learned

“I’ve learned you can’t always count on volunteers. A lot of people promise a lot and don’t follow through. You have to be grateful for whatever you get from people and realize other people may not be as passionate about the cause as I am. And don’t take things personally.”

The Who’s Who

Interviewher.com asked Lea how she is able to peek the interest of so many high profile people and get them to participate in her charity, “Barry Gibb is a personal friend and was one of the first superstars that performed for the charity, inside our home. I spent years getting Pharell, Dionne and Pit Bull to perform last year. They all donated their performances. I work, beg, stalk – whatever it takes. Joe Francis helped me get Lil Wayne. Basically just work, work, work and make miracles happen.”

What Does It Take?

“I am driven by the desire for a better world. If not people like me, then who? And I don’t get why everyone doesn’t do his or her part. Life is a privilege, and a responsibility, and you really can’t out give the universe. I find that to the way to enjoy the privilege, is important to be conscious of people in need and have a social awareness. Plus, I have always had multiple companies or projects running at once. I’m good at multi-tasking and hiring great people to help on my team.”

A Shining Moment

“When Barry Gibb’s performed at our house it was a definite quantum leap. And I always thought it was a success because no matter how little or how much you raise, to that one kids life, it’s everything.”

The Documentary

“I think when I saw the documentary we made called “The Fundraiser” which actually was shown in the Cannes film festival marketplace, I realized we had accomplished a lot. Who knew?”

Love to Give

“I think most people want to contribute but they need a nudge. I’m a major “nudger” – to put it mildly. I think a charity brings out the best and worst of people. It’s sometimes obvious that people give for different reasons. To me whatever the reason – as long as they give – I’m grateful.”

Overcoming

“Every year I say I will never do the gala again – and then I do. If someone donates to your charity they expect you to donate to theirs. If they attend they expect you to attend. After 17 years, I’m exhausted just reciprocating! One year we were 3-4 weeks away from the gala, and desperate to get the invitations in the mail, and we didn’t have a performer. At the last minute I was able to pull a rabbit out of a hat and Pattie Labelle performed. Whew! That was a lesson for me. The show must go on. I’m committed. Kids are counting on it, so just suck it up and make it happen.”

The Ultimate Goal

“I would like to have people realize it’s cheaper to educate a child then to incarcerate them. Some children have no idea of a future that exists for them because they’ve never had a glimpse into another world outside their own circumstances. I hope to have others believe that we all deserve a second chance and want to offer this opportunity to children who deserve it.”

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The Real Housewives of Miami

“The show includes the gala in filming, but doesn’t really educate people on the cause. And only Bravo knows if there’s another season.”

Everything Else

“I have the charity and foundation being operated out of the house, I’m a partner in  AndreWalkerHair.com and I have a skin care company,  SuddenYouthSkincare.com.

I have a ten year old son who has lots of activities, and a husband who is trying to save the freedom of the wrongly accused. I have a house with a small staff, a blackberry that wants all of my attention and competes with my cell phone, a fish tank, three dogs and a partridge in a pear tree.”

All The Right Reasons

“Do it for the right reasons. Translation: believe in it and leave your ego at the door. Be prepared to have conflict because you can never keep everyone happy and know that at the end of the day it’s really a thankless job with the best possible results. So, if you expect praise or appreciation or acknowledgement – you will be disappointed. You really have to believe in the cause and be passionate about it or you will find endless reasons to stop doing it. There are many reasons to do it and many excuses not to or to take short cuts. Don’t let your emotions get in the way. Don’t major on the minor and keep your eye on the prize. Don’t take things personally. Think big! And lead by example. Give thanks and keep moving forward, even if it seems like a little step, all those little steps add up. And I always think it’s better to take a stand than to be popular. People may not like me, but they usually respect me – whether they admit it or not!”

Written and edited by: Bridgette Larcada

 

THE CONSEQUENCES CHARITY

www.TheBlacksAnnualGala.com

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