Abiodun Henderson knows how to improvise and knows how to create and market a great product.
When she looked at the awful stats about young black men’s incarceration rates and their high percentage of recidivism, she decided she had to do something. They're five times more likely than young whites to be incarcerated before their 21st birthdays and their recidivism rate is 50 percent.
An experienced community activist with her Come Up Project, Henderson decided to focus her considerable skills on changing that return-to-prison rate.
A GREAT IMPROVISOR
Henderson created a sauce so good that Bon Appetit called it “... a super blast of tropical, pungent heat, but it finishes very clean and a touch sweet. Honestly, you could just literally spoon it into your mouth.” She’d improvised it just hours before it was served at a Come Up Project fundraising dinner.
What if she improvised a program to take on black re-incarceration? She could match black youth leaving prisons to jobs on black-owned farms in the area so they’d be grounded and learn some skills.
SHE WENT FOR IT
Her program, Gangstas to Growers, trains young men in farming, food processing, cooking, management, and marketing. Then there are yoga classes, group therapy sessions, financial literacy trainings, and at the end of the program, placement in longterm jobs.
She does it all with a lot of fundraising efforts and with whatever money she makes from selling “Sweet Sol,” the name trainees in Gangsta's marketing class came up with for her super-blast sauce.
Over the next 10 years, she wants to train at least 500 formerly incarcerated youth, and she wants to expand Gangstas to Growers to other cities from the base operation in Atlanta, especially cities that struggle with gang violence.
That’s going to take a lot more fundraising and partnership-building. Henderson is sure it’s worth it.
“I want to hear how the program positively affected folks’ lives. That’s compensation enough.”