Youth Space Jam Resources Help Local Black Students
By Dianne Anderson
Calling all Black youth: Come jam the beats, get involved, get connected, and just talk it out.
Last year, the Clarissa Manuel Foundation launched its latest program, Young Cultivated Minds of the Future, to make sure that when students graduate high school they can go after higher education and a living wage job.
But it didn’t take long before plans were thwarted from ever meeting face to face due to the pandemic.
“Just as soon as we were ready to go in, the schools shut down. We had to move online and reconfigure the entire program,” said Shelia LeFridge, president of Clarissa Manuel Foundation.
Not long ago, the foundation celebrated its tenth anniversary, and unveiled its newer version of outreach with Youth Space Jams online. Students are invited to come together to destress, and jam their way out of their pandemic restrictions.
The youth to youth virtual venue links up academic and social resources, and meets the third Thursday of each month at 6:00 p.m. The foundation provides information about financial aid, scholarships and college preparation resources so students won’t risk losing out from the year-long lockdown.
“Our program is a safe space for our youth to be in, we call it jam because we always start out with music, a two-hour session that provides high schoolers with a place to decompress from being stuck and a lot of their social life has been taken away,” she said.
She worries that depression is becoming common among youth with so constant crises happening inside homes.
“Parents are stressed, guardians are stressed, kids are stressed, they can’t learn, they might not have the technology. We have considered all those factors in our Youth Space Jam,” she added
Getting information out to the community is a priority. CMF has collaborated with the local Delta Sigma Theta Sorority chapter for a seminar to raise public awareness on human trafficking.
By some estimates, human trafficking has increased dramatically worldwide since COVID-19. University of Pennsylvania researchers estimate up 300,000 children in America are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation.
“Overall, 50 percent of detected victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation, 38 percent were exploited for forced labor, six percent were subjected to forced criminal activity, while one percent were coerced into begging and smaller numbers into forced marriages, organ removal, and other purposes,” the United Nation reports.
LeFridge said more children and their abusers are not in the same contact with a mandated reporter as they were in pre-pandemic times. With everything shut down, it hides the dramatic increase in human trafficking over the past year.
“It always shocks and surprises people because they don’t understand what it’s about. We focus on the fact it’s in the pandemic that these people do not see it, a human trafficker doesn’t care about anything. They don’t care if you have COVID” she said.
Lately, the foundation has also been partnering at vaccine clinics at local Black churches and other local organizations to provide residents with Personal Protective Equipment.
“We put family-sized PPE kits that had sanitizers, and masks, gloves we put those into about 1,000 residents hands,” she said.
Last fall, in conjunction with Bridge Builders Foundation, CMF also helped get over 500 earphones, microphones and whiteboards for every student at Barton Elementary School, which has one of the highest Black student populations in the district.
With so many issues facing society, Black women often struggle alone to carry the family. Recently, their collaboration with the local Delta Sigma Theta Sorority on the annual Black Superwoman self-care workshop was a hit.
“We know that Black women are the largest caregivers of everybody. We’re not taking care of ourselves and we still have to take care of everybody else,” LeFridge said.
Currently, CMF partners with the City of Long Beach Black Health Equity Collaborative as a grantee of the City of Long Beach Black Health Equity Fund to provide health education and outreach under the CARES Act.
For many nonprofits across the state and nation, millions in CARES Act funding has been a long time coming. Now that it’s trickling down to community nonprofits, there’s a mad rush to hurry up and spend it before it disappears.
Her goal has been to spend $20,000 over 60 days to get the word out to the community about vital services.
“We’re now down to 29 days,” she said last Friday. “We work overtime every day, in addition to that I carry a lot of prayer in everything we do because we’re having to do things so quickly. We’re doing it.”
For more information on the jobs disparities in the Black community, see
To register for Youth Space Jam, see