Bay Area Inspire Awards: Talent Tour

 In Bay Area Inspire Awards

Guest blog post by Eugene “Ace” Johnson, 2018 Bay Area Inspire Awardee

At the start of 2018, Philanthropic Ventures Foundation (PVF) awarded grants to six young Bay Area residents with fresh ideas for building better communities. These awards were made possible through the Bay Area Inspire Awards, which provides $5,000 grants to 18-30 year olds living in San Francisco, Alameda, and San Mateo Counties. Below is a report written by one of these awardees, Eugene “Ace” Johnson. Ace produced talent showcases in underserved schools within urban communities as a positive outlet and platform for creative expression.

The Talent Tour enables community leaders to co-create a series of Talent Showcases at underserved schools in Oakland. These schools thus empower inner city youth to use their gifts and talents to change the world. This may all seem very cliché, but the reality is we are always #BetterTogether. Through our unified efforts we intentionally exemplify the value of living, dreaming and achieving greatness as a community.


The Talent Tour was inspired by the increasing program and budget cuts in Oakland, teacher/staff scarcity, and the lack of support educators receive from families and community at large. The goal is to advocate the need for creative and performing arts to be reinstated in underserved schools within the urban community as a positive outlet and platform for creative expression. This also provides an opportunity for a new pipeline to be created between these underserved students, neighborhood leaders, and local programs.


A few of the main goals are:

  • To empower a generation to use their unique minds and creative expression to impact the world we live in
  • Unite leaders and resources in the local community to address concerns found in urban neighborhoods and bring systemic change benefiting all parties involved
  • Create a blueprint to be replicated in other underserved urban neighborhoods to efficiently utilize and leverage resources found within and around the local community

Benefits include:

  • Generates school culture/pride increasing harmony on campus
  • Creates a collective support for youth across neighborhoods
  • Provides an authentic connection between local businesses brands and youth in schools
  • Teaches youth how to take action and lead the change in their own community
  • Develops capacity for creative expression and confidence in students’ personal gifts and strengths
  • Builds a platform for youth to share their dreams and goals with community members who can assist them

General Outline:

This is strategically carried out with the intent to include as many members of the local community as possible.


  • Host community meeting “Think Tank” for brainstorming talent tour details and resources.
  • Create a Project Plan with community input
  • Connect local businesses and programs as sponsors
  • Connect school campus leaders and schedule talent tour dates/times


  • Weekly Meetings with Volunteers/School clubs
  • (“Campus Wars” for giveaways)
  • Auditions/Rehearsal
  • Community Promotion
  • Campus Showcase April 8th-19th/Grand Finale (April 27th)

The Talent Tour started in 2017, with four participating schools: Castlemont High, Fremont High, Oakland High, Oakland Technical High. At Fremont High School, it was the first annual Talent Show in 5 years, with the first peaceful school wide assembly in the past 4 years. Rival schools and neighborhoods united for the finale without any tension or violence, and the finalist went on to win the Bay Area Talent Search and opened for Goapele at the Art and Soul Festival.

In 2018, with $5,000 in funding from the Bay Area Inspire Awards, the Talent Tour was able to re-launch with the same four schools. A “Wild Card” student from a non-participating school advanced to the finals and won first place. A finalist recorded with award-winning engineer Andre Hill.

This momentum has led to new opportunities and resources in the community to ensure that this coming year, 2019 will be the most impactful year thus far. Founder Eugene “Ace” Johnson applied for his first major grant with The San Francisco Foundation and was accepted to receive the full amount of $40,000 towards the expansion of this annual Talent Tour.

In addition to funding, Ace also gained a building space in East Oakland’s Fruitvale District through a partner ‘ARC Oakland’. This space includes a personal office for core team members and shared working spaces rented out to local creative entrepreneurs. The building is going to be used as a creative co-working space for college aged inner city entrepreneurs to identify their unique strengths, and turn their ideas for change into a reality. These leaders will create programs and businesses that benefit black and brown youth in the low income communities we serve. These new resources will also be presented to our youth during the Talent Tour as tools that can be used to reach their desired goal. The focus of this year’s Tour will be “Dream Team” and we will encourage youth participants to build a team that will assist them in reaching their dream. Skills like graphic design, photography, promotion, choreography, and more will be highlighted as assets for reaching your goals faster.

We will also be reaching out to the entire Bay Area to expand this tour into surrounding cities. So far we will maintain the same relationships we’ve build from previous years.

In 2019, we’ll expand the Talent Tour to more schools: Castlemont High, Fremont High, Oakland High, Oakland Technical High, McClymonds High, Skyline High, Lighthouse Community Charter and schools from other cities.

Below are volunteer opportunities for anyone interested in helping out.

Volunteer Opportunities


Identify and connect with leaders in the local community (business/individuals) that can serve as an example to young people of how to use your gifts and talents to bring positive change in the city.


Build and maintain sustainable relationships between students, staff and community. Empower school clubs to work collaboratively to Incentivize fellow students to participate in campus competitions/community building activities. (iVaCampusWars, Fundraisers, Spirit Week)


Generate excitement and bring attention to the upcoming tour date. Provide a space for healthy competition, games, and performances that draw students in and allow them to interact with local talent. Allow local creatives to use their gifts and talents to inspire each campus to be the best version of themselves that they can be.


Present a unique platform for students, staff and community members to harmoniously collaborate in promoting the gifts and talents found in underserved neighborhoods. Shower participants and supporters with resources and opportunities to better themselves, identify potential career paths, and grow in their unique abilities.


Strategically identify the deeper needs of the students in their community and connect them to available resources. Leverage this moment to generate meaningful long term relations that can be sustained throughout the summer and beyond.


Document and distribute this process of urban community building. Sustain momentum over the summer and generate excitement for the next school year. Extract back stories, video clips, photos and personal statements that highlight the heart and intent of this collaborative project.

For more details visit:

www.iVisionary.Academy/Talent-Tour or email us at talent@iVisionary.Academy

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