September 2020

This month in Mastermind news, our alumni have been busy! Shannon Zerfas, founder of The Thread Weekly says she has had “steady organic audience growth” since the ending of cohort #2. During the cohort, Shannon worked on expanding her e-news platform. She has now “formed connections with universities across the country and ha[s] [had] the pleasure of working with four policy research interns” to get her platform in front of a larger audience. With these new resources, Shannon is reconstructing The Thread and plans to re-launch soon with a much improved structure. 

Cohort #1 participants, Jeanelle Austin and Justine Lee joined forces shortly after their cohort experience to create Tea with The People (TWTP), a “series on race and democracy in the time of COVID-19” which includes conversations, a podcast, and online student activity programming on race and democracy for educators to use. For more information on Tea with The People, visit, In addition to TWTP, Jeanelle has made additions to her main platform, The Racial Agency Initiative (RAI), to include a site dedicated to keeping Minneapolis crisis donors in the loop of community activity.

Shamichael Hallman, another participant of cohort #1, currently serves as the manager of the historic Cossitt Library in Memphis, TN. As a part of the national Reimagining the Civic Commons Initiative, Shamichael is leading a multi-million-dollar renovation, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. “The redesigned library will provide numerous weekly opportunities, and serve as an active and engaging community resource.” To find out more about Shamichael’s project and the National Reimagining the Civic Commons Initiative, visit

Kenneth Allen, chairman of the Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males and member of cohort #2, published an article in USA Today last week. The article speaks about now being the time for marginalized communities to “finally confront the disastrous, too often deadly, reality that millions of Black males in America must face.” Be sure to look for the article and share, as this is a valuable piece for the current climate. 

Bridge Alliance has decided to turn our country’s civic crisis into an opportunity to bring equity to a divided society. The successes of the leaders we help develop are not only victories for them, but victories for our democracy. When we empower underserved communities, we make our country and our democracy stronger. We hope you find these updates beneficial and encouraging as we continue the fight for a healthy self-governed democracy. 

If you have any questions on the BAEF Diversity and Opportunity Project or how you can become involved with the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, visit our website’s “How You Can Help” page, or contact [email protected].