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Honoring The Legacy Of Violet Lewis Through The Reopening Of the Lewis College of Business

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Dec. 6 2021, Published 9:33 a.m. ET

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Business woman Violet Lewis opened the Lewis College of Business in 1928 to provide Black women more business opportunities. Although this institution closed in 2013, Former Nike footwear designer D’Wayne Edwards joins forces with the College for Creative Studies (CCS) to reopen this Detroit HBCU in March 2022. The PENSOLE Lewis College of Business and Design (PLC) will provide strong foundations for budding Black designers.

Edwards Works To Improve Accessibility For Emerging Creatives

Edwards began his career as the second Black footwear designer in the country. He founded the PENSOLE Design Academy in Portland, OR to help craft the minds of future designers. In an interview with Detroit Today he states, “within the Black community, we are supporters of products and companies that produce products. But yet we’re not really on the backend of it, being employed in these organizations.” The Academy works with Foot Locker and New Balance to ensure that Black minds land in more innovative positions. PLC’s mission takes this a step further and will legitimize art and design careers as a viable option for young students.

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The College For Creative Studies Sets A Precedent For Success

CCS’s reputation with art and design makes them the best partner to assist in this HBCU reopening. Nike, Adidas, Converse and other notable footwear brands employ their alumni. According to Edwards, this institution, “has graduated the most Black footwear designers in [the] industry of any school.” CCS also helps PLC connect with more of the Detroit community. Their community programs provide the necessary outreach for the PLC to move with impact. Working with CCS provides infrastructure and support as the PLC awaits university recognition from the state of Michigan.

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Target and the Gilbert Family Foundation work alongside PENSOLE to expand opportunities of Black designers. Target’s REACH strategy, founded in 2020, opens doors to commit funding to institutions that perpetuate economic prosperity amongst Black communities. They’ve enacted a five year, $100 million plan for this to go into fruition. The Gilbert Family Foundation investment extends from their $500 million commitment to give back to their hometown of Detroit and expand opportunities for its residents. Both companies serve as founding supporters for PENSOLE and commit to see the PLC reopening.

Lack Of Finances Won’t Stand In The Way Of Opportunity

HBCUs high tuition rates can stand in the way of a student achieving a desired education. Edward’s tuition-free plan for PLC combats this issue upon reopening. Partnered “brands would pay students tuition and housing, and in return, create a pipeline of talented minds ready to work.” They will also use a hands-on approach to guide students while they attend the institution and enter the workforce. These brands will work alongside PLC to create courses that fulfill the anticipated needs of students through their certification programs. Some of these program sponsors include Asics, Adidas, New Balance and NIke.

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PLC will service Violet Lewis’ mission to expand educational opportunities to an underserved population. As the dynamics of careers advance in the art industry, more individuals deserve seats at the table. With the determination of Edwards and CCS, PLC will craft a student-to-designer pipeline for Black communities.

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By: Chinenye Onyeike

Chinenye Onyeike is an Associate Producer for The Daily Show podcasts and a Her Agenda Contributor. She also spends her time creating, hosting and producing her own podcast and brand, The Court.

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