“Past Meets Present”: Dallas’ youngest entrepreneurs pay tribute to Black History Month

Story by Jennie Trejo. Photos and Video by Jedarrian Jones.

In a heartwarming tribute to Black History Month, some of Dallas’ most promising young minds showcased their entrepreneurial spirit in a unique competition. Hosted by Interfaith Family Services, an organization dedicated to empowering families in crisis, the event was a celebration of innovation, resilience, and the enduring legacy of Black leaders throughout history.

Held on Feb. 27 on the Interfaith campus in East Dallas, the “Past Meets Present Black History Event” saw children from the nonprofit’s Hope & Horizons Afterschool Program present their visions for the future inspired by iconic figures from Black history. Despite facing the challenges of homelessness and poverty, these youngsters demonstrated remarkable creativity and ambition as they pitched their business ideas to a panel of esteemed judges.

“We wanted to highlight Black History Month in a way that would help the kids see themselves as figures in the future of Black history,” says Kimberly Williams, Chief Executive Officer at Interfaith Family Services. “We wanted them to look to the past for inspiration, but not just to stop there– to actually start creating their own plan to be a leader and inventor of some type.”

Among the participants were Aiden Whitfield, age 10, and Xylia Melton, age 9, shining examples of the program’s success stories. Aiden’s business concept revolved around the eggbeater, an essential kitchen tool invented by Willis Johnson in 1884. Explaining his choice, Aiden shares, “I like to bake and cook. I like to make cakes and cookies, and an eggbeater is an important tool to have when cooking and baking.”

Meanwhile, Xylia drew inspiration from William B. Purvis’ improvements to the fountain pen, a device that revolutionized writing. With her idea, Xylia aimed to bring innovation to the world of stationery, enhancing the writing experience for users of all ages. “I love smooth writing, assorted colored pens. They make my handwriting look cleaner when writing letters and also while doing homework assignments,” she explains enthusiastically.

The competition was not merely a showcase of creativity, but also a platform for these young entrepreneurs to receive tangible support for their dreams. Winners were awarded gift cards, serving as the initial investment for their ventures, and secured summer internships at local businesses related to their projects. This practical experience nurtures their entrepreneurial skills and provides valuable insights into the world of business.

This event is an example of how Interfaith Family Services’ commitment to breaking the cycle of poverty extends far beyond providing housing and rent assistance. Through a holistic approach encompassing childcare, career coaching, counseling services, and even cooking classes, the organization ensures that parents and children receive the support they need to thrive. By fostering an environment where young minds could flourish, Interfaith sowed the seeds for a brighter future for Dallas’ most vulnerable communities.

“This is the inaugural Past Meets Present Black History Program,” Kimberly says. “We plan to make this an annual event, so we’re really excited about putting action to history.”

There are also many opportunities to help out. Kimberly says it would be great to have more community involvement next year when it comes to helping kids create the boards, reading them books, and inspiring them by sharing your personal stories with them. They also need community members to step up to help judge the contest.

For those who witnessed firsthand the creativity and determination of Dallas’ youngest emerging leaders, the “Past Meets Present Black History Event” was an evening of inspiration and hope. Whether it was Aiden’s culinary ambitions or Xylia’s vision for the future of writing, one thing was certain: the future of entrepreneurship in Dallas is bright, thanks to the spirit of its youth.

If you want to learn more about Interfaith Family Services or how to get involved, you can do so on their website.