Lauren Grant & George Peters II Interview
We needed young people growing up here to realize that they could leave home and come back with a renewed perspective of the world and, even more importantly, of themselves.It is our hope that HBCU SpringComing’s presence would inspire their leaving NYC to attend an HBCU not to forsake the community, but rather for the sake of the community.
Lauren Grant and George Peters II are the founders of HBCU SpringComing, an annual festival held in New York. In three short years, Lauren and George have managed to reach nearly 10,000 people through their strategically curated events. In many ways, they are shifting the culture and providing opportunities for the next generation of HBCU students. Learn more about the founders and their work here!
Can you tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do?
GP: Certainly. I am an actor. That storytelling part of me is a part of everything I do, but I tell stories in many unique ways: some in front of the camera, some holding the camera. Over the last decade, I have developed a unique set of skills and talents that have allowed me to form my own production company, Listen TWO me, LLC. Through years spent performing, producing and stage managing tour shows around the globe, I acquired a wide client base that has included artists like Janelle Monae and Jidenna as well as work with BET, IFAW, History Channel, VEVO, HLN and the On Purpose Movement.
LG: Sure! I’m a connector and entrepreneur. My company, The Grant Access provides event production and planning to corporations and nonprofits. We work with our clients to provide unique and valuable experiences to their event attendees! My background, however, is in media and advertising with over 10 years of experience in communications, sales, media buying and strategy.
How did you get started in the philanthropic space?
GP: As a child in church, we learned to give of our time and talents. As a student at Morehouse College, I was inspired to use my gifts to help people. As an adult, I kept those same traditions, using my platform and exposure to provide opportunities for others to ascend. That has been a natural progression. So in the co-founding of HBCU SpringComing it was only natural that a major component of our programming be awarding scholarships to students that wanted to attend HBCUs.
LG: Interesting question! As many of us, I was raised on the Bible verse “To whom much is given, much is required.” It was instilled in me from an early age the importance of giving back. It’s our duty to pave the way for whoever comes next and George and I have found great pride in doing so through HBCU SpringComing. There’s a huge opportunity here to return the love, joy and community HBCUs have given us. We don’t take it lightly and aim to do it for the rest of our lives.
You’re both involved in your own entrepreneurial projects: Lauren with The Grant Access and George with Listen TWO Me. How have you been able to leverage philanthropy through entrepreneurship? What advice do you have for others who desire to do the same?
GP: I think that it is important to keep philanthropic endeavors at the center of your planning in any production. It is a tradition that requires foresight, that is to say, when I begin a project, I immediately devise a way to give of either my skills or of my proceeds. Often times I find myself exposing young aspirants in the entertainment industry to the unique and self-created vocations within the field. It yields dividends in a way that you can’t often quantify. There are some entities that will want to partner with you simply because they appreciate that aspect of your production. For any young entrepreneurial entertainer (a term I coined for myself) it is important to consider who you will impact with your work. I would advise everyone to give this consideration time during the beginning stages of any project.
LG: One of the paramount reasons I became an entrepreneur was to find ways to give back to my community. Whether it be the community of Harlem or my HBCU community, I have done my best to actively find ways in which The Grant Access can be of service or provide awareness. As George mentioned, it’s providing impact that is key and we believe we’ve done that with HBCU SpringComing.
You both attended HBCUS, what was your experience like and why was it important for you to recreate that experience with HBCU SpringComing?
GP: First, I think it is important that we regard HBCUs as institutions of higher learning that are as important today as they were in their founding years. While the need is slightly different—Black students are now allowed admission into any school of their choosing—the experiential aspect of the Historically Black College and or University is still very important. For me, as one of the few Black men in my high school classes, it was crucial for me to be amongst a population of humans that checked the same box I did, but it was even more important for me to learn, amongst them, how many other boxes existed within the demographic. It was learning about these aspects of Black Manhood that made me appreciate just how diverse we are.
LG: The importance of recreating that experience at HBCU SpringComing became clear to us in the many years we have been a part of the NYC community. We needed young people growing up here to realize that they could leave home and come back with a renewed perspective of the world and, even more importantly, of themselves. It is our hope that HBCU SpringComing’s presence would inspire their leaving NYC to attend an HBCU not to forsake the community, but rather for the sake of the community.
Why is giving back important to you?
GP: Muhammad Ali said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” I like my room here on Earth. Beyond that, it feels good to share. It feels even better to see someone that you’ve helped turn around and help someone else.
LG: It’s been instilled in me since birth. None of us got to where we are alone. We all had help. Giving back is helping the next person. The next generation. The next entrepreneur. The next HBCU graduate. It not only makes you feel good, but it’s encouraging to know you’re a part of something greater.
How are you shifting the culture with your philanthropic endeavors?
GP: I believe that philanthropy is a learned behavior. Just as with any other tradition, it can be sewn into the fabric of any body of people, any community. That is how we change the culture of selfishness and self-absorption. We encourage Ujima, collective work and responsibility. We teach Ujamaa, cooperative economics. It becomes something that our babies expect of themselves.
LG: HBCU SpringComing is somewhat of a cultural experiment isn't it? Getting all these HBCU grads together to, not only celebrate, the culture, but give back to the culture that got them there. Some thought it couldn’t happen, but we’ve created something larger than us. It contributes to the Harlem community financially and in scholarship support for students. It encourages activity in alumni associations and fellowship with fellow alums. We’ve created a festival, but we’ve also created an experience that lasts all year long.
Where can we learn more about HBCU SpringComing?
GP: Visit HBCUSpringComing.com. All of the event details are there. From party to panel, work out to turn up, we have a robust week of festival programming for everyone!
Continue this sentence. I give too because…
GP: ::Sings:: “Somebody gave to me...had me on their mind...took the time and gave to me!”
LP: ...because it’s my duty to pour into others as others have poured into me!