Historically Black Howard University on July 27 announced that it received a $1 million donation from HBO, a division of WarnerMedia, to establish an endowed fund to benefit students pursuing careers in the arts and entertainment industries.
HBO first announced the donation in conjunction with its upcoming HBO special event, BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME, which is based on the #1 New York Times best-selling book by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a proud Howard Bison. Coates will executive produce the project with fellow Howard alumni Kamilah Forbes, who will also direct; and award-winning actress Susan Kelechi Watson.
“We are incredibly proud to be a part of creating this endowment which will provide means for students to pursue formative opportunities in the arts and entertainment,” said HBO Programming President Casey Bloys. “We can think of no better partners than Howard University, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Kamilah Forbes, and Susan Kelechi Watson in this effort.”
Named the Coates-Forbes-Watson-HBO Dream Seekers Endowed Fellowship, stipends of varying amounts will be awarded to students to use toward living and travel expenses related to accepting internships in Los Angeles, New York and beyond. Students from a variety of disciplines can apply, including communications, fine arts, business, and law.
“We are grateful to HBO for their leadership in establishing the Coates-Forbes-Watson-HBO Dream Seekers Endowed Fellowship, which will make it easier for Howard students to make ends meet while pursuing internships and residencies with studios and production companies,” said Howard President Wayne A. I. Frederick. “I’d also like to thank Ta-Nehisi Coates, Kamilah Forbes and Susan Kelechi Watson for their role in recommending Howard for this opportunity. I know that Howard played an instrumental role in their lives to help them become the incredible artists that they are today, and we are thankful that they continue to pay it forward through their time, talent and treasure.”
Founded in 1867 in Washington, D.C., Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The university has produced four Rhodes Scholars, 11 Truman Scholars, two Marshall Scholars, one Schwarzman Scholar, over 165 Fulbright recipients, and 22 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University visit www.howard.edu.
Coates, Forbes, and Watson credit their experiences at Howard University for establishing a strong foundation on which they were able to excel and pursue their passions and purpose. In a joint statement they stated, “As products of Howard University, we deeply believe in the responsibility to give as much as was given to us. We are inspired to see that same spirit in HBO’s gift to Howard—an institution which has not just given so much to us, individually, but to all of America.”
The awards will be available to students with demonstrated unmet financial need, allowing the recipients the ability to take advantage of opportunities they may not otherwise be able to afford.
“The costs affiliated with living in cities like Los Angeles and New York can push the benefits of accepting an internship out of reach for many college students today,” said Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations David P. Bennett. “The Coates-Forbes-Watson-HBO Dream Seekers Endowed Fellowship will go a long way in closing that gap and make a significant difference among Howard students for years to come.”
Coates’ book “Between the World and Me” is a New York Times Bestseller, National Book Award winner, and Pulitzer Prize finalist. First published in 2015, it is written as a letter to Coates’ teenage son and recounts the author’s experiences growing up in Baltimore’s inner city and his growing fear of daily violence against the Black community. The narrative explores Coates’ bold notion that American society structurally supports white supremacy.
The stage show based on “Between the World and Me” was originally performed in 2018 as a limited engagement at the Apollo Theater and the Kennedy Center. Kamilah Forbes, the executive producer of the Apollo and a close friend of Coates, is featured in the book as “Aunt Kamilah” and was immediately inspired to adapt Coates’ work to the stage after reading it. The pair met at Howard University, a pivotal time in both of their lives that has been a continued source of creativity and inspiration. Fellow Alumna, Watson, was also a part of the original cast at the Apollo Theater and The Kennedy Center.
The HBO special event of the same name premiering this fall will be directed by Kamilah Forbes, who also serves as executive producer; and executive produced by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Susan Kelechi Watson. Roger Ross Williams is producing for One Story Up Productions.