On Wednesday, October 19th Foundation For Letters hosted their fifth annual Fall Benefit at the IAC building honoring Vivica A. Fox, actress of the hit series Empire amongst others for forging a path for women of color in literature and celebrating young urban voices.
The Foundation For Letters is a nonprofit that helps urban schools improve their communities through external support for literacy-based academic and enrichment programming. The evening featured student performances, cocktail reception and an awards presentation and viewing party of the last Presidential Debate. Check out our exclusive coverage with Vivica A. Fox and the founder of himself, Mike Jackson.
Q: How did you get involved with the Foundation and become an honoree?
Vivica: Actually my makeup artist, Tai was approached by a gentleman named Mitch who said “Vivica, this year they want to honoree you and give you the ‘Distinguished Service’ award” I was like “Wow!” I feel like for the last 25 years I have been an unsung actress who’s done a lot of works whose films who have grossed a billion dollars worldwide- I’ve done television, I’ve done stage but I’ve never been able to get up there and thank my mama now. I’ve won a couple of awards so I’ll be able to get up there in New York City. Years ago I came here from Huntington Beach and I waited on tables and I went knocking on doors trying to be a model. Everywhere I went, they said “We got a black girl that looks like you already. Thank but no thank you, you’re cute but we already got our blackgirl.” So for me to come back to New York tonight to see this award makes it worth the journey I have been on.
Q: Any new projects lined up?
Vivica: I’m going to Buffalo next week to play the President of the United States. I’m making history next week. The first African American actress to play president in a film- a sci fi film. Vivica’s “Black Magic” is going to come out in January where I take 8 male exotic dancers on a journey of getting them a residency in Las Vegas- I’m the head chic in charge. I’m heading back to Chicago to do another episode of Empire. Vivica Fox hair collection has been extended for another 3 years. I have a clothing line, Vivica Fox by Poetic Justice jeans. I just closed a book deal in New York on Monday which we will be making a huge announcement so stay tuned for that.
Q: How did you start the Foundation?
Mike: I was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey and I came to New York after college. Newark was a very difficult place to live. I got lucky and was able to go to a private school when I was 14 years old and it completely changed my life. I wrote an op-ed in the Daily Beast today where I explain how I wasn’t the smartest kid in my class or best athlete or anything. I just got lucky and an opportunity and so I wanted to provide opportunities for other kids that grew up like me as I’m not exceptional in any way. There are so many other kids like me that didn’t have the chance. I went to Yale and worked on Wall Street and I’m trying to set up something so at least kids of the opportunity like I had. I started a school in 2003 called the Bronx Academy of Letters which is a public high school and I started an advisory board that raised outside money and created partnerships and brought volunteers. Our school became one of the top 25 schools in New York City. In 2012, I wanted to export the model into other schools so I started the Foundation in 2012 to create external support organizations that are focused around literacy and writing. This is our biggest event and I’m very happy.